Words Get in the Way

By Jill E. Wolforth-

We all have a way of learning that works best for us and it typically can be categorized into one of the following: visual, verbal or kinesthetic.


When training occurs in sports, most coaches rely predominantly on teaching with verbal cues.  For example, “get your elbow up”, “keep your foot closed”, “bend your legs more”, “start early”, “break your hands when you break your legs”, etc.

There are several problems with this type of teaching, including but not limited to:

1) Verbal learning is not the number one way most people learn.
2) Verbal instruction must be interpreted and it often gets misinterpreted.

For example, I’ve had this happen, I’ve given verbal instruction to a player, watched them struggle to do what I’ve asked (or do it incorrectly), then another coach says something ALMOST exactly the same and the player was able to complete the movement. Does that mean what I said was wrong?  In most cases no, it just means the student didn’t interpret it as I intended.

Another great example Coach Wolforth often uses is this: “If I say the word ‘blue’, what does that mean to you?”  For some people they immediately think of the color blue while others relate the word to feeling depressed or sad.  Both answers would be correct yet, both are completely different.

Does this mean coaches should never use verbal instruction?  Of course not.  Learning occurs best when we incorporate all three styles of learning – verbal, visual & kinesthetic (feel) -into any training 

Recently, while working with players in Italy, I was reminded of this in a couple ways.  First, most of the players didn’t speak English so we were relying on translators.  On a couple of occasions, the translator would say, “I don’t understand what that means”.

Second, since the players couldn’t understand English, I would immediately “show” them what I wanted and obviously much better communication took place that way.  In this particular setting, even kinesthetic was far better than verbal.  So, on occasion, I would actually put the player in a position that would enable him to “feel” something.

As you read this you may be thinking, “Of course no one should always teach verbally” but I challenge you to really be aware of it the next time you’re in a practice setting.  As a parent, what type of instruction is your athlete receiving?   As a coach, how do you instruct most of the time?  As a player, how are you being taught and more importantly, how do you best learn?

Almost all coaches are guilty of “do” instruction, do this, do that, etc. And there’s a reason.  It’s easier.  To us, it’s more efficient.  The problem, it’s rarely more effective.

At the Texas Baseball Ranch, we have worked hard to incorporate the three major modes of learning, and in the last year have added specific components to our Elite Pitchers Boot Camp and Extended Summer Program specially focused to provide additional visual learning and it has been a significant addition to our training.

So, if ambiguity or vagueness is an enemy or complicator of learning then clarity is what we should seek.  Therefore, Don’t Let Words Get in the Way.


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There are some very specific ways for you to get involved with us at the Texas Baseball Ranch over the next couple months. We’d love to have you join us for one of them…


For Pitchers: We have 3 Elite Pitchers Bootcamp dates (Thanksgiving Break, Christmas Break & Martin Luther King Holiday.  For more information go to: https://www.texasbaseballranch.com/elite-pitchers-bootcamp/


Alumni Camp: Pitchers that have participate in a previous Baseball Ranch event are eligible to attend our Alumni/Advanced Bootcamp.  We have one scheduled before the start of the 2020 season, January 11 & 12, 2020.  More information is available at https://www.texasbaseballranch.com/events/alumni-pitchers-bootcamp/

For Catchers: (Yes, you read that right!) We’re excited to announce our first Elite Catchers Boot Camp for catchers ages 14 & up. The camp is full but you can be added to a wait list should someone cancel. More information on this event and the amazing group of instructors can be found at: https://www.texasbaseballranch.com/catcher


For Coaches: Order the DVDs for our upcoming (December) Ultimate Pitching Coaches Bootcamp.  The event itself has sold out but you can still purchase the DVDs at the regular rate until Oct. 31st (Save $100).   This event is known as the Gold Standard in the industry and this year’s lineup of speakers is incredible!  Check it out at www.coachesbootcamp.com  




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