Dealing with failure

My son is 14 years old and last night he came into relieve with a 4 run lead. Normally his control is good but last night he couldn’t find the plate. The harder he tried, the worse his contol became and blew the game for his team. Watching him, he had some mechanical issues (started pulling his glove to the side to increase rotation, not stack and tracking). I let him mope around last night and tried not to make any suggestions. This morning he is still walking around like it is the end of the world. When I tried to talk to him about what he was doing, he just walked away and shut the door.

I know that everyone fails but don’t know how to have him learn from his mistakes. Any suggestions?

My suggestion: wait until it passes. At that point, and when he’s in a good mood, point out a couple of the things that you saw. Also, let him know that if he has any ambitions to pitch at the next level (e.g., college), he will need to remain composed and confident during outings like that. A scout may see him on a day like that. How he handles himself WILL determine whether he gets another look from that scout. As to his feelings after the game, he needs to get back on the horse with the utmost confidence.

Taking one on the chin like that is a tuffie … no doubt about it. And seeing how the youngster hasn’t had much in the experience department, dealing with such a thing, I’d suggest to let it ride.

Besides, what’s not known, is the impact something like that has on everyone else on the club , coach(s) included. Some of these people can be crude when it comes to things like this. Your son could be experiencing some flash back from others. Heck, even some wise guys at school that aren’t even on the club - it happens.

It’s kind of difficult to project what he should be doing right now for future’s sake, and talking about can just rub the pain in a little deeper.

However, the important thing to watch for is his involvement with the team in total and his part “if” ever called on again. Is he being singled out for this experience? Is he the “whipping boy” for the next thing that goes wrong, even by others. Does his coach(s) have an understanding of the limitations of youth? I could go on, but you get the idea.

In the final analysis, as if growing up wasn’t hard enough, stuff like this can pound a guy into the ground like a cheap ten-penny nail. I know I’ve seen grown men deal with stuff like this and it doesn’t get any easier.

Just try to take things one day at a time, be there for your boy, without qualifications … well, maybe slamming doors and stuff are bit over the top, … but you get the idea.

You son is very, very fortunate to have a dad that cares more about his boy, rather than the win, win, win record that comes with braging rights. Very fortunate.

Coach B.

First of all, this is going to happen sooner or later. My son’s pitching coach was also a AA Minor League pitching coach. Last season one of the last things he told him was he hoped he got rocked on the mound. I was a little taken aback and asked him why. He said at the AA level, they get guys who have been dominant their whole lives and that first time they get hit hard, mentally they can’t handle it. Some of them never work through it. Basically, he wanted my son to experience it and learn how to work through it because at some point, at some level, it WILL happen.

Well, that season, he had a game where he did get rocked. After the game on the way home, my comment was something like “Not a good outing, huh?” He just said “nope”. I said “Well, you can take this a couple of ways. You can think that you stink and not want to get out there again, or you can figure out what you did wrong and fix it for the next time you get on the bump.” He said “I stunk tonight, but I don’t stink all together.” His next outing, he threw a complete game 2 hitter.

He has had other games where he wasn’t his best and I will usually just make a brief comment along the lines of “Didn’t have your best stuff tonight, did ya?” He knows it and will admit he didn’t.

The big thing is for him to believe that one bad outing doesn’t make him a bad pitcher. It just means he had a bad outing. Happens to everyone at some time. Even Glavine, Maddux, Johnson, everyone has gotten shelled. It happens. Gotta get back on the horse.

His attitude shows his competitiveness. However, he can’t let it get in the way of giving his best shot next time and more importantly, believing that he can get back out there and perform again. Hope all this makes sense. Let us know how it goes next time.

Back in the 1940s, the 1950s—the Yankee pitchers had an expression for this situation. They called it “taking one’s turn in the barrel”—one or another starting pitcher was getting belted from here to Timbuktu and back, and for one reason or another they left him in there to take his lumps. It happens at all levels of the game, often because the pitching staff was shorthanded and needed to catch up. I know it can be rough on a pitcher, whatever age and whatever level he may be, but the thing to remember is that when you fall down you just get right back up. And don’t take it personally.
I remember when I had a science teacher in high school who would demonstrate one experiment or another. There would be times when the experiment would just plain fizzle. This teacher would just shrug and remark, “Oh, well, it’ll work out better next time.” This kid who had the horrible day on the mound was in this particular situation; whatever it was—the fast ball lost its hippity-hop, the curve ball was as flat as a pancake, the changeup was high, he couldn’t find the plate—it happens, and it happened to him. His mistake was taking it personally. When a pitcher has an outing like that, the best thing to do is admit that on this day he just stank on hot ice, his stuff wasn’t there, and then go ahead and work on whatever is needed to correct the problem.
A case in point, wherein a pitcher fell victim to his shortcoming, is that of a guy named Jay Hook who pitched for the Cincinnati Reds and could best be described as inconsistent. One day he started for the Reds, and the Pirates ate him alive, turning every pitch he threw into line-drive extra-base hits. Eventually he had to be taken out of the game, and when he returned to the dugout he just sat there and moaned, over and over, “Without my fast ball I can’t pitch.” In vain did Jim Brosnan try to explain to him that he had other pitches to throw when his fast ball wasn’t there; Brosnan might as well have been talking to the wall. Hook wouldn’t let go of that, and he didn’t last long in the majors after that.
It doesn’t matter what the pitcher’s age is. What matters is that he has the guts to address the problem and fix it. 8)

we all have to fail, it’s the only way to get better.

Michael Jordan didn’t make the team, Mark Buehrle didn’t make his high school baseball team…they failed but didn’t quit.

Easy to get discouraged and say I “can’t”. If you find a bump in the road then you have to face a reality check and make a change.

If you want to be good or above average then you must never stop learning. Constant need for information and improvement will keep you on your toes. When you think you know it all, you let your guard down and you lose that fire. (I think this is one of the reasons why guys who sign huge contracts start performing bad, they made their money and feel like they don’t have to put in anymore work or need to get better) Look at Carlos Zambrano… as soon as he signed his contract he started playing like he didn’t care anymore and numbers went way down.

I have some experience with this…

I just waited until the kid calmed down and then took him to do another activity totally unrelated to baseball that he really liked. For my kid it was hunting or fishing. Then you get out there and sort of bond…man to man. He shoots a poor helpless defenseless squirrel or catches a stupid crappy and things are starting to heal already. Now that he’s loosened up a bit, you tell him about one of your failures. Heck, I know I have plenty to draw from. Then you tell him how that failure really hurt at the time but later it seemed like just a bump in the road. What all these guys want to know after an experience like that on the baseball field is that THEY ARE NORMAL. Nature takes care of the rest. IMO

I’d also adopt the position that he has to realize as a pitcher that this IS going to happen and he needs to develop a more healthy response when faced with the next disappointing performance. I’d certainly draw the line on the sullen “weight of the world” attitude and explain that this isn’t the way he needs to deal with this…obviously a fiecely competitive person is going to despise losing and they won’t necessarily be wonderful fun to be around when it doesn’t go right…but it shouldn’t go on for days…pitchers have to have very short failure memory and a cockiness that the next time is going to be real tough for the opposition 8)

Follow up.

His attitude was improved last night. He couldn’t wait for me to get thru the door before he was wanting to go to the park and work on some things and then throw a bullpen.

I got his old pitching coach to call later that night and he also had words of encouragement. He also related the story about Kevin Slowey(my son’s hero) getting shelled as a freshman at Winthrop which also seemed to help.

We (my son) started racing motocross at about 6, and being a noob at MX is tough, no rec league there. In a three lap race he’d just get across the finish line in time to complete his 2nd lap ( when 1st crosses the line race is over).

That lead to some pretty long faces in the trailer, and there wasn’t much to say, I wouldn’t sugar coat it, that makes dad feel good but really doesn’t help. So the talk went…“losing doesn’t have many redeeming qualities to it, not much to like about it, but remember how you feel right now, because when you do win this experience will make you appreciate it all the more.”

Also keep in mind this…show me someone who doesn’t mind losing and I’ll show you a loser. :wink:

I have a couple of stories to share which should throw further light on this situation.
Jim Turner, who was the Yankees’ pitching coach from 1949 through 1959, would often do this. When a pitcher had a lousy outing, Turner would wait a couple of days. Then he would take the pitcher into the bullpen, sit him down and have him replay the entire game pitch by pitch, and the two of them would discuss it, figure out what went wrong, and then get to work on fixing it. And if Turner himself was stymied he would turn to Ed Lopat for advice, because very often Lopat would spot something that Turner had missed.
And one day I happened to mention to Lopat that I knew he didn’t win all the time, that he did lose some games, and I was curious as to how he would react to this. His answer surprised me; he said, “You sound like a pitcher who has never lost a game.” I had to admit that such was the case. Then he told me: “I do lose some now and then, but how I react depends on the loss. I’ve been belted around, 8-0, 9-3, 11-2—but even though I don’t like it, I’m not all that upset by it because all those scores tell me is I just didn’t have my stuff that day. What gets me, though, are those close ones—2-1, 3-2—and many times after such a defeat I’ve sat in the locker room and really chewed myself out for letting the game get away from me.” (And his next time out he’d pitch a shutout.) He knew how to put things in perspective.
Yes, this does happen to pitchers now and then. But, as has been said many times, you fall off the horse, and you get up and get right back on it. And you figure out what went wrong, and you fix it. As for the ones who “don’t mind losing”—very often they’re pitchers who have gotten used to it because they’re stuck on teams that absolutely stink on hot ice, and I say, shame on them. 8)

During an interview with Bruce Sutter, Eckersley, Gossage, and Rollie Fingers I saw this winter, one of them said "you need 2 things to be a great closer:1-BOOM strike 1…and 2-A short memory.

Dealing with failure and adversity may be the single most important aspect of the mental game.

Read the book “Mind Gym”. What an impressive easy read.

Learn to play the game in the moment, and to enjoy competition. Play the game pitch-to-pitch, and not game to game.

And someone else—it may have been Lefty Gomez, who used to come up with an observation like that every so often—once described the ideal relief pitcher as a comic-book reader with his brains beaten out of him. That would include most closers. Except, of course, the great Mariano Rivera… :slight_smile:

This may be of little, if any, consolation, however I would suggest attending a Special Olympics.

I guarantee you, both you and your son will leave that day saying …’ There, but by the grace of God, go I.”

Everything else after that is small potatoes.

Coach B.


The kid used to race MX. In the last week three kids under 17 were killed racing/riding. My son saw plenty of people hauled off the course on stretchers. How about that for a little failure.

Funny thing is, I miss it. Very, very much.