By Brian Neal
Coach Neal is the head of Mississippi State University Olympic Sports Strength and Conditioning. He is Certified with the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association), the USAW (United States Weightlifting), and CSCCA (Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association), he coordinates strength and conditioning at Mississippi State for baseball. He is also the co-founder of ONEighty Athletics (a sports performance program)
Through my 9 years as a D-1 Strength Coach, I’ve been blessed to coach over 30+ NFL, 10 MLB, 2 NBA, and thousands of D-1 Athletes. But Kendall Graveman, RHP for the Oakland A’s, is one that definitely stands out
KG was a so-called “normal” collegiate RHP I was extremely fortunate to coach. I say so-called “normal” because he was an 88-91 MPH right-handed pitcher with a plus changeup and good command. He was an 8th round draft pick but with sheer hard work and determination, he is now throwing 98 mph and is one of the best sinker ball pitcher in the MLB (ask any hitter).
As a Strength Coach, you work closely with athletes every day which gives you an intimate look at a player’s character and willpower. I knew right away that Kendall was a flat out winner. He’s a kid I like to call a “foxhole guy” – a guy you want in an alley when the odds are against you.
Watching him work his way up to opening day starter fired me up and I had to spread his message of the qualities of being a winner to my fellow athletes, coaches, and parents. When I think of Kendall and other successful players, coaches, and programs, you will find these 4 qualities run thick on and off the field. I also listed a tip to help both athletes and coaches build this quality in their aspect of the game.
1. Detailed: Kendall was great at the little things. He always showed up on time, prepared to give his very best that day.
Athlete: Don’t come to train without school shoes, late, or with excuses on why your not prepared..
Coach: If you’re a high school coach in the weight room be prepared to COACH! I understand you’re not an expert in the weight room, but trust me your kids don’t want to be monitored, they want to be coached with passion and energy! Try and break a sweat and please don’t yawn in the weight room! You set the tone! (If we can help in any way, send us a message!)
2. Action Taker: Don’t talk about – BE about it. KG let his play and work talk, not his mouth!
Athlete: “When you’re good at something, you’ll tell everyone. When you’re great at something, they’ll tell you.” Walter Payton
Coach: Don’t yell at athletes for making mistakes – instead take ownership as a teacher/coach.. When someone does something incorrect odds are high you haven’t taught it enough or correctly. Take the blame 100% of the time.
3. Selfless: KG always put his teammates before himself. When they made a mistake he didn’t rip into them, he lead by example and then by positive reinforcement.
Athlete: If it doesn’t help your team, don’t do it. This could be goofing off in the weight room or dishing out late hits, like the Bryce Harper HBP 3 years later by Hunter Strickland.
Coaches: As a coach it’s your main responsibility to win the kids! Sometime this week talk to your leaders. Ask questions that really matter… “How’s your family doing? How’s you job going?” Be a human and not someone who just throws out orders.
4. Self Belief: 99% of other players in Kendall’s position would have given up, but he had a deep belief in himself. He knew that if he put in the work, he would get the ability to play at the highest level. There’s nothing better than earning something through hard work. Trust me… its 10,000% better than just being talented and handed an easy ticket.
Athlete: Commit to something and take it one day at a time. Don’t tell anyone about it, just show up every day and attack the process
Coach: Tell kids that anything is possible and start right now!! Your words matter and when things are hard, always have your players backs.
I hope you guys can put these 4 Qualities of a Winner into action ASAP. Special shout out to my amazing mentors and players who make my early mornings and late nights never feel like a job.