Baseball Magazine

Don’t Assume They’ll Know What to Do.

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
The shocking events exposed this week at Penn State University have been forcing a lot of people to ask the question, “What would I have done?”  Many of the adults involved who either personally witnessed the atrocities or were told about them clearly made some decisions that, from the outside looking in, seem completely irrational and maybe even criminal.  History has shown that good, educated people can occasionally do some very strange things.  This post will not get into the historical examples or the psychological studies that have been done to try to explain all this.  If you do have an interest, just Google “group think” and “bystander effect” and take a look at some of what’s out there.

Don’t assume they’ll know what to do.

Have your players been told how to handle this?

The concept that I want to address here is a term in sociology called “anomie” and its impact on coaching the game of baseball.  Anomie refers to a situation where no norms or expectations for behavior are known or exist.  Everyone runs into this at some point in their lives.  A student who enters a new school is somewhat hesitant at first because they don’t know what the rules and expectations are in that new school.  Walking into a room filled with strangers and switching jobs are other common examples.  More extreme examples pop up in sudden, very traumatic situations that people have never experienced before.  An example in baseball might be a bench clearing brawl or a physical fight between parents in the stands or with an umpire.  These are rare occurrences that can spiral downward very rapidly if people don’t know what to do.  In many of these situations, no norms or expected behaviors apply because most people have never been in that situation before.  Often, people just stand by and watch or make up the rules as they go.  Others tend to just follow their lead.  This is why an incident that starts between two people can escalate so quickly. 
All this is why every year, before games even began, I had team meetings to go over what the expectations were in some of these unusual situations.  Whether it is a fight that starts on the field between players, coaches, parents, and/or umpires or anything else that can get ugly quickly, the expectations for my players were generally the same:
  1. Remove your teammate(s) from the incident
  2. Go immediately to the dugout
  3. Sit down and don’t get up
  4. Close your mouth
  5. Wait for directions from there
I did this because I never wanted my players to not know what to do when ugly incidents popped up.  Of course, they rarely do but I wanted my players to have a known and understood set of expectations already in place to cover just about anything.
The expectations listed above do not have to be the ones every coach implements.  Those are decisions that have to be made among all coaching staffs.  The point is, whatever they decide, it is in a program’s best interest to think ahead and fill in as many blanks as possible for young players as to what is expected.  You will never be able to fully control those surrounding your team (parents, fans, umpires, the other team, etc.) but you can do quite a lot to control the behaviors of your players and staff.

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