Punishment as Motivation

The question is a good one. How do I feel about punishment as a way to make pitchers perform better?

The general answer is that I don’t like it.

Once I made a team run after a terrible performance. It was a stupid mistake. I was thinking back to very early days and football practice, where sometimes our coach had to get our attention. The team did not learn a lesson. I did.

I may get some heat for saying this, but I find that coaching girls is different from coaching boys. Last time that I said it, someone thought I was somehow inferring superiority or inferiority. No, I just find girls incredibly coachable. We click better.

There may be times when you need to discipline a player who is selfish, breaks team rules, or refuses to listen. That is different from adding negative consequences when a kid tries hard but fails at a task.

To assume that I need to punish a lack of performance is to assume that she does not want to perform well. It can also indicate that you do not know how to motivate her properly. It can also indicate selfishness or insecurity in a coach. If a coach becomes consumed with “what I want”, it is easy to lose sight of the need to help a player achieve “what she wants”.

We must also acknowledge that there are challenges and games that sometimes carry negative consequences, but still leave players having fun. That is the key. When fear and dread become more a part of the situation than challenge and competition, I think we have lost.

Most of the time we do not need to yell at a pitcher who is struggling. She is already yelling at herself. We just need to tap into her dreams, work to get on the same page with her, and give her practical ways to work toward those dreams.

The more I learn, the more I learn that most of her failures are a failure of the people who should be supporting her. In other words, a dad or coach on the sidelines yelling, “Just throw strikes”, may be overlooking glaring problems in her motion, or even in her mind, that are frustrating her and keeping her from throwing strikes. These should have been addressed long ago. She wants to throw strikes so badly, but the more this discourse continues, the more she internalizes those perceived failures. That is when negative consequences defeat the entire reason she is playing softball, and just reinforce a negative a self-concept which can last a very long time.

1 thought on “Punishment as Motivation”

  1. Thanks Denny. Couldn’t have said it better myself I have always cringed when I see a coach tell a team to run for failing at a task they try hard to achieve.

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