Now these are not lessons I learned when I was 9 and sucked at baseball. These are lessons I’m learning now as my kids play. Because let’s be honest, I listen to the coaches better now than I did then.
1) Spend more time encouraging your kid than correcting them.
It’s not that “training your child in the way he should go” is not important. I’m just learning that a kid needs to know they are loved before they know they are wrong. Being wrong can still be a safe place if you are loved. So if I’m throwing with my kids or helping them in batting practice, I need to find more good to say than bad. Which is a feat. It’s not part of what we know as coaching. It wasn’t how I was coached. Maybe that’s why I was lousy at baseball. If a kid is encouraged, then the sport can be fun. If it’s all about correction, then we end up creating 10 year old stressballs. Why would anyone want to play, if it’s just another time to get in trouble? I want my kid to walk out of a day at the park knowing firmly that they are loved, and maybe to have learned something helpful about sports. Their identity is more important than their ability.
2) Scolding your child in front of everyone does not accomplish what you want it to.
I cringe every time a parent yells at their kid from the bleachers. It makes my stomach churn. And yet, if my kid is playing third base, and is looking at a jetstream in the clouds instead of the ball, I have this urge to yell at him. Mainly so he doesn’t catch a line drive in the face, but I’m sure some of it is that I want him to do what is right in the game. However, the goal of correction is that they do it correctly the next time. That they hear what you say, remember it, and change their actions. But if you are humiliating them in front of their friends and everyone else, I don’t think they can hear what you are saying. They are not receiving your instruction. They are just shamed in front of their peers. They may be hurt. They may be angry. But they are not thinking about how they can do a better job next time.
3) There is something to celebrate in everything.
We were lucky and our team was really good this year. Not championship good, but solid second place, win most of the time good. But even in the losses, maybe especially in the losses, our coaches still sat everyone down afterwards and told them what they did well. They still gave out a game ball. They still pointed out the positives, the growth, and the small successes. And I think it’s in those times that we need to hear those things the most. It’s when it’s dark that we need the smallest lights. It’s when we’re sad that we need the smallest joys. I’m sure the coaches were disappointed in those times too, but they took more time away from their families, more time until they got to eat dinner, more time until they were alone, to invest in these kids. To say, “hey, you did a good job of….”
There are probably a lot of other things I should have learned. Maybe next season. Or maybe you have some to share.