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Hot Tip - Why Knowing When NOT To Coach Is More Important Than You Think

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Learning and knowing when NOT to coach may be one of the best youth baseball coaching tips you will ever receive.

There's a classic scene early in the movie Bull Durham where Kevin Costner's Crash Davis character goads young stud pitcher Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh into a brief fight behind Mitch's Bar.

After landing a solid punch, Davis helps Nuke up off a pile of garbage saying, "You just got lesson number one - don't can only hurt the ball club."

I've used variations of that line - minus the fisticuffs, of course - countless times over the years working with young ballplayers. "When you're in the batter's box, don't be thinking about all the drills we do during lessons or practice. Just see the ball and hit it. If you do the work in here, everything else will take care of itself."

And yet, as a coach during a game, what do I invariably end up doing? It's one piece of advice after the other - "Keep your head in!" "You're pulling your front shoulder out." And combined with whatever "suggestions" (well-intentioned as they may be) that are coming from family members in the bleachers, what you now have is information overload on a kid who is already trying to do the hardest thing in sport - squarely hitting a round moving object with another cylindrical object.

It can be just as problematic when it comes to pitching. "Just throw a strike!" You can imagine little Tommy's thoughts on the mound - "Gee, thanks, Coach. What do you think I'm trying to do here?"

Remember - pitching is hard. It's the one position on the field that is guaranteed to be a part of every play.

I once had the opportunity to ask Boston Red Sox Hall-of-Fame catcher Jason Varitek what was the best advice he could think of for young pitchers.

His answer was just three words - "Control your breathing."

So now invariably when I walk out to the mound to speak with a pitcher, more often that not, I start the conversation by saying something like, "You're doing fine...I just came out to give you a breather."

"Even though it may not look like coaching to everyone in the stands, some of your greatest impact on your players may come from those moments when you choose not to do anything at all. Stepping back, and letting players do what they think is right will open up the window afterward to teach them exactly what is right. The next time it happens, they will be ready to do it right on their own, because you helped guide them to the path that is the way." (Source - Darren Fenster, ABCA Inside Pitch Magazine)


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