Helping Youth Ballplayers Learn Sport Resiliency

The next time your players, sons, and daughters roll their eyes with a Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle or one of your own stories, do not worry, as it is one of the best things you can do for them.

It is cool to include my name with some of the all-time greats. I know funny, but there is a reason, as I just read one of the seemingly never-ending human behavior studies that seem to point out the obvious, and realized that one coaching strategy I employ is very useful. The study stated that to build resiliency in kids, telling them stories about resilient people, especially family members or close friends, builds resiliency in them. They learn resiliency as much from stories as from their own experiences, pretty cool and that makes a coach’s and parents job easier.

Maybe an obvious conclusion, I guess,  but all the more reason for youth baseball coaches to tell young players about Hall of Fame players Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, and not so Hall of Famers as Jack Perconte, and even their own experiences.

Original description: Willie Mays, standing, w...

Willie Mays (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coaching Sport Resiliency is easier than you think

Willie Mays only had one hit in his first 25 major league at bats, before catching fire and going on to become Rookie of the Year. Many major league players, who begin their major league careers like that, lose such confidence that they never recover. Willy was resilient and a great story for young ballplayers. Remaining confident and believing in oneself, as Willy did, are crucial for having success in sport.

Then there is the story of the great Mickey Mantle, who was struggling in the minor leagues, and called his dad to tell him how he did not think he was good enough. Knowing he needed a wake-up call, his dad drove to Mickey, began loading Mickey’s gear into the car, while stating that Mickey could come home and work in the coalmines the rest of his life with him. Message received and Mickey Mantle stopped sulking and went on to be an all-time great. Many kids fall into the “woe is me” attitude and need a wake-up call on what sport resiliency are all about.

Unfortunately, many of the young baseball players now do not know who Mays and Mantle are, so coaches can also use their personal stories on them, as I do occasionally. Jack Perconte, yours truly, had a zero for 26 at-bats stretch in the major leagues one season and was petrified of a benching or a demotion back to the minor leagues. After arriving at the ballpark and seeing my name in the lead-off spot, I had three doubles that night. Personal disaster averted and it was on to the next game, realizing that is the nature of sport. My coach showed confidence in me by keeping me in the lineup and that helped me stay resilient until success returned.

As the studies suggest, youth learn how to deal with tough times and learn resiliency, not only from personal experiences, but from stories about others, who overcame tough times. So, next time your players, sons, and daughters roll their eyes, tell the stories anyway.

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