Thursday, April 18, 2013

Is Character Caught Or Taught?


Is a bad person the result of a bad environment or bad genes (heredity)? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Classic "catch 22" questions, which so-called educated people have debated for eons without reaching a consensus.
Why would any of this be of a concern to a youth baseball or any other coach for that matter? Simply put... a coach's job requires much more than teaching the physical skills required to play the game, as it must also include teaching the fortitude and character required to play the game.
If you tell your parents you are going to work on improving their youngsters physical fitness, you'll be applauded as a visionary and well educated coach.
Tell your parents you're going to work on improving their kid's character and they'll either want to fight, taking it as a negative comment on their parenting skills, or will scream bloody murder you're some kind of nut case.
Although the repercussions of declaring our intentions is reason enough to not declare them, in reality you can not teach character in a few simple drills or exercises. It's a long term process which hopefully will come naturally to the coach, but if not, the coach must not only make a conscious effort to display good character, but work on improving his own attitude.
I'm one of those "down the middle of the road" guys, as I believe character is caught and taught. I'd venture to say 99.9% of my past players had good character when they showed up for the first day of practice, but they also had good physical skills.
There was never a question the entire season would be spent on improving their physical skills, why exclude everything else? Players don't learn physical skills or strategy through osmosis, they must be exposed or taught it through demonstration. Why would we expect learning character or morals any different?
There's no better time to think about how you, as the coach, will address the issue of character building of your players. I'm not a fool and realize planning practices, scheduling games, fund raising and a 100 other things will take precedent over a conscious effort to think about character building. Simply mentally note you will address it when the situation dictates and go on about your business, the brain has filed it for instant recall.
So what are some examples of character building? Believe it or not, that's not always an easy or immediate question to answer.
You have a player who can not hide his disgust when something goes wrong on the field. First instinct may be to consider the kid a spoiled brat and sore loser who needs a healthy helping of discipline. However, upon closer evaluation you see the player encourages and consoles team mates who mess up. It's only his mistakes which result in the tantrums.
Lack of character is not this player's problem. A misguided intense feeling of not wanting to ever let his team mates down by not being a 100% perfect is his issue. The coach's job is to convey to the player nobody is perfect nor are they suppose to be as that's how we learn. Redirecting the enthusiasm and drive for excellence in a positive form will serve this player well his entire life.
Every team at one time or the other endures a good butt kicking by an opponent, and although it happens to everyone it's still not enjoyable when it happens. This is when it's important for the coach to acknowledge the other team was better, but only on that day. The coach should take some degree of responsibility for not properly preparing the team, which makes him part of the team, not a leader outside the circle. He too shares in the defeat and will be part of the "never say die" work ethic which will lead to improvement, both physically and mentally.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating a coach take the responsibility of a parent. What I am advocating is the awareness a coach must have in supplementing a parent's goal of building good character in our youth.
Jim Bain, former Minor league baseball player and member of "Baseball Coaches of America" shares his advice on baseball coaching baseball drills on his exciting info packed website:

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