Baseball is arguably the toughest sport to play in order to preserve any self-confidence. Fielders can make 18 out of 20 plays, including a few beautiful web gems, and all anyone wants to focus on are those 2 errors. Hitters are excellent if they get on base 40% of the time, yet so much focus these days is on how much they strike out. Pitchers lose their confidence quickly, particularly when they feel the strike zone is “shrinking” or their defense let’s them down. It’s a tough game to remain composed and confident in, but there are a couple ways for Coaches to help younger athletes preserve their confidence.
An example would be how we “score” our hitters during games. When kids are at the plate it is really important for them to forgot about things like batting average. Batting average is not the best indicator of how good of an at-bat one has had in my opinion. To keep kids confident, measure something – anything – else. We score each at-bat with a simple 3 point system: 1 point for a poor AB, 2 for an average AB, and 3 for a good AB. We then tally the points up at the end of the game and let the kids know how many points they earned that game. The beauty is that even the kid who goes 0-3 with 3 strikeouts still earns at least 3 points. There are no “zeroes” for them to focus on, therefore even if they had 3 really poor at-bats, they can feel OK about it since they earned 3 points.
What makes a good AB? For us we look at extra base hits, an AB that produces a RBI, or an AB (regardless of the outcome) where 7 or more pitches were thrown. A poor at-bat might be one where an out is made in 4 or fewer pitches. An exception to a poor AB is that any hard hit ball is considered an average at-bat, so when a kid smokes a first pitch line drive caught by the shortstop, he earns 2 points instead of 1.
We use another team-based scoring system to help score our defense and pitching as well, and we’ve found that the kids really like to know where they stand after each inning. Our overall goal is to avoid the pitfalls of “normal” thinking about whether a team or individual had a good game or not, allowing them to preserve at least a bit of their confidence.