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3 Things Successful Coaches Do


17-year pro Matt Whiteside's complete, easy-to-follow pitchers' fielding guide.

There’s no one right way to coach a baseball team. Earl Weaver led the Orioles to four pennants and a World Series win in a career dotted with 97 ejections and his share of tantrums, while Tony La Russa won three World Series and three more pennants with a more cerebral approach.

Great managers can be master tacticians, motivational geniuses, outside-the-box thinkers, or sometimes all of the above. But there are some qualities that all managers can strive for.

Ted Sullivan, the CEO and founder of GameChanger and a former professional baseball player in the Cleveland Indians system, reminds us that lessons in teamwork, leadership and perseverance are a part of “Redefining Success” and will pay dividends long after the last out of the season. Go to GameChanger Redefining Success module on first-pitch-strikes for an example.

Other managers have proven success with some additional simple concepts.

Be Organized

Jerry Kindall, the former longtime baseball coach at the University of Arizona, pulled aside his team one day and asked the players what they would like from Kindall and his coaching staff.

Their response: Organization.

Kindall indeed delivered organizational skills for years in Arizona.

“I know of no one more organized than Jerry,” said the late Gordie Gillespie, who was college baseball’s all-time winningest coach with 1,893 victories when he retired as coach at Ripon College in Wisconsin in 2010. “(Kindall) has won NCAA baseball championships as well as being selected NCAA Baseball Coach of the Year on several occasions, and organization is one of his greatest strengths.

“You won’t accomplish half of what you set out to do without a concrete, workable plan.” - Jerry Kindall

Kindall, who retired in 1996 and was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame, was the first to win national collegiate championships as both a player (Minnesota, 1956) and manager (three at Arizona). He also helped coach Terry Francona, now manager of the Cleveland Indians, to the Golden Spikes Award in 1980.

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Be Positive

In addition to knowing the Xs and Os of the game, another of the key ingredients to winning baseball and developing players is providing a positive, encouraging environment for those players.

There may be no bigger example of this than Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon.

Instilling confidence and providing motivation are the staples of Maddon, who led the Tampa Bay Rays from a last-place finish and to the franchise’s first playoff berth in one season. His methods have included motivational T-shirts in Tampa that read “9 = 8” (nine guys working hard every day equals being one of eight MLB playoff teams), arriving at the franchise’s baseball academy in the early morning to talk with players and boost their confidence, and insisting on effort all the time.

He emphasizes effort, and not necessarily talent, although talent goes a long way, too.

“When it comes down to individual effort,” Maddon told guideposts.org, “it takes absolutely zero talent, zero talent, to try hard or play hard every day.”

Maddon should know about that effort. He was never good enough to make the major leagues as a player, but he did as a field manager, first with the Rays and now with the Cubs.

Have a Plan

For longtime coach Augie Garrido at the University of Texas, baseball boils down to one thing: Scoring runs.

“Runs determine the outcome of the game,” he said, “not hits.”

Enter the term “Augie Ball.”

“There are three parts to our game: Get on base, advance runner, score runners,” Garrido said.

While Garrido used this philosophy to become the winningest coach in college baseball at Texas (1,950 wins in 47 years, entering the 2016 season) — passing Gillespie — he put it into place as a high school coach early in his career at Sierra High School in Tollhouse, California.

“I had to find some way to get the ball into play,” Garrido told dailytexasonline.com. “You can bunt for a base hit to advance runners and to score runners.”

Augie Ball might not be for everybody, but the philosophy worked for Garrido, and when his players bought in, the results spoke for themselves.

From GameChanger and
Paul D. Bowker.

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