Inside Pitch Magazine, May/June 2020

Intentional Walk: Coach to Coach

By Keith Madison
Coaching from homeA few thoughts about coaching during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. STAY IN TOUCH: This doesn’t come easy or natural for most of us, but it’s crucial in order to maintain that influence and relationship we want to have with our players. Don’t rely on just one method of communication. Text messaging is good and will probably be your most frequent method, but if you become creative it will leave a lasting impression on your student-athletes. Mix in a weekly phone call and an occasional personal note – yes! – write a short note and mail it! Your players may forget your text message, but they will not forget a note received in the mail.

If you call your players at least once a week and occasionally send a note by mail, you will connect in a way that you haven’t in quite some time. You are probably way ahead of me on this one, but utilize FaceTime for individual chats or create a Zoom meeting with your pitching staff, infielders, outfielders and catchers. Talk hitting with your hitters. Encourage your players to utilize the “chat” feature on Zoom. Keep it short and organized and leave them wanting more for the next time you connect “live.”

2. ADJUST and LEARN: Coaches are notorious and relentless about asking players to adjust, but sometimes coaches need to practice what we preach. There are hundreds of videos and books that will help you grow as a coach. Here’s an idea, start a book club or a video club among the coaches on your staff or within a group of coaches you enjoy talking baseball with. Take charge, start a club, assign a book or video, and then designate a time for a Zoom meeting to discuss. In my opinion, this will facilitate a lot of growth in your profession.

3. LEMONS or LEMONADE? Several coaches have told me that they have become so much more engaged with their families during this challenging time. In our little town, I’ve seen more dads taking strolls and bike rides with the entire family in tow than I’ve ever seen before. How can this be a bad thing? One coach told me that he is connecting with his young daughter in a way that would have never happened prior to COVID-19. Take time to play catch, go hiking, fishing and work on projects around the house together as a family. This can be a time to grow as a coach, and more importantly, grow as a husband, father, son and friend.

4. PRAY: Yes, this can be a time to connect with other coaches and grow in your profession and become more engaged in your family, but it can also be a time when we take our eyes off of ourselves and connect with the Giver of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). We can spend more time in prayer and solitude. We all are making adjustments, experiencing moments of doubt and fear, wondering what’s over the horizon and even feeling antsy and out of sync. The world has changed temporarily and perhaps in some ways it has changed for the rest of our lives, but God has not changed. He is still on the throne (Psalm 11:3-4) and He wants to hear from us. He wants to develop an intimate relationship with us and help in our journey of becoming better coaches, attentive husbands and fathers.

Honest prayers are the beginning. My friend, Mike Linch, talks about prayer as giving our “stuff” to God and then quietly spending time with Him. Our “stuff” may be our doubts and fears, or it may be unconfessed sin or concerns about our team and our families. Trust me, God can handle anything you want to give to Him. I know one thing for sure, just as we want to hear what is bothering our own children or what they may be thankful for, God wants to hear from us, as well. So, pray for each player on your team, each member of your family, leaders, healthcare professionals and for ways that you can help those who are vulnerable. If you do that, you will become a major part of the solution.

Inside Pitch Magazine is published six times per year by the American Baseball Coaches Association, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt association founded in 1945. Copyright 2020 American Baseball Coaches Association. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any way without prior written permission. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained herein, it is impossible to make such a guarantee. The opinions expressed herein are those of the writers.