Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate cheering, I just know it’s hidden dangers.
I’m not saying don’t cheer, but you better know it’s side effects when you do.
I know that cheering is as much a part of softball as gloves and bats, and while it enhances the energy of a game, it can create some dangerous side effects. OK, maybe “dangerous” is a bit dramatic, but as a college coach, I’m definitely seeing some very harmful impact.
Before we look at cheering’s downside, let’s look at the great upsides to team cheering:
- Most softball players LOVE to cheer
- It helps players feel supportive of their teammates and their team
- It can create energy within the dugout
- It adds to the excitement and atmosphere of a softball game
But, there are two sides to everything and cheering is no different. In working with our freshmen, I’ve discovered they love to cheer, but have NO idea how to communicate. So here are the ways I’ve discovered cheering is dangerous to your team’s success:
- Encouragement Isn’t Talking – Cheering is mostly about encouragement and support. Sometimes it gets off the rails and becomes negative toward the other team, but usually, it’s all about support. And while that’s great, supporting in a group yell is not the same as talking to your teammates. Players think they’re talking to their teammates when they cheer, which is why they have no idea what you’re talking about when you say “come on you guys, I need to hear you talking to each other!” Cheering is simply supporting and encouraging each other, it’s not communicating or talking.
- Information Is Personal – If you’re asking your players to “talk to each other”, you’re wanting your players to exchange information. You might need your catcher to tell your infield what to watch out for with this hitter, or your right fielder to let your second baseman know she’s moved back 4 steps. Talking is two people exchanging information – it’s personal. Cheering is as far away from that as you can get. Cheering in a group is like white noise, it’s in the background, you can kinda hear it, but it doesn’t mean much to you, because it isn’t personally directed to you. Information is personal between two people and cheering is yelling in a group.
- Individual Volume Takes Courage – Cheering in a group is easy because you can hide within the group. But it takes courage to yell something at the top of your lungs so your teammates can hear you over the wind, the crowd and the other team cheering. Most players have never “talked” like that before, and, they aren’t really sure what to say, so there’s NO WAY they’ll say it loud enough to be heard. Cheering doesn’t require any courage so it’s hard for players to have courage when they talk – so they don’t.
- Cheering Isn’t Trying – Sure, it takes energy to cheer, but not the kind of energy it takes to keep fighting and battling in a ball game. Players think they’re trying to win when they cheer, instead of trying to pick the other pitcher’s change-up, or trying to find a job to do in the dugout, or hustling down to warm-up the next pitcher, or watching to see if the baserunner touched every base. Those things are jobs in the dugout that lead to winning. Cheering isn’t a job you’re doing that will help your team gain an advantage in the game. Cheering is just that – “white noise”.
You’ll never keep your team from cheering, and I’m not suggesting you should. But I am saying we all need to help teach our players how to talk on the ballfield in ways that will actually impact the outcome of the game. Our players need to learn to talk to each other, share information, make it personal, acknowledge the other person, and be brave enough to be loud.