I always thought that to be a great coach, you needed to have a vast knowledge of the game, and teach your players this knowledge, helping them to improve their game and be the best player they can be. But since the day I got into coaching at the University of Jamestown a few years ago, I realized that to become the best coach that I could be, I needed to learn every single day. I needed to learn more about myself as a coach, learn more about my players, and even learn from the players that I was supposed to be teaching the game of baseball to.
I discovered transformational and servant leadership while I was working on my Master’s degree in Leadership. I understood the concept, but had a difficult time when it came to its application to coaching. It wasn’t until I heard Matt Deggs speak of the difference between transformational and transactional coaching that it really hit home with me. Coach Deggs helped me realize that I needed to change the way that I was coaching by becoming more transformational, more of a servant leader. I realized that I could improve my players’ chances of success by putting their interests ahead of my own.
I also realized that I needed to start really communicating with my players. Not the normal baseball talk that goes on during practice or a game, but really connecting with them, getting to know and learning about our guys. Knowing our players on a personal level helps coaches communicate with them on the field and even teaches them more about life, rather than just baseball!
I realized that I needed to listen more when players were talking, and see the deeper meaning in what they were saying and what they were doing. Often our players are afraid to say what they really mean to their coaches, but as a coach, we can pick it up through their body language. By digging a little deeper into this and having real off-the-field conversations with players, coaches can earn more trust and find out what their players are really looking for in baseball and in life. Once we know what our players really want, we will be able to instruct and guide them in a way that they understand and will buy into more.
Too often as coaches, we get stuck in their ways. We think that every player will learn and adjust to the way we coach. We need to be able to adjust to our players – not every individual or team will learn and develop the same. To be a true transformational leader, a coach must learn the best way to teach and adjust to their players. This commitment will work both ways – a coach buying into their players will positively impact the team, and help build the culture and the philosophy that we are trying to create.
Across college baseball, there is an increased pressure to succeed. As a result, wins and losses – “transactions” – are put into the forefront for many programs. Everyone knows that the chances of our players going on to play professional baseball are very slim in most cases, but we can prepare them for the rest of their lives through baseball.