I am reading a book right now by David J. Lieberman called
You Can Read Anyone . Lieberman is an internationally recognized leader in the fields of human behavior and interpersonal relationships. (At least that’s what it says in his bio on the back of the book.).
While I initially purchased this book to improve upon my already incredible sales skills, I have found a lot of useful information that applies to Little League. The most prominent point in the book involves ego vs. self confidence, and it is very enlightening.
According to Leiberman, the common definition of ego differs from the psychiatric one. So, I went to dictionary.com and looked it up. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, here is the definition:
the one of the three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that serves as the organized conscious mediator between theperson and reality especially by functioning both in the perception of and adaptation to reality
Basically, in layman’s terms, Leiberman defines ego as a defensive mechanism. One that cannot allow a person to be responsible for anything that is wrong in their life. The bigger the ego, the less personal responsibility one is willing to take, but inversely, the bigger the self-esteem, the more likely we are to admit mistakes, forgive others, and rely not on anything anybody else says, only on what we know is truly right.
The reason he goes on about this at great length in the book is because you must first establish whether a person is self confident, or egotistical (in the psychological sense) before you can begin to read them. This is so true of little ones.
How many times have you heard a kid come to the dugout after striking out blaming the umpire’s strike zone? How many times does a kid boot a grounder and say “it hit a rock” or something of the like. This is the ego getting in the way, or from a coaches perspective, this is a kid lacking in self confidence.
What is the inverse of this? The kid strikes out and says, “man that was a good change up, I won’t swing at it next time though”. Or, “geez, I should have had that ball, sorry guys, I will get it next time”. That is a player with self confidence who is destined to succeed! The appropriate response from a teammate? A pat on the back and “That’s alright, you will get the next one”.
So where do they derive their lack of self confidence? A lot of it is inexperience. I have spoken often here of the “light bulb” syndrome, where suddenly you see a light bulb in a player’s mind turn on and they “get it”. They just start doing things right, and confidently. But that is down the road.
I believe that kids lacking self confidence have not been allowed to fail. They are sheltered and have no real experience as far as success and failure go. The ONLY path to success is through failure. Any good businessman knows this, and every coach on the planet preaches it daily. If parents shelter their kids from failure, or make excuses for their shortcomings, they are not allowing their self confidence to grow, and their ego must take over. Because our ego will not allow us to be failures, so we must blame the world for everything that is wrong with our life.
How do we overcome this? Youth sport is a fantastic way to build self confidence. Even a kid that strikes out every time occasionally walks, that is a confidence building opportunity! When they actually get a hit, holy cow! Now we have a beaming smile of confidence. Ever notice how hitting is contagious? This is why, confident batters are successful, those that allow their ego to cast blame, usually fail.
One of my favorite sayings is “in baseball you get paid millions of dollars for failing 7 out of 10 times, don’t be afraid to fail, without failure, there is no success”. It is so true. I read an article about this at littleleague.org the other day and they were asking if parents were confident enough to allow their little johnie or janie to fail and still stay out of it?
Are you? Can you? How about yourself? Do you blame the world for everything that is wrong in your life or do you accept responsibility and apologize to those you have wronged? A self confident person apologizes, an egotist continues blaming the world. Which will you be?
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This is something that I struggle with constantly. I have girls in softball and boys in baseball and coaching them is completely different. The younger boys are more like girls, but when they get older it gets tougher. Instilling confidence is key at the younger ages, but there is so much more beyond that.
I am intrigued by the statements in an article on The Championship Coaches Network that goes into great detail about this.
Click here to view the article
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that I was referred to this article from one of my favorite blogs
Life in the Fastlane by Ken Krause
The thing I take out of the article is that girls need confidence building and wish to gain your approval, while boys are cocky by nature and need humbling. Of course this is not an all or nothing situation, but it explains why my softball teams started performing better when I went all positive reinforcement!
What is the biggest difference between coaching girls and boys to you?
As we practiced for our tournament of champions tonight our team had that swagger back. A parent in the stands remarked, "they look good tonight, they are playing with a lot of
confidence ". How crucial is that in our sport? Essential! It doesn’t guarantee victory, but it assures a chance at it. If you lack confidence in softball , you might as well stay home, you are done.
We practice twice tomorrow. I wonder if they can maintain this passion? I think they will, they are really starting to gel. A third of the team is sleeping over one of the girls houses, this is great. They all showed up tonight after a long game last night with smiles on their faces, smiles go a long way! Hopefully we will do the same.
First, I would like to thank our opponent and congratulate them on being such a formidable opponent. We play a five game series to determine who will represent our league in a district-wide Tournament of Champions (TOC) and it took five games to determine a winner! They were truly a worthy opponent. Young too, they will be VERY good next year.
Girls Showed Up
Tonight our girls decided they were going to play as good as they are truly capable of. It was an awesome spectacle to watch. While we had struggled holding it together in prior games, tonight they were clicking on all cylinders. Our pitcher was on all night, and we made all the routine plays we are supposed to make. Our hitting rarely fails us, and tonight that was the case again, so we hit well and scored 10 runs.
It was fun to sit back and watch the
confidence they played with tonight. I hope they take that confidence into the TOC next week. Do you have a story of confidence? Please share it.
They are only Children
We have to remember that the children we are coaching are just that, children. They are sponges that absorb everything around them. Probably more so than most of us would like to admit to ourselves even. They also probably learn more from our actions than from our statements. Lord knows they only listen to half of what we say, but they watch our every move.
Encourage, Encourage, Encourage
What are we to do? Encourage, encourage, encourage. What do we accomplish by shouting a kid down? I remember umpiring an All-Star game. A shortstop had a play in front of him where he missed the tag. A common error, but an error nonetheless. He was already upset, and needed to know that this error wasn’t the end of the world. It probably seemed that to the kid at the time.
His father stood outside the fence and screamed at him. "How could you do that, what is wrong w/ you" is what he hollered. As if that weren’t enough, he proceeded to yell at the kid even though he was crying and very visibly upset. But what made my jaw drop was when the father started yelling "what is the matter?, are you a sissy boy?, why are you crying sissy boy?". I couldn’t believe it. The kid was playing in the 10/11 division so he couldn’t have been older than 11.
This was very loud also! Everyone in the park could hear it, why would he humiliate him so? It made me sick to my stomach. What was I do to though? I know you will say I should have said something, but he really wasn’t doing anything illegal. I was the umpire in an all-star game, if i said something it would have caused a very big scene and I may have ended up on Gretta for causing a riot!
A Better Solution
How could this have been handled better? How about yelling at him, "that’s OK, that play is behind you, now get over it and make the next one". He was the shortstop after all, he had to be one of the best players on the team. Why not remind him that there was actually "no harm done" because the runner only advanced to third anyway! Tell him that the next play he was going to get a double play!
This would have given him great confidence, security to know that even though he made an error, everyone does, move on and make a play the next time. He would have mentally recovered and prepared for the very next pitch, almost a duplicate play. This time he bobbled the ball and didn’t get the out. How can we mark error Dad in the scorebook?
Build Them Up
We have to remember that we are not here to tear kids down. How easy a task is that? Anyone can yell at a kid and make them cry! But how many of us can take a kid that just made a major error and make them grow from it? Make them better because of their mistakes? That is what it is all about, make them better, build them up, don’t tear them down. That’s just plain bullying.
Does anyone have a story where you took a kid that was struggling and made them better? How about one where after a major blunder, he saved the game, got a key hit, or home run? Could anything be better than the smile on that kid’s face? Think about the one on yours! Could you wipe that off? I think not. Please share!
Tonight we had a small spring break hitting practice. It went fairly well at first, everyone was hitting well and the seven girls that were there were very comfortable. I had to ask a few of them why they didn’t hit like that in the game?
Then the magic happened! One of our best hitter hit the ball so hard she broke her bat! This turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to the team!
The fact is, I wanted her to switch bats anyway but was reluctant to ask her because she was using her own bat. The bat she was using was OK, but it wasn’t a catalyst! We happen to be fortunate enough to have a player on our team who is the lucky recipient of demo catalysts every year because of his job. She has four in her bag! Yes, over $1,200 worth of bats in her bag! Her cousin, also on our team, has one too and my daughter has another that was given to us by them.
Once she broke her bat, I suggested she used this other girls catalyst. She immediately ripped the ball down the line harder than she had ever hit the ball. Her next hit landed 5′ short of clearing a 225′ fence! At most of the parks we visit, it would have been gone. The boys do this all the time, the girls not so much.
Her hitting was infectious as hitting often is. Suddenly everyone was using that bat and everyone was swinging hard. Everyone was ripping balls over the outfielder’s head, who happened to be one of our girl’s dads. He was exhausted by the end of the night. I have to ask myself, why did they hit so well tonight? and How do I get them to do it in the games?
First and foremost, I think it was confidence. Once this girl broke her bat, she was confident she could hit hard. The fact that her first hit was a shot down the line only fed that confidence. She swung hard and confidently from that point forward. This confidence was infectious and that is all it took to ignite the other girls. I have to remind them how hard they hit the ball so they can continue to do so in the games.
Second, they were calm. There was no stress of a game situation and they were having fun. They calmly stepped into the box and hit the ball. There was no fear because I was pitching and they knew what to expect. This calmness has to be transferred from me to them in game situations. I am not sure how I will do this, but I will attempt to remind them and maybe have them do some visioning drills before the game putting themselves back into that place that they were tonight and trying to bring that place with them to the game.
Third, they were comfortable. It was a beautiful night with a slight breeze blowing and they are very comfortable with one another. They way they get along is what chemistry is all about. This is something I didn’t coach, they just love each other and that is fine by me! They are comfortable around each other and they feed off that comfort. Hopefully, when we travel, we can take some of the comfort with us.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that hitting is all about cool, calm, comfort in the batters box. Rather than thinking “oh no, I have to hit now”, you have to step into the box and say “Yeah baby, bring it, cause I am going to turn it around!”. That makes all the difference in the world. It is the difference between a shot in the gap and a meager dribbler or strike out.
What techniques do you use to instill confidence in your batters?
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I don’t want to get too cocky, but our softball team, the Flames are very strong. Not only are they a very talented team, they are one of the funnest teams I have ever coached. They really are coming together and being around them is a joy.
Our first game was last night and I was pleasantly surprised. While I knew we had a good defense and very powerful hitting, our pitching was very suspect! Enter our new (for now anyway) star and team leader.
I have coached this girl for four years now. She is very talented but never really lived up to her talent. She didn’t like pitching, even though she had great potential, she didn’t like being hot, even though we live in Florida! She had little or no confidence and doubted herself.
I don’t know what happened this year, but she has come out of her shell completely! She is leading the team’s cheers and showing a level of confidence she never showed before. Confidence is a very shaky thing though and we will need to help her work through the difficult times she will inevitably face over the long season we have here in the south.
Tonight we held a light practice. FCAT testing is taking place in our county and this is serious business. During that practice this girl continued to lead the team. As we were leaving she asked me who was pitching. I told her I was planning on her. Her reply? “yeessssssssss”. A far cry from the one who didn’t care either way for 3 years.
Hopefully she will maintain this attitude as we march towards our top team championship!
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