Confessions of a High School Baseball Coach Part 1

By: Trevor Winsor

“No one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it.”
― Peter F. Drucker

I’ve been around the game of baseball for over 20 years. I started playing when I was 4 years old and had the opportunity to play collegiately. It’s safe to say that I love this sport.

I’ve experienced a lot of baseball at a lot of different levels. I’ve played with Major League stars and I’ve played with guys who didn’t deserve to put on the uniform.

I’ve put in over 10,000 hours into this game. I’ve done all I can to learn every inch of the field and every facet of play. But recently I have experienced a new part of baseball, coaching.

In this new role I’ve found some interesting things about the game, about teams, and about coaching in general. Some of these things are new learns, some are things I’m not particularly proud of, and some are things I’ve known for a long time.

We just recently finished tryouts. Tryouts are awesome and terrible as a whole. They aren’t the most fun, but you gotta do them!

I would like to share with you some of the things I’ve come to learn through my first tryouts as a coach.

 

CONFESSION #1 – BITTERNESS MAKES ME A BETTER COACH

I miss playing the game of baseball. I miss the excitement you get before the game. I miss how hyped you feel during inny/outty. Your arm always feels amazing before a game. You walk up to the plate with so much swagger and confidence. I miss those times. I miss that feeling.

I no longer get that feeling. And I find myself bitter that my career is over. I find myself envious that these guys get to still play the game. And I don’t think that makes me a bad coach. Here’s why:

I know how short a baseball career can be. Even though I played for almost 20 years, it goes by like a flash. It’s hard to remember all of the baseball I got to play. And because I know how fleeting a career and opportunity to play baseball is, I find that I can motivate my guys to not take it for granted.

You’ve probably been around high schoolers at some point in your life, so this won’t come as a surprise. High Schoolers feel like the big dogs on campus and they walk around with their chin up and their pride flaring. This doesn’t make them very coachable or very receptive to input.

My envious and bitter attitude about not being able to play baseball any longer can enable me to light a fire under my guys to work harder, play smarter, and never quit. This game of baseball can and will teach you about life and what it means to be a man. This is what I will continue to tell my guys: “Don’t take it for granted. This game is special, treat it that way. You will be tempted to coast through it, don’t do it. Take every inning, every swing, every throw as a gift and a privilege.”

Being bitter and envious will make me a better coach.

 

CONFESSION #2 – TEAM IS PICKED BY DAY #2

It’s true. I’m sorry that it is. But truthfully, the coaching staff knows the team and probably the starting line-up by day 2 of tryouts. Does this mean that most of tryouts are a waste of time….maybe…kind of.

It doesn’t take long to see a guys’ skill set. Does he have a decent arm? How is his footwork? Does he engage his lower half in his swing? These are all things you can see pretty quick.

After day #1 you know who are going to be your hard working guys. You know who has the athleticism to make it onto the starting roster. You know the guys who have played this game for a little while.

Can guys surprise you by the end of tryouts? Sure. But it’s not likely. A guy can find some inner confidence and start to bloom a little over a week’s time. But in all reality nobody is going to improve in just a week’s time.

Baseball is a game that takes HOURS and DAYS and YEARS to improve. And most of these guys don’t put in work year-round. But the guys who do, they stand out right away.

Team is picked by day #2, it’s just the way it is.

 

CONFESSION #3 – Baseball IQ > Talent

This should be obvious to anyone who has played the game. But this tends to be something you realize later in life. Knowing how to play the game is more important than the talent or ability to play the game.

One of my favorite Yogisms.

“Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.”

-Yogi Berra

Yogi has it right – baseball is almost all mental. You put in enough throws, swings, bunts, fly-balls, ground-balls to know how to physically do it. But it’s the mental part of the game that becomes difficult.

It only took me 2 days to figure out who on the team were mental midgets (no offense to little people). One guy throws a pitch in the dirt and has a mental breakdown. Another guy makes one bad throw to 1st and then all of a sudden he can’t field the most routine ground ball. The mental game of baseball is where your success comes from.

You can be the most talented guy to ever walk the face of the earth, but if you aren’t able to mentally adjust or make changes to the game – you’ll never play at a high level. If you are the greatest power hitter to pick up a bat but you aren’t able to recover from your previous at-bat where you struck out, you’ll never hit the baseball consistently. If you can’t recover from walking the first guy in the inning, you’ll never be a great pitcher. This game requires a level of mental fortitude that is hard to come by.

Some guys have it, some guys don’t. But when I’m evaluating a player I look for his ability to mentally recover, not his ability to hit or throw.

 

TAKE AWAY

Here is the big take away from my first experience of high school tryouts: baseball is baseball.

At any level, regardless of if it’s little league or it’s the big show, baseball will always be baseball. You have to be able to hit, throw, run, and catch. That’s the simplicity of the game. And that’s what I’ll simply leave you with.

Baseball is baseball.


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