Your body language matters. It’s contagious. It impacts your mental approach, and it impacts your teammates.
The negative reaction reflects negative thoughts. Negative thoughts won’t help you. They will get in your way.
But the problem isn’t that you’re just thinking negatively. The problem is that you’re showing it. And showing it is what impacts others.
Dropping your head in disgust. Putting your head in your hands. Throwing things in anger. Reacting to an umpire’s call. Moping and loitering after an out instead of joining your teammates. It’s all bad body language.
It doesn’t mean you need to have a big smile on your face when the team is down by 10.
It doesn’t mean that you should be unaffected emotionally by everything happening around you.
Being conscious of your body language means understanding that how you react to adversity has a direct impact on your teammates and on your own performance.
If your body language says you’ve given up, it probably means that you have. It says your teammates have the permission to give up, too.
The fight against negativity is a challenge that you can win. It will take some work. But focus on these things…
1. Keep Your Head Up
Don’t bury your face in your hands. Dropping your head also means that you are physically looking to the ground. If you do this in the middle of a play, it means that you have temporarily taken yourself out of the play. Other teams can now take advantage.
2. Avoid Dramatic Reactions
You disagree with the umpire’s call. Your eyes grow big, and your arms spread wide.
It’s disrespectful to the umpire. It suggests that you were wronged. It suggests that you aren’t responsible for the result. It will not help you with the umpire. It may suggest to your teammates that the umpire is out to get your team.
Dramatic reactions also distract you from the play. That strike three call? The catcher missed it, and it’s heading to the backstop. But you were too busy reacting to notice.
Keep control. Nod your head. Accept it. Learn from it.
3. Hustle Back to the Dugout
My favorite. You struck out. You didn’t like the result. Don’t mope. Hustle back to the dugout, head held high.
It’s a great way to choose positive body language over negative. It says that you’re going to be okay. That the team is going to be okay.
4. Take a Deep Breath
You made a mistake, or something didn’t go as you would have hoped. Don’t panic. Take a deep breath and…
5. Reset, Reflect, and Refocus
A good exercise to help young athletes — or any athletes — deal with an emotional moment is Reset, Reflect, and Refocus.
RESET: Acknowledge that something didn’t go your way. Gather yourself.
REFLECT: What is it that just happened? Did I do my best? What could I do differently next time? Without the reflection, we don’t learn from what happened.
REFOCUS: Now, what’s happening? What’s the current situation? What do I need to do next? Move on from the mistake or negative moment.
6. Don’t Separate Yourself from Teammates
You’re having a tough game. Once you enter the dugout, the immediate thought may be to separate yourself from your teammates. To sit by yourself. Don’t.
Sure, you may need a moment to get yourself together. That’s fine. But you don’t want a prolonged period by yourself. Get back into the game mentally. There’s no better way to do that than to get to the fence and join your teammates.
7. Stay Engaged
The immediate response for youth players in these situations is to disengage. Go internally. Get quiet. While you may need a minute, gather yourself. Then re-engage! One of the best ways to move on is to stay engaged.
What’s your responsibility? What’s the score? How many outs are there? What’s the count? What’s happening?
8. Stay Vocal
We’ve all seen it. Nothing seems to be going right. The defense isn’t making plays. Every bounce goes the wrong way. We’re not throwing strikes. We’re not getting hits. Calls all seem to go for the other team.
You can often look into a dugout and know what the score is based on sounds and body language. If it’s silent, things aren’t going to get better.
Stay vocal. Cheer on your teammates. Get crazy. Talk about situations, responsibilities, and play calls. Staying vocal helps you turn the page rather than giving in.
Coaches Need to Watch Body Language, Too!
Hey, coaches aren’t immune! We set the examples. If we exhibit bad body language, we can’t demand something different from players. It will trickle down.
It’s something I’ve long worked on. I’m heavily invested in each play. It’s important that coaches aren’t overly demonstrative when things aren’t going our way.
Remain positive. Show that positivity. Things are going to be okay.
Kids are emotional. They’re kids! You’re not going to eliminate bad body language, but it’s a good thing to work on.
Anything you’d add to this list? How do you deal with negative body language?
Let me know in the comments below!