The Coach and the “Over Coach”

     I remember one year when I was playing in Japan, and having a pretty good season, I went through a stretch where I was struggling at the plate. As long as I have been in the game of baseball, I don't know of anyone that hasn't struggled at one time or another. This particular time, one of our coaches approached me while I was taking pre-game batting practice and told me that our manager had said if I didn't start hitting soon, he would take me out of the line-up.


     I immediately walked out of the batting cages and replied to the coach that if he wanted to take me out of the line-up, then he should do it right then. I did not say this out of pride, ego, anger, or frustration. I said it because I knew I could not play the game under threat and looking over my shoulder. Going to the plate feeling that you have to get a hit creates tension and tension at the plate is your worst enemy. We discussed it, the threat was lifted, and I went on to have a productive season.


     This process of "negative motivation" is a classic definition of over coaching. I am seeing this type of coaching become the norm, especially at the high school level. I think coaches at the amateur levels feel so much pressure to win, they feel they have to take total control of the game. They don't realize they are sometimes destroying the development of the players, because the players start to feel that the coach has absolutely no confidence in them to make their own decisions in the game. There is no worse feeling in any situation than to feel that you are not trusted to make your own decisions.


     Coaches are now calling every pitch the pitcher throws. I feel that takes all the fun out of being a catcher who should be learning to call his own game, especially if he is a prospect. It especially takes all the fun away from the pitcher, who should have the ability to shake off a pitch simply because there is absolutely no one on the field that knows what pitch needs to be thrown in any situation better than him. If he makes a mistake on that pitch, then he just learned something.


     Ultimately, that is what baseball and life are all about. Learn, learn, learn, and learn some more. We learn from our mistakes... we learn from adversity, we learn from what we see, we learn from what we hear, and we learn from what we do. But the big problem today is if the player makes a mistake, he really doesn't have to take responsibility. All he has to say is "Oh well, the coach told me to do it," This is not in every case, but still too many cases.


     I've seen coaches and managers like Dusty Baker, Jerry Manuel, and many amateur coaches that build a confidence in their players. They teach them in practice and then trust that they will go on the field and perform. It is absolutely unnecessary for a coach to yell and scream at a player. Sure, some players need to be pushed a little, but in a way that builds confidence and not tear them down. Some amateur coaches are over coaching kids with their hitting and making them hit their way, instead of letting that player learn to develop his own swing with the coaches support.


     Coaches with no patience or confidence in their players must first look back at their own career and see if they ever made mistakes. I bet they did. I almost feel that those coaches that yell and scream at players are insecure in their own abilities to coach. And as I say sometimes, the only thing in baseball that is more dangerous than a coach that doesn't know is a coach that doesn't know he doesn't know.


     So I say, let the kids play, let them learn from their mistakes without punishment. Don't use running as a punishment, use it as a necessity to become a better athlete. Don't micro manage every situation. Let the kids try things and not be afraid to fail, then see the satisfaction on their face when they have a small success from something they did on their own. Don't be an over coach, just be a coach.


Leon Lee

Talking Baseball with Leon Lee
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