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Thread: Turning Negatives Into Positives

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    I can talk softball all day gdc03120's Avatar
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    Default Turning Negatives Into Positives

    As coaches, what are some of your go-to strategies to turn negative moments both at-bat and in the field into positive moments? I tend to find myself steaming from my ears when my girls do the silly errors we spend all of practices going over to avoid (not swinging the bat on pitches in the zone, then fly-swatting high balls outside of the zone; not calling fly balls and letting fly balls drop between two oncoming fielders, etc.) in games, then not seem too overly-worried/bothered by it. Yes I know, "you can't want it more than they do" and all that, I get that.

    Whereas I generally find myself being rather aggressive with how I approach these situations, I want to try and turn that corner and develop new strategies to overcome internal anger/frustrations I'm developing (I would rather blame myself for someone's error as me not teaching them well enough vs. blaming a kid for not doing it how I want them to) and to take negative scenarios and make them positives. I don't want my negative feelings/attitudes to be the cancer that engulfs an entire team's momentum/attitude, but at the same time don't want to be 'that' coach who just says "every little thing is going to be alright" after basic errors committed by girls who are old enough to know better.

    (background - this is a VERY young team. Most players are 12-14 and we are playing in a 16U rec-level league. There are no 12U or 14U leagues in our area, so this is what we do for summer-level competition, and I'm trying to keep age/experience in the back of my mind.)

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    Certified softball maniac marriard's Avatar
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    When a player makes an error they know... they don't need to have someone telling them... so you are on the right track.

    Here are two strategies you can try out.

    1) The sandwich... something positive, discuss correction, encouragement

    Something positive first. Even something simple. A lot of times it is as simple as they were there to make an error or they fielded it correctly (before the throw), or decent footwork, or... whatever. You can find something. it is all about setting them up for the correction statement.

    Correction... it has to be SOMETHING beyond pointing out the error they already know about and feel bad about. Better footwork, keeping head down, etc, etc. It has to be something they can act on. You don't have to be angry or yelling - screaming 'get behind the ball' is worthless... "Next time you need to move your feet so you are behind the ball." is way more effective - corrective action and reason why...

    Encouragement.. you'll get it next time, team has your back, etc, etc....

    So... "Hey, way to make a play on that ball. If you moved your feet so you were behind the ball you will have a better chance of getting it cleanly next time. You got this"


    2) Relax and say nothing. Or REALLY limit what you say.

    Write it down and work on it in practice. You can tell the team. "The game is the game. We have things to work on, but we do it in practice." You are not correcting ANYTHING serious on the day. No one has ever made a major swing correction from swing to swing. Or taught someone to throw. Or pitch or catch... and so on. Have a list you can work with next practice in areas you need work on. Refer back to the game situation i practice - "We are working on X today because we didn't execute it well in the last game"

    I try to limit myself to 3 cues to remember when they are batting so you are not overloading them. One small reminder at a time. Always remind yourself that the very best batters fail 6-7 out of 10 times. It happens. Let the game be theirs.


    3) After game.... give yourself 90 seconds max after a game to talk to the team. There is nothing you need to say that can't be handled at practice. They KNOW what happened - they were there. You harping on it is pointless. They already tuned you out - win or lose.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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    Softball Junkie dbronstein's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marriard View Post
    2) Relax and say nothing. Or REALLY limit what you say.

    Write it down and work on it in practice. You can tell the team. "The game is the game. We have things to work on, but we do it in practice." You are not correcting ANYTHING serious on the day. No one has ever made a major swing correction from swing to swing. Or taught someone to throw. Or pitch or catch... and so on. Have a list you can work with next practice in areas you need work on. Refer back to the game situation i practice - "We are working on X today because we didn't execute it well in the last game"

    I try to limit myself to 3 cues to remember when they are batting so you are not overloading them. One small reminder at a time. Always remind yourself that the very best batters fail 6-7 out of 10 times. It happens. Let the game be theirs.
    I agree. I think practice is for coaching and games are for playing. Obviously you want to help position players in the field and such, but when someone is getting into the batter's box is not the time to try to adjust their swing. And let the pitchers pitch without commenting on every single pitch. It drives me bonkers when coaches do that. "Bring it down!" "Follow through!" "That's a nice pitch!" and my favorite "Throw strikes!" Because they aren't going to try to throw strikes until you tell them to.

    Quote Originally Posted by marriard View Post
    3) After game.... give yourself 90 seconds max after a game to talk to the team. There is nothing you need to say that can't be handled at practice. They KNOW what happened - they were there. You harping on it is pointless. They already tuned you out - win or lose.
    I can't stand the extended post-game talks, especially at younger ages. The kids aren't listening, they just want to go home. Say a few words of encouragement and get out of there.

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    I can talk softball all day Rolling Hard's Avatar
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    "1) The sandwich... something positive, discuss correction, encouragement"

    This is good^^^^^^

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    I can talk softball all day gdc03120's Avatar
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    The "sandwich" method was something I had actually used a bit last season. Started it in practices and once we got into the hang of it, I used to have the OTHER girls self-assess both themselves and each other from time to time. And for the most part, it was reasonably successful...in practices. Come game-time when they buried themselves with pressure (and the parents weren't any help), it was like I was speaking Lithuanian. Our first game this season we lost 16-1 - it was nowhere close (10Ks, 7 looking, 1 run, 2 hits). Last night I came in with a more positive approach. We lost 15-3 (run rule - diff. 12+ after 5). We had 3 hits, 2 runs, 7 Ks (4 looking). There was a bit more confidence, a bit more cheering, etc. Any mistakes that were made were "sandwiched" - unfortunately I think sometimes it goes in one ear and out the other, but my team is SO significantly younger than I'm used to that I expect it not to stick. Reinforcement will help, I'm sure.

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    I can talk softball all day 55dad's Avatar
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    I am coaching a similar team to yours this year after coaching a pretty solid 16U team previously. This team is a lot of fun. One thing that helps me is to remember that the #1 goal is to have fun and the #2 goal is to learn and get better. They are still learning the game and there are so many variables. They are not having fun if I am yelling at them and when they stop having fun they are not learning IMO. My team is not full of future college players. Some of them may never play HS varsity. They are out there for different reasons. Some girls are good ballplayers and have a lot of potential. Those girls are focused and get things fairly quickly. Others are just there to hang out with their friends and have some fun playing ball. Nothing wrong with that. Throwing to the wrong base, missing the cut, striking out looking, swinging at the ball over your head are all part of learning and all of the above still happen sometimes at the college level.

    Try to remember that what happens on the field during the game is not necessarily a reflection of your coaching ability. How you react to what happens is absolutely a reflection of you as a coach.

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    Last edited by 55dad; 07-08-2018 at 01:42 PM.

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    I can talk softball all day gdc03120's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 55dad View Post
    Try to remember that what happens on the field during the game is not necessarily a reflection of your coaching ability. How you react to what happens is absolutely a reflection of you as a coach.
    I suffer from a teacher mentality that is the very opposite. The practice is the homework/classroom work, the games are the test. If they aren't "passing the tests" (doing well in games), then I'm not "teaching them well enough" (doing the right drills/having the right focus in practices, etc). I would much rather always put the stress/pressure on ME as the coach than the players, especially the younger ones. I will always sacrifice my sanity for their success. Just hard sometimes when I see them do it right in practices then wrong (or not at all) in games, and it makes me wonder, "What didn't I do for them?" I know I'm not the only coach to ever go through this - This is all I really have going on during the summer, so I prepare all year for things like this - what drills/skills/thrills can I give the girls I coach to help them love the game even more.

    What I also find harder is when I have girls of differing interests as you described. Some girls REALLY want to win, so they put everything into their swing, throw, catch, etc; some girls are so young that their focus is just on doing things the right way so they don't "screw up in front of the coaches". Obviously I do want to win, sure, what coach doesn't? But at the same time, I want the girls to realize their potential and focus on their techniques and abilities, but I know it's on THEM to do that. I'm just honestly tired of being that coach that other coaches look at and say, "Yeah, I was there before, I had this team and that team and so on" (basically feeling like I'm getting unwanted pity)

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    Certified softball maniac marriard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gdc03120 View Post
    I suffer from a teacher mentality that is the very opposite. The practice is the homework/classroom work, the games are the test. If they aren't "passing the tests" (doing well in games), then I'm not "teaching them well enough" (doing the right drills/having the right focus in practices, etc). I would much rather always put the stress/pressure on ME as the coach than the players, especially the younger ones. I will always sacrifice my sanity for their success. Just hard sometimes when I see them do it right in practices then wrong (or not at all) in games, and it makes me wonder, "What didn't I do for them?" I know I'm not the only coach to ever go through this - This is all I really have going on during the summer, so I prepare all year for things like this - what drills/skills/thrills can I give the girls I coach to help them love the game even more.

    What I also find harder is when I have girls of differing interests as you described. Some girls REALLY want to win, so they put everything into their swing, throw, catch, etc; some girls are so young that their focus is just on doing things the right way so they don't "screw up in front of the coaches". Obviously I do want to win, sure, what coach doesn't? But at the same time, I want the girls to realize their potential and focus on their techniques and abilities, but I know it's on THEM to do that. I'm just honestly tired of being that coach that other coaches look at and say, "Yeah, I was there before, I had this team and that team and so on" (basically feeling like I'm getting unwanted pity)
    Another technique for you as a coach is setting different goals for measuring success. For example I once coached a rec team that were totally over matched in their league. Instead of Wins and Losses we were focused on outs and short fielding innings. Executing basic skills successfully - even if we didn't get an out or not. Celebrating the successes and the progress over the win or loss. By season end we were competitive - that was a highly successful season despite our overall record. 80% of that team came back and played the next season.

    We annoyed the hell out of other teams. By celebrating our successes we didn't behave like other over matched teams.
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    Softball Junkie Classof2020's Avatar
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    GREAT advice from Marriard. Save those posts!

    As a parent of a DD who has been on an assortment of teams and seen all kinds of coaching her current one is by far and away the best and most successful. This guy is not a saint, he is not a warm fuzzy guy, he is maybe not even a "nice" guy. But he connects with the players because he handles himself at game time and coaches. He knows the game and they respect him. When a ball goes between someones legs (it doesn't happen often at 18's, but maybe 2 or 3 times the entire season) or communication doesn't happen and a ball drops, or someone starts to come in then changes course and now it's too late to make the play. He either doesn't say a word or he corrects with a "if you would have moved your feet like in practice that throw would have been on line" - not angry, not shaming. Just facts. Then after games they will sometimes say what they can work on in practice or do better at.

    They know what they did 99% of the time. They feel bad already. They might not know how to fix it but they know they swung at a pitch that would have been a ball, etc. The coaches we've had who yell stuff like "you have to want this!" "I can't want this for you" "you have to come to play" "why aren't you having fun out there?" none of this helps anyone. This lets them know they are letting the coach down. The coach is either embarrassed, or angry or disappointed in them and this is now added pressure on them. And the statement of you have to want this more to a kid who has been wanting this for 3 days is just infuriating and confusing. "Don't I want it? I thought I wanted it. How do I want it more? Maybe I shouldn't be playing if I'm not "wanting it" enough, because my coach keeps telling me I'm not".

    So again from conversations with my own kids, and other kids and watching coaches I think Marriard's ideas are right on the money!!

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    I can talk softball all day gdc03120's Avatar
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    I'll have to give everything some time to digest. I took the idea of goal-setting into tonight's game - a battle of my 0-2 team vs. my closest rival (also 0-2) right now. We started off reasonably well - aimed for goals of 1 run/no strikeouts in an inning (didn't get either), or successful fielding/finding the right bases to throw to on defense (limited at best). The wheels finally fell off and we lost 16-4 in 5 innings (run-ahead rule of 12 after 5, we were the visiting team). I drove the entire way home in silence, just stuck on trying to figure what went wrong. A lot of things were practice-based things we drill and drill and drill repeatedly (where to throw the ball with runners on base, covering bases on steals, etc.) We seem to do it fine in practices, then s**t the bed in games, and I don't get where the disconnect is between the two.

    Our next games are Thursday - a double-header AT the top 2 teams in the league (both from the same community, 1 is 4-0, the other is 2-0). I'm hoping the time between games will give them a chance to rest/mentally prepare. I know I sure need it.

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