Q. Coaching: The "Before & After" Speach
A. Tonight's baseball practice was great. It was our first time going through a lot of things. We took a pre-game infield/outfield. It was putrid. Players dropped balls, we had a gazillion bad throws, and we just looked terrible. I brought the guys in. I think they knew I was displeased.
I told the guys that they looked putrid. We discussed the meaning. I told them, in the kindest way possible that it made me want to puke. I said it with a smile. Then I said, "This was the before picture. I'm so glad you guys looked so bad tonight because a before and after picture is only good if the before picture looks bad and the after picture looks awesome."
I told them that I was so excited for them to see just how much better they are going to get over the next couple of months. I told them to remember how bad we were tonight, to remember the word putrid.
Now the challenge for me is making them into something that is not putrid.
My advice: It can be OK to come down on kids for not performing. It is good to give them both negative and positive feedback. I believe in being honest with them, but never let the kids leave the yard discouraged. Motivate them to go home and work on some things. Motivate them to come back and try harder the next time. You can only do this once you've established a positive relationship.
"Bobby, you may stink today but you are one small adjustment away from hitting the crud out of the ball. If we really dedicate ourselves to making some adjustments with that swing, you are really going to turn some heads." If you are a coach that is always coming down on kids and never building them up, you can't get away with telling a kid he stunk today. If you are a coach that has established that you care about the kids and that you genuinely want to see them get better you can smile at the kid and tell him he stunk. Remember to tell him that you've had many days where you've stunk. Then teach him the proper response (work harder, don't give up, don't feel sorry for yourself, think positive).
Written by Brian Berger: ABC Holiday Baseball Camp Director and Owner Youth Baseball Edge