Yogi Berra's Coaching Tips

Yogi Berra is among the greatest players and managers in the history of Major League Baseball. He is legendary not only as a baseball man, but also as a man who produced some of the greatest odd quotes of the century.

There are nuggets of wisdom to be gleaned from Berra’s malapropisms, and some of these can be applied to Bible Quiz. So I now present five coaching tips from Yogi Berra.

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

Now, on the surface this makes no sense. Think about it this way, though often we approach quiz as the product of an equation of practice drills, studying, and simply doing things like you practice. I do think there is an element of “game speed” that is impossible to replicate in practice. Especially with young quizzers, you simply can’t always predict what they are going to do in a game. That’s why it’s important to get to as many tournaments as possible before official competition.

If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.

I’m a planner. I freely admit that I can’t stand to start a practice without having a clear direction. For every practice, I figure out where I want my team to be at the end, and do everything I can to get them there. That way we don’t waste time and we don’t end up somewhere else.

There are some people who, if they don’t already know, you can’t tell ‘em.

This perfectly described my least favorite attribute in a quizzer. If a quizzer isn’t teachable, there isn’t a lot I can do. Some quizzers think they know it all, and that’s quite annoying to those of us that have been doing this for awhile. I have 20 years experience in this, and there are still things I am learning to do better. I certainly don’t want to hear that a fourteen year old thinks they have it all figured out.

You can observe a lot by just watching.

One of the things I like to do as a coach is watch my team while someone else reads. That allows me to watch their reactions, make sure they have good mechanics, and see their quizzing from a different perspective. It really helps me to coach them better.

I always thought that record would stand until it was broken.

This one’s more for fun, but the truth is that there are some pretty heavy records out there right now. Obviously, the Nationals individual scoring record set by Kent Piacenti is technically unbreakable, as it’s now not possible to score more than 152 points per game. I remember my senior year, I broke the previous record for forward quiz-outs by a considerable margin, and people were pretty excited about it. Of course, I understood that it was much easier to break that record since we played 22 games that year, which was more than at any previous Nationals. With more games, it’s easier to get more quiz-outs.

Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.

My all-time favorite Berra quote, this illustrates what I feel is the most essential part of truly great quizzing. Focus. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, and I believe that what separates good quizzers from champions is the ability to focus for 28 games.

It ain’t over till it’s over.

Another classic, and the quintessential competitive truth. We’ve all seen spectacular comebacks, and I’ve been thrilled to be part of a few. Marcae’s dad, Ron Johnson, taught me that a truly dominant quizzer can take the first five or the last five questions of any game. That’s the stuff that legendary comebacks are made of.

We made too many wrong mistakes.

Mistakes will just kill a good team. Missed questions, especially turnovers, have washed out the hopes of so many teams that were favored to win Nationals. This is part of being focused and disciplined.

The other teams could make trouble for us if they win.

Every game has one winner and one loser (or winning team with the least amount of points, if you’re fragile). I like to think of this quote more in context of the spoilers. How many times has a team that’s out of contention taken out a giant or two, forever altering the landscape of the tournament? Winners start by beating the teams they are supposed to beat.

Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting.

I have seen quizzers who were slumping, and I’ve seen quizzers that just weren’t quizzing. I spent my entire Freshman year in a slump. I also had tournaments where I just wasn’t quizzing (every year at St. Louis, for example). The difference is whether the problem is mechanics, poor timing, lack of study, or simply bad luck. The trick to breaking a slump usually means fixing something that wrong. If you’re just not quizzing, it’s probably a mental thing, and that can be corrected by a good coach.