Volume 6, No. 6 - September 2011
Helping Players Beyond Fear of Failure
"The team that makes the most mistakes will probably win," wrote the legendary basketball coach John Wooden in They Call Me Coach. "The doer makes mistakes, and I wanted doers on my team—players who made things happen."
That's a difficult concept to convey to Little Leaguers. By the time they are on your team, some players may have been yelled at for making mistakes. Or, they may be so self-conscious or hard on themselves for failing to make plays that they stop really trying.
You've probably seen outfielders pulling up short of fly balls that seem catchable, and you can practically see the thought bubble: "If I don't get too close to this ball, maybe it won't really look like an error."
Helping players overcome that mentality is one of the greatest things you can do for them as players and as people. As players, you want them to perform well, both for the good of the team on the scoreboard and for the good of their individual self-esteem. As people, your Little Leaguers will benefit – in school, business and personal relationships – from adopting the attitude that "failing" is not the end of the world, especially if they try their hardest.
You develop this mentality in practice by setting up an "all-out" drill that encourages players to play fly balls as aggressively as possible with no fear of failure. Simply toss or hit fly balls that require players' maximum effort to catch, and then reward them with praise for their all-out effort even if they do not catch the ball.
Often, in this drill, it is best to comment only on the player's level of commitment…nothing about technique. The only "criticism" might be along the lines of, "You're a talented-enough athlete, and I believe in your ability enough, that if you had fully committed to making the catch, without fear, you could have gotten there."
Slowly but surely, they will start getting there more often. When they do, their confidence will bloom, helping them get to that many more fly balls that before they might not even have pursued.
For more ideas on getting the most out of your players while teaching life lessons, take the Little League Double-Goal Coach® Course at http://shopping.positivecoach.org/Little-League-DGC, and for a video that explains Double-Goal Coaching in more detail, visit http://www.littleleague.org/pca