By Bruce Lambin
I have considered writing a book “Every Word Out of a Youth League Coach’s Mouth at Games Is Wrong.” Catchy title, huh? It’s a little overstated but I think you will recognize some of these. Here are some of the worst examples, in no particular order.
- Pre-Game Pep Talks
It is completely counterproductive to give a rousing pep talk before the game. There are no big games, as you are not playing the other team but the ball and the ball doesn’t know it is a big game. If they try to play harder they will get out of rhythm and perform worse. I witnessed this during the JUCO World Series as coaches exhorted their players to step up and win the big game, only to get crushed by a great Junior College coach, Grayson Community College’s Tim Tadlock, whose speech prior to the championship game went something like “Well, you guys been playin’ this game what, 12 or 13 years, right? Well, it’s another one. Let’s go get us a trophy.” His teams were the loosest, goofiest bunch of Bad News Bears you would ever want to see. But they brought home 2 straight JUCO Championships!
- “Come On Johnny. You’ve Got to Make That Play”
Johnny is 11 and booted a ground ball. He knows that he should have made that play. The question is whether he is going to let booting one get into his head so that he “gator arms” the next. Well the coach’s admonition increased the odds that Little Johnny will perform more poorly on the next chance. I have actually heard coaches yell this at players during pre-game infield drills. The poor kid started the game with a messed up head. E-Coach!
- “You’ve Got Two Strikes. You’ve Got to Swing at Anything Close!”
Of course, the next pitch is going to be cap level and Johnny is going to take a hack. Hey coach.define close, or better yet, be quiet. He knows how many strikes he has. You’ve just ballooned the fear of striking out looking. K-Coach!
- “Watch the Curve!”
This is usually only uttered with two strikes and guarantees that any fastball will be blown by him, as you can’t look curve and react to the fastball. This often is combined with #3. The results are the same: a batter with a screwed up head.
- “Get Your Elbow Up, “Get Your Bat Back”, “Keep Your Front Shoulder Down”
Or any instruction on mechanics while the hitter is at the plate. This stuff should have been addressed in practice. At the plate a hitter should be thinking only about speed, spin, and location. Quality mechanics should have been grooved into his swing through reps in practice and home training. If he is thinking about his mechanics while at the plate he is doomed to failure. O-fer Coach!
- Post-Game Recap
So now the game is over and the coach gets to give his post-game recap. DON’T! It’s over. Look around and you will see parents, arms folded or looking at their watch. They want to go home and feed their kids, get them a bath and help them with their homework. But most coaches think it is important to have a 45-minute recap of every mistake made in the game. Make mental notes and address the mistakes in the next PRACTICE. When coaching teenaged players in the summer, you must understand that there are two things that teenaged boys want in the summer: to play ball and get girls. When the game is over you are cutting into getting girls time. So I came up with a standard post-game speech. The next game is_____at____at ___o’clock. See you at ___o’clock. Go get WOMEN! They were a very happy team.
Think of games as off Broadway plays. The players get to perform under the lights and you are the director that notes the improvements that can be made and implements them in the next rehearsal. Think of what the repercussions from your words may be before speaking.