Your 3 Second Choice Between Winning & Losing

3 Seconds Second Choice Winning or Losing Coach Reaction Upset Frustration Pivotal Winning Losing

Your team’s on a losing streak, you’re tired of watching them play so poorly that you’re upset, grouchy & turning bitter. While this might be a normal reaction, discover the importance of your 3 second choice!

Of course you don’t practice mistakes, yet your players keep making them. You’re at that tipping point where patience runs out and frustration takes over. You’re at your 3 Second Choice – make sure you do the right thing!

Anybody who thinks coaching is easy has never coached. It’s hard enough when you’re winning, but once your team starts losing then it’s a whole different realm of emotions. Staying positive while Rome burns around you sounds great when you calmly read about it away from the ballfield, but get in the moment and frustration can easily rule the day.

It’s ridiculous to suggest you should never get frustrated or that you should hum songs from the Sound of Music while your team plays horribly! That would be naïve. And simply ignoring frustration isn’t helpful either since frustration plays an important role in the life of a coach. Frustration serves as your 3 second warning – it’s the sign that you have about 3 seconds to make a choice – a very PIVOTAL choice:

  • You can choose to stay in the past, where the bad plays live, and get frustrated & bitter,
  • Or you can choose to stay in the present where the corrections and adjustments live, and be encouraging & positive & helpful.

Every coach in every sport at every level loses. But, what separates the winning coaches who lose from “losing coaches” is their 3 second choice. Winning coaches choose their team, they choose encouragement, they choose adjustment, they stay in the NOW! In that same span of 3 seconds losing coaches choose to stay in the past, to continually remind their players about their bad plays, about why those plays will kill them, about how hard they practiced NOT making those mistakes, about the past, the past, the past.

And yet, the game is about the present – it’s ALWAYS about THIS PLAY RIGHT NOW! Coaches who can keep their players in the NOW have a much better chance of succeeding Right Now! While coaches who work hard to stay in the past, where the bad plays live, will keep their players in those plays, and so their teams will continue to make bad plays.

If you aspire to be that “winning coach” here’s a few tell-tale signs:

“Winning” Coaches:

  • Keep their talk in the now by making statements like, “drive this pitch hard”, “shake that off and get her right now”, “make your adjustment right now” …
  • Remain their practice-selves during the rocky parts of a game or season and work with their players to quickly raise themselves above it.
  • Remember their opponents are trying to win as hard as they are. They know the opposition is trying to disrupt everything they’ve worked for all week. They keep in mind that sometimes the other team’s efforts just work better than theirs.
  • They know frustrated players start past-thinking too and can feel like quitting, so they stay encouraging and challenging and understanding.

“Losing” Coaches:

  • Talk mechanics all game and then get mad at poor pitch selection.
  • Make lots of historical statements during a game like “we were always more competitive than this”, “I was never like that”, “we would never have gotten away with that” …
  • Get mad at a successful outcome because it could have turned out bad (but didn’t).

It’s easy to think that the current generation of player is weaker than previous players – either mentally, physically or emotionally. And yet, the only player you are ever coaching is the one standing in front of you RIGHT NOW – this day, today! To be a truly good coach you need to encourage today’s player to try harder, better, different, again by being encouraging, hopeful, calm, challenging, and positive.

In that 3 second window between screwed-up play and your response, choose to help give your players clarity, encouragement, hope, energy, bravery, solutions and in some cases simply an eraser. You’re the coach – give them what they need – and do it within 3 seconds, then move on and get ready to do it again!

For more help managing your 3 second window, check out:

4 comments on “Your 3 Second Choice Between Winning & Losing

  1. Duke Baxter

    Cindy, I love reading your articles because they are dead on. You keep up to date with “NOW” practices instead of just doing things that have been taught in the past. Keep learning and growing and continue to help the players and coaches of TODAY. Duke

  2. Cindy Bristow

    Thank you Duke! I believe if I’m teaching anybody anything the obligation’s on ME to make sure it’s the most current and up-to-date information that’s available. The learner’s responsibility is to put effort into absorbing and trying to master it, and the teacher’s obligation is to ensure it’s the most correct information out there! Thanks Duke!

  3. Michael Welsh

    Thank you for the information in the 3 Second Choice. I try to as positive as possible. But after reading this article. You have shown even another way I have not thought of. I think I’m going to introduce a new line at practice today. Right here, right now. Thank you

  4. Mark Williams


    Your information has helped me become a better coach. This one in particular hit home and I will now know what I am suppose to do. Thanks for all you do for me and my personal growth as a coach. Mark Williams 12U Norton Elite Fastpich

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