Photo: Andy Hilton/ultimaterecruit.com
Coach Lew Johnston addresses setting standards in your program with a little baseball analogy
Coach Lew Johnston has a blog of his own called “Coaching the little things” that you can check out. It’s a great resource for information, plus Lew is an expert in coaching the classic “Wing T” offense. Thanks to Lew for his contributions to recruit757.com and to the community! – AH
by Lew Johnston, a special contribution to recruit757
17 inches. Do you know what “sports item” is 17 inches wide?
I came across a Facebook post by a friend who coaches baseball. The post was about a baseball coach who spoke at a major clinic in his area years ago. He was an elderly man — retired by then — who struggled to get out on stage after his name was announced because he had a regulation baseball home plate hanging from a chain around his neck. They’re not light!!!
He spoke for a while about his coaching experience and was visibly struggling to stay upright with this heavy piece of rubber hanging in front of him. Some in the audience apparently thought it was a bit humorous and began to snicker at the old coach’s plight. He finally posed the question to his audience: “I guess you folks are wondering why I’ve got this home plate hanging around my neck, huh?!” Well duh!
The old coach started explaining that a home plate is 17 inches wide…. whether it’s Little League or MLB… it’s 17 inches wide! If a pitcher can’t muster up the control needed to get the ball over the plate to get a strike, the umpire does not help him out by calling it a strike if it’s an inch or two off the plate. They don’t “widen” the plate for another pitcher with control problems. They just find another player who CAN get it over the plate! The old coach pointed out, “So it is with life. OR… it used to be!”
His point was that as a culture we have lost our standards. In life, a strike is not a strike anymore. We keep cutting corners; giving kids too much freedom and then tell them it’s OK. We don’t widen the strike zone in baseball and we don’t widen the plate to accommodate those who have “control problems.” We find players who can get it over the plate and go with them.
I have never seen an organization, a team… (especially) a military unit that was successful that lacked discipline. We need to set boundaries on what is acceptable behavior and then we need to ENFORCE them.
I am convinced that young people actually want boundaries. They may complain at first but when they see that there’s structure in the team, it actually promotes a sense of trust. There is comfort in having guard rails on each side of a high rise bridge. We have the “8th Engineering Wonder of the World” here in our backyard— the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. When you’re out in the middle of the bay on that lonely stretch of road, it’s nice to know that they “remembered” to put guard rails up! Our players feel the same way about the discipline that we promote in our program.
Don’t be afraid to have high expectations for yourself, your staff and/or your players. Most of the kids you have on your team are competitive in nature. They understand the importance of having structure. Demand it of yourself and demand it of your players. This doesn’t mean that you come off as a martinet. I have an ex-Marine Drill Sergeant in our Bible study group. He commented this morning about how even a Paris Island Drill Sergeant needs to have a mix of toughness with compassion. Yep! A Marine Drill Sgt. said that! And it’s true. As a coach, you need to find that right mix too… if you want your program to be successful.
– Lew Johnston