Inside Pitch Magazine, September/October 2023

Intentional Walk: Overlooking Game-Changing Values

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

Houston Astros Pitching coach talking to a pitcherMany times, coaches get so busy they forget to develop a personal plan for success. Of course, lasting success comes when you help the players on your team and the other coaches on your staff improve day after day and week after week. 

During my many years of coaching and observing others, I have noticed that some coaches coach in a similar way that some teachers teach. Let me explain. Some teachers develop lesson plans that are used year after year, give the same tests and the same lectures. Not only is that a lazy way to teach, it's also boring. It's easy to neglect the "why" in teaching and coaching. 

Below, I have listed a few things some coaches may sometimes overlook.

Personal And Professional Growth

It's possible and even necessary to grow while leading. One way to do this is to not only teach your athletes how to better play the game, but also teach leadership skills as well. Teaching a young man how to hone his baseball skills will enable him to be a better baseball player for a few years. Teaching him how to be a leader will last a lifetime. When coaches develop leaders, they also experience growth and leadership within the team. John Maxwell calls the "leader's math": 

- If you develop yourself, you can experience personal success.
- If you develop a team, your organization can experience growth.
- If you develop leaders, your organization can experience explosive growth.

  "Focus your energy on developing leaders, not just leading followers." -- John Maxwell

Add Value to Your Players' Experience

It's tragic if we run players through our programs year after year and use them only to add value to our personal success or the program's success. Every player is important. Every person in your program is important. One of a coach's major goals each year should be to:

  - Truly value each player. 
  - Emphasize personal growth so that you can become more valuable to your players.
  - Know what your players value, then learn to value what is important to them.
  - Do things that God values in order to become more valuable to your players and your family.

Establish Trust in Your Program

The most important element in a coach's relationship with his players isn't knowledge, leadership skills or charisma... it's trust.

How does a coach establish trust with his players? The simple answer (simple but not easy) is to work on becoming a man of integrity. In his book On Becoming a Leader, Warren Bennis says, "Integrity is the basis of trust, which is not so much an ingredient of leadership as it is a product. It is the one quality that cannot be acquired but must be earned... without it, the leader can't function."

Developing trust takes time. It also takes self-discipline and the courage to place your family and your baseball program ahead of temporary self-indulgences. It also takes treating each player with respect, so that, in turn, they will respect you as a coach. One thing is for sure, if your athletes trust you, you will have a valuable relationship that will last a lifetime. 

Recognizing and Remembering Impact

Most of the time coaches understand and remember the impact they have on their players, because most of the time we remember a coach who has had a major impact on us. Sometimes, we have mental lapses and forget that we impact players both ways... good and bad. The anonymous poem below would be a great prayer for every coach to pray each morning;

My life shall touch a dozen lives before this day is done,
Leave countless marks for good or ill'ere sets the evening sun,
  This is the wish I always wish, the prayer I always pray;
  Lord, May my life help other lives it touch by the way.

It's easy to get in a professional rut... to do things the way that you've always done them. I would say that at times, all coaches place their personal and professional growth on the back burner because of "life interruptions" or busyness. It's important to grow, add value to others, develop our character and integrity, establish trust in your program and to be hypersensitive to the impact (good and bad) that we can have on our players, co-workers and our family. All these values are easy to occasionally forget. But when we make them--not only the foundation of our program, but also a goal for our lives--we will not only build a better life, but we can enhance the lives of others.

"Do not neglect your gift... Be diligent in these matters; give yourselves wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress."
  -- Timothy 4:14 and 4:15


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.