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Inside Pitch Magazine, January/February 2023

The Change Up: Competitive Culture

by Johnathan Gehris, Cary High School (NC) head coach

Two Cary High School players, one holding a bat and one holding batting gloves, standing on grass speaking with coachSo much of success comes from culture. Do your athletes want to work? Do they to come to practice, fundraisers, and workdays? We all want this. We want buy-in. We want commitment. But how do we get it?

Be authentic: If you are hard-nosed, be that through and through. If your style is more laid back, use that in ways that become a strength. For me, I am extremely intense. In being true to myself I have to run intentional, competitive workouts.  Every weight room session ends with a competition and every drill has a winner. I have to build this into everything, track it, and make it our focal point. In doing this, I have found the wins take care of themselves, along with college opportunities for our players. 

Be intentional: Practices should be laid out with clear objectives. Make checklists for each position so that no stone is unturned. Reflect on your practices. “What could be done differently?” is a powerful mindset to optimize what you are doing. Have clear expectations for yourself, your coaches, and your players. Honestly assess where your program is at present. If there are teams in your area that could beat your team with your kids, find out how they are being coached. You have to value development over pride and learning over the ego.

Share your athletes: Specialization is great for some but not all. Let the athlete compete for their school in any sport they want. It prevents burnout, develops a more well-rounded player and raises the ceiling of growth for them. If they specialize too early they may “peak too early.” You want a competitive athlete? Let them compete in other sports. Show up at their events, take interest in what they do and take note of how coaches in other sports coach your players. You will learn something!

Share your vision: Figure out what your style of baseball is, determine what are good microscopic and telescopic goals and navigate your program to the levels you want to go. Buy-in comes from having a vision where everyone plays a role. Make it personal for each kid, sit down with each player to see what their personal and team goals are. Create a plan to make them into the players they want to be. Have check-ins. Make sure the goals can be measured and even if they are not all achieved, the pursuit and intentional planning reinforces everyone’s level of commitment and dedication. Even falling short can teach life lessons like delayed gratification, perseverance, character and consistency. 

Getting buy-in for your competitive culture is a skill that has to be unique to your personality, something that captivates the players in your care, allows for individual ownership and growth of your players, and leaves your players better equipped to handle life’s challenges. A more competitive culture can be built in any situation. The blueprint is there. It requires self-reflection, intentionality, growth over ego, and a genuine love for the game. Get these things rolling and watch your program take off to new heights!

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.
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