Patience, diligence, understanding, caring and persistence in our message are the keys to our effectiveness as leaders. We must continually work to do everything that we can so that the students and players are ready to flourish when it is their time to put it all together and grow into adulthood. We teach much more than how to field a ground ball or swing a bat.
Last year, I was asked to submit a letter to our new principal. He asked us to share some of our favorite things with him in an effort to get to know us better. One of my submissions was my favorite plant, the Chinese Bamboo Tree.
The Chinese Bamboo Tree is planted after the earth is prepared, and for the first four years all the growth is underground. The only thing visible above the ground is a little bulb with a small shoot coming out of it. Each year the tree is fertilized, cultivated and watered and still no growth is visible. If the farmer misses even one day over that four years, the Bamboo Tree will not break the ground. Then sometime in the fifth year of taking care of the Chinese Bamboo Tree it grows 98 feet in just six weeks.
The Chinese Bamboo Tree and it always fascinated me about how growing the Chinese Bamboo Tree is so closely related to the careers we have chosen in coaching baseball. This gave me a chance to dive in and really break it down:
Each of our players is different and we are working to reach all of them with the same messages. The difference for us as coaches is that we must work to find out the best way for each player and get them to allow our message to impact their growth.
The Keepers of the Tree
Parents, Grandparents, Coaches, Teachers, Principals and other adult figures in the community. We have a major responsibility and need to constantly remind ourselves of that. Everything that we say and do is influencing these children, boys and young men. You literally can’t take a day off from caring for the tree and there are no days off with the players in our lives. Nothing will ever be more important than the consistency of our example.
The Fertilizer and Water
This is whatever we as coaches, teachers, and parents work to instil into the players. Whatever we are consistent in displaying to the students and players is what they will become. The key to this part is that we remain diligent with providing a good example through our words, actions, how we handle failures, successes and difficult situations.
Even though we don’t see the impact that we are having in forming the foundation for the players and children we have to continue to feed them with the lessons that will provide a solid structure for them to grow.
What We Can Learn
We all know our impact reaches much farther than the baseball field and the lesson in the Chinese Bamboo Tree is a reminder to me that the true impact we have on all players we work with may not be seen in the four or less years that we get the privilege to coach them.
As coaches and teachers we have the responsibility to help players grow cognitively, socially, and emotionally. We are constantly assessing our players, challenging our players and making decisions about them. Let’s not miss any opportunities to get them what they need.
For the younger players it is about encouraging them to try what they are interested in. What is the big deal about letting an 8-year-old try to switch hit and help put in the work? As the players get older they will figure out what works for them. We were told by Coach (Bill) Holowaty many times that “It’s a marathon not a sprint.” Whether you’re talking about a Bamboo Tree or the players we lead, It’s what we do every day that will have the most impact. We need patience, consistency and faith in the process. No one said it was going to be easy.
Mark Michaud Jr. is the Physical Education Teacher at Freewater School and Head Baseball Coach at McLoughlin High School, Milton Freewater, Oregon.