Fastpitch coaches behaving badly
Last week I had the opportunity to witness a type of fastpitch softball coach I thought was extinct. It was sort of like going to Jurassic Park and seeing a T Rex rushing at your Jeep.
The genus was Coachus Jerkus. In layman’s terms it was one of those old-style “command and control” coaches who seems to believe the more you yell at, embarass and humiliate your players in front of their teammates, parents, opponents and passers-by, the better of a coach you are.
It started with a pitcher (who was 15 or 16 years old) not hitting the spot the coach had called, with the result that the hitter hit a home run on a 1-2 count. (Understand that hitting a home run in this indoor venue basically meant popping a “Texas Leaguer” over a curtain about 120 feet away).
When the ball sailed over the curtain the coach screamed (and I am not exaggerating, it was like the aforesaid T Rex spotting prey) something unkind at the pitcher. I don’t recall the specifics of what was said, but it was along the lines of “What the hell are you doing?”
The intimidated pitcher’s first pitch to the next hitter went high and wide. To which the coach screamed “That’s where the LAST pitch should’ve been.” And on it went. If a player bobbled a ball, or didn’t make a throw quick enough, or didn’t get the bunt down she’d hear about it. As would all the rest of us. It went on from the beginning of the game all the way through the end.
To tell you the truth, I felt bad for the girls on the other team, although I understand this guy has been coaching for a while so they (or their parents) all probably knew what they were getting into. When the game was over that was unhappy-looking group of girls.
What’s really puts the capper on this behavior is that there was nothing at stake in these games. In fact, they were barely softball games. They were indoors on a short field with a 1-hour drop dead time limit. The purpose is to let the girls get out of the practice gym and try out their skills. Pitchers get to pitch to hitters, hitters get to hit off pitchers, teams get to work on plays, everybody has fun. Well, almost everybody I guess.
To go so over-the-top on any softball game when there are so many real problems in the world is wrong in my opinion. In this particular situation it’s particularly uncalled-for. The softball world could really use a governing board to report this kind of behavior so coaches who verbally abuse their players in this fashion can be disciplined.
The real shame, though, is that all that yelling and screaming really doesn’t help. Study after study shows that this old school style of coaching is actually counter-productive. Especially with females, where the old Mike Candrea admonition “Boys have to play good to feel good, but girls have to feel good to play good” comes into play.
Let’s hope this particular guy leaves the ’70s behind someday and learns that it’s ok to treat your players with caring and respect. In fact, it’s the way you get the most out of them.