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There is always a lot of great baseball during the college playoffs. Unfortunately, this year we won’t get to experience and learn from it with college baseball being shut down due to COVID-19. That doesn’t mean that we can’t look back at previous years and be reminded of these important lessons. Last year’s playoffs included great plays, gritty pitching, and thrilling walk-offs. Of course, for all the exciting playoff games at various levels of college baseball, one team always ends up on the losing side. For many players, the loss means the end of their season. Sometimes the scores are close; sometimes they are lopsided. A loss is never easy, no matter what the scoreboard says. Baseball can be a heartless game. One day you’re on top and the next, you’re facing a crushing defeat.
While you might think that coaches and recruiters are only interested in players who win games, most actually want to see you fail some so they can see how well you handle losing or failure. Why? Because every ballplayer loses sometimes and every ballplayer fails; it’s part of the game. Coaches are looking for players with “character.” They are looking for players who will add strength, not problems, to their teams through seasons that are filled with many ups and downs. Right now, college baseball would usually be providing countless examples of what you should and shouldn’t do in the tough moments and defeat. Since we can’t witness those acts this year, here are a few tips to help you get noticed, even after you’ve lost an important game.
- It is ok to show emotions. Coaches don’t expect you to be a robot. You might be feeling frustrated, disappointed, sad, and even angry. Coaches want to see that it matters to you, but that you can manage those emotions. That means you don’t let your negative emotions dictate your behavior. Things like throwing equipment, knocking things over, hitting anything, lashing out, or losing control of yourself are definite no-no’s.
- Show that you respect your teammates, other players, coaches and officials. If you blame your teammates, refuse to shake hands with the other team, complain about the umpires, sulk, or walk away from your coach, you are going to get crossed off many recruiters’ lists. Don’t forget, recruiters and coaches often share information. You could lose your chance to play at the next level if you get a reputation that you are immature or a troublemaker.
- Show that you respect yourself. Keep your head up. Look everyone in the eye. Don’t say anything negative about yourself. Stay calm and if it is appropriate, start thinking about what you could have done differently. If you made mistakes, take responsibility but recognize that mistakes happen and they don’t change who you are. Show your coach and your teammates that you are walking away from the loss and turning the page, taking only the lessons that will help you improve in the future.
- Be a leader. You’re a competitor. You need to compete until the last out in the last inning, no matter what the scoreboard says. But, once the game is over, you need to accept the loss. A leader takes adversity in stride and when he does, his team takes notice. You can help your team by keeping things in perspective and positive. You need to show your teammates (and recruiters) that you are the kind of player who picks up his friends, stays calm and considerate, and walks off the field even stronger than when the game began.
Everyone loses. It’s the players that handle themselves with the same class and character during times of loss and failure as they do when they are winning and dominating that college coaches are looking to recruit. Let that be you.