Good..bad...is that it?
Coach/Parent: “How was your game?”
Player: “Good” or “Bad”
Coach/Parent: “How did you do?”
Player: “Good” or “Bad”
Coach/Parent: “How did you hit the ball”
Player: “Good” or “Bad”
Have you ever had one of these conversations with a baseball or softball player? Maybe you’re a coach or a parent and you have had this exact same conversation with your player(s). I think we can all agree that this is a bad conversation. Oops, I just did it myself. I used the word ‘bad’ to describe something that I don’t think is good. Crap, I did it again, I just used ‘good’ to describe the opposite of ‘bad.’
Catching on yet? No pun intended.
If you can’t tell, it is extremely easy to get stuck in the rut of using terms like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to describe practically all of our experiences as people and that spills over into our athletics.
This might be one of my biggest pet peeves. I literally cringe when I ask players how they are doing or how something felt and the only response I get is ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
As a person who truly wants to help each player I come across, that response is not…’good’ enough. See, I did it again.
It’s hard to break this habit.
A habit that starts when we are very young. We are taught at an early age what is good and what is bad. Those are some of the first words we start to understand and humans. We start to associate the word good with positive affirmation and the word bad with negative affirmation, and that affects us on a deep level. An emotional level. Because it is typically our parents who first use those words with us.
‘Good’ signifies their approval while ‘bad’ signifies their disapproval and that gets ingrained into us unless we change it.
How does this translate to sport? When a kid is told they did good or bad that starts to play on the psyche whether you realize it or not.
If they see what they did as ‘good’ they experience satisfaction or approval. If they see what they did as ‘bad’ then they experience dissatisfaction or disapproval, internally. They may even experience shame for a ‘bad’ performance much in the same way they experienced shame when they did something ‘bad’ as a younger kid.
Here is a really practical way to put in perspective our own lack of ability to even determine if something is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and a great reason why you should be slow to blurt out if something is ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
You are driving to work in a brand new Mercedes. While going through a green light you are T-Boned by a car coming from the other direction as they run a red light.
Before we go further, is that good or is that bad? Every person reading this will more than likely say this is bad.
Lets continue the story….
You’re sitting in your wrecked Mercedes, which is probably going to cost about $20,000 to fix if it is not completely totaled.
Let me guess…bad.
The person in the other car and yourself are uninjured.
Because of the wreck you were just in you were late to work.
Because you were late to work you missed the meeting that you absolutely hate.
Because you missed the meeting you absolutely hate you have to stay after work an hour to hear the information.
Because you had to stay an hour after work you missed a bridge collapse that you would have been on had you driven home from work at your normal time.
Ok, I think you get the point. We can go around all day talking about good vs bad and how good can lead to bad and bad can lead to good in this never ending circle. The words don't define hardly anything.
I hope you are starting to see form this that there is no reason to jump to the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as a way to describe everything. We have the entire english language to choose our words from.
My challenge to you, parents, coaches, and players is to broaden your vocabulary and start to figure out what it is you are actually attempting to say. There is no way everything in the game can be summed up as good or bad. That is just too black and white.
If you hit a ground ball to the second baseman with a runner on third and less than two outs is that good or bad? You could argue both. You could say bad for the hitter because he dropped his average but also good for the hitter because he got an RBI. Good for the team because they scored a run but bad for the team because they got an out.
Do you see how this just goes in circles? It’s ridiculous.
Sometimes things just are what they are and they don’t need the word ‘good’ or ‘bad’ attached to them.
Lets start doing a better job of describing what we want to describe by using more words at our disposal.
What if conversations looked like this….
Coach/Parent: “How was the game?”
Player: “It was tough. We lost by one run and I really struggled at the plate today. I wasn’t seeing the ball well and I chased some pitches I didn’t want to chase.”
Coach/Parent: “Yea that sounds like a tough one. I’m glad you are able to see where you struggled. You will be able to apply that to your practice and at your next game.”
Player: “Yea, I’m going to do a better job of swinging a pitches I know I can handle.”
Coach/Parent: “That’s awesome. If you want to work on those things, I’m happy to help.”
Parents and coaches, start encouraging your kids who play sports to speak more of what’s on their mind. And stop using simple terms to try to describe bigger issues. Big issues require bigger sentences and greater understanding.
Good and bad no longer suffice. We aren’t toddlers anymore.
We need to do a better job.