Caught Looking

Plaster this quote everywhere; inside the score book, inside your coaching notebook, write it under the bill of your hat if you have to, whatever it takes just don’t forget these words.

“There is nothing tough about getting negative when things go wrong. Any toddler throwing a tantrum is “tough” in that sense. A truly disciplined coach provides emotional support to a player who has just blown a play that cost a game. Mental toughness is remaining positive in the face of adversity.” -Jim Thompson, Positive Coaching Alliance

I was reminded of this quote Sunday evening when a kid named Will struck out with the winning run at second base. The game featured two 9U teams that were both playing at a very high level. I was extremely impressed by both teams and the game came down to little Will standing in the batter’s box with two strikes. It was a huge spot as the winner would move on to play for the championship. Unfortunately for Will it was not his day.

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Photo Credit: Calvin Middleton

The bat remained on Will’s shoulder as strike three popped the catcher’s glove. The coaches didn’t yell or throw a tantrum but I watched as this disappointed 9-year-old made his way back to the dugout, then through the line to tell the other team good game, then into the team huddle and not once did I see a coach put their hand on Will’s shoulder and tell him it was okay. As he walked past these coaches on his way back to the dugout it was as if Will didn’t exist.

I don’t know these coaches so I will not declare them jerks. Instead I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say in their deep disappointment at the result of the game they forget to give Will the emotional support he needed. Finally about fifteen minutes after the strikeout, after the dugout was cleaned out and the coaches finished there post game talk critique, a coach from the team playing after them pulled Will over and patted him on the back and offered some encouragement.

Emotional support, though we often forget, is a big part of your roll as coach and even as parent. The way you handle your Will in a loss is huge and much more significant than praising them in a win. I would say the coaches, though they may be great guys and have obviously done a great job teaching the boys how to play baseball, also left the bat on their shoulder and got caught looking just as Will did at the end of the game.

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