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Coaching from the Rearview Mirror

Coaching from the Rearview Mirror

Coaching from the Rearview Mirror

Coaching from the rearview mirror is a phrase I use to describe when a coach yells at a player for something he did wrong…but the coach hasn’t taught that player the correct way to execute in that situation. Here’s a baseball example:

A batter squares to bunt, causing the third baseman to charge. As he charges, the runner on second breaks to steal a now-uncovered base. The batter pulls back his bunt attempt, having done his job of drawing the third baseman away from the base. The coach from the defensive team yells at his third baseman for not covering the bag. The third baseman becomes  frustrated because he has never faced this situation in practice or in a game, and now his is being publicly criticized for his failure.

At higher levels of play, a coach who responds like this would likely come under fire for “throwing a player under the bus.” In youth sports, though, this is a common occurrence. In front of everyone watching the game, the coach has vented his frustration over his player’s not being prepared for a game situation. In situations like the one above, it is often the coach, however, who has not prepared his team for that situation. He was outfoxed by a better-prepared coach. He shouldn’t be personally offended at a ten-year-old because of it, should he?

Don’t mistake coaching from the rearview mirror for openly correcting a player for something that a player knew how to do but did not execute. There is a difference. If a base runner doesn’t run on a batted ball with two outs, for example, and he knows to do so, the coach is certainly justified in a little negative reinforcement. How loudly and how publicly–well, that’s a conversation for another day.

Two Reasons for Coaching from the Rearview Mirror

Many coaches who coach in this manner have noble intentions. They are volunteers, perhaps even the only volunteers to coach their individual teams. This post is certainly not a rant but encouragement and training for those who may find themselves coaching from the rearview mirror. As I look back on my early years as a coach, when I was also guilty of coaching from the rearview mirror, I see a couple of reasons coaches yell at their players for mistakes for which they have not been trained:

The coach expects his players to know everything about the sport that he knows. He doesn’t take into consideration that everything he knows about the game came over time. He played for different teams and coaches.

Coaches can correct this by taking on the mindset of teachers who can build their players’ love for the game by explaining the “why’s” behind the “what’s” of the game. For many coaches, patiently teaching young players how to play the game correctly and seeing their gradual and steady improvement is their greatest reward as coaches.

The coach doesn’t know how to instruct in a given situation. That pitcher who needs to  “just throw strikes” might actually have some very fixable mechanical issues with his delivery. Fixable to someone who can identify them.

Coaches can correct this by taking on the mind of learners. There are too many books, videos, camps, and conferences available–many of them free–for coaches to continue in frustration because they are not experts in every facet of the game. Just like with every other avenue of life, lifelong learners make the best teachers…and coaches.

Coaching a Youth Team?

If you are a coach of any youth sport, be careful with the lives of the players on your team. You wield great influence in the lives of young men women who will spend most of their lives doing something other than sports. The transferable principles that you have the opportunity to teach them through sports–principles like integrity, humility, teamwork, and perseverance–will go with them long after their careers in sports are over.

Don’t just look back in frustration at what your players are unable to accomplish. Look ahead. Model the improvement that you would like to see in your players. Be a learner. Be a teacher. The next generation needs you.

Oh, and don’t forget to have fun!

Coaching from the Rearview MirrorI wrote the Coach Dave series to remind youth baseball players, parents, and coaches of the tremendous potential that sports have to teach valuable life lessons. Season Two is now in post-production and will be available around the start of Major League Baseball’s Opening Day 2016 (late March). Check out Season One and get ready for all the new action right around the corner!

About Al Ainsworth

Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and Coach Dave: Season One. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.

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