FEATURE: Coach, you make the difference!
If pressed to reflect upon one’s formative years, most adults will readily identify individuals who they believe had a significant influence on their personal development – whether they be parents, siblings, teachers, community figures, sporting mentors or a particular coach.
While luck, timing or temperament may be among the factors that determine whether that influence was inspiring or less than uplifting in the context of one’s life, there is no doubt that a positive, knowledgeable, organised, balanced and approachable coach has the potential for a profound and lasting impact on aspiring young baseball players.
Castle Hill Knights Baseball Club President and Alumni contributor Mark Maguire offers some well-considered advice to those fortunate enough to be appointed as junior baseball coaches.
Coach, you make the difference!
Lost a few games? Lost ALL of your games? You wished you had a couple of ‘guns’ on your team? Even just one player who could lead the rest? Everything you think they nailed at training all comes undone and goes to hell on the weekend. Hearing rumblings from parents about your inadequacies? Treating your own child tougher or softer than the other players to the point you don’t even know how to treat your own child? Blaming this and that for your losses?
It’s tough being a coach—really tough.
You want to win; we all want to win. We want to do it, all the while, ‘keeping the bid for that sheep station’ locked safely in our hearts. We proclaim we believe in players’ development over all else; but development at what cost? It’s hard proclaiming development when things seem out of control and the big fat ‘L’ looms over a humble ‘W’.
I know you understand this: whether you are winning or losing, there will always be someone, who is not happy. Most of us want others to be happy with our performance and the way we are treating everyone. It’s alright to want to be liked. It’s human; it’s natural. Don’t believe those who boldly proclaim that they don’t care what people think of them…they do! Maybe, they missed out on that crucial survival gene when they were born.
In the end, Coach, you make the difference!
It’s easy to be frustrated; it’s easy to lose patience. It’s easy to throw your hands in the air; it’s easy to want to someone else to take over. It’s easy to lose vision for individuals; it’s easy to only concentrate on a few. It’s easy to turn up disorganised and wing the training session. It’s easy to play the kids in the same positions. It’s easy giving up in your heart. It’s easy to say, ‘stuff the parents’.
It’s easy to be oblivious to what’s written above when you have a win or two under your belt. But to your credit, you know it’s not about the W’s and L’s. It’s easy to forget the vision and passion you had for yourself and the team before the season started.
This is the first clue to you being the difference: the vision and passion you had for yourself. You took on this awesome responsibility. You knew there would be curve balls, fastballs, knuckle sandwiches; I mean knuckle balls and sliders thrown at you. You decided to step up for the first, second or the hundredth time. It is commendable you stepped up to coach. You probably didn’t have to fight for the position because there may not have been any other takers. It’s even more commendable if you don’t have a child in the team you are coaching. Whatever the circumstances, you decided to give of yourself and put yourself out there, to inspire and help others. No one can take that away from you.
And now everyone is looking to you. You are looking at you. You are the coach, the leader, THE ONE who will make a difference!
Remind yourself of why you took on this role in the first place. You’re doing it; you may as well smile and say to yourself ‘you love it’. You may as well look at the challenges you have faced and ask yourself ‘what have I learnt?’, firstly, about yourself, secondly, about how I could have handled the situation better, and thirdly, ‘what am I going to do about it in the future?’.
Whatever else happens, you turn up to training and turn up to the game, organised. The only shuffling and spewing you allow yourself is when that certain player is late (and no one has told you), or a mother has called up saying little Joey is sick (again). It starts with you at least being in control of yourself, and having a plan written out for the team. Don’t do it while you’re at the diamond.
There are coaches who say very little to nothing from the dugout. There are coaches who say too much and take most calls against their team personally. You be neither. Be the difference. Talk up your players. Find something to encourage them about. They need you. Some of you are thinking, but that’s not me. It has to be you. Because the kids, whatever their age, need you. They need your inspiring voice. They need your instruction. They need you when an error is made, NOT to make the obvious frustrated gasp and criticism, but for you help switch the player’s mindset back into a positive one.
They need you because you make the difference, Coach!
When you’ve looked at yourself first, and then looked at your team on the park, make that call to someone and get help where you need it; whether it be someone looking after the players in the dugout, how to organise the team on the park or to specific skills needed where you lack the ability to instruct. It’s humbling asking for help. It’s easy not to. But we’ve already talked about not taking the easy route.
Coach, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it one more time. You Make The Difference!
President of Castle Hill Baseball Club