Inside Pitch Magazine, November/December 2021

Intentional Walk: Coaching Development

By Keith Madison, Publisher of Inside Pitch Magazine and Chairman of the ABCA Board of Directors
Coach in purple shirt and hat has arm around shoulder of youth player and is talking to himThere isn’t a ceiling in coaching development.  Everyone can learn and grow. Even the most successful veteran coaches can get better. As a matter of fact, the best coaches I know are always seeking knowledge and a better way to teach, organize practice and manage games. Obviously, great coaches don’t totally overhaul their philosophy every year, but they tweak their approach and continue to learn.

I don’t have all the answers, but I know where to go to get them. I’ve taken the liberty to share a few points that may help you become the best coach that you can be:

Be Yourself. I learned quickly that I could not be Ron Polk or Augie Garrido. I had to be me. I could take small samples of their coaching styles and blend them with mine. But if I tried to copy them I could come across as phony. You have unique gifts that God gave to you! Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Be a Sponge. Never at the expense of your family or team, but attend as many coaching clinics as time permits (especially the ABCA Convention). Also, ask respected and successful coaches for permission to observe their practices or work their camps. Many times we are visual learners and need to see a drill or concept in order to understand it. “It has been said that 80% of what people learn is visual.” (Allen Klein)

Be a Leader. There have been thousands of books written about leadership, but in my experience successful leaders possess knowledge, wisdom, vision, influence and the willingness to sacrifice and work harder than those they lead. And, leaders who leave a lasting legacy possess integrity and a propensity to serve the ones they lead. Jesus said, “But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27)

Be a Role Model. Some coaches don’t want to hear this, but the most important responsibility a coach possesses is showing players how to “do life.” The coach who makes a ton of money but has little integrity is far less valuable to the world than the coach who walks the talk without the big contract. If you are coaching at a small school with an inadequate budget but you are willing to lead by example, you are investing in lives. 

The wealthy coach may invest a large paycheck, but what the coach with integrity invests is priceless.  “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness” (Titus 2:6-7)

Be Excellent.
No matter what level you have been blessed to coach, you should demand excellence from your players and yourself. If a coach cuts corners, you can rest assured that his players will find shortcuts. If a coach pursues excellence on and off the field, it’s much more likely his players will as well. All players are important, from Tee Ball to MLB. They all deserve our best effort. Coaches will sometimes hang their hat on the great athletes, but every player is deserving of attention, coaching, discipline and love. “Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.” ‭‭(1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:31‬)‬‬‬

Love your family, love your profession, love your players. Love is indispensable.

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 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.