Inside Pitch Magazine, January/February 2023

Intentional Walk: Principles in Achieving Success

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

Coach looking out onto the field with arm around shoulders of his playerSuccess is within your reach, but it doesn’t come easy. As you have heard many times, success doesn’t occur overnight. Below is a partial list of principles that can help coaches—and all leaders—on their road toward success.

Take Care of the Little Things: 
Have you ever had a major task ahead of you and it seems overwhelming? We all have. Sometimes, because it appears so large in our minds, we procrastinate. Experience teaches me that if we just start and finish the “little things,” the larger tasks and goals become much less formidable. The “little things” are the foundation for success. Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Start doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; suddenly you will be doing the impossible.”

Evaluate Your Attitude: 
As a coach we know that a player’s attitude is crucial to his personal success and his contribution to the team. What about your attitude, coach? Become disciplined enough to check your attitude before each practice, team meeting and individual player meeting. Focus on elevating the team and the player instead of dwelling on yourself. It’s impossible to make a positive impact with a negative attitude. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself, not looking to your own interest but each of you to the interest of others.” 
— Philippians 2:3-4

A wise man once told me, “Your priorities should be 1. Family 2. Career 3. Everything else. Then, put God first in each of your priorities.” Within your career as a coach, make sure that you prioritize what you are passionate about. If your passion is working with pitchers, make sure you coach pitchers. This will energize you as a coach. After many years of coaching pitchers, I decided that I needed to get out of the bullpen and spend more time with position players. It was perhaps my biggest mistake as a coach. Make sure that those who work with you are passionate about their assignments. It’s crucial that coaches work in areas of strength, passion and energy.

Focus on the Journey, Not the Destination: 
Author and leadership expert John Maxwell has said, “What happens in you is more important than what happens to you. Setting short-term goals makes more sense than shooting for long-term goals. We can’t control the actions and performance of others and we can’t always control circumstances. COVID-19 is a prime example. In March of 2020, teams were literally taken off the bus when the announcement was made that halted competition because of the virus. Long-term goals disappeared as fast as toilet paper off the shelves. Setting short-term goals help coaches reset, adjust and avoid mid-season morale issues. Create a culture in your program that promotes “joy in the journey.”

Embrace the Intangibles: 
Coaches deal with numerous intangibles during each practice and every game. The highs and lows of each individual player can affect the outcome of a game or even a season. Coaches deal with attitudes, emotions, momentum, family dynamics, failed relationships, timing and a myriad of other unexpected forces during the course of a season. In order to experience success, a coach must develop a feel for evaluating the person on the team, not just the player. Coaches, know your players. You may be the only one in their lives that can steer them in the right direction.

Coaches cannot rise above the limitations of their character. No coach is perfect. No human is perfect. But, even coaches with great knowledge, charisma and passion can experience a moral collapse that can put a roadblock across the path toward success. We’ve seen it in politics, the corporate world, in ministry and in coaching. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” 
—Proverbs 4:23

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.