Camp Articles

The Fear Factor

This issue blows me away. Literally.

I’ve just read it cover to cover and have made note of several ideas I want to implement with my son’s baseball team. Now, I know these two things are not normally linked, but they both do deal with the same problem -- fostering individual initiative and creativity within the framework of a team or community.

Think about that for a minute. Isn’t that an oxymoron?

On one hand, we want our campers/players to have the confidence and guts to try new things and go-for-broke without fear of failure or reprisal. But, at the same time, we want them to be team players --sacrificing themselves and their goals for the overall good of the team/community.

Accomplishing these seemingly divergent goals takes strong leadership at the top -- which is why I found Dr. Chris Thurber’s article on “Staying Relevant” (page 36) so valuable. I won’t spoil it for you here, but the bottom line is every item he covered in his article is something I’ve personally struggled with in the last few weeks -- and I’m betting his words will hit you in your core as well.

Couple that leadership advice with Bob Carver’s “Building A Case” on page 31, Eric Bailey’s “From Good To Great” on page 27 and Daniel Walker’s “The Nuts and Bolts of a Challenge Course” on page 19 and you’ll quickly remember that leadership by any definition is essentially managing fear -- both your own and that of your campers.

I’m not talking about things like fear of heights or homesickness. Instead, I’m talking about fear of failure.

In my role as a baseball coach, fear is death. I used to try and get my kids past their fear of performance failure by talking with them about playing loose. As I aged, I realized I was sugar-coating the problem. Playing tight was a symptom of fear.

In order to get them to play loose, I had to: 1) eliminate my own performance fears (i.e., exude confidence all the time) and 2) talk with my players individually about their specific fears and show them exactly what would happen if their worst fear was realized -- they would strike out, come back to the bench, grab some sunflower seeds and joke with me about whatever happened at school that day.

Ironically, I find the people who exhibit the most fear -- alarmingly so at times -- are my players' parents (myself included). For some reason, the fear of seeing your son fail at something he’s worked so hard at is more than us weak parents can handle.

It leads to all kinds of weird things -- coach confrontations, rooting for other players to fail, negative talk on the ride home from the game, shifting the blame for an error to another player, rock or coach decision and so on.

Like the father in Bob Carver’s article, eventually my players find a way to convince their parents that an error or hitless day is simply part of the game -- and nothing to be afraid of. And, when that happens, I know I’ve been a good leader.

Till next month …

Rodney J. Auth


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