One of the many ways baseball coaches have improved over the last couple of decades is through creating a positive culture within their respective baseball programs.
I have listed a few ways to develop a winning, positive team culture within your program:
Meet with your players individually (informal meetings are best) as often as time allows. Try to learn what interests your players have…what makes them tick. Also, find out what challenges they may have within their family or in the classroom.
- Create situations that will help players get to know one another. At the end of my coaching career, I would carve out two minutes at the beginning of practice for a player to share two or three things their teammates may not know about them. I heard things like, “My sister is battling cancer;” “My father played in the NFL;” “My grandfather played here, so I always knew this was where I wanted to play.” It was always interesting to me to see the reaction of the team when guys would open up and share something personal. This helped create a bond within the team and helped players see each other differently.
- Develop an atmosphere of responsibility. If you ever hear a player make negative remarks about the field, the team travel plans, travel restaurant choices, the uniforms …address it immediately with the individual. Ask him to help you come up with ideas on how to improve it. “Are you willing to meet with our athletic director and discuss this in a positive way?” “Are you willing to lead a fund raising effort to alleviate the problem?” Create a culture of “no excuses; together we will fix this problem.” Help players take ownership…clean dugouts, field maintenance, organized lockers, etc. Find opportunities for your team to serve the less fortunate in your community…without publicizing it. Serving is not a “photo op” for social media, but an opportunity develop selflessness and to “give back” without expecting recognition.
- Create a positive team philosophy and emphasize parts of it daily. It’s important to sell your team on the “why” of each pillar of your philosophy. A few examples:
- Carry yourself like a champion…positive body language
- Wear clean uniforms and shoes before each game
- Be on time. Showing up early means that we care. Showing up late means that the team isn’t that important to you.
- Have an attitude of gratitude. “I’m happier when I’m thankful.” Thank the bus driver, thank the equipment manager, thank the trainer, thank the athletic director.
- Be enthusiastic. There is no substitute for enthusiasm. Fake enthusiasm will run its course quickly, but energy, hustle and an eagerness to learn will win in the end. Short, well-planned practices will help the team be more enthusiastic.
- Execute in practice. This translates to execution during the game. Execution always puts us in a position to win. (Coaches, be demanding but not demeaning)
- Create an atmosphere of learning and growing. Post key components of your team philosophy in the dugout, locker room and at the end of your emails or text messages to your team. Also, invite guest speakers…former professional or college players, community leaders, coaches in other sports to talk about how key elements of your team philosophy has helped them become successful.
- Make it fun to come to the ballpark. Be creative. Again, keep your practices short and upbeat, all the while encouraging and demanding excellence.
- Emphasize being the complete player…exceptional student, exceptional family member, exceptional teammate and exceptional player. Don’t forget that there is an emotional and spiritual component to every player. Provide a team chaplain for the team. Practically every team in the SEC has a team chaplain now. This is crucial. There is a pastor, youth pastor, or an FCA leader in your community who would enjoy filling this role. While in your program, many players will experience a death in the family, divorce, serious health issues, breakup with girlfriend, unplanned pregnancies, career ending injuries, etc. Many times, players need spiritual guidance during these challenges. The “complete coach” recognizes that he coaches a person, not just a player.
The role of a coach and the challenge of creating a positive culture within the team are both important and challenging. As a coach, if we demand excellence from our players, we should demand excellence from ourselves.
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)