One of my pet peeves when I coach youth baseball is coaches that yell at their players during a game. I’m not talking about occasional encouragement or getting a kid’s attention so you can signal him directions, I’m talking about overt yelling after a bad play has happened.
We’ve all seen this at games. The pitch is overthrown to the backstop and the runner on first base bolts for second. The catcher gets the ball and rather than “eat it” and return the ball to the pitcher, he sends it to second base to get the runner. Of course the short stop misses the throw and the ball rolls into center field. Meanwhile the runner is now standing on third, or worse yet, on his way home.
This kind of a situation really makes a coach come unglued. It’s tempting to yell at your catcher for making a throw he shouldn’t have and then to yell at your shortstop for missing the throw. If the runner makes it home, or even if he makes it to third on the play, at least three kids are immediately feeling horrible about the play. The pitcher feels bad for throwing a pass ball, the catcher feels bad for making a late throw and the shortstop feels bad for missing an easy catch. If the runner scores, the whole team feels bad.
Hollering at them will not make them learn from their mistakes, but it will make them feel even worse than they already do. Resist the temptation to discipline on-field. The best thing you can say to them in general is to shake it off and get out of the inning. Runs can be made up when you’re back on offense. Wait until they are in the dugout and then gather the players in the corner and ask them what they did wrong. Explain to them what they should do next time and then pump them up with positive words of encouragement.
So much of baseball, like most group sports, is mental and emotional. If you let your players get down on themselves, they will find it hard to continue playing and then you have a team melt-down. My head coach and I make it a golden rule not to go off on the kids during a game. In fact, we do very little “coaching” on game day. That’s what practice is for. If we see the kids making repeated mistakes, we work on those plays during the next practice. The games are for the kids and practices are for the coaches.
It’s extremely difficult to watch your kids get burned by making bad plays. Competitive coaches sometimes take winning a bit too personal. We have to remember that the real reason we are playing a game is to teach the fundamentals and instill a respect for the game in the young players. We’re not out there to tear people down like angry drill instructors or to win the World Series. Keep your emotions in check.
My head coach usually takes third base when we’re up to bat. He’s the only one who talks to the batter directly. One of the other assistant coaches will take first and remain largely quiet. We will say encouragements when we feel the kid needs them, but we let the head coach do the adjustments like “Choke up on it,” or give the sign for bunt or not to swing. This lets the kid focus on his goal of hitting the ball.
I hope that I don’t need to reiterate here that yelling at umpires is also unprofessional. Even if the call was completely wrong, the Blue’s decision is final and arguing about it, especially loud enough for the kids and parents to hear is poor sportsmanship and sending the wrong message. Our policy on this is basically the same thing we tell our kids. Don’t argue the call. If you think there’s a chance the field umpire had a better view, ask for them to discuss it. Other than that, let it be.
Believe it or not, I’ve also been in games where opposing coaches argue like school boys over calls or non-calls during the game. This is just childish and should never be allowed to happen. Again, who are we playing the game for the coaches egos or for the kids? If the coach is not going to be an adult, he or she needs to leave the game.