Adam Sarancik’s new book, A Ground Ball to Shortstop, is not a novel with a deep dive into the characters in a baseball story. It is quite literally the set up to and description of what happened before, during and after a batter hit a ground ball to shortstop as seen through the eyes of one coach during a state championship high school game. The story’s purpose is to illustrate how and why coaches see their game differently from anyone else, so everyone can appreciate the incredible detail that coaches anticipate and view every moment in every practice and game.
Coaches see the world differently from most people. They certainly see their game, their team and their players differently from anyone else who observes them. The best coaches serve as mentors, teachers and role models to their players. They understand and strive to coach not just champions but, “Champions for Life.” They teach life lessons within the game for beyond the game. They coach people, not sports. Coaching is simply teaching life lessons using sports as the vehicle. It is the quality of the person, not the player that is the most significant outcome.
Coaches who coach “Champions for Life” see the members of their team as a three-part development project—people, athletes and players. The development of the player is dependent upon the coach being able to look at them and see the athlete—to visually and—sometimes literally—to take the ball, glove and bat out of their hands to evaluate the player’s ability to move and use their body in a coordinated, efficient and effective manner.
The coach’s ability to train the athlete will give the team member the greatest potential to be the best player, but before they can train the athlete and develop the player, they must relate to, connect with and validate the person in order to gain enough trust so they can be receptive to the coach’s lessons and adopt their philosophy.
Better People + Better Athletes + Better Players/Teammates = Champions for Life.
Therefore, every time a coach observes or interacts with a member of their team, they must always be cognizant of this human “trinity.” Every response in a conversation and every cue and drill for athletic training and player development must consider and account for the uniqueness of the individual.
Elite coaches are at times—and sometimes simultaneously—parents, teachers, role models and psychologists. Their success on and off the field depends on the mastering of these skills multiplied by the number of members on their teams and in their programs.
During a game, parents see their child, trainers see their athletes and average coaches see their players. Coaches of Champions for Life see and account for all three.
For coaches to also win championships, they must have “180-degree vision.” They must constantly have a singular focus on the immediate situation at hand while accounting for a myriad of possible contingencies that might develop.
The anticipation, reactions and adjustments made must be both instinctive and inclusive of an awareness of the stadium, fans, players and coaches on both teams, officials, weather, field conditions and game situation. In baseball, this accounting can change with or during every pitch.
What goes through your mind before, during and after a batter hits a ground ball to short?
Adam Sarancik is the author of an Amazon Top 100 Best Seller, Coaching Champions for Life—The Process of Mentoring the Person, Athlete and Player and its companion book, Takeaway Quotes for Coaching Champions for Life. Adam is a regular contributor to Inside Pitch, Collegiate Baseball News and CoachesInsider.com.