Coaches set the tone for creating an atmosphere of learning, growing and competing for the season.
Most “skippers” know that it starts during practice, not in the first inning of a game. If coaches want to win, then a winning attitude must be created in practice. If coaches want their teams to execute, then excellence must be demanded during practice. In most situations, a team reflects the attitude and mindset of the coaching staff.
Recently, I was able to discuss the topic of “setting the tone” for a new year and new team with a couple of coaches at high-profile programs. Both are first year SEC head coaches, but both are veteran coaches of the SEC and college baseball. I’ve known Greg Goff (University of Alabama) and Nick Mingione (University of Kentucky) for many years. Both of these guys bring an energy and passion to their respective programs that is second to none. Here’s what they had to say:
Coach Goff, what were your thoughts as you conducted your first team practice at the University of Alabama?
“I just want to have fun. This is a gift from God. It’s an opportunity to come out here each and every day, be at the University of Alabama, and I want our players to have that same mentality when they come out of the dugout. This is a gift. And, if we can do that every day and appreciate that opportunity of coming out here with a positive attitude and a desire to have a great effort and to get better each day, then the wins will come. I want our guys to see that from me.”
Coach Mingione and Coach Goff, what are a few key things you have done to “set the tone” for your team this fall?
“From the very first team meeting and first practice, I wanted to share the vision and the coaching staff’s expectations for each student-athlete on the team. As a staff, we need to keep that vision and level of expectation in front of the players each day. We are very intentional about our expectations and the passion we have for what we do.”
“For our very first practice I wanted our players to see that we are passionate about what we do, and as a staff, we expect them to give a great effort every day. I expect energy from my staff and from the players. A program with energy creates a fun, competitive atmosphere for the players themselves, and for the fans.”
Coach Goff and Coach Mingione, knowing both of you the way I do, I know that you are concerned not only about the daily improvement of each individual on the field, but also their character, academic progress and spiritual growth. What are some of the things you have planned to help your players “off the field?”
“We have already implemented an optional weekly Bible Study, led by our campus FCA representative. Over 80% of our players are participating. This will give them balance in their lives and help them deal with the academic, athletic and social demands that come with being a student-athlete in a competitive environment. We also have academic advisors and tutorial help for all of our guys.”
“We want to provide opportunities for our athletes to develop as students, as players and as a person. We are developing and individual plan for each individual player to help them in each area. Besides, the incredible amount of effort we are expecting from them on the field and in the weight room, we also provide our athletes with academic advisors and with optional opportunities for Bible Study, one on one spiritual discipleship and, during the season, team chapel.
Coach Mingione, how would you like to be remembered by your former players thirty years from now?
“I would like to be remembered as a coach who had his priorities in order…Faith, Family, Baseball. I hope they will remember me as a man who loved the Lord with all of his heart and who gave a great effort in ‘talking the walk and walking the talk.’”
Coach Goff, what will your former players be saying about you in 30 years?
“I hope they will say that Coach Goff loved me as a player and as a person and that I was passionate about everything I attempted to do, including leading them on the field, loving my family and serving Christ.”