Recently, I heard someone say, “If you climb the ladder of success, make sure the ladder is leaning on the right wall.” Immediately I visualized different walls with names on them. One wall was named “selfish ambition,” while another was titled “ego” and there was another called “temporary until something better comes along.” You get the picture. Coaches (or anyone else) will be leaning their ladder on the wrong wall if those are your motives for a fulfilling career.
There are some character-building attributes that will help all of us to “bloom where we are planted” and to lean our ladder on the right wall.
Be Authentic. Don’t try to be someone else. Before I became the Head Baseball Coach at Kentucky, I worked for legendary coach Ron Polk. I was able to learn much from Coach Polk and carried some of his drills and techniques with me to UK, but I learned quickly that I could never be him. Our experiences and personalities were different. We are never at our best if we try to emulate someone else. We must be who God created us to be. There is not another you anywhere else in the world. You are uniquely created to fulfill a specific role in a specific way. Freedom allows you to become the best version of yourself.
Be Persistent. Persistency is a great wall to lean your ladder on! When great competitors are delayed or even knocked down, they get back on the ladder and climb. Tommy Lasorda once said, “The difference in the impossible and the possible lies in a man’s determination.” John Wooden was 54 years old when he won his first national championship. Then he won ten over the next twelve years!
Be Passionate. A coach’s passion and energy can very well inspire players to play with energy. Being passionate doesn’t mean that you have to be screaming or acting any certain way. Players will pick up on your passion by the way you teach and your willingness to spend extra time with them in the batting cage or bullpen. Passion isn’t demonstrative body language or ranting at umpires. Passion is shown from your work ethic and your love for the game.
Be Compassionate. One thing I have learned from several decades of coaching is that players know where your heart is. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Don’t allow abusive language, bitterness and arrogance to flow from your heart. Negativity will create a gap between you and your players that is very hard to close. Spend time with the right people. “You are who you are with.” Compassion flows from the positivity that you allow into your heart. Guard your heart!
Be Positive. (By the way, negative people will not read this!) Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Decide what you want as a coach, then learn, grow and act as if it were impossible to fail. Players will feed off of your positive energy and your willingness to go the extra mile for them. When things start going in the wrong direction during a game, the players look to the coach to help them turn it around. In many cases, if you can stay positive in a negative situation, you win.
Dominate the Opportunity. If you dominate the opportunity you are in right now, you can rest assured that better opportunities will be available in the future. Be “all in” where you are now. Make sure your players know that you believe in them. If you look too often to the horizon, you will miss seeing what is right in front of you.
Whether you are coaching at a middle school or in the Yankees organization, every player sitting in front of you is very important. Everything and every person are important in the coaching profession. The authentic coach is thrilled when the least talented player on the team makes an improvement.
Place your ladder of success on the wall that is named, “Players First.” Remember, you don’t coach baseball. You coach baseball players!