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Irvine, Ca

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Irvine Little League Baseball Coach offering private baseball lessons, baseball camps, and coaches clinics.

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Coach Ballgame (Irvine, Ca) provides tips and advice for those struggling with coaching their little league teams.

Filtering by Tag: positive coaching

A Bad Picture

James Lowe

One of my most talented players has decided to quit baseball.  He’s seven years old.  WHY?

A five year old attended my Summer Camp in a last ditch effort to find the joy in baseball.  WHY?

              A nine year old was so anxious, he couldn’t sleep the last three nights in anticipation of a new PE class.                                                   

                                                                                          WHY?!

I know why.  A bad picture gets painted in a young person’s brain MUCH clearer than a good picture.  In all three examples, these kids had been scarred by a prior experience with a coach.  When I asked these children specifics of their bad pictures, here were some quotes:  “I felt a lot of pressure.”  “The Coach was always negative.” “My Coach argued a lot, and got kicked out of games.” “I was afraid to make any mistakes.”  “I wasn’t having fun.” 

Now let’s push pause for a second.  I know I’m in the minority here, but I personally fed off getting yelled at.  I thrived when I was pressured to succeed.  I even got fired up when my coach stuck up for his players and got kicked out of a game.  But I was 18 years old.  I was a grown man.   Prior to that, I wasn’t able to embrace that coaching style in a healthy way.  Picture an eight year old version of Coach Ballgame crying his eyes out in a dugout because he made three errors at third base.  I remember it well.

In my humble opinion, the atmosphere of coaching high schoolers and  coaching our youth must be apples and oranges.  At a mature age, one can compartmentalize the pressures bestowed upon them.  One can even see through the semantics and understand exactly what the coach is trying to do.  And by that age, you’re dealing with adults who’ve been in love with that sport for many years.   Conversely, with youth sports, you’ve gotta be in the business of “giving the bug.”   My proudest moments come when a parent informs me of their child’s newfound obsession with baseball.  “My kid is exchanging baseball cards with their friends, and we are going to our first ever Angels Game!”  They’ve got the bug baby!  As a youth coach, I did my job. 

In all three examples at the top, I actually believe the coach meant well, and was simply teaching the way they were taught.  I definitely started coaching Little Leaguers that way, and it led to neither of us having any fun at all.  As I began to look at the big picture of youth sports, a blaring theme became clear.  These kids shouldn’t need to know they are learning skills.  These kids shouldn’t realize they are being challenged.  I can actually build their character, and sharpen their skills, all while they are having the time of their life.    Their sole realization is they are engaged. Unfortunately, this task hasn’t  gotten any easier.  We’re up against a fierce enemy: The INCREDIBLY ENGAGING WORLD OF VIDEO GAMES.  So what do we do about it?  We paint ten really fun, memorable pictures of youth baseball in their brain at an early age, and you hope that outweighs the one Bad Picture they are bound to have.  Young kids need to feel as excited about playing baseball as they would at a Fortnite themed birthday party.

In closing, this is not a negative rant on bad youth coaching.  I’m too optimistic to believe a parent who takes time off work to coach their kids, and in turn paints a bad picture in the right fielder’s brain was malicious.  They simply fell into the same traps I did as a young coach.  I stick by the idea that we all mean well.  But the time has come to execute well also.  Kids need sports.  Kids are actually yearning for sports.  So let's help them paint some beautiful pictures and create a lifetime love for sports.

To hear more information on how to keep your kid in love with baseball, check out my podcast here.

           

 

           

 

           

Keeping Players Confident

James Lowe

Imagine This Scenario: A little league pitcher is on the mound who seems to be struggling.  After his second walk in a row, he hears the words "Come on buddy, throw strikes" from his coach.  He gets behind 2-0 on the next batter and his teammates begin to grumble the words, "Don't walk this guy." Two pitches later, he has walked the bases loaded and the tension within the bleachers is palpable. The tension within his own dugout is beyond palpable. The most important bit of tension that seems to be lost here is what's going on inside this young pitcher's brain. His thoughts are 100% fear-based at the moment.

"Don't mess up!"

"Don't let the team down ."

"I HAVE to throw a strike."

With all the pressure on his shoulders, he fearfully aims 4 more pitches that miss the strike zone. As he hangs his head in defeat and walks off the field, the world says goodbye to yet another pitching prospect because "Pitching is not fun."

Here are some facts: Baseball Players don't perform well ‘in the moment’ when given an ultimatum. Players perform better when their mind is at ease. Their mind is at ease when their thoughts are in a specific and positive place, as opposed to a place of fear. We all know in the above scenario that this young pitcher isn't trying to walk batters. We also know the pitcher’s coach and teammates aren't trying to sabotage him, yet every time he hears the words "throw strikes" his confidence takes a hit. When a pitcher's confidence takes a hit, they begin to aim the ball. The word aim should not reside in a pitcher's dictionary.

Aim = Afraid = Bad Performance.

So what could have righted this ship?  Without getting too technical, the coach might have noticed an issue with the pitcher's tempo, stride, release point, or follow through. Possibly the pitcher was using all arms and no legs. Instead of stating the obvious "throw strikes," sharing a positive and specific thought such as "smooth tempo" or "reach to the target" gives the player a much better chance to succeed. Here are some examples of "fear based " vs. "confidence based" comments: 

FEAR BASED

"Don't be afraid of a ground ball"

 "You have to make contact"

 "We have to win this game"

CONFIDENCE BASED

 "See the ball touch your glove."   

"Pay attention to the ball."  

 "Treat every pitch with focus and joy."                                                    

Obviously, this scenario doesn't just come up with young pitchers. If a hitter is in a slump, and the coach can provide an uplifting and specific thought like, "focus on seeing impact," that should get the hitter back on track much quicker than reminding them of how bad they are doing with a "don't strike out," or "just put the ball in play" comment.  When a catcher can't seem to throw the ball back to the pitcher, challenging him to focus on his legs as he releases the ball could put that "yip" to bed.  

In a nutshell, little leaguers don't respond well when told "not" to do something.  Their brain immediately obsesses on that thing they are "not" supposed to do.  If the player has a positive thought during the moment of action, then his brain doesn't have time to think about all the negative things that could happen.