Be Who You Want Your Team to Be
By Darren Fenster
The first few weeks of practice for any team in any sport are vital in creating and establishing your club’s identity. The weeks leading up to those first few weeks of practice are the optimal time for coaching staffs to sit down and collectively answer the simple question:
“Who do we want to be?”
While the question is simple, the answer shouldn’t be. In fact, it ought to be as in depth and as detailed as a staff can make it. Oftentimes, coaches are seen almost more as heads of corporations than they are heads of teams because they have their hand on every single aspect of the program. Some may consider it micro-managing as others call it thorough or even detail-oriented, but at the end of the day, your team - every part of it - can and should be a reflection of exactly who YOU are, and what you want it to be.
Your desired identity is your opportunity to leave your mark on not just players on the field, but more importantly, on people off of it. That’s how empowering our positions as coaches truly are, and that’s how important our answer has to be.
There is a big difference between a team and a program. A team often just stands for the results on the field. A program represents a way of life, encompassing not just the results on the field, but even more so, the manner by which its members go about their business off of it. A program can and should be a living, breathing thing, always evolving day to day, week to week, year to year, where its current players and coaches are merely stewards, consistently working to leave it in better shape than when they became a part of it. A team’s season is over at the end of the year. A program’s season lasts for a lifetime with its values imprinted on its members long after the spikes are hung up.
So when answering that question of who you want to be, it can be as detailed with the on-field X’s and O’s for how you want to execute a bunt defense or rundowns, or as simple as the effort with which you expect your players to run on and off the field. It can establish your daily practice schedules and individual positional drill routines. It can include speed, agility, and conditioning elements. An academic component should be added as well, while the competitive one should not be taken for granted either.
But your answer should also entail aspects that can make all of those on-field fundamentals and off-field work far more productive. The standard of expectation that you establish for your program is the means from which they will (or will not) grow.
Coaching can’t be hypocritical. Players of all ages are far more perceptive and intelligent than we often give them credit for. They will be impacted far more by your consistent action - good or bad - than they will by your hollow words - good or bad. Like it or not, teams will take on the personality and actions of their coaches. We have to live the mantra of “do as I do,” without the worry about what it is that we say. Because if the words don’t match the action, all credibility can be lost, which can result in a sinking ship of a season or even the program as a whole.
Plain and simple, if you want your players to genuinely care about something, then you have to genuinely care about it yourself. And we’re not talking about your words. We are talking about your actions. If you truly want your players to be something, then you truly have to be it yourself.
If you want your team to be on time…
…then you have to be early.
If you want your team to be competitive against the opponent…
…then you have to create competition within your own players.
If you want your team to have character…
…then you have to show integrity.
If you want your team to be confident…
…then you have to put them in a position to be successful.
If you want your team to have composure…
…then you have to stay calm under pressure.
If you want your team to be hard working…
…then you have to work harder than them.
If you want your team to be able to do the little things…
…then you have to give great attention to the details.
If you want to have a team that’s prepared to play…
…then you have to organize every part of every practice.
If you want a team that plays together as one…
…then you have to help pick one other up without putting them down.
If you want your team to care…
…then you have to invest time.
You can’t just tell your team what you want them to be. You can’t just post something on a bulletin board or in the locker room showing what your expectations are. You have to live it. You have to live up to your own standard that you set for your players, each and every day, all ways and always. When you are the example of what you want your team to be, your team will quickly become the example of what you are.
Darren Fenster is a contributor to the USA Baseball Sport Development Blog, and is currently the Manager of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A former player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Fenster joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after filling various roles on the Rutgers University Baseball staff, where he was a two-time All-American for the Scarlet Knights. Fenster is also Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and can be found on Twitter @CoachYourKids.