Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Get out of their ears

September 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Coaching

Sometimes the less said the better.

A few days ago I took my daughter (7 yrs old) to her soccer practice at an area elementary school.  Next to the school is a nice Little League complex that has about five fields.  I took a walk over to see the action since the lights were on and it appeared players were practicing.  On one field, there was a young player at bat who looked to be about 10-12 years old, a teenager throwing batting practice, and a vocal adult (I assumed it was his father) behind the fence giving advice.  I cringed a few times because the father was making two common mistakes that coaches, parents, and instructors make.  Mistakes that simply drive players of all ages absolutely crazy.  Not only was he 1) talking too much, but more importantly, he was 2) giving advice as the kid was trying to hit!

Mistake #1 – Talking too much

Nobody likes the parent, teacher, coach, etc. who won’t shut up.  When instructing, you have to be careful about how much information you pass on to a player at one time.  If the player is still learning many of the fundamentals, it’s usually better to pick one or two fundamentals to focus on during a lesson or practice.  It can be tough as an instructor to ignore mistakes that players make but if you attempt to get the player to improve by providing 10 different tips after each swing, he probably won’t improve in any of them.  His attention and focus cannot possibly be on every one of his mechanical flaws at the same time.  A good instructor knows when to bite their tongue on many things they could be saying so that they can focus the player’s attention on one or two things that are most important.  Topics ignored during a session can be addressed in later sessions.

Mistake #2 – Talking at the wrong time

The basic tip for coaches, parents, and instructors is:  DON’T GIVE ADVICE  TO A PLAYER WHILE HE IS PERFORMING.  It doesn’t matter if the player is performing in practice or in actual games.  All advice and criticism should be given at the appropriate time.  In practice, it’s somewhat ok to offer advice between swings.  Even then, players can get angry if you always force them to stop their rhythm after each pitch to listen to you.  Hopefully it is obvious why you should stay out of a player’s ear as the pitch is coming in or while a pitcher is in his motion.  When the play starts, the player needs his full attention on performing the task and should not be distracted by your comments.  Wait until the play, at-bat, drill, or even game is over.  This also has the benefit of allowing players the space and time to self-analyze and self-correct.

Playing baseball is hard enough.  Playing it with a parent or coach who is always in your ear makes it exponentially harder.

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