Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Loving the game, working hard, getting better - the right way

The three basic tenets of the Navigators fall baseball program are:
  • Love the game
  • Work hard
  • Get better
Loving the game is self-explanatory. If you don't love it, you don't want anything to do with it. It is a game that will kick your ass and render your love unrequited at times, but in the end, it's your love that keeps drawing you in. When you love the game and are around others who do as well, that's when your team and your program become special. Then (and ONLY then) do guys put their egos on the shelf and work hard to improve as a unit. Speaking of working hard...

Working hard is necessary--also because of the "failure" driven nature of this game. As in life, it's easy to show up at the yard and crank it up when things are going well. But when the most successful players in this game are unsuccessful seven out of 10 times, "going well" is an extremely relative phrase. No one is successful all the time. Anyone who thinks he is, is lying to himself, to his team and to the game that we love. The best among us simply have a plan and work toward executing it. Nothing goes smoothly all the time, but when you are continuously working toward that overarching common goal and going about your business the right way (more on that in a second), you never really fail. Only when you put yourself ahead of the team and that common goal are you a failure (and an epic one at that).

Getting better at this game is difficult. The only thing more difficult is being able to help others get better at it. All of us who coach played at some level and, for whatever reason, had to stop playing. We all have our own little pet causes, sets of neuroses and internal demons that were developed over the course of our respective careers. The biggest challenge we face is not to project all of those onto all of our players or let them impact the common goal.

In the case of the Navigators, our common goal is to get better before the spring season. Since baseball is a mental game, that means we need to teach our players to think through certain situations. In order to do that, we need to let them think. Otherwise, they are mindless drones who have no ability to find their way through the situations in which they find themselves during the games.

I realize that I may be a tad unorthodox on this particular point, but I invite my players to question everything (within reason). I demand that it's done correctly--my equivalent to the Navigators' three tenets was "In baseball, as in life, there are two ways to do things: the right way and the wrong way. We will do things the right way."--but I want them to think through everything they do. Their actions need to have a purpose, and the onus falls on me, the coach, to teach them that purpose. The only way to do that is to empower them to think on their own.

While I wasn't directly responsible for any of these fellas getting D1 scholarships, I was on a staff that has produced more than a dozen of them since I started coaching there, so I figure I've learned to do something right.

Matt Scioscia ('07) - Notre Dame

Carlos Lopez ('08) - Cal State Fullerton
Jeremy Rodriguez ('08) - Cal State Bakersfield
Sean Gilmartin ('08) - Florida State
Tyler Johnson ('08) - SUNY Stony Brook
Tony Goebel ('08) - SUNY Stony Brook
Ryan Hawthorne ('08) - Loyola Marymount

Sean McIntyre ('09) - Loyola Marymount
Zack Wiley ('09) - LeMoyne
Dylan Jones ('09) - Oregon

Austin Walker ('10) - UC Irvine
Kevin Williams ('10) - UCLA
Michael Hubbard ('10) - SUNY Stony Brook
Josh Mason ('10) - SUNY Stony Brook
Ryon Healy ('10) - Oregon

There are a couple more guys who made D1 rosters:

John Kearns ('10) - Holy Cross
Ryan Brockett ('10) - St. Mary's

Yeah...I have coached at the high school level, and I've had some success doing it. I guess I know what I'm talking about.

It's a privilege to be able to be involved in this game--not a right. Ask the guys at Cal what it means to them. (That's another topic that pisses me off that I'll rant on another day.)

The Navs can achieve our goal of making the Pilots good, but some addition by subtraction is necessary first.

1 comment:

  1. Nobody knows of your passion, joy, respect, dedication and love for the game more than I do. Since you were 3 years old and picked up a plastic bat for the first time, I knew. I tried to nurture your respect for the game over the years and tried to be a good influence. There were successes, disappointments, celebrations and heartaches, but most of all there were life lessons. You learned teamwork, the feeling of letting your teammates down, the joy of accomplishment (I'm reminded of the double play you turned in T-ball),the pride of receiving accolades for your performance on the field (not for the hardware, but for your efforts at being the best). I watched you get better through the years by working hard. The endless ground balls, batting cage visits and situational practices you went through. Those are some of my best memories. Keep working. The kids will get better and respect you for helping show them the way. SJND may have a reputation as a basketball powerhouse, but there is no reason that they can't make their mark in baseball too! Good luck Coach! Fight On!