Look beyond the player and to the person when coaching teenagers

He approached the batter’s box with trepidation. He was terrified but knew he had a task to complete. The bases were loaded and his team was down by a run.  There were two outs in the ninth inning and the game was on the line.

The pitcher was equally nervous.  The fielders were tight with anticipation hoping the ball would be hit to the other guy.  No one wanted to make a mistake. No one wanted to fail.  Experts say the best players want the ball when the game is on the line.  But how do they learn that trait?

Both coaches shouted baseball speak like “Come on, win the battle,” “Stay within yourself, “Drive through the ball”, “Keep your head on the ball”, “Follow your mechanics”, and “Let the ball travel in.”

All great advice if the players facing their potential glory day knew what those phrases meant.  These players were 13 to 15 years old and playing for their high school freshman teams.  They heard these phrases through Little League, travel ball and now high school and probably not one coach ever explained what any of it meant. I’m guessing most coaches do not take the time to explain the best way to perform in pressure situations.  They simply shout platitudes and think they are coaching.

The first pitch was a strike.  The pitcher sighed relief while the batter tightened up even more than before.  “What are you looking at” yelled his coach seemingly thinking it was helpful.  The coach is supposed to encourage his players not stress them out by yelling at them.  I’m pretty sure most youth athletes do not aspire to fail.

High school sports today are a joke.  It is not about teaching players that hard work and dedication to a craft produces results.  It’s about coach’s egos.  Some washed up ex athlete or college wannabe trying to prove they have a purpose in life.  Except to them, a purpose equates to wins and not teaching.

The next two pitches were balls.  Now the other manager began berating his pitcher and he too failed to recognize that a more constructive approach would have been to go out to the mound and talk to the kid – and he is a kid remember? I’m thinking that would have helped.

Anyone who has ever coached teenagers in any sport understands most of the drama is not on the field of play but in the dugout, sideline, clubhouse, and player interaction.  High school coaches tend to forget this when “the game is on the line.”  Rather than understand they have an opportunity to develop the person

Youth sports is not about winning or losing.  It’s about developing young adults to become better people – not on the field of play but in life.  I am not advocating participation trophies, or no score games.  That is stupid because in life people win and people lose.

There are life lessons in losses and wins.  It’s the coach’s job to extract and impart those lessons.  Teaching children how to handle success and failure is probably the best lesson a coach can teach.

Life, like baseball, is a game of success and failure. How someone handles that success or failure determines the type of person they will eventually become.

On the fourth pitch the game was settled. I am not going to reveal the outcome. Does it matter who won?

About Armando Diana

A freelance writer for more than 30 years I covered the political scene in New Jersey which can prepare anyone for national politics. I have no fancy political degrees and I'm definitely not a lawyer - I am a common person who is fed up with politics. I want leaders focused on doing what is right for the country, not for them.
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