As a high school baseball coach, I have recognized a trend in athlete behavior. Whenever faced with adversity or failure, players quickly, sometimes automatically turn to "catch" phrases as a crutch to alleviate the pain or responsibility of their actions. The phrases mentioned here may not be the ones with which are most familiar; however, the concepts behind them are very common. The three I hear the most are, "yeah, but...,"my bad! and "oh yeah....." Each has its own characteristics, yet all promote a mentality not conducive to athletics, or being coached.
At some point, all coaches have probably been faced with a player who saw things differently. Whether it dealt with team rules or individual performance, coaches have often been confronted with words, "yeah, but...." These two words are usually followed by things like "...my other coaches told me this way," or "...my dad told me that way," or "...it does not feel comfortable," or even the big "what if...?"
A statement of that nature strikes at the very core of the coach-player relationship--TRUST. Some may say that players need to think and be able to question in order to understand. I am not stating that players need to be autotrons without problem-solving skills, or the ability to have dialogue with the coach. Yet, the concept of trust must be established for a successful coach-player relationship to flourish. A player must trust that the coach is prepared, knowledgeable, and able to guide performance to a high level of success. Saying "yeah, but" can be an easy way for uncoachable players to negate instruction--always supplying an alternative reason not to comply. If players question a coach's "way" they should do it at appropriate times and on rare occasions. Remember, they tried out for your team.
The next derogatory phrase of today's teenage athlete is "my bad!" This is just a trendy way of saying, "I'm sorry." This attitude on the playing field is not only unnecessary, it is distracting from the standpoint that no adjustments are being made. Players who continuously say "my bad!" are drawing attention away from their blemish or mistake. Instead, they focus on themselves so that others will offer encouragement in this time of distress. They want to be told "it will be OK," while often not looking for why the error was made.
Guess what? If players do not stop feeling sorry for themselves and start playing, it will not be all right. We all know that a mistake was made, and we know it was not done on purpose. So, we pick ourselves up by the bootstraps, dig in, and get the job done. Baseball (or any other sport) is a game filled with failing moments. Everything can go wrong, and sometimes does. Hitters will strike out, pitchers will give up homeruns, and fielders will make errors. The list goes on. Mistakes will happen. However, use your frustration to breed motivation.
The third phrase to be addressed is "oh yeah." This one is easy to pass over, or not recognize. It is most often followed by,"...I forgot." This is unacceptable. As coaches, we are responsible to provide our players with countless repetitions to ingrain certain fundamentals that are necessary to be successful. If those opportunities are provided, it is then the responsibility of the player to learn and remember them.
But wait a minute, everybody makes mistakes. Yes, absolutey right. But do not use the excuse of forgetting as a crutch to free the responsibility of carrying out a task that has been practiced numerous times. Players cannot forget key concepts and duties on the playing field. If they do, they fail to meet their obligation made to the team. The team depends on their performance, just as they depend on the team support and to achieve desired results (i.e., winning). Players cannot forget their positioning on bunt coverages, or the squeeze sign, or any other repeated concept in the program scheme. If the coach has done his job, the players must be expected to reciprocate and do theirs.
All this may sound a little harsh. Some may say you are dealing with kids. Exactly, more the reason to teach taking on responsibility. Granted, there are times to coddle. But be careful not to create an atmosphere where merely mentioning fault can mend all wounds. The aforementioned recognized phrases are often used by players to make themselves feel better. That would be fine if there were no consequences to the flaw; however, there are repercussions and simply announcing one's error does not fix anything.
Also, the players are the ones who want to play on your team; therefore, they need to be ready to conform to your rules. Rules must be instituted by the coach according to the playing, practice, and learning environment he wants to create. The rules must correspond to the expectations high and clearly defined from the outset. Do not allow players to excuse themselves in times of failure. If they can, they will go back to that well again and again. Instead, force players to lever themselves up in the face of adversity.
Phrases like the ones mentioned here are against the rules in our program. They are looked on as "bad words" that will not be tolerated on a repetitive basis. If the players become habitual with these phrases, punishment may be used much like if other team rules are broken (being late, profanity, not having gear, etc.). Help your players learn to play, not allowing them to search for excuses. I have a statement printed on a sheet of paper over my desk that reads:
"Don't make excuses for mistakes, and don't make apologies for decisions."
I feel if my players and I can follow that advice, we will have more chances of doing it right than figuring out why it was wrong.