5 Ways to Help a Player Look Really Bad
You would think that one of the core parts of a coach’s job is to help ensure all of his/her players look good whenever they step onto the field. After all, pretty much every program at every level includes some form of “We are here for the girls” in their mission statement.
Yet the reality is you would be wrong. Because while most coaches sincerely love what they do and helping young people succeed, experience shows that is not true in every case.
Unfortunately, some are so caught up in their petty grievances and vendettas against individual players, families, outside coaches, other organizations or administrators at their schools or in their programs, etc., they kind of lose sight of their purpose and instead tend to make their decisions more to gain revenge or right perceived wrongs against them than to help players and win ballgames.
I know this sounds strange to some of you. But I’m sure many have experienced it first-hand.
In fact, this whole post was inspired by a rant a friend and fellow pitching coach had about exactly this type of situation. Not going to share his name because he hasn’t posted it publicly but I’m sure he knows who he is.
So if, rather than wanting to win ballgames and being willing to put a literal elephant on the field to do it, your first goal is to ensure that the targets of your anger feel the full weight and glory of your wrath, here are some suggestions to make it happen.
Throw pitchers into games cold
No better way to make even a great pitcher look bad than to just yank her off the bench, or better yet off another position on the field, and send her into the circle without a proper warmup. (BONUS: You also have the opportunity to help her get hurt! What a marvelous two-fer.)
Every pitcher needs time to warm up. Modern windmill pitching requires and incredibly complex and precise set of movements that must be intricately timed to produce the best results.
That’s why even the greats such as Lisa Fernandez, Cat Osterman, Monica Abbott, Sarah Pauly, Yukiko Ueno, etc. all would take their time loosening up their arms, finding their way to timing, and working on spinning the ball properly before games.
So if you want to “prove” to everyone that a particular pitcher isn’t good enough (and justify why you’re pitching another girl ahead of her) throw her in the game cold, preferably with runners on base, and let her struggle as she tries to find her rhythm. Very satisfying!
Put players in positions they haven’t practiced
Fielding and catching are the same skills no matter where you stand on the field, right? So why can’t any player play any position?
The reality is there are all kinds of nuances, physical and strategic, that go into every position. Which means there is a big difference between playing, say, third base and first base, or shortstop and first.
There’s even a different feel between outfield positions – not to mention different responsibilities. And forget about going into the outfield all of sudden when you’ve always trained as an infielder.
So if you want to make a player look bad, put her in a position she’s never practiced and has zero level of comfort in. If you can do it in a pressure situation so much the better.
Then be sure to yell when she bobbles or drops a ball, or throws to the wrong base, or makes some other type of mistake. That always helps.
Yell instructions to hitters while they’re at the plate
But don’t just yell out the instructions – insist that they follow them. For example, if a hitter likes to hold her hands a little low, tell her to hold them higher, and keep telling her until she does it.
Hitting is a tough skill to master to begin with. But giving her instructions she’s not comfortable with and insisting she follows them will really help throw her off her game and ensure she looks bad.
Or here’s another great idea. If you know a hitter’s flaws, yell them out loudly so the person calling pitches on the other side knows how to pitch to her.
For example, if she’s a sucker for high pitches, loudly state “Lay off the high ones” before the first pitch. If she tends to swing at pitches in the dirt, you can jauntily yell, “Don’t chase pitches in the dirt.”
The combination of changing her swing in the middle of an at-bat AND ensuring she sees a steady diet of pitches to her greatest swing flaw ought to help drive that batting average right down to where you want it.
Blame Player B for Player A’s mistakes
There’s nothing quite as much fun as taking the mistake of a player you like and foisting it on a player you don’t. This sort of deflection can really help bring down the spirits of the one you don’t like while simultaneously avoiding having to hold your favorites accountable.
Take the throw from short to first on a ground ball. The shortstop (who is “your kind of player”) picks up a routine grounder and proceeds to three-hop it to the first baseman (who is on your you-know-what list for whatever reason).
There was no reason for the ball to bounce once, much less three times, but the first baseman fails to pick it cleanly and the runner reaches base. You can let the shortstop slide while screaming at the first baseman that she has to “get those.”
Or what about a pitch in the dirt? This time you love the pitcher but find the catcher annoying.
The ball goes into the dirt in the opposite batter’s box for the fifth time that inning and finally gets away from the catcher, advancing a runner. Do you talk to your pitcher about hitting her spots?
No, of course not. You yell at the catcher because she missed it. Now everyone knows the pitcher is doing great but the catcher just sucks. Mission accomplished.
Hold players to different standards – and embarrass them when you do it
One of the best ways to ensure a player looks bad when you want her to is to put her under different scrutiny than her teammates. Bonus points if you can make it obvious you have favorites and non-favorites.
For example, a time-honored classic is to allow your “good” or favored players to make multiple errors in a game (or even an inning), but pull those you don’t like after a single error. If you can pull her off the field in the middle of an inning so she has to do a “walk of shame” in front of everyone at the field, even better.
For pitchers, you can sit idly in the dugout twiddling your thumbs while a favored pitcher walks several hitters while yanking a pitcher you don’t especially care for after one or two. Again, bonus points for yelling “We can’t defend a walk” after the first one. Double bonus points if the reality is you actually can’t defend a ground ball, pop up, or fly ball either.
You don’t even have to be that obvious, though. You can simply grunt and groan loudly in frustration whenever a player you don’t like does something bad while sitting silently or offering words of encouragement to one you do. The message will come through loud and clear.
Put ’em in their place
These are just a few examples. I’m sure many of you have seen more – perhaps some even more egregious.
It doesn’t take much, really. All you need is a little imagination and a burning desire to make sure players you don’t like for whatever reason look as bad as possible.
All it takes is a toxic combination of pettiness and ignorance.
Whether your goal is to make yourself feel big and important or just to drive girls you don’t like off the team and maybe even out of the sport, these tips will help. Now go show them who’s the boss.
Top photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com