When Players Get it Wrong

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

When I coach at any level, I try to correct every mistake I see a kid make. My attitude is that if I let a player field a ground ball in a manner contrary to the way I taught him at the first practice; if I see a boy catch a fly ball incorrectly; I am doing him a disservice and only reinforcing the improper technique by letting it go. However, when I correct that mistake I try to do so in a positive manner. For instance, after watching a player catch a pop fly with his mitt turned the wrong way my conversation may be something like this: “Tommy, I’m glad you caught that ball, but remember, we want to have our glove turned this way if the ball is above our waist, right? Can you show me how to do that? Perfect! But great job with the catch.”

I see too many coaches who are only concerned with results and not the methods used to acquire those results. Believe it or not, I’d rather have a child use the proper technique and fail, (drop the pop-fly for instance), than use improper technique and succeed. Stressing the importance of proper technique over results is better in the long run for your player and your team.

Finally, when you run practices, don’t expect perfection. There will be plenty of time ahead for these kids when perfection, in sports, school and other activities will be demanded of them. Expect mistakes, correct them gently, and take the time to appreciate the innocence of kids just trying to have fun with their friends on the field. If your own son or daughter is a superstar, you’re going to have many moments in the years to come when their performance thrills you. But if you think about it, the kids who don’t have great athletic futures in front of them might never get a chance at glory unless you provide it. Stopping practice to enthusiastically point out something a player did right in front of the whole team may be the closest thing to a walk-off homer or game-winning shot some players ever get. And it may be something they remember for the rest of their lives.

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