I usually think of Yogi Berra sayings, Yogi-isms, as being hilarious takes on life and baseball. However, without even realizing it, I use many of Yogi’s philosophical ideas in my daily coaching. I have come to believe that he was the greatest baseball philosopher, providing valuable wisdom for youth baseball coaches. Many Yogi Berra quotes teach baseball and life lessons, as you will see below.
One of the Famous Yogi Berra Quotes – “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Yes, so funny, but so insightful. Many times in my coaching career I have had players come to me with questions about what to do next in their careers. The answers are never that simple, like going out and just having fun. That seems obvious, but it is not. Just recently, one of my students said, “Coach Jack, this may be the last time you see me here.” “Why is that,” I ask. “I am pretty sure I am done playing.” “Well, that time comes for everybody, but why now?” I respond. “It’s no longer fun.” “Wait a minute. I see you having fun with your friends all the time.” “Yes, but I am no good. It’s not my friends that are not fun; it’s the sport.”
The fork in the road had come for us both, with no right or wrong answer, just something to take as Yogi says. “I will certainly miss you,” I responded, not willing to be disingenuous and tell her how good she was, as most would do. “I know you worked very hard, and things may not have worked out as you hoped, but that work ethic will pay off in other areas of life,” was how I ended it. I did not try to talk her out of quitting knowing that once players have lost confidence and fun, words cannot magically bring them back.
When players get to the point of no return, they just have to go with their feelings. When the work they put into playing produces few good results, enjoyment is hard to find. Leaving friends is never easy, but playing just for the heck of it and because mom and dad want them to are not good options. The player is the only one who knows when the results do not measure up to the work put into it. Taking the fork in the world is never easy, no matter what.
Another of Yogi Berra Sayings – “You can observe a lot by just watching.
This uttering is also comical, but something youth coaches preach all the time. “What was that pitch?” Did you see how they made that relay?” “Where were the outfielders positioned?” Coaching baseball is all about asking questions about what players saw.
Today’s baseball players do not watch the game of baseball as much as players from the past. They have many more interests and activities that take their attention, and watching baseball in person or on TV is not something they often do. Additionally, many ballplayers fail to observe the way to do things at practice or when on the bench. Coaches must try to keep players heads in the game by watching, as so much can be learned. Yes, Yogi knows that learning comes from the eyes, whether it is watching, observing or just paying attention.
Yogi Berra Saying – “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Nowhere is this message more appropriate than with youth baseball. First of all, kids get depressed when losing, so coaches must build their optimism with statements like Yogi’s. Second, it is common in youth baseball to have wild swings in the score, with many runs possible at any time. It’s a great lesson for youth to learn to play hard until the end, no matter how bleak things may seem, as it can turn around quickly.
Yogi Berra Quotes – “How can you think and hit at the same time?”
This one may seem funny, but it is so true. I am always telling kids to stop thinking and just do it. Once they stop and think about hitting a baseball, their focus gets distracted from watching the ball. Having focused on two separate things affects the timing and the goal of squaring up the ball.
Yogi Berra Quote – Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting.
I love this one as it attests to the way players should look at things. A slump suggests negativity and of continuation. Thinking of it in different terms like Yogi did suggests something less permanent and that it is just a matter of just start hitting. Baseball coaches have to be psychologists when it comes to helping youth ballplayers. I am always telling struggling batters that they are just one swing away from putting it all together, so there is no reason to dwell on the slump as that swing can be the very next one. That sentiment is why Yogi also said “Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.” The mind can do marvelous things.
Yogi Berra Quote – “I tell the kids, somebody’s gotta win, somebody’s gotta lose. Just don’t fight about it. Just try to get better.”
Wow, a truer statement was never made and it is so appropriate in today’s youth baseball culture. The win at all cost attitude is prominent and makes people lose all perspective. The games should be about player development and fun, not disagreements and fighting.
So many other of his quotes apply when coaching little league baseball. Yogi statements like, “Pair up in threes” may just seem funny, but it is useful. I often want to find out which kids are paying attention and one way to do that is to say something that doesn’t make complete sense, to see who reacts to it. I may say, “Chris Sale is the by far the best pitcher the Cubs have” to see which players note that Chris plays for the White Sox.
Then there is Yogi’s quote, “In baseball, you don’t know nothing,” another fabulous statement. Right when one thinks they have seen it all or know it all, something occurs that blows your mind. Yes, baseball is a funny game, and Yogi Berra knew that more than anyone else and that the fun should remain in the games.
Finally, Yogi is known and will be remembered forever for his amusing logic. What kids do not know is that he was one heck of a great baseball player. A check of Yogi Berra stats reveals that. One day I hope to get to the Yogi Berra Museum in Little Falls, New Jersey. Recently, Yogi received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I am sure Yogi had something witty to say about that up in heaven, too.
Jack Perconte has dedicated his post-major league baseball career to helping youth. He has taught baseball and softball for the past 27 years. His playing, coaching and parenting stories help create better experiences for athletes and parents. Jack has written over a thousand articles on coaching baseball and youth sports. Jack is the author of “The Making of a Hitter” and “Raising an Athlete.” His third book “Creating a Season to Remember” is in the works. Jack is a featured writer for Baseball the Magazine. You can also find Jack Perconte at YouTube with over 80 fun and innovative baseball instructional videos.