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Avoid the Danger of the Yesbots

yestbots danger players questions yes no clue

In today’s softball Yesbots are everywhere, and while they’re prevalent, they aren’t helpful.

If your team is filled with yesbots trouble could be looming.

We’re in an era of coaches asking questions that they don’t mean as questions, and players learning to respond with a head bob or a yes. Robots are mechanical, thoughtless responders that simply follow orders with no capacity for making decisions on their own.

We ask a lot of our players, we want them to hustle, to care, to work hard and to give their best.  We also want them to make good decisions on the ballfield, and to “know the game”. A decision-maker is the opposite of a yesbot. A decision-maker considers options, thinks for herself and has the confidence to arrive at a final decision.

While a yesbot simply nods her head and says “yes” because she knows that’s what the coach wants to hear. She doesn’t really mean “yes, I completely understand what you just said”. In fact, she probably has NO CLUE what you’re talking about, but she knows you don’t really mean to ask a question – and if you did – you only want “yes” as an answer.

Creating a culture of yesbots is on us. Sure, it’s the current generation of players that say yes without thought, but it’s because we as coaches have started telling our players more and truly asking them less.

Yesbots are harmful because you never really know what they understand. You’ll think they get whatever you just said because they all said yes when you asked, “do you know what I mean?”, and yet everybody knows you didn’t mean that as a real question.

If you’re serious about weeding out the yesbots, try incorporating the following:

  • Check your own verbal habits and work to stop ending your comments to your players with; “do you know what I mean?”,does everybody understand?” and “right?!” There’s NO WAY a player would have the courage in a group setting to say – “no coach, I’ve got NO CLUE what you’re talking about.”
  • Instead, try ending your comments with this – “tell me what you think I mean by that”. That statement requires more than a yes or no answer, so the player will have to dive deeper into her knowledge to come up with a response.
  • Allow time for a real response. If you want me to give you a real answer then you can’t be rushing off to another drill. Particularly if I’m not used to putting my thoughts into words (which many kids are not).
  • No judgment zone. When you put a player on the spot by asking them to “tell you what you think I mean by that” it’s scary as hell for the player. She could be wrong. So, here’s the most important part – you need to reassure them there is NO WRONG ANSWER. Whatever they think you meant is right – because it’s what they think, it’s not what you said.

Yesbots don’t tell you what they really think, they simply tell you what they think you want to hear. That’s limiting for them and can eventually lead to a culture of anxiety and fear of being wrong and making mistakes, which is definitely not what you want within your program.

Start looking for the Yesbots within your team and take steps to slowly pull more out of them to help increase their knowledge, their courage and their overall confidence.

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One comment on “Avoid the Danger of the Yesbots

  1. Stephenie Pencek

    I always ask my players to repeat back to me what I just said to them when I’m coaching. If they hesitate for a second I know that they didn’t understand. This is how I avoid the yesbots. I explain to them how important it is that they do understand so that they can think for themselves and become the players that they want to be. I also tell them that failure is part of it and that they have to be OK with that as well. That I’m not going to call them out to dry for failing. I’d rather them fail trying to improve by doing something new then fail doing the same thing over and over again and getting nowhere.

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