The lost art of accountability

There is an interesting phenomenon going on generally in the Western world, and one that we’re seeing more of in fastpitch softball as well — a lack of personal accountability. By that I mean players standing up and saying “Hey it was my fault we lost/things didn’t go the way we wanted.” Instead, more and more are willing to blame someone else for their woes.

A good example is pitchers. They throw a ball in the dirt, well away from the plate, it goes to the backstop and the runner on third scores. Then later the pitcher blames the catcher for either not stopping the ball, not recovering it fast enough, or both. Never mind that had that “rise ball” not gone into the dirt in the first place it wouldn’t have been a problem.

The same thing with shortstop and third basemen (and coaches) blaming a first baseman for not scooping a ball out of the dirt on an errant throw. While perhaps the ball should’ve been caught, it wouldn’t have even been an issue had the throw been on-line and in the air in the first place.

Hitters blame umpires for ringing them up on a pitch they thought was too low or too far outside, even though the last four hitters had those same pitches called against them. Pitchers (and their coaches) blame an umpire for squeezing them when the strike zone isn’t as wide or deep as last game. Yes, sometimes pitchers do get squeezed by the Blue, but probably not as often as we think.

The key issue is players taking responsibility for themselves. Back in my playing days, I was the reverse. After every loss I would think about a pitch I didn’t hit well, a ball I didn’t field as well as I should’ve, a runner that was safe stealing a base, etc. that was the cause of our loss. Never mind we lost by eight runs. I was convinced that had I made whatever play was on my mind it could’ve turned the loss into a win.

Nowadays, more often than not, it just doesn’t happen. And so the same mistakes continue, game after game. Why would you work on not doing something (like throwing pitches into the dirt) when clearly the ball getting through was someone else’s fault?

I think one big driving force behind all this is the parents. We are in a child-rearing era where parents will do anything to avoid seeing their kids fail or get their feelings hurt. Parents take up a collect and buy them trophies for being on a team instead of letting them earn it. Parents will make excuses on the sidelines for a lack of performance, from “she doesn’t feel well today” to “she was up late doing homework and is tired now” to “she’s letting the other players drag her down.” Hey, how about the fact that Suzie Snowflake just plain sucks today, hasn’t picked up a ball or a glove or a bat in a week, and maybe isn’t quite as gifted as you’d like to think?

You even see this with equipment. At our tryouts recently, I couldn’t believe how many players coming in for a tryout, where they’re supposed to try to make a good impression, had their parents carrying their equipment bags. (When I saw it I would usually say “Must be nice to have your own caddy.”) If they didn’t bring their glove over to where we were doing fielding, it wasn’t the kid who would run back and get it. Mommy or Daddy would do it, like they forgot to bring it. I’ve actually seen players get mad at their parents because the parents didn’t check the equipment bag to make sure all their stuff was in there. That is just ridicuous.

Your equipment, your mental state, and everything you do is your responsibility, nobody else’s. It’s time today’s generation of players (as a whole) quits making excuses or looking for someone else to blame and starts becoming accountable for themselves and their own actions. Because someday, when you have a real job, no one is going to be interested in your excuses. If you can’t do it, the company will find someone who can.

POSTSCRIPT: I am actually fortunate that almost all of the players I’ve coached over the years understand this, and their parents understand it as well. It makes it a pleasure to work with them. Those few who didn’t really stood out like ants in a sugar bowl.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on September 12, 2008, in General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Fantastic article! Especially the part about the parents making excuses for non-performance. “She isn’t feeling good today”, if I had a $ for every time I heard that!On our teams, the kids know that when they walk by my truck they grab the gear and carry it to the car. They also know that they don’t walk to parking lot without a bucket or bag in their possession in addition to their own bag!This is the only acceptable response. One way I find good to have kids accept responsibility for their own actions is to have a team policy, if someone makes an error, the ONLY allowable response by your teammates is to pat them on the back, pick them up, and tell them they will do better next time.When other kids ridicule them it leads to bad morale and then they are hesitant to accept responsibility for their mistakes. I tell the team nobody’s out is more important any anyone else’s, and everyone will make an error or have a bad day, including the coach! Own it, learn from it, suck it up, move on and do better next time.

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  2. My wife came to me laughing because she had read this article. She actually ask me if I had changed my name. Great article. I am printing it and distributing it Monday night at practice – to the parents and the kids.Coach Bill

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  3. LL Coach, I agree with you. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that excuse too. Some parents just don’t realize it’s ok that their kid didn’t do their best that day, not for lack of trying but because they just didn’t have it. Who among us is on top of our game all the time? Even the pros have off-games. Better to say “I played like crap today” and work on doing better next time than to look for excuses. You’re also right about every out being equal. I remember an old Mad Magazine cartoon about baseball. Two hitters come back after striking out in the last inning. Then the third kid strikes out and the first two angrily point and say “You lost the game for us.” We all share responsibility for the losses as well as the wins. That’s what a team sport is all about.Coach Bill, glad your wife got a laugh and was able to identify. Hope your players and parents get the message. Quit whining, play the game, and accept responsibility. It’s so much more fun that way!

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  4. I love that! I am going to use it all the time! Thanks! I have told you this before, but your kids are lucky to have you as a coach. They will be fantastic adults if they heed your wisdom.

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  5. As are yours, especially in a rec league (which I assume from the name). You obviously have the passion to teach kids not only the sport but the life lessons that go with it as well. Too many people who coach don’t want to learn a thing. I’m learning all the time – sometimes from other coaches, sometimes from my players and students. It’s amazing to discover how much you don’t know once you start to know something.

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  6. Ain’t that the truth! I have a post coming out some time this month titled, “Rules, the more of them I know, the more I realize I didn’t know”. I am player agent, league information officer, and coach of a seniors softball team, a juniors softball team, and a minor’s baseball team. I keep busy!I do feel Little League is a step above a “rec” league though. Certainly it is not travel ball, but it is not your local YMCA rec program either. Either way, I enjoy reading your posts and appreciate your efforts. Keep up the good work!

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  7. No disrespect intended. Around these parts, Little League is the rec league. It’s either that or travel ball, and there’s a huge gap between them. Interesting to hear what it’s like in other parts of the country.Sounds like you do keep pretty busy. No one locally may say it, so thanks for all you do. It’s people like you who give the kids a chance to play.

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  8. None taken. Our Little Leagues are pretty competitive we play interleague play and while everyone that signs up is given a spot, we are blessed with great coaching and, in the spring, it is very competitive.If is not nearly as good of quality as travel ball though, I would never pretend that it was, but, as you know, it does offer many things that travel ball does not. My kids play both.I personally think that Little League should add a new division, call it elite, or something like that. They would play travel ball against every team in the district who also formed an “elite” team. This would allow Little League to compete w/ travel ball.The rec league I was part of in VA did this. They had all the girls play rec ball and pick 1 travel team from that group that played travel ball. Basketball was formed the same way as well. That way the league had the best of everything.

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