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Softball Coaching: Avoid Becoming A Nattering Nabob of Negativity

As has been said many times before, fastpitch softball is a game built on failure. Great hitters fail seven out of 10 times. A brain freeze here, an errant rock there and you can quickly become the goat for the day.

Author: Marc Dagenais
Date: Mar 19, 2012 - 10:49:07 AM

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Hard to believe that it wasn’t so long ago that fastpitch softball was a game played by kids for the – wait for it – fun of it. Sure, there were a few adults around regularly in the form of coaches and umpires, and parents would regularly come out to see them play if they weren’t working. But it wasn’t life-and-death, with every player’s future prospects for a good education apparently hanging on the result of every pitch. All that seems like some sort of pastoral dream, like a Norman Rockwell painting of America as we always imagined it should be. Today parents seem to be way too wrapped up in their children’s athletic endeavors.

Some are unabashed boosters/braggarts for their kids. You never want to be cornered by them lest they start to regale you with tales of Lindsay’s might line drive, or the diving catch Erin made in center field, or the 13 Ks Alice racked up in her last appearance in the circle. Still, they’re relatively harmless. The ones who are of real concern are the ones who go the other way – fitting former Vice President Spiro Agnew’s description of “nattering nabobs of negativity.” Unlike the boosters, these parents only see their kids’ failures – and they make sure their kids hear about so they’re “inspired” to improve their performance the next time. That’s a category that, as a parent, you definitely don’t want to fall into. Yet it seems to come naturally to some. Perhaps they don’t realize how they sound (or look, because they’re usually scowling). Perhaps they think they’re setting high standards for their kids. But the fact is nothing can take the enjoyment out of an activity like an adult you trust – like a parent – telling you how bad you are at something.

Now, I’m not saying you have to blow sunshine up their softball pants. But there are ways to get a point across without being quite so negative about it. Take the evaluation of a hitting performance. Let’s say the player had a couple of weak hits that got her on base, plus a legitimate hit or two. Rather than focusing on the failures and the mis-hits, you could say “you took some good swings, and at least you were making contact. A duck snort single looks like a line drive in the scorebook. But let’s keeping working so you get more hits like that double. That was a beauty.” Same message, but said a lot differently. You want to build off the one good hit out of however many at bats instead of saying you only had one good hit, and implying that one was probably lucky.

As has been said many times before, fastpitch softball is a game built on failure. Great hitters fail seven out of 10 times. A brain freeze here, an errant rock there and you can quickly become the goat for the day. And believe it or not, adults, kids know when they’ve screwed up.Instead of harping on it or replaying it, the best thing you can do is put an arm around her shoulder and let her know that home run or strikeout, no hitter or pulled early, she’s still your daughter and you still love her. Spend as much time talking about what she did right as what she did wrong – maybe more – and you’ll be surprised how her performance actually improves. After all, no one really performs at their best with a gun to their head. Especially when a loved one is holding it.

There’s plenty of negativity already in the world. We see it around us every day, in the news and sometimes in our own lives. Don’t add to it, and don’t make negativity a part of something that should be bringing your player pleasure. Focus on the positives and support your player no matter what. Even if she never becomes the star you hoped she’d be when you signed her up, the two of you will have a much better relationship for it. She’ll be your daughter far longer than she’ll ever be a softball player.

Anyway, that’s the way I see it.


Marc Dagenais, MHK, CSCS, is a softball peak performance coach that helps players and teams hit with more power and be more dominant on the softball field. To get tons of great FREE softball drills to boost your game, visit us at:

View all articles by Marc Dagenais

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