A National Alliance for Youth Sports resource helping coaches, parents and administrators provide the best youth sports experiences for children.
Coaching with compliments
By Greg Bach
Orel Hershiser had a lot of great influences in his life: It began with his dad, who coached him in Little League, and culminated with a World Series title playing for Hall of Fame Los Angeles Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda.
And one of the many lessons he learned along the way was the power of compliments, which he urges coaches to utilize when working with young athletes today.
“Compliment before you teach,” says Hershiser, who won more than 200 games during his 18-year Major League career and the 1988 World Series MVP Award. “There’s always something that you can compliment.”
And those complimentary words can be mighty impactful for young players trying to wrap their hands around the fundamentals of the game.
Says Hershiser: “If the youngster runs for a ball and completely misses it you can say ‘Way to hustle toward it. Now let me tell you what to do with your glove.’ And if a child swings hard and misses a pitch and pulls his head out and pulls his shoulder out and drops his hands you can say, ‘I love your bat speed, but this time let’s keep your shoulder in.’”
Those complimentary words, sprinkled in at the right times, can really make a difference in how a child responds to a coach’s instructions.
“I think you can always find something to compliment them on which is going to open their ears and open their eyes to say, ‘I like this guy or gal,’ and then the instruction comes behind it and you have their attention,” Hershiser says. “But if the first thing a coach says is negative, like ‘don’t do that,’ or ‘you know not to do that,’ immediately they go inward and they want to block you out because you’re giving pain. I think you give them something to open their eyes and open their ears, and then give them something that’s going to help.”
That’s great advice coming from one of the game’s most respected pitchers and a former Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year recipient.
Sending kids home after practice with positive messages fuels confidence and passion for the sport. See how Tulsa football coach Philip Montgomery makes it happen with his team and adopt his approach to benefit your players, too
Troy Calhoun, the head football coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy, on helping young athletes learn, improve and savor competing
Press Box Signup Form
Press Box (weekly e-newsletter)
The Press Box is a weekly e-newsletter bringing you the latest news stories in youth sports, research on youth athlete safety and wellness, and more. Stories are carefully curated to bring subscribers only the best quality content and news.