Coaches, I understand. There’s a lot you want to say. The players aren’t doing things exactly as you had planned. But, bury it. Note it. And limit your coaching during games.
This is a difficult skill that I took many years to appreciate. It’s a skill that, even though I prioritized it, can be challenging to execute. But it’s important.
Over time, I started realizing something about the coaches I respect the most. I rarely hear them. I rarely see them. They aren’t drawing attention to themselves. They aren’t screaming at players and arguing incessantly with umpires. Their voice and body language are calm and quiet.
You should still coach, instruct, and correct during games. It should be limited.
This isn’t just about shutting up. This is a philosophy. It has a purpose. And when you practice it, you’ll understand why.
Let Them Play
As a coach, you have limited control over how your players execute during games. It can be frustrating. “I didn’t coach them to play like this!” But you did.
Your infielder just muffed a grounder because of bad footwork. You can’t fix it now. Write it down and let it go.
Your batter is casting when he swings. There’s no way that you can fix his mechanics between pitches or at bats. Make a note of it and let it go.
The middle infielders just butchered the execution of a first and third call. It embarrasses you because you know they’re better than that. Mark it down and let it go.
It’s difficult, but your players need very little from you during the game. Don’t make this more difficult than it is.
You need to provide structure. You provide the lineups and decide who plays where. You’re the one deciding on pitching changes. Ultimately, you need to know the rules and help establish the strategy.
Beyond that, these boys are what they are. They’re flawed. They’re awesome. Let them play.
Your job, beyond providing structure, is to be emotional support. Cheer them on. Keep them focused. Help them fight through adversity.
Beyond that, much of the work is internal. Observe as the boys execute and do things well. Make a note of it. Watch as they make mistakes and think about why those mistakes were made. Make a note of that, too.
Work On It
Of course, there is a time and place to fix the problems you spotted during the games. It’s called “PRACTICE.”
This gives practice a purpose.
Work on execution of plays. Talk about specific situations when your team failed to execute. This failure comes back to practice. Discuss what happened, what the opposition was trying to do, and how you should have handled it. Show video if you can. Then run drills and repetitions to correct it.
Work on skills. Maybe your team booted a lot of ground balls. Walk through the multiple steps of fielding a ground ball. Work on each of those steps. Run drills. Clean it up.
Work on individual mechanics. A pitcher is failing to use his legs. A batter is casting. A fielder is taking a false step in the outfield. Work on these individually with your players.
Practice is the time to coach your butt off. Help your players understand situations and what they should be thinking about. Repeat and repeat and repeat until it becomes habit — a good habit.
More Harm Than Good
You mean well. But the constant yelling and correcting isn’t helping anyone. You can’t fix them during the game. If anything, you’re doing more harm than good.
Your chatter is unproductive noise. You are raising the anxiety level. You are giving your players more to think about. You are embarrassing them and making them feel less sure of themselves.
Stop. Let it go. You’re only making it worse.
Focus on the positive. Cheer them on. Fix and correct in very small samples, if it’s necessary and even realistic to be able to address.
Beyond that, keep to yourself.
You Can Do It
This is easier said than done, I know, but you can do it. Emotions can get the best of coaches, too. But, most importantly, set the goal of coaching less during games. Understand your constant correction in these situations rarely helps.
Focus on putting your players into a position to succeed. Focus on encouraging them and helping them with the mental side of the game. Beyond that, make note of all of the good things to reinforce and the problem areas to correct.
That correction, of course, will come at practice.
I encourage you to think about the coaches you respect the most. How do they behave during games? I would bet that they are calm and rarely heard. It’s almost as if the players perform through osmosis or something.
This is not a mistake. It’s a philosophy.
Let me know what you think!