Baseball Toolbox

Resources for Baseball Coaches

Building a Culture that Values People

This article was written and submitted by J.P. Nerbun of Thrive On Challenge Sports

Forget about setting uncontrollable mid-level goals this season. Make these six commitments and build a transformational culture in your program that values people.

Commitment 1: Be authentic and vulnerable with your team.

Start the process to become a transformational coach AND open up with your team about the journey you are setting out on. Buy “Transformational Leadership” by Joshua Medcalf and Jamie Gilbert or “Inside Out Coaching” by Joe Ehrmann. Don’t just read one of these books, but fully engage with the activities they outline to help you become a transformational coach. And then be authentic and vulnerable by sharing with your team (coaches and players) that you are setting out on a process to become not just a better coach, but a better person. Explain how transformational coaches use their platform to help mentor and serve the people in their care. By sharing your journey with them throughout the season they will gain a greater respect for you and be more more apt to forgive you when you do fall short and make mistakes as a leader. Model the transformation and openness you want to see in others!

Commitment 2: Read and journal together as a team.

Purchase a book and a journal for every member of your team, then commit 20-30 minutes at the end of every practice and game to read and write as a team. Jon Gordon says, “A team that reads together grows together.” Spend 5-10 minutes reading aloud and then have THEM discuss what they learned from the reading. If you need recommendations for books suitable for this exercise please contact me. After the team reads, everyone gets out their journals and does a success log or a what went well diary. Everyone writes down 5 things that they did well in their practice, 1 area of improvement, and 1 thing they learned. “10 Minute Toughness” by Jason Selk outlines the many benefits of this activity. We need to train our minds to see the good not just the bad, and THEN focus on learning and growth.

Commitment 3: Stop using conditioning as punishment.

Stop using running or other physical conditioning as punishment. Instead start to use it to develop mental toughness and create positive associations with conditioning. Mistakes should be embraced as part of the learning process, not reprimanded or punished. Conditioning our players hard and then getting them to execute when tired helps build mental toughness. One activity you can employ to change the negative connotations with conditioning is what I call a GUT CHECK. Put everyone on the line and have them run a sprint. Whoever comes in last stands on the sideline to cheer everyone else on. Continue until only one man is left standing. The team cheers and praises the people who run the most and give their best. You will even start to see other players continue to keep doing the sprint because they start to value conditioning!

Commitment 4: Use boundaries and consequences to develop self-discipline.

The best discipline is self-discipline. People will not develop self-discipline if they never experience consequences for their actions. So stop yelling and using conditioning to discipline, it only motivates through fear. Henry Cloud’s book “Boundaries” discusses the importance of this principle to building healthy relationships. Motivate through love, not fear. Set a really high standard for their attitude, work ethic, and respect for others. When they fail to be striving towards or living up to that standard, encourage them. If they continue, let them know they have lost their opportunity to get better and send them home for the day. Instead of reinforcing a culture of entitlement, most of them will come to actually appreciate the boundaries and develop greater self-discipline.

Commitment 5: Give your players a voice at every opportunity.

Talk less, listen more. Use questions! Stop with the pre-game and halftime lectures going on about what they need to do! For example, instead of huddling together with your coaching staff at halftime and “making adjustments”, go ask your players what is going well and what adjustments they think need to be made. You can still help steer the focus of these conversations, and they will be much more engaged and committed if they are allowed to speak up.

Commitment 6: Stop chasing talent and start investing in grit.

Stop determining your lineup, playing time, or even cuts based on the talent level of a player. Start rewarding and valuing players with the traits you claim to believe to be the most important. Angela Duckworth’s book “Grit” discusses the naturalness bias. Research shows leaders believe they value strong workers over the naturally talented, but when it came to actually selecting people, they favored the “naturals”. What do you believe is most important for your team to reach your potential? Attitude, work ethic, respect, body language, selflessness? Start to favor with actions, not just words, the people who display a commitment to the process and the character traits you claim to value.

You can check out his Podcast “Coaching Culture” on iTunes.

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