The moment you first realized that you might like to make coaching part of your career.
The moment I first realized that I wanted to coach was very clear to me. I was sidelined during my sophomore season due to an arm injury in junior college and was asked to play a different role on the team. We only had one assistant coach so there were responsibilities that needed to be fulfilled and my coach asked if I could step in and assist. At first, it was just small tasks to help him out but then halfway through the year, I think he knew I was starting to like to coaching side of the game and he let me hit infield/ outfield before our games. I remember the feeling I had doing that and knew right there that when I was done playing the game, I wanted to coach.
Outside of mentors, talk about one or more ways you’ve learned some aspect of coaching.
When COVID hit, the game paused for a lot of people, and sort of left coaches sitting around wondering what to do. Every coach understands that sitting around is not in our blood as coaches. I decided to try to dive deep into coaching philosophies and gain perspective from other great coaches and resources. I began to DM professional coaches on Twitter and try to engage in those conversations. I even formed some good friendships with other coaches. I spent every day trying to network and grow my web as much as possible. A mentor of mine who is a coach in the Yankees organization gave me a list of books/ podcasts that would help me be better as a coach. I spent the next few months reading these books and listening to specific podcasts. I was introduced to a whole new side of the game, the mental side. I think broadening my view of what coaching is helped form how I go about my coaching daily.
The biggest way that I have learned about coaching is by trial and error. I am fortunate that the head coach that hired me at Longwood has given me the freedom to try new things and experiment with new philosophies that I believe in. He has allowed me to fail without fear and learn how to adjust on the go. The ability to fail without worrying about the repercussions gave me the courage to try drills, exercises, and workouts that I would not otherwise have been able to try.
I really love this question. I ask our players what their ‘why’ is twice a week. I think it important to not only understand your ‘why’ but to also reflect on it so you can ground yourself and remember the reasons we do what we do. My ‘why’ is a little unique. I took a different route to get to Division 1 coaching. I was a corner infield/ pitcher in junior college. I knew I was not good enough for the next level, and although I had some D3 offers, I knew I was ready for the next part of my life. I packed everything I owned and moved to South Carolina to finish my bachelor’s degree at Coastal Carolina. I started as a student manager and moved into a student assistant in my second year. I then got two master’s degrees from Coastal while being a Graduate Assistant. I worked primarily with infielders and helped a lot with our DOBO on administrative duties. I knew I wanted to continue the coaching path but was often told by people that my lack of D1 playing experience or lack of pro ball experience was going to hinder what I could pursue in this field of college baseball. I was fortunate enough to get this opportunity to come to coach the infielders at Longwood University from a close mentor. I never wavered from my belief in myself. I have an unbelievable support system in my fiancé who has allowed me to chase my dreams. My ‘why’ has always been to keep proving myself right and making those around me proud of me.
Best career or work advice you ever received.
I think it’s natural, especially as a graduate assistant or a young coach, to constantly wonder about ‘what’s next’ in our career. There is always the thought about this job or that job. My mentor at Coastal Carolina, Kevin Schnall, always said: “Be where your feet are.” At 20 and 21 years old it just sounded like a cliché thing an older coach would say to a younger coach, but by the time I left coastal at 24, I finally understood it. It made sense to me that if you are worried about the next job, then there is no possible way that you can put 100% into your current job. The reality is, that your staff, players, and your future self deserve to get 100% of you at the moment. If you, as a young coach, have the discipline and work ethic where your feet are, the next job will find you. It took me years to fully grasp that sentence and understand it in its entirety. Kevin was always giving me one-liners that stick with me today, but that one I live by daily.
What is one thing you didn’t know (or fully understand) about what coaches do before you got into coaching?
I feel like I always had a good idea about what goes into coaching from the roles I had in previous years, but after being on this staff for my first full year, I had no clue about the power of the relationships with the player. For coaches, it is easy to focus on wins and losses, but it becomes even more important that you develop young men and truly care for them as human beings. The emotions at the end of this past season when we took a Grad Senior off the field for the last time, knowing that his playing career was over, were unreal. You go to battle with these kids every day for 8-10 months out of the year, then at the end of the year, there’s a chance you could be saying goodbye to them forever.
Brag on your daytime employer or talk about creative work scheduling that allows you to fulfill your coaching duties.
Our head coach is Chad Oxendine. I was fortunate to have worked with Ox at Coastal for four years. At the end of my run at Coastal, Ox gave me my first opportunity to coach in college baseball. Ox and I have been very close for years and when he offered me the job it was a no-brainer to join his staff. Ox has given me the freedom to coach my way and learn as I go. He gave me the infielders and let me coach my way. He allows me to fail and learn by trial and error. The ability to go out there every day knowing that I have support from my skipper means the world. Ox makes the workplace fun and has created an environment that we all want to go to every day, and I think that is an invaluable factor for us because we spend every day together.
Your dream lunch date. One coach. Any sport. Any level. Living or dead. Who is it?
My dream lunch date would be Joe Torre. Growing up, as far as I can remember, the Yankees were a powerhouse year in and year out. Winning four world series and making the post-season 12 years in a row, Torre understood what it took to win. I would love to be able to get that out of him and try to understand his philosophies and understand the culture that he deems necessary for winning. He got to manage a lot of All-Stars and even Hall of Famers. He had the job that was always under a microscope and handled it with such professionalism. I feel a lunch with Mr. Torre would be a cool experience.