Providing Feedback to Your Child

Dec. 18, 2012, 12 a.m. (ET)

Last month, a Responsible Sports Parentwrote to our panel of experts to ask:

“My daughter is 9-years old and participates on our local softball team. Her coaches use "corrective conditioning" (push-ups, running, frog jumps) for bad behavior or poor performance. How do I convince the coaches that they can get optimal response/performance without using corporal punishment?"

- Kim, a concerned parent

We asked two of our experts to weigh in. Ken Eriksen - USA Softball Women’s National Team head coach and head coach at the University of South Florida, had this to say:

Physical acts (push up, sit ups) can be used in a fun manner also by using sets of 1 in a humorous way. However, by using it as a “punishment” goes against all sense of the bat and ball game. Our game is a cerebral game that should be taught on a “lecture” basis. Repetitive skill work will at some point come to fruition. I have always felt that corrective conditioning is a substitute for the inability to communicate on a high level.

And Eric Eisendrath, Lead Trainer from Positive Coaching Alliance answered:

I see two issues at play here. One is your question concerning the use of “corrective conditioning” and the other is “How do I convince the coaches” that their approach is not beneficial.

I would like to address the second issue first. One of the more challenging aspects of youth sports for parents is working to sculpt exactly what their role should be. One of the tenants of PCA’s Second-Goal Parent philosophy is to have parents focus exclusively on “big picture” concerns, such as enjoyment, teamwork, and making friends. Positional play, refereeing competence, and strategic coaching decisions are “small picture” concerns. It is when parents stray into areas of “small picture” concerns that the coach-parent partnership becomes strained. When this occurs, it is often the child, caught in the middle, who is most impacted. It is not that parents don’t have a role; it is simply that their role is to provide unconditional love and support for their child independent of performance.

As for your second point, if you do find yourself coaching, I would concur that use of “corrective conditioning” is not an approach I would recommend. There are two reasons why I feel this way. By using conditioning as a punishment, you are attaching negative feelings to what should be a positive experience. It could be argued that strength (pushups), stamina (running) and agility (frog jumps) are beneficial attributes in becoming a valued member of the team. However, if you attach negative feelings to these types of exercises, it is quite likely that athletes will be more reluctant to do them. Secondly, by“punishing” athletes for poor play, you are creating a fear of making mistakes. This mindset is very damaging to an athlete’s development. Athletes who fear mistakes are less likely to push themselves past their comfort zone. It is critical that coaches create an atmosphere that recognizes that mistakes are an inevitable aspect of learning and growing. Thus, instilling “punishment” in the form of pushups, laps and frog jumps will only serve to make athletes more fearful of making mistakes and less likely to try new things.

Are you a coach or parent who has a youth softball question you’d like to pose to our panel of experts? Visit us on Facebook and ask your question today! We regularly post answers on and each month we’ll feature one question here at USA Softball.

The Liberty Mutual Responsible SportsTM program supports volunteer youth sports coaches and parents who help our children succeed both on and off the field.