The moment you first realized that you might like to make coaching part of your career?
As a player throughout high school and college I always had a fondness for coaching and was fascinated by the opportunity my coaches had to immerse themselves in the game of baseball for most, if not all, of their day. The coaching profession always intrigued me as I knew that if I got into coaching full time I would most likely really enjoy what I do and fell as though I would never “work” a day in my life. The moment I would pinpoint as when I knew it was for me was during my junior year of college at the University of Southern Indiana. In the fall, USI always runs a high school fall instructional league that runs for five weeks or so. The coaching staff at USI assigns current USI players to coach each teams, and I was assigned to the worst team in the league. Even though it took us almost a month to win a game, I enjoyed and looked forward to the time with my fall league team. What was invaluable to me was their desire to improve themselves every week when they showed up to the USI baseball field. Their appreciation for, and receptiveness to, what little baseball knowledge I had to give them gave me a feeling that I knew I wanted to experience year in and year out.
Outside of mentors, talk about one way you’ve learned some aspect of coaching.
I think one of the most important aspects of coaching I’ve learned outside of my coaching mentors is how to package and sell your ideology to your current athletes. I’ve learned that an athlete’s acceptance or rejection of my ideas as a coach often has nothing to do with the quality of the content. I’ve sold guys on a lot of bad ideas early in my career, and have had athletes shrug off some of what I believe to be my best coaching thoughts. It all boils down to how you’re able to connect your thoughts as a coach with where the athlete is trying to go. Not only do coaches need to make their ideology “fit in” with their athlete’s train of thought, but they must go one step further and make athletes feel that they absolutely need to embrace your coaching concepts in order to succeed. When a coach has his or her athletes perceive ideology as essential to the athlete’s success, I think you have a real and genuine opportunity to positively affect someone you are working with. A quote from one of my favorite movies Tommy Boy is “Your dad could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves.” Sometimes Baseball players perceive important aspects of team baseball such as bunting and base running as the ketchup popsicle. You as a coach have to not only persuade players to like it, but make them view that ketchup popsicle as a necessity!
If you could go back to your rookie coach self and give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Give athletes ownership in their career and development. The more they feel involved in and in control of their process, the more passionate they become about their work. As a young coach I thought it was in the best interest of my career to dictate what each athlete should do to develop. As a young coach I overlooked the intrinsic motivation college student-athletes posses pertaining to their training and development. I think some athletes I coached early on perceived my coaching motives to be highly self-involved due to my authoritative style and therefore I made it hard to build healthy relationships with those individuals. Allowing athletes to take ownership in their careers, I believe, builds a trusting player/coach relationship and also teaches athletes responsibility and self-accountability.
Name one new thing you want to accomplish this year?
The #1 goal I’d like to accomplish in our program this year is to figure out how to improve our strength & conditioning program throughout the spring semester. During the fall semester we have six weeks in which we can devote all of our organized team activity time to strength & conditioning. During this time I am able to coach our guys in the weight room and hold them accountable to a very high level. Collectively we achieve large measurable gains in both strength and athletic ability. I’d like to keep things in the weight room moving forward all spring and be at our very best physically in May when it counts the most. The challenges that we run into are that we have two coaches (both who have additional jobs/responsibilities on campus). The logistics in the spring of running team practices, games, recruiting, and additional duties on campus coupled with challenging class schedules for student-athletes makes finding time to coordinate supervised team lifts very difficult. That being said, we are going to attempt to do some out of the box thinking as far as practices go in the spring to incorporate some of our strength and conditioning aspects.
Your dream lunch date. One coach. Any sport. Any level. Who is it?
My dream coaching lunch date would be with Matt Deggs. I had the privilege of coaching against coach Deggs in his first year at Louisiana-Laffayette in 2013. I was the volunteer at Arkansas-Little Rock and ULL came in for a Sun Belt Conference series in mid April. Amid ULL’s pregame batting practice on Friday, Coach Deggs tore into his hitters for their lackluster effort and focus during their 40 minute session (this ULL team was top 10 in every offensive category mind you). That year at UALR we were in the 3rd base dugout, so of course I had to listen to everything coach Deggs had to say, because I was both engrossed in his coaching technique and genuinely afraid of him. That was my first encounter with the wolf pack mentality as Coach Deggs regularly reinforced to his hitters that they were the alpha. I knew the wolf pack mentality carried a lot of water in game 3 of that series which saw ULL score 9 runs in the 9th inning against our closer to win the game 15-10 and take the best of 3 series 2-1. I think that Coach Deggs’s overhaul into a transformational coach who lives for Christ is the motivating factor that make me want to sit and talk to him the most.