30-6… A Reflection

**For the 5 of you who read these blog posts, you should know how they usually go. Ordinarily, the blog post is either my opinion on some aspect of sports/competition or a simple reflection piece of that day/week. I thoroughly enjoy writing the latter because it helps me pull my thoughts together; and, to be honest, I usually write them under the auspices that I will be the only one reading them (which is probably true). When putting my thoughts down, I tend to gain insights on myself, my program, our players, etc. that I couldn’t see before. I also tend to find out that I’m not as good as I think I am – and I need to continually practice what I preach (Always Compete).
To that end, here is my reflection post from this past week.**

On a two hour drive to a game today, I spent a lot of the drive thinking about my time. I concluded that I spend hours every week thinking of the long term development of Player A, hours every week journaling Player A’s strengths/weaknesses/progress, hours every week making calls to college coaches on behalf of Players A-Z, and hours every week thinking about who to pitch/play in tournament XYZ. I also spend hours every week talking to parents, worrying over bills, and hours every week thinking of what it would be like to have a social life outside of teaching, coaching baseball, and running a training facility. But the one thing I kept thinking about on the trip was how contrarian I am. Although I spend hours upon hours talking to parents, coaches, players, etc.; standing in opposition to the overwhelming majority can be a lonely place. There’s not many people (outside my very small circle in SC and TX) to talk to about coaching, player development, running a program, etc. And ironically, just when I was thinking about that, I received a call from a parent that I respect. The parent wished to discuss some of his concerns which are admittedly valid.

This past weekend, our 14u team lost two games by the total score of 30-6. 30…to…6. As a competitor, there are a lot of emotions that run through me hearing that score. As a former (not very good) Division I baseball player, I know as a player I would be embarrassed. As a (still growing) coach, I know that I would be embarrassed if I had been in the dugout. And as a (still very much growing) program head in this superficial industry of travel baseball, I know that I should be embarrassed. But in all honesty, I’m not. I do not accept mediocrity, but embarrassed? Not even a little bit. On the contrary, I’m excited. I’m excited because I know there are two choices. Most would choose to be embarrassed. Most would choose to cower behind some lame excuses. And consequently, most would lay the foundation for future failure. Instead, I’m going to choose to be excited. I’m going to tweet out the 30-6 scores, I’m going to put that score on our facility walls, and I may get t-shirts brandishing those results. And the reasoning is simple.

Games are NOT won and lost on the day they are played. They are won and lost YEARS before the players ever stepped on the field. That score, 30-6, is merely the manifestation of years of fundamental differences in preparation (whether through intent or just pure randomness – I generally ascribe to the latter). As a collective, the players that stepped on the field that day for the other teams were better than our players. The aforementioned parent discussed his belief that more outdoor practices would have prevented this performance. Although during this summer our program will practice outdoors more than any other program I know of, I disagree with the notion that the performance would have been different. One, two, 20 practices (which is impossible as most of the boys had school/baseball requirements and summer just started) would not have made our players bigger, stronger, more well prepared than our opponents. Again, at this level, games are won and lost years in advance.

On this “embarrassing” weekend, the other teams were bigger, stronger, better, and more well prepared. Which is fantastic! Because, not only do we gain through failure; but also, it proves that growth and development is a long term process. What greater message to send to student-athletes: every pitch, every swing, every play you take going forward will yield some result – whether “good” or “bad” – years down the road. The pitches you are seeing during this 30-6 “nightmare,” will set the foundation for your future success or future failure. Most would excuse the performance, hide from the outcome, and try to have better results in the next tournament. And I know those that do that will get beat again 30-6 3 years down the road. Which is why I’m excited – because I recognize that in order to achieve our goals – we can’t be like most. We have to focus on long term growth not short term results.

I’m not competing to win some random games in nowhereville New Jersey this summer. I’m competing to do things better than they’ve been done before. I’m competing for greatness. And that doesn’t happen in one day, one tournament, one week, one month, one summer, or even one year. It doesn’t happen in 1,2,5,20 practices. It takes YEARS. Years of pitches, years of swings, years of failure, years of training, years of practices. This is the premise of the Compete Academy. We do not sell 30 minute hitting/pitching lessons so kids have to cram as many flawed swings in as they can once a week. Instead, we provide an environment in which student-athletes can (and do) stay at the facility for hours: hitting, throwing, fielding, lifting, running, analyzing video (or getting rolled in Spike Ball or BartleBall). Our goal isn’t to win a game this weekend, it’s to provide a culture of long term improvement. To that end, I don’t believe our summer practices should be geared toward improved performance in this summer’s tournaments. Our practices should set the foundation for success years down the road – because that’s where growth is witnessed. We need to continually compete every swing, every pitch, every time we watch a game – because growth isn’t linear, but for the best, it’s exponential.

In my own playing experience, most are either too myopic to recognize the process or too cowardly and too weak willed to see the process through. Unfortunately, as a player, I fell into one of those camps – which is why I run our program the way I do. Which is why I’m excited about the 30-6 weekend and the future outlook of our program. Because I know years down the road, when it matters, the players that trust the process and continually compete and sacrifice now will experience the other side of a 30-6 weekend.

Ultimately, everyone has a better way of doing it. Everyone has a better philosophy on how to swing, how to pitch, how to run a program, what directions to take to the field. Everyone is a great coach when the dude on the bump is pumping 94. But not everyone has the courage to compete every single day no matter the score, no matter the situation. Not everyone has the ability to see past this weekend’s tournament, past today’s win or loss, past this weekend’s “embarrassment.” Not everyone can, which is why those that do, will find their own level of greatness they only hoped they would achieve.

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