Summer is over. Whether we like it or not, the smell of a new school year is thick in the air. Enrollments, parent meetings, meet the teacher day, schedules, parking fundraisers, physicals and NEW SEASONS mark the calendar.
During this last bit of a break before the hours and workload get really strange, I thought I would get another coaching lesson in from the summer.
Although some of us have youngsters playing baseball/softball this Fall, the majority of the attention will need to go to the Bulldogs’ football program and all the other area varsity, junior varsity, junior high and city league footballers. I will need to give cross country, softball, cheerleading and swimming their due as well as girl’s city league basketball. It’s hard to be at all those activities at the same time. If I’m not at your game or haven’t covered your sport yet, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to talking baseball. Actually, this goes across all sports and life in general for that matter. Again this summer as I spent some of May, all of June and some of July, coaching youngsters, the aspect of coaching that proves to be the biggest challenge is dealing with the impulsive emotions of players. That’s not fair to single them out. We all know parents, coaches and umpires struggle with their impulsive outburst more than the kids do. However, for this lesson, let’s keep that group out of it. I’m trying to coach here.
I find it comical the push/pull debate that has been going on for years over trying to speed up the game of baseball. The pushers want faster games and the pullers want the game to stay as is. In reality the pushers want the game to fit within the confines of the time slot set aside for broadcast. The pullers understand the game within the game and argue that those in the stands or those at home watching the game on TV have no clue how fast the game is actually moving.
The unseen speed of the game between pitches is lightening fast when you consider how much has changed since the last pitch. The lesson is the reactions to adversity is keeping players from getting better. There isn’t enough time for trying to keep a kid from getting his head down or pouting.
The players need to be focused on what happens next instead of slinging the bat around, blaming the umpire, grabbing their head, hanging their head, kicking the ground and you get the point. Such reactions are so quick to the surface instead of keeping their heads in the game and trying to hurry up and replaying the situation, figuring out what went wrong and getting better from it.
Example: The lead-off hitter looks at a change up that falls off the table on the outside corner strike three. Kid feels differently about the location of the pitch and doesn’t appreciate the call and any of you can describe the scene over the next few seconds, minutes, hours and sometimes days after that. The kid comes to the dugout with all sorts of body language. He tosses his bat down banging it into the helmets with fervor and probably into someone’s shin even though a teammate had his hand out wanting the bat. He blames the umpire immediately and steams into already hot dugout. He is now embarrassed at his failure at the plate and because he realizes he has drawn the attention from his parents and coaches or he pouts.
So, which part made him a better player? None of it. Instead, he has compounded to his strikeout even more failures not only for him but his teammates as well. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bad throw, a failed catch, a strikeout, a bad call, a missed blocking assignment, a dropped pass or fumble. We all saw it. Don’t add to that a temper tantrum. Reacting to adversity in such a way conveys a sense of panic and tells your teammates that in fact it may be time to give up. When what we needed to see is you steady headed and deep in thought. That tells your teammates that didn’t go as I wanted it to but all is well and we are still OK because I am learning from it right now and it won’t happen again.
Let’s re-visit the above example. Instead of holding himself and his teammates back from getting better, our hitter could’ve mentally given credit to the pitcher for a well executed change-up, quickly recapped what the count was and the situation of the game so the next at bat off the same pitcher he can be looking for the change-up away. Instead of blaming the ump, he would know either I’m too far from the plate or I now know where this umps’ zone is and he is likely to call that a strike again. He could’ve handed his bat to his teammate and said the umps zone may be a little off the plate especially with two strikes and fellas heads up on this guys change up. It disappeared somewhere before it got to me, grabbed his mitt and encouraged his teammate who is now at that same plate facing that same pitch.
The players need to learn just how much influence they have over their teammates withe their emotions and reactions to adversity. Whether it’s negative or positive, your team is counting on you the same as you are counting on your teammates and your reactions directly effect their ability to perform on the field.
We simply don’t have time to coach you down from your ledge or out of your pout. It’s the difference between being a kid playing a sport and being a player.
Get your mind on what happens next.
Reach Brad Gilbert@482-1221 ext. 2076