Leadership #5, It Takes 10 Hands to Make a Basket - Bottom of the Ninth #143


Bottom of the 9th - Ten Hands

"It Takes 10 Hands to Make a Basket" John Wooden's Leadership Lesson #5 by Keith Wahl

John Wooden wrote 12 Leadership Lessons that enhance our understandings of leadership and success. These 12 lessons will be the focus of Bottom of the Ninth for 12 weeks.

Do you ever wonder what John Wooden would think of the modern NBA? While I tend to believe that he would have a level of frustration around the abundance of individual play and ego, I also think he would revel in the best "teams" winning championships. The Spurs, the Warriors, and even the Bulls of the 1990s represented this ideal of team play, and showed that it does take 10 hands to make a basket.

Baseball is different. You don't need 18 hands to make an out or score a run. Only two men touch the ball on every play - the pitcher and the catcher. A famous film battery of pitcher and catcher, Nuke Laloosh and Crash Davis from Bull Durham, tapped into the importance of including others in their work when Crash said, "Don't try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic." You have to love how the movie infuses a lesson of government into a baseball movie!

As baseball players, we have to be at peace with the individual nature of the game while sharing the experiences with the team. Sometimes our successes and failures are to be shared with the collective group. Other times we have to learn how to humbly accept individual success while the team failed. Often times, however, we have to embrace individual failure in the face of team success. This balance either makes baseball the ultimate team sport, or the ultimate individual sport where 25 guys happen to be playing it at the same time.

Anyone who has been a part of successful or unsuccessful baseball teams recognize the importance of chemistry. This is one of the great and beautiful nuances of the game. The team of individuals must work in concert together to reach the collective group's full potential. It's ugly when it fails (see the picture of Bryce Harper and Jon Papelbon below), and the ultimate beauty when it succeeds.

In the midst of a difficult chemistry battle with our team last spring, one of our baseball parents, Pastor Randy Scott, wrote on how selfishness can destroy a team and one's self in this Bottom of the Ninth. Satan wants individuals not teams. His conclusion was "To the degree that you live for yourself is the degree with which you are filled with the spirit of Satan." This makes baseball the most spiritual of athletic endeavors - an individual's opportunity to live for others instead of one's self.

We all love playing or coaching or watching the game of baseball. May we all commit this season to a team focus above an individual focus. May we, as coaches, foster an environment of team play over individual play. Let us all experience the beauty of having everyone's hands contribute to the team's success.

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