The lost art of accountability

There is an interesting phenomenon going on generally in the Western world, and one that we’re seeing more of in fastpitch softball as well — a lack of personal accountability. By that I mean players standing up and saying “Hey it was my fault we lost/things didn’t go the way we wanted.” Instead, more and more are willing to blame someone else for their woes.

A good example is pitchers. They throw a ball in the dirt, well away from the plate, it goes to the backstop and the runner on third scores. Then later the pitcher blames the catcher for either not stopping the ball, not recovering it fast enough, or both. Never mind that had that “rise ball” not gone into the dirt in the first place it wouldn’t have been a problem.

The same thing with shortstop and third basemen (and coaches) blaming a first baseman for not scooping a ball out of the dirt on an errant throw. While perhaps the ball should’ve been caught, it wouldn’t have even been an issue had the throw been on-line and in the air in the first place.

Hitters blame umpires for ringing them up on a pitch they thought was too low or too far outside, even though the last four hitters had those same pitches called against them. Pitchers (and their coaches) blame an umpire for squeezing them when the strike zone isn’t as wide or deep as last game. Yes, sometimes pitchers do get squeezed by the Blue, but probably not as often as we think.

The key issue is players taking responsibility for themselves. Back in my playing days, I was the reverse. After every loss I would think about a pitch I didn’t hit well, a ball I didn’t field as well as I should’ve, a runner that was safe stealing a base, etc. that was the cause of our loss. Never mind we lost by eight runs. I was convinced that had I made whatever play was on my mind it could’ve turned the loss into a win.

Nowadays, more often than not, it just doesn’t happen. And so the same mistakes continue, game after game. Why would you work on not doing something (like throwing pitches into the dirt) when clearly the ball getting through was someone else’s fault?

I think one big driving force behind all this is the parents. We are in a child-rearing era where parents will do anything to avoid seeing their kids fail or get their feelings hurt. Parents take up a collect and buy them trophies for being on a team instead of letting them earn it. Parents will make excuses on the sidelines for a lack of performance, from “she doesn’t feel well today” to “she was up late doing homework and is tired now” to “she’s letting the other players drag her down.” Hey, how about the fact that Suzie Snowflake just plain sucks today, hasn’t picked up a ball or a glove or a bat in a week, and maybe isn’t quite as gifted as you’d like to think?

You even see this with equipment. At our tryouts recently, I couldn’t believe how many players coming in for a tryout, where they’re supposed to try to make a good impression, had their parents carrying their equipment bags. (When I saw it I would usually say “Must be nice to have your own caddy.”) If they didn’t bring their glove over to where we were doing fielding, it wasn’t the kid who would run back and get it. Mommy or Daddy would do it, like they forgot to bring it. I’ve actually seen players get mad at their parents because the parents didn’t check the equipment bag to make sure all their stuff was in there. That is just ridicuous.

Your equipment, your mental state, and everything you do is your responsibility, nobody else’s. It’s time today’s generation of players (as a whole) quits making excuses or looking for someone else to blame and starts becoming accountable for themselves and their own actions. Because someday, when you have a real job, no one is going to be interested in your excuses. If you can’t do it, the company will find someone who can.

POSTSCRIPT: I am actually fortunate that almost all of the players I’ve coached over the years understand this, and their parents understand it as well. It makes it a pleasure to work with them. Those few who didn’t really stood out like ants in a sugar bowl.

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