A Christmas Story of Giving

By Kellen Lee
December 20, 2011
www.RDbaseball.org

Everyone talks about people having to “take” personal responsibility but no one ever talks about “giving” personal responsibility. In the spirit of Christmas, I feel like the idea of giving is a great theme to follow, especially for my first blog post. Throughout this fall quarter, the Bronco Baseball coaching staff has given many different tools to the baseball team to help them with the personal responsibility that we hear everyone talk about. First of all, I must say, it is quite ironic that I am writing about this topic because Coach Campo “assigned” me this blog about a week before he wanted it done, and I am writing it the day he wants it. This goes to show you that even people that have everything figured out in life need some guidance at times.

Now you may ask, what are the tools the staff has given to the players? Well first you should know that they can’t be found at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or in the gym doing only bicep exercises. Not those kinds of tools. These kinds of tools can be utilized in every facet of life. These tools are mastered by the most successful corporations and companies in the world. These tools are second nature to the greatest athletes. These tools widen the gap between championship teams and mediocre teams. Details of the tools coming soon.

In order to provide the tools, the coaching staff needed a platform and setting to do so. So every Friday this fall instead of practicing, we hosted Baseball 101. At first people might be thinking “wait a second, these are college baseball players, they don’t need to take a day each week to teach the basics of baseball!” Baseball 101 actually has NOTHING to do with baseball. Each week, a new topic was addressed that provided tools for achieving success. Now, don’t get me wrong, the topics discussed and tools provided can be used on the baseball field, but more importantly can be used outside the lines. Baseball 101 was also coupled with something called “Piles” (short for Dogpile, aka something we WILL do), which will be explained a little later. Now into the meat and bones of a few of my favorite Baseball 101s.

Baseball 101: Standards and Expectations
Yes, tool #1 is finally here. You may be curious how standards and expectations are a tool for success. Well… players and teams that establish standards and expectations are more likely to honor them, than following rules they are assigned. The word “rule” has a negative connotation in today’s world and people are generally hesitant when they hear rules being implemented. When standards and expectations are put into place, people tend to take more pride in doing the right thing in any situation they find themselves in for the right reason. When anyone holds themselves to a standard that is constant across a team, it helps build good habits. We want this team to do the right thing for the right reasons and not because a rule tells them to.

With Christmas break upon us – Merry Christmas to all by the way – the guys had recommended workouts, conditioning, and throwing programs given to them in order to stay in baseball shape to prepare for our season. Not once did the coaching staff say “you MUST follow these programs word for word.” When you put those types of demands on people, they are less likely to motivate themselves to do follow through. However, when you frame it as suggestion and explain the reasons why it is important, it establishes a standard and expectation that individuals can hold themselves accountable to. Participate in these programs or don’t participate. Get better or get worse. There is no in between.

When discussing this topic with Coach Campo, he put it in terms of a sliding scale model. This model illustrates that everyone split for Christmas break at a certain level. Now, depending on the choices made over break, they can either slide up or down, get better or get worse. The players will either choose to take personal responsibility and utilize the tool given to them in establishing the standards and expectations, or they won’t. We have explained and clearly defined these standards and expectations as an entire program and plan to hold everyone, but especially, ourselves accountable, including the coaching staff.

Baseball 101: Academic Health
We had the opportunity to have Professor Aldo Billingslea from the Santa Clara University Drama Department speak to the team about balancing academics and athletics. His main message was to “be about it” in terms of  focusing on and dominating academic responsibilities. Bringing people in to give tools to supplement the ones that the coaching staff is providing the players with different models of the same tools so they can pick and choose what will be most effective in their own academic lives. Wondering where our Piles went? Soon after this Baseball 101 session, we began meeting in our Piles. These Piles consist of 4-6 guys on the team with one member of the coaching staff and they are simply a forum for the guys to talk about their status in the classroom.

As a recent student athlete, I know how difficult it is to discuss academic topics, especially if someone is struggling in a class. We wanted to give the players an environment where they feel comfortable enough to share insecurities and academic struggles with their teammates. I can’t speak for all of the Piles, but I know my Pile (Casey Husband, TJ Braff, Spencer Waddell, and Greg Harisis) did a great job in sharing their struggles and successes in the classroom. The Piles are yet another tool given to this team to promote academic success. As in any endeavor in life, it is vital for people to become external and get issues off of their chest because chances are, someone in their circle (or Pile) has a solution or suggestion that can help out.

Baseball 101: Toughness
Toughness is a very popular topic in today’s sports world, but not clearly defined. In this Baseball 101, we read an article written by Jay Bilas, an ESPN basketball analyst and former NBA player titled “Defining Toughness in College Hoops.” The players then gave toughness a new definition in terms of college baseball. The coaches merely facilitated the conversation as the players provided the examples of what toughness looks like in baseball. This Baseball 101 was a great tool given to the guys to do some self-reflection and redefinition of toughness. They were able to throw around ideas and create their own understanding of toughness. One of the examples synthesized from the team was having the ability to remain positive in times of adversity.

Coupled with this theme, Renee Loth Cali, Director of Culture at Ekso Bionics, came to talk to the team about dealing with adversity. Renee specializes in designing prosthetic limbs for patients, as well as helping them recover mentally as she has a prosthetic leg herself. She gave our ballplayers some relaxation and breathing tools to utilize when there is chaos around them, which we know happens very often in this great game of baseball. Throughout the wide world of sports, you hear many people say that dealing with adversity is crucial to succeeding but no one really talks about HOW to actually do that. Renee was kind enough to give our guys some actual tools to help them handle those difficult situations on and off the field.

As a first year staff member, I have learned a great deal from the rest of the coaching staff. One suggestion that I heard during my playing career from a close friend who had been coaching a for few years at the time was that “coaches feel like the fall is short, and players feel like the fall is too long.” I never understood this concept until this fall. In short, it means that the fall does not give coaches enough time to talk about everything that needs to be discussed. This holds true for our Baseball 101 sessions as well. Although we hosted about ten Baseball 101 sessions this fall, our staff wanted to have at least another ten. A few topics and tools that are still in the shed and ready to be discussed are Time Management, Organization, and Goal Setting. These tools, especially goal setting, are favorites of mine.

During this Christmas season, remember to take pride in giving more than receiving; whether it is advice to someone in need or a really sweet new hat to me (I am a 7 5/8 for anyone that wants to become my best friend). This coaching staff takes pride in giving these useful tools to the team and guiding them in a direction to be successful. Now, one concept that people must remember is that at no time do we tell the guys that they MUST utilize these tools given to them; it is completely their choice. Choosing to take personal responsibility is something that will give our team a great opportunity to be successful. We cannot force anyone to think and act a certain way, we can simply give them the tools they might need along the way. It is ultimately their choice to do whatever they wish with them. Coach Leake will appreciate this reference; (if you read his questionnaire answers on his coaches page, you will know why) in The Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo, “I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”

— COACH LEE

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