Fastpitch coaching: The yelling and screaming school
There is this belief in the fastpitch softball world, and youth sports in general, that coaches have to yell and scream to get the best out of their teams. It’s partially a function of the Hollywood mythology of sports — all those movies with the “tough but ultimately kind” coach who takes a ragtag group of players and wins a championship — and partially our obession with pro sports.
The reason I bring this up is the team I’m currently coaching has not gotten out of the gate quite as quickly as we had hoped, although we are showing improvement each day, and I suspect at least a couple of parents who buy into the mythology think it’s because I’m too soft, especially during games.
They think that because when a player makes an error or a mistake I don’t come screaming off the bench, or yank that player in the middle of an inning in favor of a replacement. I may bark a little (which can be difficult to hear at large, open complex), but I don’t go into the usual histrionics some may be used to. I also suspect a couple of players who come from that environment may be wondering about it as well.
With that in mind, I had a chat with the girls yesterday about playing big, overcoming fear of failure, that sort of thing. And then I addressed the yelling and screaming part.
I told them I am not that way as a conscious decision. I told them I used to be that guy, and they really don’t want to play for that guy. I had my assistant coach Hillary, who played for me from the ages of nine through 18, confirm it. And boy did she.
I used to get pretty angry at poor play. I don’t think I was ever totally over the top, but I would be a lot more vocal during games, yelling stuff out and holding people, um, accountable right then and there. I kicked over a few buckets of balls in my day, and threw some other stuff around.
But what I came to realize over the years through a combination of coaching education and my assistant coach Rich was that it was really counter-productive. Yes, we want to hold players accountable, and it’s ok to be tough. But there’s a way of doing it, and a time and place to do it. That is usually at practice.
One other thing I learned was the value of saving the post-game evaluation for a different day. I was known for some lengthy post-game speeches/analysis, especially when things didn’t go right. I doubt much was heard, but it made me feel better. Along the way, though, I realized it was best to keep it to a minimum because sometimes things don’t look as bad after 24 hours as they do right after the game.
So these days I’m actually pretty calm during games, at least on the outside. My insides still do churn when we drop a popup, throw away a ball on an easy play, or watch an obvious third strike go by. But that’s where it stays. Goosefraba for you Adam Sandler fans.
The easy way when you get mad is to let it all hang out. It’s definitely tougher to keep your cool. But in the long run they’re still just kids playing a game. Staying in control gives them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes rather than simply ducking and covering all the time.
Not to say I never get after them. I can still be tough when needed. But now it’s a decision that that’s what’s required to get them on track rather than an emotional reaction to negative stimuli. It makes a world of difference.