Here’s a topic that comes up all the time in baseball circles – should you change your coaching style for your specific group of athletes. Are you a high school coach that reviews the horses in his stable, and then makes adjustments to the style of play based on what you got? Blog post continues at bottom of the page…
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I believe baseball coaches to be entirely too negative. And I think this increases the further up the coaching ladder we go. Reason: Ego. Time to listen to our language and see how we are talking to our kids. Here’s a challenge I took that helps start the self-reflection!
Might be the toughest thing to do in today’s baseball scene. Especially in warm weather areas like Southern California, players don’t get enough rest. July (into August) is the time to think seriously about when your athlete will get a break.
Here’s a topic that comes up all the time in baseball circles – should you change your coaching style for your specific group of athletes. Are you a high school coach that reviews the horses in his stable, and then makes adjustments to the style of play based on what you got? Or are you more of a Phil Jackson? One who has a coaching style and finds the players to fit his offensive philosophy.
I was talking with a friend on my Wednesday night hoops league team, when he hit me with this nugget:
Friend: “I started taking classes on millennials.”
Friend: “Yep, they offer them at my work. And after a recent conversation I had, I literally went straight to HR and signed up on the spot. Check this story out: One of the people I manage is going on vacation soon. I got the schedule request with all the details and information etc. and was quickly reviewing it. It really didn’t affect me much, but I happened to glance down at the ‘notes’ section. My colleague had written, ‘check out the hours requested :)’ ”
6.5 hours per day.
She had requested days off, with a 6.5 hour total as a daily debit to her vacation time.”
DK: (Silence. Stares blankly with inquisitive look.)
Friend: “Yeah, I didn’t get it at first either and so I asked him. Hey dude, what’s up with the 6.5 hour vacation request? He told me these exact words: ‘I don’t really work eight hours a day. With all the talking and distractions, I probably get about 6.5 hours in per day. I didn’t want to get dinged for a full eight hours of vacation time for the days I’m going to be gone.‘
We shared about five seconds of silence, with both of our jaws hanging open with that “holy crap, that can’t be a true story” look. Yep, the dude requested a day off from work, with 6.5 hours of vacation time as the amount to be taken from his allotment of banked hours. I looked at my friend and continued the conversation…
DK: “He doesn’t still work for you does he?”
Friend: “Sure does. In fact, not only does he still work for me… but I now attend “millennials class” as a result. My HR director told me to forget it, it’s not even worth the confrontation.”
This exchange still makes me chuckle. Guy is getting paid for a full-time position, but when it comes to taking a day off… has no problem requesting 6.5 hours of vacation. THAT is unbelievable… yet true! I hope that I don’t come across as too much of an old codger, because my brain quickly moved on to something positive (I swear :). I immediately felt the HR directors energy in explaining to my buddy, “It’s not worth fighting. Learn to deal with this generation.” This IS true and so I believe we need constantly evolve as coaches. These statements are all true:
- People are different
- This generation doesn’t work as hard as the last
- You aren’t going to change them
- They RULE at technology
I threw in the last one because I’m constantly amazed at how good they are with anything in the “technology” field. Now, back to the topic at hand. If you really were Phil Jackson… you could pick and choose who you sign. Your team can be comprised of only those personality types that you mesh best with and fit your system. However, I’m going to assume that you are not Phil Jackson (apologies Phil, if you’re a youth baseball fan and reading this) and that you are a youth or high school parent/coach at the mercy of your community pool of athletes. Reality says it might be necessary to adjust.
Your coaching style must adapt to today’s athlete
What does this mean in 2017? It certainly doesn’t mean you have to sell out or change everything about who you are. I start with this question: What did you learn this season while coaching? Could be interactions with athletes OR their parents. Here are my thoughts more specific to players:
- Negative Talk Don’t Work – I think baseball coaches are entirely too negative as a group. Demeaning young ballplayers doesn’t work, regardless of how many years you’ve dealt with difficult parents. You’ll learn of my affection for the Positive Coaching Alliance and Changing the Game Project, but how about this found article by Mike Davenport after a quick Google search. The power of positive talk is real! It takes work to break a habit that may have been ‘earned’ coaching through challenging situations.
- Data is King – Look at the swing analysis and data available. Professional hitting coaches (meaning those coaches working with professional ballplayers) are emphasizing and encouraging elevating the ball. Know this, the game IS changing and technology/data DOES have merit. The answer may not always be the same explanation that you learned as a kid. I just had a scouting director for an MLB squad let me know that they no longer emphasize maxing out stride length. While they certainly don’t want a ‘short’ stride length, the emphasis is placed more on “connecting” the back foot to the front foot as energy is transferred down the mound and ultimately into the arm. See my buddy Jim Parque’s explanation on staying connected as one of the leaders in the space. This is a take from MLB Network, but pulled from his Instagram feed. He’s killing it with a device to train the movement of connecting the heels.
- Learn or Lose – We coaches need to keep learning. If not, one of these wizard 15-year olds is going to call us out. There is so much information available, and athletes are so specialized now… coaches need to be constantly educating themselves. Skill training is evolving rapidly. In fact, in the two years that I went “dark” to start Dugout Captain, I’m blown away at the changing philosophy with regard to hitting the ball in the air.
- 10-Year Olds are NOT Big Leaguers – #4 is inspired by my final line of #3. While information is changing the way we teach, we need to be sure to adjust the message based on age level. If it’s best for a major league hitter to hit the ball at a 25-degree launch angle (flat = 0), that assumes that the shortstop and second baseman’s names are Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. The local rec league shortstop does not pick-it like Correa. Also, your 10-year old hitter is not 6’3, 225 pounds and he can’t handle the bat like it’s a toothpick. If he is… and he can… well, direct-message me – we gotta talk. And how the heck can you train someone to hit the ball at a specific launch-angle anyway? Enter Diamond Kinetics and mark your cage up with “goals.”
- Some things Change, Others Stay the Same – While I believe you have to adjust coaching and communication styles, you do not change your commitment to the fundamentals. That means fundamentals in sport, and fundamentals in life. If rules are bent or broken, there are clear and consistent penalties. And those penalties are enforced consistently, without exception. That’s the only way to stick in this day and age of wacky parents.
So, think about that story – a 6.5 hour request to take a day off!! May just be my opinion, but if you think that you don’t have to adapt to communicate with the next generation… you’re wrong!
Have fun, play hard