There are many ways a coach can address players after a loss. Rhinelander (Wis.) High School varsity baseball coach Joe Waksmonski likes to stay positive and encourage his guys.
“You want to emphasize what happened well that day, and you always what to start with the positives,” Waksmonski said. “After that, you can go into some of the stuff that was negative.”
Waksmonski has learned in his 10 years as coach that teenagers tend to listen better if they are given positive reinforcement instead of hearing too much negative feedback.
“There is a point where negativity can and will work, but you have to limit that and save it for really key moments when you know that they’re listening and when it will get their attention,” Waksmonski said. “If you’re a person that’s constantly negative, it will go in one ear and out the other. I think the same thing with positives: It can go in one ear and out the other. I think you have to have a balance where there is positives and negatives.”
Waksmonski uses an approach to talk about positives and then negatives after a loss, but after a win, it’s negatives first followed by positives. The ending to his postgame speech is the last thing the players are going to remember, and Waksmonski wants it to be impactful.
The 35-year-old coach always makes sure he emphasizes a key message in his speech following a defeat.
“I think that’s where kids will actually learn the best is when there’s failure,” Waksmonski said. “They want to learn why they failed and what they can individually and as a team do to get better to not feel that way at the end of the game.”
Waksmonski isn’t big about calling out individuals who maybe committed a critical error or struck out too many times. If he needs to address a player, he will pull them aside. He prefers to use “we” instead of “you” in talking about situations.
“If your pitcher wasn’t throwing strikes, obviously that’s the person who did it,” Waksmonski said. “But at the same time you don’t want to say, ‘George wasn’t throwing strikes.’ I like to say, ‘We didn’t throw enough strikes today.’ We want to keep it general in that regard.”
However, if a player isn’t showing effort during a game, Waksmonski will point that out in front of the entire team.
“I remember a couple years ago, we had someone who hit a pop-up in the infield and they thought it was going to go foul, and the third baseman ended up dropping the ball in fair territory,” Waksmonski said. “He ended up throwing the guy out because the batter stood at home plate. I think that stuff you have to show we can’t have that. You have to have effort every single play; whether you think it’s fair or foul or whatever the call is, you have to go 100 percent.”
Waksmonski isn’t a big fan of talking too long to his players following a win or loss. He has witnessed some coaches talking to their players for 15 or 20 minutes on the field. Waksmonski believes that’s when the players will start to zone out.
“I really try to keep it five to seven minutes at the most,” Waksmonski said. “I always want to make sure my assistant coaches have a say, too. As the head coach, I know if you’re the only one who’s talking, the players will drown you out. You need to have a variety of people talking — head coach, assistant coaches, captains. That’s their time to speak as well.”