Sunday, September 24th, 2017

The biggest mistake baseball coaches make

November 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Coaching

In the field of psychology there is a concept called the “curse of knowledge.”  The curse of knowledge is the mistaken assumption that others share our expertise and will behave as we would in the same situation.  In my opinion, the curse of knowledge and the assumptions that go with it result in the biggest mistakes coaches make.

Anybody know what he's talking about?

Anybody know what he’s talking about?

 

Most people who coach have played a lot of baseball.  They’ve learned what they know about the game through many hours of practice and games played as well as those seen on TV.  They’ve read books.  They’ve attended clinics and camps and generally surround themselves and communicate with people who are at their same knowledge level.   Unfortunately, over time, they begin to assume that everyone has (or should have) the same knowledge they do.  This includes their own players.

This curse can cause coaches to get very frustrated and can lead them to be too harsh at times when dealing with players.  You might hear this come out in the following phrases:

“Our team OPS needs to improve if we want to start winning games.”

“How can he not make an adjustment and throw strikes?”

“Why on earth would he swing at that 2-0 curveball?”

In the first comment, the coach assumes all the players know what “OPS” stands for.  Personally, I can’t stand acronyms for that reason.  To me, they smack of elitism and give off the impression that “I know more than you do.”  That’s why I rarely use them and when I do, I make sure to immediately give the full name in case the person/people don’t know what the letters stand for.

In the second comment, the coach is assuming the pitcher knows what adjustment is needed.  Do you really think he’s out there saying to himself, “I know what I need to do but I’m not going to do it because I want to walk everyone.”  The coach knows what adjustment needs to be made only through a lot more experience in that situation.  Of course, the player has not had that same amount of experience yet.

In the third, the assumption is that the hitter should be able to calculate the count, the situation, recognize the pitch, and decide to take it within a second or two within a pressure filled situation.  Virtually no young player is going to be able to make those calculations based on their experience level.

Along with being too quick to make assumptions, coaches often forget what it was like to NOT know what they know now.  This phenomenon affects all of us to a certain degree.  The frustration of not knowing what to do in a given situation left us years ago after a lot of trial and error.  Our players are currently IN that trial and error period.  Don’t forget that.

To address these problems, here are three suggestions:

Recognition.  The first one is just the recognition that these phenomena exist and that they, in fact, might be affecting how we communicate with people, especially younger people.  This simple recognition often gets us to catch ourselves when speaking (hopefully before speaking) in the manners listed above.

Don’t assume.  Never assume that the words, phrases, or acronyms you commonly use are understood by everyone.  Most won’t know so you are better off assuming they do not.  I’ll deal with this more in a future post.

Survey.  Create an anonymous survey for players to fill out and get some feedback on how you are doing.  Among other things, you can ask them to comment on how good/bad your communication is.  Note: This is one of the scariest things you might ever do in coaching but the information you get is well worth it!  Click HERE for an example from a prior post in 2011.  Use that one or create your own.

PS:  As a teacher and a writer, I am constantly editing my words (spoken and written) to make sure I am not making these basic mistakes.  If I am, please tell me!  I’m sure I don’t catch everything.

Tomorrow’s (video) post: Footwork for 1st and 3rd cutoffs

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