Cooperstown, NY, the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, was a summer vacation spot for my family for a few summers when we were kids. As a kid who slept with his glove and was out the backdoor playing ball with his three brothers as soon as the summer sun rose, Cooperstown was our Disney World. Walking through the Hall of Fame was an all-day event. And we were lucky enough to get to play a few games on the iconic Doubleday Field. But, there was one part of the trip I hated as a kid, and that was the four hour drive to get there. Driving four hours today seems like a walk in the park. But driving four hours as a kid; in a 1980s minivan; and with four siblings (and one of them routinely got car sick) was a nightmare. I wanted nothing more than to get out of that car. I hated every minute of that drive. But, as soon as that car stopped in Cooperstown, and the backdoor slid open (with five kids falling out the back), the four hours of misery were instantly gone. Feelings of excitement rushed over me. I was where I wanted to be.
Too often we lose sight of where we will be; and instead, we focus on the pain or the problems we are experiencing in the moment. We want to quit because quitting solves the problems we are having AT THAT TIME. Now, I couldn’t just ask my dad to stop the car and turn around (even though he did threaten that very action on a few occasions!). But for youth athletes struggling to learn a new skill; that is exactly the path they take. Instead of working through the struggle, they quit.
They may not quit in the literal sense; but they take other avenues. They may stop trying altogether. Why bother trying to do something when I have already tried and it doesn’t work for me? They surround themselves (or pair up with) others that are of similar skill set. Why put myself around others who can do it as it makes me feel bad that I cannot do it? Or, they try to become the ‘clown’ and mask their inabilities to perform with humor or joking around at practice. They don’t want to be remembered as the one that cannot do something; so they work at being known for their humor. These avenues aren’t literally quitting; but in reality, they have given up.
Players need to understand that success of any kind takes time. It takes pushing through failures. As we hear so often now, IT’S A PROCESS! A key word that we at Angels Baseball are always saying is “YET”. The idea behind repeating the word is that it gives the players a sense of what could be. Think about the following statements:
- You can’t field a backhand, yet.
- You don’t hit the curveball well, yet.
- You’re knowledge on the basepaths isn’t where it needs to be, yet.
Adding the word ‘yet’ to each one of these statements implies that the player will be able to field a backhand; will be able to hit a cureveball; and will have the necessary knowledge when on the basepaths. Drop the word ‘yet’ and the player hears something completely different! By eliminating the word yet, your statements to the player can be interpreted as they will never be able to do those things.
- You can’t field a backhand.
- You don’t hit the curveball well.
- You’re knowledge on the base paths isn’t where it needs to be.
One word. One simple three letter word makes a world of difference. The impact of three letters can be the difference between someone believing they cannot do something and believing they will be able to do something. But, we as coaches and parents need to follow those three letters with three additional letters, B-U-T. We have to be honest with our players. They need to know that they aren’t good at something yet; but only IF they decide to put in the effort to be good at that skill. Improving at anything doesn’t happen through magic. It happens after we put in the effort.
Parents and Coaches. Include these two, three letter words in your vocabulary as often as possible. Always put the thought in your kids’ minds that they shouldn’t dwell on their current state. They instead should believe in what the future can bring with some time and most importantly, with some effort.