Dealing With Errors
Today I am going to talk about shaking off errors. This is one occurrence that very few softball players can get away from in their playing career. But what do you do with them when they happen? What do you do after an error? A lot of the time, the response to an error is dependent on the consequences and the game situation. An error made at the beginning of a game will most likely be less costly than an error in the 7th inning when your team is down by 1 run. The error at the beginning of the game is easier to discard mentally because you know that the entire game is not going to depend on that one error. Being in the last inning of a close game however, means that you could potentially lose the game and you might feel that the whole team and coaches will be upset with you after the error occurs.
It can also depend on what level of ball you are playing. On a recreation team, the pressure might be less than if you are on the National team. I have however seen some pretty competitive recreation teams though so it depends entirely on your team environment. It will also depend on the time of the season you are playing in and the importance of the game. If it is an exhibition game, that’s when you are solidifying skills and the pressure should be less. A championship game of course can have different consequences for an error.
I would like to encourage players and coaches though to use errors as learning experiences. What often happens is when a player makes an error in practice, either the coach hits another ball at them until they get it right or yells out the adjustments to make such as, get your glove down. This is actually a great opportunity to allow the player to get better at it on their own. If after an error the coach says, “ok, ask yourself why you missed that ball. Don’t tell me, simply ask yourself and then make the adjustment.” Then hit another ball to them but in a different position. By allowing the athlete to self direct their improvements at practice, they are more likely to do it in a game.
Too often errors are thought of as a negative event that determines if a player will be on the field or not during an important game. If you want to use errors as a measuring stick, break your season up in to 4. Allow the players to improve their own performance by paying attention to their bodies and what happens or doesn’t happen in the error. Count the errors for the first second and third quarter of your season separately. If there is no improvement and the player is still making the same errors in the third and 4th quarter, you know they are not taking advantage of learning opportunities.
Offer extra lessons or time with the athletes if they request it because that’s what coaches do. Give the players every opportunity to improve and they will.
The way coaches and teammates respond to an error will also have influence on what happens after that error. A coach who says, “take a moment” is going to have a much better response than one who yells or turns his/her head and shakes it with their arms in the air. Teammates who say “you know what to do with this” or provide a more supportive environment than dropping their glove to their knee and sighing are also going to have a better response.
The bottom line is, this is a game of errors. That’s how you win games. However, it’s also a game and when we put too much emphasis and pressure on the outcome, there is a higher possibility of errors simply due to the stress that this type of environment creates. If as a coach, you can encourage athletes to improve using their own will rather than your will, I guarantee you will have better results. If you are a player, take a moment when you make an error either in a practice or game and re-adjust for the next ball to come. That can be mentally positive as well as guarantee that you are going to have success because you are working on the process instead of focusing on the outcome of the play.