Great coaching takes an incredible amount of time, thought, planning, organization, education, training, and experience. All these things ultimately lead to very detailed practice and game plans that result in formative instruction, leadership, and mentorship. Throughout this process, of course, coaches say and do many impactful things, some very helpful and wise, some not. But coaches should not overlook and underestimate the power and value of what they don’t say and do not do.
Coaches say and do too much.
Coaches frequently wonder why the performance of their teams in games does not match what they were taught in practice. And yet the moment the players step on the field, coaches are constantly talking at them. Not enough time is spent listening to the players, connecting with them, and understand them as people; what they are thinking in the moment and what is happening with them outside of the sport.
This relationship is the essential foundation for all learning.
Coaches are so quick to analyze and correct the good or bad result of a play they fail to first address the player’s deficiencies in athleticism, physiology, or psychology. The development of a hitter’s swing or a pitcher’s delivery may first require improving the stability and mobility of their body or their mental approach to the situation.
If coaches want to see more consistency in the way their teams perform at practice and the way the team plays in games, they need to end every practice with a game simulation or scrimmage where the coaches say and do absolutely nothing. They need to simply observe what the players have learned because despite the coach’s unfortunate efforts to micromanage every thought and step for their players during games the outcome will still ultimately depend on what the players do on their own.
The same is true for the self-esteem of the players. If our goal as coaches is to develop strong leaders for the world not just players for the field, the players will feel best about their play in the game and its ultimate result if they know they accomplished it on their own and not because of being puppets. If coaches would spend a few hours in school attending the math and science classes of their players, they would be amazed at what the players are required to learn and what they can remember. Coaches would cut the puppet strings. i.e., the wrist bands and cue cards, and dispense with calling pitches for their pitchers. Trust their training and let the players play.
Finally, every single day, slow down and appreciate how precious these moments are with your players. Coaches, remember always that in the minds and hearts of your players, the look on your face, the language of your body, and the tone of your voice, in the short term, may dictate the result of how your players play and what your players comprehend more than anything you actually say or do and, in the long-term, may dictate what the player chooses to remember as their experience playing for you.
Dads, grandfathers, moms and grandmothers who coach their sons, grandsons, daughters and granddaughters should say much less about the game and just recognize and acknowledge the courage it takes for their loved ones to simply step up to bat or on to the mound with all-the-world watching to try to do things that are almost impossible to do generally, and are certainly not possible, in their minds, to do well enough to meet your standards and expectations.
The sounds of the ballpark and game, the smell of the air and grass, the feel of a baseball in your hand, the innocent faces of your players; they will all be gone more quickly than you will ever imagine. Fill these precious moments in coaching with many more smiles, hugs, handshakes, and thumbs up, and much more laughter, and much less with all the other things you think are so important to win the game.
When all is said and done, it will be what you did not say and did not do that you and your players will remember.