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Too positive can be (almost) as bad as too negative

Before I get into the main topic for today, let me start by confirming that I am a huge believer in positive coaching. I believe the authoritarian yelling and screaming style of coaching is outdated and counter-productive. It may produce some short-term benefits, but in the long term it does more harm than good.

 

That said, when it comes to fastpitch softball (as well as other activities) there is also danger in going too far the other way.

How could that be? If negative is bad, isn’t the opposite of negative positive – and therefore good? Not exactly.

The danger in going unrealistically positive is it often tends to kill the incentive to improve. If players are constantly being told how wonderful they’re doing, even when their skills leave a lot to be desired, they may not feel the urgency to step it up to the next level.

There are all kinds of examples. A hitter who is crushing the ball against weak pitching despite weak mechanics won’t develop the mechanics she needs to hit higher-level pitching. That’s fine if she never wants to move up in class, but if she does she will find it difficult. Then she’ll be left wondering what happened.

Another example is the pitcher who relies only on her fastball, or the catcher who never learns to block a ball in the dirt. Skills that help better-than-average athletes succeed early generally do not hold up as they get older or face better competition.

What players really need from coaches (and parents) is honest feedback. Praise them for their good work now, but also inform them that they can do better, and become better.

Build that work ethic and sense of striving to improve constantly and you will do more for their self-esteem, and their long-term success, than simply telling them how great they are all the time. It’s how the truly great become great.

 

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