Positive Coaching vs. Negative: What Is Your Coaching Style?

By Dave Holt

Baseball coaches will have to choose between positive coaching and negative coaching.

It really boils down to which of the two communication styles you want to use coaching youth baseball.

I just do not believe everyone on the team has to be miserable in order for one to be a good coach.

Start building your own ‘Culture of Player Development’

If you use the negative coaching communication style then you will take the skills of baseball and likely become a nagger. You will find yourself as a nag, nag, nag on every mistake, error, swing and miss or any misplay or boo-boo.

Rarely if ever will baseball players measure up to your standards. You have all seen a father criticize his child constantly and rarely if ever give them praise for anything because nothing is ever good enough.

That is how some youth sports coaches choose to communicate with their entire baseball team. The players will never ‘measure up in their minds.

Importance of Good Communication Skills

Very few great baseball coaches have taken the art of communication and utilized the negative coaching approach.

Become a positive baseball teacher developing confident self-assured baseball players.

Realize the Game is Not That Easy

I think in order to use the positive coaching communication style you have to clearly understand one thing.

You have to have a deep appreciation of how difficult baseball is to play well. Baseball is a very difficult game to play.

Unless you realize the difficulty level then one is more likely to conform to negative communication styles.

The youth baseball coaches that truly ‘get-it’ and appreciate the difficult nature of performing baseball skills often gravitate to the positive coaching method.

That is why the great baseball coaches and professional baseball coaches avoid the negative coaching styles method.

Five Very Effective Communication Skills

1. Watch your tone: I watch the negative coaches yelling, screaming and shouting at their players across the field. Constantly embarrassing and belittling kids after a misplay or a swing and miss while hitting.

Even losing their ‘cool’ and having deep anger and a show of temper in their voices.

I choose the positive coaching method. I will do my coaching mainly between innings in the dugout away from the crowd.

I would rather ask questions and have the players do some critical thinking on the situation and have them explain their mindset.

Then I can reply with affirmation or minor corrections in a calm non-embarrassing light, away from the fray.

Teaching baseball is essential coaching method for positive coaching. Yelling and embarrassing ballplayers is not conducive to good learning communication.

Often volunteer youth baseball coaches have little or no background or training to teach kids. This lack of training often shows when they choose the negative coaching methods.

2. Be Aware of Your Body Language

Negative body language and facial expressions can be just as hurtful or demeaning as verbal words.

Positive coaches are careful to refrain from sending a negative headshake or waving our arms in disgust to our players.

Make a good use of communication skills by only using positive body language. After a swing and miss or a foul ball let the batter know you are pulling for them.

Give them some good body language vibes and some positive claps (along with ‘Hey, that’s the way to swing it!”)

3. Use Humor in your Communication Style

There is nothing wrong with keeping things light from time to time. Playing baseball tense and anxious inhibits baseball skills from rising.

Coaches and parents often take the game of baseball so serious they forget to enjoy the games.

Speak with a smile and it will be harder to come across as a mean coach with bad communication.

Avoid sarcasm though. One persons joke is not always funny to someone else. I had a player quit one time because I did not take enough time to listen to how bad a couple of their teammates were ‘picking on him.’ I kind of heard them but I just sort of let it go as sarcasm and having a joke.

But they were really picking on this kid day after day and I really dropped the ball by not putting a stop to the teasing. I felt sick when I finally realized how bad the situation had reached. I’m working on my lack of empathy character flaws so I do not miss this behavior in the future.

4. The Compliment Sandwich:

Tips for Effective Communication

After watching youth baseball games for a while I think that it is about 10:1 ratio. That is 10 negative statements to 1 positive encouraging line.

I have no scientific proof or data on these bad communication assumptions but I know it is pretty close.

I like to use the complement sandwich. For every negative or corrective statement ‘sandwich’ it with a couple good positive encouraging lines.“Hey Larry, that was a really good cut! You were just a little late on it. Now, get ready this time to swing it.”

Use two or three times as many positive complements and encouragement to any pessimistic, downbeat, nonconstructive, unhelpful, disproving and harmful coaching statements.

Study the pros. They aren’t always right, but baseball IS their business. Why ask a butcher how to roof your house?.

5. Avoid the Post Game Verbal Lashing

Professional teams and some college teams often avoid meeting after a loss.

Why? Simply because a coach might be too emotional after a tough loss and communicate negatively after the heat of the battle.

I am not telling you to avoid a post game meeting but you might want to be aware of your emotions.

Keep the meeting short and if you have more to say wait until the next time you get together. Parents want to get going after the game and don’t want to held up by a lecturing upset baseball coach. Remember…positive coaching! It works a whole lot better. Just try it.

Similarly, avoid the post-game analysis on the way home in the mini-van with your kids. Youth players do not want to listen to you re-hash the entire ball game and nit-pick every player and second guess undermining the baseball coaches strategies.

And do not blame the umpires either. Try it if you think it looks easy.

After finishing his professional playing career Dave spent eleven seasons managing in the Red Sox minor league system helping to develop several major league ballplayers. After leaving the Red Sox Dave managed and recruited in the Independent Professional Baseball leagues. He has also coached collegiate wood bat and high school teams. His site, coachandplaybaseball.com is a wealth of information for baseball players and coaches of all levels.

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