Baseball Magazine

Leave Him Alone

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard

Good coaching is a balance between hands-off and hands-on.  If you are too hands-on, players don’t develop the skills needed to recognize information in real-time and adapt on the fly.  They are so used to being told what to do that when they need to think on their own, they can’t.  If a coach is too hands-off then a player has to go through the entire trial and error process to find the right way to do something.  A coach can save the player a lot of time by jumping in and providing some guidance.  The trick for coaches is knowing when to do each one.

The tendency of coaches is usually to be more hands-on then hands-off.  Overall, I don’t think this is best for the game for several reasons, some of which I’ve discussed before.  Below are two more reasons why keeping your hands off may be warranted.

The player is really good.  My father told me that Ted Williams was once asked by some Boston Red Sox front office people to go check out this young hitter named Carl Yastrzemski.  After seeing him hit, Ted was asked how the organization should handle the young kid.  Ted’s answer was a simple three word reply. “Leave him alone.”  The point was, if a kid has talent and is doing well, just let the kid play.  Often great players cannot tell you why they are playing well.  They don’t even think about it.  They just play.  Working extensively with this type of player can backfire because it sometimes forces the player to think about why he does what he does.  The problem with that is his success is largely due to the fact that he doesn’t think about why he does what he does.  When you get him to start, you inadvertently can pull him away from his strengths.  He starts to analyze the game instead of just play the game.  This doesn’t mean you should totally ignore good players.  You just have to be careful not to do more harm than good.

The player is not listening.  I have taught teenagers at the high school level for over 20 years now.  I am convinced that there is a ceratin percentage of the population (maybe higher among teenagers) that “has to touch the stove before they realize why you don’t touch the stove.”  No matter how many times you offer assistance or advice, the person goes off and does it their way.  Early on in my teaching and coaching career I would practically lose my mind over these type of students/players.  Not any more.  Today, I stay calm and just make it clear what direction I see them going in and add that my door is always open if they are open to hearing some tips that might help them avoid some of the problems they will face in the future.  Amazingly, I have found those kids to be much more receptive after that.  Not always, of course, but the relationship almost always gets better from there.

The balance of hands-on vs hands-off is not an easy thing to manage.  Every player is different so matching the style with the type of player/personality is key in order to get the most out of their ability.

Some coaches mistakenly think they are paid to be hands-on.  But sometimes you’ll earn your money more by being hands-off and leaving kids alone.

Tomorrow’s (video) post: Fielding bunts on the first base line 

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