Inside Pitch Magazine, November/December 2022

Intentional Walk: Influence

By Keith Madison, Chairman of the ABCA Board of Directors & National Baseball Director for SCORE International

Coach wearing navy blue shirt that says Coach on the back of it giving a fist bump to youth aged player in red helmet walking towards him with a bat in hand.The people we learn from, the people we trust, the people we seek advice from are all people who have influenced us in a positive way. As coaches, you are in a position of influence. You can use your influence on each individual you coach in different ways, depending on your strengths as a leader. 

I love what John Maxwell says about influence in his well-known book on leadership, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership:

The true measure of leadership is found in the followers. So why do some people emerge as leaders while others can’t influence no matter how hard they try? I believe that several factors come in to play:

  1. Character—who they are
  2. Relationships—who they know
  3. Knowledge—what they know
  4. Intuition—what they feel
  5. Experience—where they’ve been
  6. Past success—what they’ve done
  7. Ability—what they can do

It has been said that character is hard to define but easy to recognize. If you have made it a priority to develop your character as a coach, you won’t have to announce it, people will recognize it. Character and integrity are qualities players are attracted to, and those qualities will enhance your influence on any team.

While playing in the minor leagues in the early ’70s, one of my teammates was Randy “The Macho Man” Savage. He was known in baseball by his real name, Randy Poffo. A player on my team was a bit hard to reach until I heard him mention that his favorite wrestler was “The Macho Man.” I proceeded to tell him that I played one year with Randy. After that, my relationship with the hard-to-reach player improved dramatically. Sometimes “who you know” can break the ice and improve relationships with players. Your previous relationships can improve your current relationships.

While working on my M.Ed. at Mississippi State University, one of my professors was asked how to earn respect from those you lead and teach. His response was, “there is no substitute for knowledge.” No matter who you are or who you know, you can’t fake it as a coach. You must have baseball knowledge in order to be an influential baseball coach. Attending coaching clinics, watching successful coaches run a practice and watching quality videos are all ways to gain knowledge as a coach. The American Baseball Coaches Association is a tremendous resource for improving your knowledge as a coach.

Intuition is partly God-given instincts, but intuition can greatly be enhanced with the confidence from obtaining more knowledge, gaining experience and studying the game as much as possible. 

Experience takes time, of course, but you can speed up this valuable asset by coaching in as many games as possible. For instance, if you are a high school or college assistant, you may want to coach on a travel team or with a summer collegiate league team. Not only will you gain experience, you can also improve your resume. 

Past success, like experience, takes time. But developing all of these factors mentioned in Maxwell’s “Law of Influence” will likely help you earn success.

Ability is God-given, as well, but it can be sharpened by developing as a coach through working on all of the above. Honing your communication skills may also strengthen your other gifts and help you to become an influential person in each of your players’ lives.

In the seven factors of influence mentioned by John Maxwell, no one is perfect in all of them. You will naturally be more gifted in some more than in others. Develop a strategy to be more influential as a coach, but make sure that you really lean in on your natural gifts. Don’t try to be someone else. Be yourself—the best version of yourself. 

There is a leadership proverb that says, “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.” If you can’t influence players, they won’t follow you. Work on your coaching game and have a lasting influence on each player you coach.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,” — (Colossians 3:23)


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