Losing a big game can weigh heavy on a team, especially a team crafted of young players. It is your job as a coach to help your team learn and grow from their mistakes, but to also uplift them. One of the biggest roles of a youth baseball coach is to get your players excited about the game of baseball. Encouragement is a crucial aspect of coaching young baseball players, especially after a big loss. To help you manage the balance between correcting your players mistakes and boosting their confidence, here are a few helpful pointers:
Get on their level.
Do not tower over your players. The best way to deliver words of wisdom is by having them take a knee or sit down, and you kneel down with them. By getting on their level you will be less intimidating. Being on their eye-level will also help you grasp their full attention.
Use the sandwich method.
The “sandwich” method is a well-known approach that works fantastic with kids. The idea is to give your critiques between positive feedback. Giving your negative feedback in-between positive feedback will take the sting out of your criticisms and give your players inspiration to move forward.
Lead off with positives.
You should always begin your speech by addressing positive events that took place during the game. Let your players know what they did correctly and what they have improved on thus far in the season. If there was a highlight of the game where a big play was made, this would also be a great time to talk about it. Your first words are going to set the tone for the rest of the discussion, so make sure you lead off on a positive note. The last thing you want to do is start off with a negative comment, this could put a bad taste in your players’ mouthes and distract them from listening to the rest of what you have to say.
For this reason, focus on a few things the team collectively did well during the game. For example, maybe the team did a great job of calling each other off when a fly ball was in play or maybe they were creating a good line of cut offs for the outfielders. It’s important to let them know the things they did correctly before you dive into discussing their mistakes. By leading with praise, the team will be engaged in the conversation and will be listening in for what you have to say next.
The hard part.
After you’ve paid your players a few compliments, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty. Why did you lose the game? What errors were made? Why did these errors happen? What does the team need to improve on? All of these questions should be addressed and answered. Although you are dealing with kids, it’s still important for them to know what they did wrong so they can learn from their mistakes and grow into great ball players.
Don’t single out players.
It’s never a good idea to single out a young player in a negative light. With younger ball players, your top priority as a coach is to make sure they are having fun and that your players are investing themselves in the game of baseball. Singling out an individual player and their errors in front of the whole team can potentially be embarrassing and discouraging. For this reason, never single out a player in front of the team. Instead, pull them aside immediately after they have made the error and let them know how to correct it.
End speech on an encouraging note.
A team should never leave the field on a sour note. Wrap up your speech by reiterating what you are going to work on as a team moving forward. Give the team hope that they will improve and inspire them to be better. This would also be the perfect time to set a goal for the next game. Kids respond well to goals because they have something to look forward to overcoming. Some obtainable goals for kids could be to get more runs the next game, catch twice the amount of pop fly balls, or to have half the amount of throwing errors.
Wrap up with a chant or cheer.
Always come together as a team in the end and have some sort of routine chant or cheer. This could be as effortless as putting your hands in a bunch and chanting your team name. A simple chant at the end of every speech, win or lose, will give the team a sense of morale and will end the talk on a satisfying note.