Ask Why, Eliminate Uncertainty & Gain Trust In Your Baseball Coach
By Rick Johnston
How many times have you seen this as a coach:

A player is working on a specific movement in a particular discipline of baseball (such as hitting or pitching) and the player is asked why he is doing what he is doing.

The player replies with “I don’t know, I was just told to do it this way”.

Wow! Wow! WOW!

It is truly implausible and hard to believe that in this day and age of coaching, with so many resources at our fingertips as coaches, that a kid can respond with an answer like that. As you look right in the eyes of the player and you ask him why he is doing what he is doing, the head drops down, the eyes stare at the ground and the shoulders are shrugged upward, and a voice responds with “I don’t know!” This is without question one of the most discouraging instances I face coaching kids for as long as I have.

Let’s look at the word “why” and really see what it stands for. As a noun in the English dictionary “why” means… a question concerning the cause or reason for which something is done, achieved, etc… As an adverb it means for what? For what reason, cause, or purpose? The word “why” might be one of the most important words in our English language. Well then you may ask why? The answer is simple, it is all about cause, reason or purpose why we do things and most importantly the word “why” helps each and every one of us in everyday life learn.

Now, let’s get back to the skills young baseball players learn. First, when kids (players) are told to perform a specific skill or movement, there are often not enough “why’s” given with respect to why they are trying to do what they are doing, or perhaps more accurately, being TOLD to do what they are doing. For this reason, it is no wonder that many kids when asked “why” they are doing what they are doing give the proverbial answer of “I don’t know” or “my coach told me to do it this way”. That does not give the true value of – or reason for – what they are doing. Instead it only goes to complicate things even more as the kids continue to do what they are doing with poor reasoning, poor purpose and poor cause, trying hard yet getting no results.

It is easy to see why the standard answer given is “I don’t know”! There is a strong parallel to doing things efficiently and well with that of answering the question of “why”. Let’s face it, if kids (and parents) do not know “why” then there is really no true purpose to what you are trying to do, is there? At the very least, it provides little hope for the player becoming proficient at self-adjusting, self-coaching. How does one adjust something with which they have little to no level of comprehension of its cause and effect?

Baseball DogHence, here we have kids that are working so hard at achieving goals in their baseball lives, be it become a better hitter, pitcher, infielder, etc. … Yet they work on things with a total lack of reasoning, other than the big bad coach has “TOLD” them to do it this way! Wow! When is it going to end? When are kids going to be better prepared as to the “whys” of why they do things? Yes, it is very easy for any coach to pick up a book, look at a video or DVD, go to a coaching clinic and begin to teach what is being preached. That is so very simple. Well the book says this; or the DVD says that; or the coach at the clinic said we do it this way. Where are the “whys” in the equation? Did they EXPLAIN them in the book? The video? The DVD? The clinic? Did they? Or was it more a case of “Hey, I am the guy up here on the stage”, or in the video, or in the book – “so just do what I say. I don’t need to tell you why”. Hey, If I am a young kid and my rep coach says do it this way or that way, yes, I will probably do it without hesitation…after all he is the coach and we are often conditioned in sports to obey and follow orders like a loyal pet. But jeepers creepers, where is the “why” behind the execution of the skill development? Even man’s best friend can display a little trepidation when its owner orders it to do something that just doesn’t make sense, surely we can likewise follow our instincts.

Every good coach should be able to fully explain each and every “why” of every movement or action they are asking each player to do. Plain and simple. And you have every right, and maybe even an obligation, to ask “why” if it is not clearly apparent to you. If they can’t tell you why, a red flag needs to be held up high and questions or concerns should come up – all relating to “why”, as you likely have a major collision working its way forward.

Players themselves CANNOT be afraid to ask “why” and when they do ask why, that “why” must ABSOLUTELY make sense. If no sense is made from it, meaning if that coach is unable to clearly identify the potential infinite amount of whys something is being asked of each player, then it probably should NOT be done. After all, how can you get “buy in” from a player – true buy in – when they are skeptical or unsure or unaware or simply annoyed at being told what to do all of the time with no supporting reasoning or explanation. Any competent, confident, knowledgeable coach should not be taken aback by these questions (when asked in the right time and place). It is the ones that might not be so confident, so knowledgeable, so competent – lest I say the fakes, frauds and phonys – that don’t want to hear these questions.

It is so easy for kids (and parents) to fall prey to coaches that don’t clearly explain “why” in whatever the skill or teaching is. So kids (players and parents) you have two choices:

Player Coach HappyOne – if you are not sure, you need to ask and if that coach cannot provide you with enough solid reasoning that makes sense, you might need to abandon what you are doing. Remember, I said must make sense. If they can’t explain, do they even know “why” themselves?


Two – you can continue down that path of uncertainty, keep doing what you are doing, undertaking the same mundane drills and movements, that make little sense and simply get the same old results.

I would hope that you choose an exploration of the former; ask questions; ask yourself if they make sense; eliminate uncertainty; and probe the “why” factor to assist in becoming more educated. After all, the word “why” in the English dictionary is truly about learning with reason and cause. If you truly have a knowledgeable, competent coach, then it will only serve to solidify your relationship and build a deeper trust in that coach and that you have connected with the right mentor.

Good luck, ask questions and make sure all answers make sense. After all, this is your path, not theirs.


Rick Johnston

Co-Founder & Head Instructor – The Baseball Zone

PS – One coach you will always have at the beginning, middle and end of your baseball life is your mom and/or dad. With this in mind, we have a great interactive workshop coming up for players and parents that practice together called “Parents, You Are Coaches, Too” running October 20, 2014, from 7-9PM – check the details below.