The regularly scheduled major league baseball season, before playoffs, is 162 games long. Traditionally any team which wins 100 or more games is considered the best team in baseball, not always the World Series winner, there are too many other variables involved, but the best all around team.
That means even very good professional baseball teams lose 62 plus games a year, which demonstrates losing is a large part of baseball. Realizing that, it should be a natural assumption “how to lose” would be taught as a normal part of learning baseball no different than infield practice.
However, as exemplified by some of the outbursts, from coaches and parents, after defeats, especially lopsided or critical ones, tends to suggest some woefully lack the skills to teach how to become a complete ball player.
I was always impressed with Thomas Edison’s approach to defeat or failure, and to paraphrase, he said “I didn’t fail 1000 times to make the invention work… I succeeded 1000 times discovering how the invention would not work.” What a difference attitude makes.
There are many examples from great men and philosophers, much more intelligent than myself, offering advise on how to handle defeat, but I’d like to share a few examples I found successful when coaching baseball.
(1.) Take the team away from the chaos of fans leaving or new fans and teams arriving, whether it be under a shade tree in foul territory, or in the parking lot, for a “Team” discussion.
(2.) Always begin the talk with something positive. No matter how bad the game there is always something good which occurs.
(a.) “We hit the cover off the ball today.” No need to add we also allowed 20 runs, they know it.
(b.) “Our outfield played a great game today.” Because the other team kept hitting rockets off our pitchers.
(3.) Mention a lesson… ready for this, the Coach learned from the game.
(a.) “I learned I haven’t done a very good job teaching base running.” It doesn’t matter if you’ve talked till you’re blue in face about base running. It’s never the players’ fault per se’. There’s plenty of blame to go around.
(4.) If the loss happened in a tournament type atmosphere against an unknown opponent, always over estimate the opponent’s skills even if you know better.
(a.) “I’m proud of you guys/girls for playing your best. That was a hand picked traveling team and you gave them all they could handle.”
(5.) Lastly, just admit you got your butt beat and it happens. One trick is to memorize a date the city’s pro baseball team or a great historical team such as the Yankees, got beat badly. Why not make up a date? Because with today’s technology a player will quickly Google the date and call you out that the team didn’t play that day, ruining the intent.
(a.) “May 5th, 2011, the Cubs beat the Cardinals 14-2. Now if the Cards can lose to the Cubs like that, it happens to everyone.”
The key for a coach to remember is a game is just a glorified practice. You wouldn’t jump up and down yelling if a player missed an easy ground ball during infield practice. (If you do.. Get out of coaching!) You’d either correct his error, stay down on the ball, or maybe even make light of it.
Baseball is a game of never ending learning and learning how to handle defeat is a required skill.