Stop Babying Your Athletes, Help Raise STRONG Kids Instead!

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softball coaching tips: dealing with mistakesShould coaches let players “pay” for their mistakes?

I’ve seen people say, NO!  Coaches need to STOP making players “pay” for their mistakes.

I disagree.

Amanda Scarborough once wrote a message in which she talks about competing

“Competing has become somewhat of a lost art for this generation of softball players, and one that I hear from many college coaches that is a characteristic they are searching for in their future athletes. Nowadays, more often than not, competing is a quality that is having to be taught, instead of being innate.”

In my opinion, competing IS still innate. The desire to learn and grow, to strive together, toward your very best is the way human beings are wired. BUT we can get in the way of that. It can get hampered, discouraged, or even snuffed out when we ignore problems and/or pass along the idea that you “shouldn’t have to” deal with the consequences of your mistakes, choices, or actions.

Competitiveness also gets watered down by coaches and parents who continually make excuses for players, teaching them to look outside themselves for reasons they didn’t do well vs taking ownership of their performance and empowering them to do better next time.

I do understand that softball is “just a game.”

I also agree that “it’s okay to make mistakes” HOWEVER, lets not instill the idea that consequences are “unfair!!!”  Consequences are a REAL part of life.

No matter what, you or your teammates “pay,” in some way or another, for mistakes that are made. That’s NOT a bad thing. It’s how we GROW!

Remember, it’s not the mistake that matters most. What you do in response to it is far more significant!  Can you overcome mistakes and turn them into non-issues?


But sometimes even adults fall into the blame game and, whether we mean to or not, we may very well be enabling kids to make excuses or keep looking outside themselves for “reasons” why they “failed.”

Let’s be more mindful of our own attitudes and our own responses to mistakes and “failures.” Doing so allows us to much more effectively help our child/team learn how to move forward as well as arm them with the tools and strategies they need to become even smarter and stronger than they were before.

Let’s not send our kids into the real world without preparation and leave them …

  • to get hit by serious, painful consequences
  • feeling it’s like it’s “unfair” to have to deal with consequences of their actions and choices
  • AND even worse, without any idea of how to keep moving forward after failure because we chose either tough, “just suck it up,” I’m going to punish you for days “leadership” OR excuse making, coddling, blaming “leadership” when there’s a much more helpful, more effective option that resides BETWEEN those two extremes

We have an incredible opportunity, as coaches, as parents, to work WITH our children as they deepen their understanding of the VALUE of mistakes, failure, consequences. We can help them LEARN from these experiences and show them how to rise up STRONGER, smarter, and better than before, through sports!

Why rob your child, or the kids you coach, of that?

The stakes are so much higher in real life. Softball IS just a game. The consequences are rarely life changing.

Why not teach lessons that will serve your players well in LIFE through this amazing game?

We don’t need to shield them from it NOR do we need to leave them to walk through it alone to figure it all out with no leadership whatsoever.

Proactive Coaching states …

Parents and coaches… Let your child (athlete) take responsibility for their actions – they own them…

Challenges, disappointments, loses and bad decisions are a very real part of life. Athletics is a great arena to experience and learn from these, if adults let them.

I want to ADD to that the understanding that our choices are NOT limited to EITHER removing all help OR excusing, enabling, and blaming others. Allowing our kids to take ownership, while we walk alongside them and guide them through it, facilitates and nurtures their learning and growing and maturing process!

When we effectively support them in taking responsibility for their own life and sports experiences, they learn not to brush it aside. We don’t leave them feeling so hopeless that they give up. They know that victim mode isn’t their only, nor best, option.

Through unconditional love, unwavering faith, continual encouragement, belief, positivity, and patience, we can be love fueled leaders who raise up strong, resilient kids <3

If you’re not part of our Fastpitch Inspired community yet, jump in the fun HERE.

Join us in being the change. Let’s raise STRONG, confident kids who believe in their own ability to overcome mistakes they make!!!

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Comments 48

  • I love this article! I have tried to instill life lessons with my young ladies as well. However, to many teens are babied in this generation. The parents enable them and then we have people who cannot use critical thinking or analyze what to do to help themselves. I preach the team, the team, the team. We run as a team, we get better as a team, we win/lose as a team. Softball is about the FunDaMentals! If we rely on the fundamentals we can compete, win, but if Da Mentals creep into play mistakes are made, errors and eventually excuses, which lead to failure! Best wishes


  • I was taught to learn from mistakes (errors), parents blame the coaches, when the coaches, don’t much time to teach in practice. Parents don’t make time to help their kids at home after practice. We, my brother and I went home and practice what we were taught by the coaches. Parents have to find time to help their kids, or get help for their kids in fast pitch softball, Learning the sport takes a lot of time. Teams only practice 1 or two times a week here, and wonder why their kids are not getting better, or the parents stick up for their kids, and blame the coaches. Every body want to talk about their best play in the game. I want to know talk about my errors, and go home and practice my errors. I try to teach kids, when we are in practice or in the game, our mind is only on that sport. Nothing else for two or three hours in practice. I was taught to forget our problem for two or three hours in practice and game time. Kids have to much things they are thinking about in practice and in game time. Parents have to teach this, coaches have to talk keep kids and keep them busy in practice. Then we will know how to CONCENTRATE in practice, and take that CONCENTRATION to the game. PARENTS their your kids, help them to be strong. The respect I had for coaches, came from my parents, or I could not play the sport.

  • What a great story . The Australian Education System has ruled out Even Keeping Score with some interschool Sports days . I am a father of three teenagers now and they have allways had a competitive attitude this has to be kept . My Youngest is just returning from an Tour with the Australian Under17 Softball Development team to San Fran Cisco And Los Angeles They Competted against the best in your country and thorughly Enjoyed it They Finnished I think in the top 5 at The Champions Cup in Irvine California If she wasnt Competitive she would have been seletced to Rep Her Country Bring on the Olympics I say yes To Softball / Baseball 2020 Cheers

  • Convince the administrators this should be allowed!

  • […] my eye this morning. It was blog post by Stacie Mahoe and here’s the link to check it out ( She had me at “Stop […]

  • Teaching kids to accept responsibility is key but making them “pay”? I disagree.

    Punishment does nothing but reinforce a negative response to the activity. It’s basic psychology. I’ve seen it time and time again where players will nervously focus so hard on not making a mistake that indeed they will. There is enough punishment in the embarrassment and disappointment that comes with the mistake and loss. Teaching a player to identify the mistake and how to prevent it is the only way to raise CONFIDENT athletes. Competitiveness IS innate. It is for this reason that there is not need to “make them pay” for a mistake. I always tell all of my athletes that there are only two reason I will punish them. 1) They don’t listen. 2) They don’t give me maximum effort.

    Positive reinforcement without the fear will produce a relaxed, confident, well trained, competitive and happy athlete and person.

  • Challenging a athelete is one thing.
    Abuse is another, right coach Bob……..

  • This is a great article. I am often asked why I am so hard on my boys in baseball and football. My response….because its important to set and show expectations to young athletes. There are consequences for mistakes in life AND sports. Why do some insist on ignoring this when coaching? Because its difficult. While each player has a different way of communicating and learning, I believe inspiration and determination stems from fulfilling the expectations of coaches, teachers and parents at a young age. Then, as they grow older and have life experiences, they begin to recognize and set those expectations for themselves which is WAY more inspiring and fulfilling.
    Great article! And to anyone mistaking setting expectations and holding players accountable for “punishment”….you are confusing coaching with parenting. They are not the same. Particularly in team sports.

  • As a coach, I preach to my players that there is nothing wrong with making mistakes. Professional athletes who make millions of dollars competing in the sport they love also make mistakes and fall short of perfect performances. The difference with me is that I hold my athletes accountable for those mistakes. There is a consequence for making mistakes. To be competitive, the less mistakes you make, the better chance you have of winning competitions. To me mistakes causes a “snowball effect”, where one leads to another, next thing you know the morale crashes and in the end the team burns. Nothing better to help fix mistakes would be some push-ups here, motivational running there, riding the pine for a little while. There has to be consequences rather than excuses.

    Now as a dad/coach, my expectations and the forced ability building of my athlete daughter was a different story for those of you who know me. I stilling perfection, hard work, team work, leadership, win win win. In the end, my athlete blossomed into a feared home run machine, WAC career home run queen. Multiple time NCAA div 1 regional 1st team member, NCAA div 1 all-american, and played professional softball.

    So yes, stop babying your athletes, raise strong kids. Ask Hoku Nohara, she’ll tell you.

  • David: you’re right! Taking ownership and responsibility for it mistakes is HUGE. As you mention, the only way you learn and grow from your mistakes is through accountability.

    Is it “ok” to make mistakes? Actually, I believe it’s critical to success.

    So, yes, it’s ok (even good in some ways) to make mistakes if you take ownership of them. Obviously, the less mistakes you make the easier any particular competition becomes.

    Learning to overcome your mistakes in combination with minimizing them is even better.

    It’s definitely not “ok” to tell kids “it’s ok” if that means giving them the green light to walk away from a situation and NOT learn from it by facing up to it.

    And yes, Hoku is a BEAST!!! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  • I agree David tough love is what is lost with our players now and it up to us coaches/parents to fix and instill that when you do good it’s rewarded…..and when you do bad we have to have consequences in order to get then back to doing things the correct way……

    Makes them better prepared for life…..


  • Excellent article. I’m a high school basketball coach but the same issues exist there as well. I actually just had this very conversation with my kids parents last night at our parent meetings. It’s critical, not only for their development as athletes, but as responsible productive members of society. I disagree with the user that said paying for mistakes encourages negative responses. No, encourages learning from your mistakes and realizing there are consequences. If a kid can’t handle making a mistake in a sport how will they handle it in real life? Obviously, as a coach you must use the mistake as a teaching moment to help the kid grow. But overall, a little discipline and accountability for kids is great and can go a long way.

  • Great Article!! The worst thing I see from the majority of youth practices is that there is not competition in practice. Each drill has negative and positive repercussion. A good coach will take an athlete and build their confidence along with their fundamental skill sets. The other problem with the youth sports is three quarters of the coaches can not do what they are asking of the athlete. Or even explain why it is done a certain way. Therefore the kids don’t respect them as teachers. When the athlete respects the coach as a teacher and human being, they will run through a brick wall for you. That’s the first step in training competitiveness. That is what’s missing in the youth of today.

  • That is absolutely true!

  • I agree Darryl. If a kid can’t handle making a mistake in sports, how will they be able to handle it in real life where the consequences are much more serious? Why not take this opportunity to help our kids learn this skill before they have to deal with it in the “real world?”

  • Craig, the idea of not even keeping score disturbs me. I can understand it at very young ages where the main goal it TEACHING skills and the game, but the “everyone wins” is just NOT realistic as far as what kids will face in the world as adults.

  • Thank you Sean! Keep up the good work with your team.

  • As a high school softball player I can say that punishment for a mistake is not needed as badly as this article is trying to Inforce. The humiliation and dissapointment of making a mistake is enough punishment. For a strong and determined athlete mistakes is what push us to be better. If we are constantly punished for making an error we get so caught up in not making a mistake that we make more mistakes then what we were before. Sports are not just about having the physical ability it’s about having the mental ability, having the push to succeed in what you are doing. If we are constantly worried about messing up that’s all that we will do. I think that correction and tips work 100 times better than punishment it keeps the player from focusing on the “mistake” and let’s them focus on how do I get better or what can I do to not make this mistake again.

  • The danger of this is you have too many parents perhaps mostly dads
    being too overly involved in their kids sport.

    Let the coaches coach, parents should just be supportive. IMO.

  • I tend to somewhat agree with this article in the sense that mistakes are not the end all. I wish that the article would have gone through how to overcome mistakes.

    It’s my experience in this pressure cooker of youth sports that many (certainly not all) coaches sub out of emotion and when players make mistakes. This creates fear in athletes and peak performance is not achieved. The mistakes in games are often “payment” in and of themselves for most athletes. Being free to make full effort mistakes is what allows athletes to totally give themselves over in the game without fear of having a penalty from a coach or parent.

    I think clarifying what and how mistakes should be paid for after the mistake was made would be helpful and also insightful on what the article I think was suppose to do.

    The worst thing is to make an athlete feel like they have to pay additionally for mistakes when they are smart enough to figure out what is on the line.

  • Maybe it is just how everyone is “wording” things above. I don’t think of them as “punishments” I think of it as consequences. It isn’t about humiliation or bullying (man is that word overused!!!), it is about learning from your mistakes. Life is hard and there are always going to be consequences we have to face. Why not learn from our coaches and mentors through sports how to become a stronger more well adjusted person? If you are on the right team playing for the right coach it will be a safe place to learn and grow. I understand in our school sports we have no choice in who coaches, but still it is a learning experience. Guess what? Someday you will have a boss that is tough on you. Why not learn now from a coach that is tough on you?
    I have never allowed my daughter to play in an environment where no score was kept. It just isn’t realistic. Learn to deal with losing and winning. The younger the better I think. Why teach them at 5 that “everyone wins” only to disappoint them later when they realize that just isn’t true?? A sense of entitlement has only hurt us as a society.

  • If we replace the word “pay”, with the words “learn from”, noone would have issues with articles of this type. People assume that the phrase “pay for “means negative reinforcement when it really just means helping kids learn from mistakes in the most effective way possible for each individual. Anywhere from running laps to explaining mistakes we should all want to help our kids make less mistakes. Not just “good job” get em next time.

  • This whole generation of everyone gets to play, everyone gets a trophy needs to go away. As having a daughter that truly loves the sport, I am harder on her then my dad was every on me in Little League.

    Many of the kids on her team, do not even want to be there and are only there because their parents are making them play. This is not good for anyone.

    Growing up, there were plenty of games that I sat on the bench and had to cheer my team on, because the game before I screwed up in way. Missed a ball, struck out every pitch, etc. If I wanted to play, I had to work hard at practice and prove to coach that I was ready to do my best to help the team win.

    We had one kid on our team that never started. The few times he was put in was because another kid got hurt, etc. But the next year, he had worked so hard in the off-season that he was one of our best hitters.

    Thats how you teach kids lessons. If you do not want to do the work, then you will not be rewarded. If you want to succeed in life, you have to sweat, work hard, and have drive.

    Kids today expect everything to be given to them because their parents think its only fair. Face it, your kid sucks at sports, they dont want to play them. Not everyone is going to be good at sports, and those kids you find other outlets for those kids to express themselves and excel at.

    I hope one day as a society we will see we are raising our kids wrong and start teaching them lessons.

  • To Sam:

    You’re making some huge generalizations. You’re assuming that kids that work hard will get to play. You’re assuming players must “suck” at sports and not like them if they don’t get to play as much as their teammates that put in “sweat”. I can assure you that there are many factors that you haven’t considered.

    I agree that kids need to work hard and have passion for their sports. We can’t expect that kids in their younger ages should start there sports experiences with this kind of thinking. It’s no wonder more kids are deciding at younger ages not to participate in sports because their parents have made it a job for them. It should be a learning process over years and for those kids that enjoy the sport enough to continue in their teens that some of these “expectations” should be demanded.

    I have seen players that have not come into their own, but yet don’t miss practices and are dedicated to their sport. Sports are suppose to be fun first and when players get benched at early ages for making errors, we are sending the wrong message.

    I recommend that you look at Proactive Coaching that has lots of information on the phases of sports for kids and how we as a culture have gotten it so wrong when it comes to the demands that we place on our children.

    I know plenty of athletes that aren’t the best on their team, but that work very hard. Many boys have bodies that develop later and were telling them it’s too late because as you say they suck and are there because the parents want them to play. That may be true on some level and that’s between the parents, player and coach to figure out.

    Sports were always meant to be fun first and we’ve turned youth sports into a billion dollar industry where kids are specializing at younger ages and we’ve robbed them of the fun they are suppose to have as a result of our unbalanced thinking. Kids are burning out at higher rates then ever before because of our un-realistic expectations.

    You have it wrong on so many levels and I hope that your daughter doesn’t grow up to resent you even through she may truly love her sport now.

  • Message above meant for Tony:

  • Is it a big coincidence that I read this today? Not based on my beliefs. I play at a Table Tennis Club and out of that, I started a Clinic for beginners and other players who are looking to improve their competitiveness. It only takes me a few moments with a student to see whether they have what it takes; way too many are stuck in reverse with the “I can’t” mentality. That is a self-fulfilling prophesy; what they need to say is show me and I will work on it, etc. A true competitor will run drills, practice mundane moves all day long until it comes naturally. In Table Tennis, as in most fast-paced sport, muscle memory is critical and the only way to attain it is through repetitive motions. Granted that everyone advance at a different pace, but an athlete is always looking for ways to improve their game instead of making excuses. I see students rejecting coaching and wondering why they keep losing. Making the same errors over and over is insane and when they say they only want to play for fun, I ask, “how much fun is it to lose?” In sports, winning isn’t everything, but it sure beats losing. Oh yeah, then there are those who constantly wants to bend the rules telling me that I’m too strict. I believe that bending the rules is the same as cheating; a good sport had rather lose than break the rules because they’re there to ensure fair competition.

  • lucas crisp: thank you for that clarification. I agree. The word “pay” that I used in the article probably brings up a lot of negative connotations for a lot of people. I’m thinking more along the lines of “natural” consequences that occur when you make a mistake. There is often a reward or consequence for anything we do. Holding kids accountable (as others have put it, is important). Always bailing them out, making excuses for them, or finding something to blame doesn’t help them learn and grow from the mistake made!

    I do strongly believe in positive coaching and positive reinforcement also. I believe you can be a positive coach while still holding athletes accountable when they mess up or make poor decisions. Often, in games, the consequences are right there, in the heat of battle. Your team gets put into a bad situation, fans boo, people get upset, whatever the case may be. In practice, it can be a little trickier to implement “consequences” for mistakes. I’m not into abuse or embarrassing players at any time or yelling and screaming at them to do better without actually showing them how.

  • For anyone interested in athletic scholarships, it is well worth to read “between the lines” of this article. If coaches are looking for the characteristics of being competitive, then that is something I would be sure to talk about if I were a prospective athlete.

  • i agree with your perspective. I spent 15 years coaching youth boys baseball and girls softball. One tries to teach young people the lessons of life the games can provide. Competiveness, attitudes, dedication, and a cooperative team spirit are exemplified by the sports. One needs to learn to loose as gracefully as one enjoys the victory. Participation trophies teach children they can be rewarded for showing up. They mean nothing to the child. A trophy which is given by one’s coaches or voted on by one’s peers in recognition of efforts is priceless. I will be 62 this year. I still treasure the very first trophy I ever received. Given to me by my high school coaches my freshman year it simply stated ” Attitude, Desire, Cooperation, and Dependability” I doubt many who were give participation trophies even know where they are five years later because they meant little to them then and nothing as time passes. Parents need to allow their children to learn from the game. It has much to offer but so little is realized in today’s politically correct society. Before I shut up I know there is much to be corrected when it comes to youth sports. It is far from perfect and needs constant over site. I will say that it was sad that our President condoned cheating regarding the Little League team from New York. If they had learned nothing from the mistakes of their coaches then they were destined to repeat the offense.

  • I totally agree with what is said in this article. For those parents on here who don’t agree let me give you some info 56 that represents the number of errors we had in a weekend two weeks ago at a tournament. 100+ that’s the number of foul poles team combined girls on the team ran. 8 that’s the number of errors occurred this weekends tournament. So guess what it works! Stop babying your kids! You don’t teach them anything other then failing is an option teach them it’s not an option so they can succeed!

  • Totally agree! And I don’t believe that “paying for mistakes” = punishment but rather consequences. We must teach our athletes that all actions, on and off the field, have consequences that must be faced. Let’s stop the excuses, the blamming game, and the babying!

  • Hi colleagues, how is the whole thing, and what you desire to say regarding
    this post, in mmy view its truly awesome for me.

  • Have witnessed all of the above, wife has coached 25 yrs and is a D1 AllAmerican. Have never seen her retaliate against a player who makes a mistake in a game. However she teaches that there are consequences in practices when a player has just been told how to execute a play and messes it up.( Not because they dropped a ball or made a bad throw). It is when they have been told and asked if they understand what the situation is that they are trying to cover,(whether it is offense or defense). she will implement consequences when players do not respond correctly for the situation that has just been explained. As she has put it, “Players have to be responsible for their actions, and with no consequences, there is no improvement”

  • In today’s everyone is a winner society the principle of accountability is even more important than ever. I found this article to be a breath of fresh air and a great opportunity for coaches to understand that accountability is crucial on and off the field.

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  • This is the speech I just gave my 8-10 year old team; I also gave one to the parents to remind them to let coaches coach, and it went over well.

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  • We shoukd not be coaching athletes. We should be coaching productive citizens who can deal with constructive critism and deal with consequences they make. Who can work with a variety of personalites that can learn to get along and play as a team. That my friends is the real world.

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