Connecting with Players by Keith Wahl
Complete Game has partnered with the Colorado Dugout Club, the high school baseball coaches association. As a part of that partnership, CG will be producing a series specifically for high school coaches. We hope these posts serve to unite, encourage, and resource the baseball community in Colorado and across the country.
Does any other coach have a short memory? I sure do. My memory seems to be famously short, to be honest. Players call me on it all the time. It's become one of our connecting points.
One of the things I forgot, and am reminded of every day, is how much waiting there is in high school baseball in Colorado. We go through the year, we do our indoor winter work, we do tryouts, we practice and then we play a game. Then we wait a week and play a game. Then we wait some more and play a game. Then April hits and we get a little bit of a rhythm. Then we play in districts and wait a week before the next round. Then, if we won the weekend before, we wait a week to play in the Elite Eight. Then, if we won the weekend before, we play in the Final Four, and hopefully for a State Title. Write it out in a paragraph and it doesn't feel that bad. Live it...and it's a grueling amount of waiting.
As the collective experience of the game builds throughout the year, the thing that keeps a team going are connecting points. Maybe it's making fun of a coach's memory, or lack thereof. More likely, it's a cascade of unique jokes and shared moments of fun throughout the season. My encouragement to high school coaches today is simply this - create more connecting points.
In my experience as a coach at the high school level, we have intentionally gone above and beyond in this area. We've done dinners at the home of every player. We've created traditions like "Spooky Movie Saturday" and other opportunities for connection. Not everyone opens their home for a dinner, not everyone comes to the movie, but most do. Most of us, as human beings, desire connection with other people. We, as coaches, desire to bring up the next generation and guide them into great relationships. When we go above and beyond in creating points of connection, relationships flourish.
In an era of confusion and boundaries created by fools such as Jerry Sandusky and other predators, Satan is able to take a foothold and divide us from one another. We have to seek to connect, open our hearts to each other, get to know families, and show that you truly care. We have to limit, if not eliminate sarcasm, and just be genuine with one another. The battle we have to win is in relationships, not in winning a game. Ironically, winning games is rooted in great relationships. I want to encourage all coaches to try to connect on deeper levels with players and see the fruit.
Jesus said that our greatest commandment is to love God and to love our neighbors. Instead of throwing that on a pair of stone tablets, He desired a relationship with us so much that He came to this world. He died on a cross so He could connect with all of us as the Holy Spirit. Let us follow the lead of our Creator and seek connection!