Lessons from Little League: Motivation

With three boys playing baseball, I spend every evening on the baseball diamond and the hours after I get home are often filled with more batting practice in the basement.  I’ve learned a lot about baseball, boys, and myself through coaching over the last 5 years.  I thought I’d share a few of these life lessons as they occur.

After (another) tough loss on Saturday – I was feeling pretty discouraged. The truth is I feel frustrated and discouraged because we’ve got 12 great players and they each have a ton of potential.  I feel I’ve failed them.

I feel the boys are lacking motivation and over the last few days I’ve been thinking about motivation. Motivation has to come from within and I’m not sure how to instill that in 9 and 10 year-old boys.  Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned as I’ve reflected on motivation over the last few days.

Lesson 1: Accepting that You Might Not Get 100% Effort 

I struggle with this one.  We see their potential.  We know what they are capable of.  We know how good they can play.  But in the end, you have to accept that you might not get 100% effort from each boy 100% of the time.

Lesson 2: Understand What You Can Control

You have to understand what you can control and what you can’t control.  You have to set expectations around what you can control.

a)      Hitters:

  • need to realize they can’t control getting it a hit.  But they can control a batting philosophy.  Our batting philosophy is simple: take an aggressive approach to hitting.  Step in the box looking to hit.  Drive off your feet and hit the ball hard somewhere. Adjust with two strikes to a two-strike approach – choke-up and protect while trying to put the ball in play.

b)      Pitchers:

  • Can’t control getting a batter out, but can control taking time, making good throws
  • covering the plate on passed balls and wild pitches

c)       Fielders:

  • Catchers – can control making good throws back to pitcher, can control not throwing to 2B when there is a runner on 3RD
  • 2B – can control backing up throw backs to pitcher
  • Players can control running into the dugout at the end of each inning
  • Players can control running after a ball

Lesson 3: As Players Mature, Place More Responsibility on Them

As the players have gotten older, I’m now requiring them to call me directly if they are going to miss a practice or game and tell me personally. If a player has to leave early then he needs to call me and tell me.

Lesson 4: Motivation Has to Come From Within the Team

We need to develop leaders and motivators on the team. Players need to not get on each other.  Blame each other.  A bad throw is a bad throw.  Players still need to try to catch it – as opposed to simply blame the player who threw the ball.

Lesson 5: Motivating the Team Requires Motivating Each Player Differenly

Every player is unique.  Each player has their own motivations. Coaches and other players need to know the personalities of their individuals players and teammates and motivate accordingly.  Boys all develop differently and at different times.

Lesson 6: There Need to Be Clearly Defined Rules for the Team   

Lesson 7: Default Back to Fun 

Boys play the game because it is fun.  When all else seems to be failing default back to fun. While we want the boys to taste the fun that comes from really committing and playing full out. It’s more fun when you are good.  More fun when you relax and play freely. But we might not always get that.  We need to keep up the fun.  Boys will eventually be motivated by failure, but I don’t think that sets in until 13 or 14 for most boys.   Default back to fun.