Coaches: Let Your Athletes Fail

I’ve been deeply involved in the game of baseball for over 22 years, and when I say deeply involved for 22 years, I mean that I have had a very strong passion for the game during this time. It started with when I was young, 11 years old, and decided that I loved the game and wanted to play as long as I could. This passion continued to grow as I got older and has since spilled over into the coaching arena once my professional playing days came to an end.

I love teaching the game to the best of my ability and giving what I can to the players that I teach. On the flip side, I love to learn and I have a strong desire to get better at what I do every single day and to improve my ability to communicate and teach. I love the opportunity to help a young player improve and see the results of their hard work and focus, and I love to learn from others and achieve my own goals as well.

My job helps me connect to a deeper purpose in life, and it helps me want to continue to improve myself and stay accountable as a person in order to reflect the same values that I teach to my players.

With that said, I realize that my teaching style must adhere and adjust to each individual player/personality that I work with. I know that the things I teach will never be as effective if I have a ‘one size fits all’ mindset. It is not intelligent of me as a coach or a communicator to think that I should approach every player I work with the exact same way.

My teaching always comes from a place of genuine passion and authentic love for the game. It’s a gift and a blessing to be able to work towards making a living out of teaching kids how to be great, whether it is in baseball or life. At MADE Baseball, I set out to help my players learn championship habits for both. With that said, I have a discipline that I adhere to in my own life, one that has come from years and years of practice and training. It has come from a lifetime of coaches influence, actions, and words–many, many words and many, many actions from many, many coaches.

When I teach, I have realized that I sometimes use many words. Often times, when I finish a session, I think to myself, “Isaac, you talked too much today. Talk less and be quiet more. Let them fail.”

I often times find difficulty minimizing the amount I choose to speak during a lesson. You see, I always have this inherent screaming desire to help my players get there fast. Learn fast, improve fast, get those results so FAST. I think this is conditioning on my part from the ways of the world and what I’ve been taught defines success. I’m trying to start stepping back and slowing down with future sessions and new players.

After being a private coach/trainer now for over eight years, I’ve come to a newer and I hope, a more matured realization. I believe it is advantageous to let my players fail more often and not say anything about their failure in the moment, rather than continue to just keep saying the same thing over and over again. 

Repeating myself makes me crazy and insane. Often times, I have to say the same thing to a player…over and over and over…and over…and over…and over again. I’ve realized that this does not help. I always do my best to put myself in the shoes of the player that I’m working with and ask myself, “Would I want to hear myself saying the things I’m telling my player right now? Is what I’m saying getting through? Should I shut up for a bit and just see what happens?”

All of these questions are going through my mind during the entire session. And in my opinion, they have to be going through my mind in order for me to practice what I preach to my players, which is to Get Better every single session. It’s not just their job to listen to what I say and try to implement it, its even more so my job to be mindful of the way I communicate to them in order to adjust to their specific learning style and personality. 

Regardless of the personality I’m working with, I’ve realized that less is so much more in the majority of the situations I’m in while I’m coaching. Most of the time its best to say something only once or twice so long as I explain it clearly and make sure my player understands. This can be difficult to do sometimes as a paid coach because we feel like we need to make corrections on every rep, especially when there is a parent watching closely. You know what? We as coaches have to block the parents out, even if they are lurking. We have to trust our coaching styles, especially when we know we are on our own lifelong journey of improving ourselves and the way we teach.

We (especially ME) have to shut up more often and just let the kids do it wrong for a some time before we choose to speak again. I need to stop saying something after every single swing or throw…I’ve realized its just not healthy and that I quickly reach the point of diminishing returns when I try too hard. Silence is often a better option.

Even if I can see that a kid is blatantly doing something fundamentally wrong, I can’t continue to remind him if I’ve already explained it clearly and simply, and I’ve confirmed that my player understands. It is my job to know that I have stopped and broken it down in a way that is easy to understand for my player, and if I know I’ve done this and that they understand, then I simply can’t tell a kid to keep making sure that his feet are square before he hits. I’m not going to do it anymore. I’ll say it a few times, and then I’ll mix in some discipline like 5 pushups if they forget…and then after that, once I know they know they are accountable for the action, I will just let them do it wrong for a while before I say anything again. I truly believe this is the better option than repeating myself. After all, who wants to hear someone say the same thing over and over and over again? As an adult, I sure don’t want to hear it. If I’m working with a personal trainer and they tell me how to do an exercise, I expect to have a some time to work it out myself prior to them fixing me over and over again without giving me a chance to do it myself and ask some questions.

So, in conclusion…I think I talk too much. I’m going to start choosing to speak much less and letting my players sort things out on their own more often. They are capable. It is their responsibility to apply things I teach. I am not going to tell them that 2+2=4 more than two times. After I’ve told them twice, they are responsible for knowing…otherwise, my vigilant repetition will only serve to be annoying, even if my intentions are good. Let them fail…let them figure it out. Once you have said what you need to say and explained what you need to explain…give them the time and opportunity to make the adjustments…even if it doesn’t happen right away.

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