Find Your Nature

By Ryan Leake

In ancient Tibet, three beggars were talking.  One said, “I wish I were the governor. He’s the richest man in the town.  Then I could live in comfort, and everyone would respect me.” 


“Why do you play baseball?”  Simple question right?  Perhaps…question mark

“I love hitting!”  Very original.  Do you love it when you’re O-fer your last fifteen?

“I love pitching!”  Great champ.  What about when you haven’t pitched in two weeks?

I love how pretty the field is!”  Fan-freakin’-tastic…landscape architecture is a fascinating area of study .

“I can’t imagine playing in anything but those faaaabulous baggy uniforms.”  Oh right, because the game changes if you were playing in jeans and a t-shirt.  Tell it to the Caribbean Islanders dude.

Truth is ballplayers generally don’t know why they play the game.  In reality most people have no idea why they do anything.  We as a species don’t have a clue.  Animals have it easy because much of their behavior is innate.  Birds fly south.  Bears hibernate.  Whales kieranmcgovern_hibernation_brown_bear_vimeobreach.  All of them procreate.  Humans?  We complicate everything!  Sure we have instincts, but how often does the ability to think (on a human level) end up confusing the thought?  How often do reason, logic, feeling and emotion override simplicity and create a muddled mess of one’s mind?

We all struggle with our thoughts and emotions.  We all look at situations in extremes.  We all try too hard to find answers or fix problems.  We spend so much time outside of ourselves we tend to forget what’s inside; what really drives our behavior and leads our action.  Santa Clara Baseball players fall victim to living outside themselves far too often; due in large part to the external pressures resulting from athletic competition.

“What’s your batting average?”

“What’s the team’s record?”

“Why aren’t you playing?”

“Your coach sucks!” (if you haven’t seen the “My Coach Sucks” YouTube video PLEASE click here). stress-1

It may be a bit melodramatic to say so, but athletes assume the responsibility of pleasing people.  They’re expected to inhale stress and exhale it casually like smoke from a “Colorado Cigarette”.  Athletes are constantly pulled away from who they are and who they strive to be because the tangential forces are so strong.  Outside observers tend to forget that no matter how extraordinary the athlete, humanity still resides within; where reason, logic, feeling and emotion can negatively merge to damn even the most gifted.  What our program strives for is greater awareness of the internal versus the external.  What we ask is for our players to spend more time within themselves.

“Why do you play baseball?”  The real answer, the honest answer, resides in one’s nature.

The second beggar said, “I wouldn’t be content with that.  I wish I were the king.  He’s the richest man in the country.  Then I would live in luxury and everyone would bow to me.”

open-doorGoal setting is hard.  If done properly, goal setting requires time, thought, attention, revision, re-revision, re-re-revision, discussion and adjusting.  It can be fun, but most people view the task as fruitless.  Why spend time and energy on something menial when I could be living my life at mixers, socials, cocktail parties and beer pong tournaments?  Why set goals for the future when I’m supposed to be living in the present?  Huh Mr. Smarty-pants?  Because, eager beaver, proper goal setting is a window allowing you to see into who you are; it’s a door that, if opened, could lead you to a better understanding of your nature.

Before the Broncos parted ways for winter break they were introduced to the process of proper goal setting.  Following the allotted ninety seconds of whispered four-letter-words, a discussion of specific, measureable, attainable goals ensued.  For two weeks the players brainstormed ideas for short and long-term goals that were process-oriented and, when put together, contribute to winning ballgames in the spring.  Debate and constructive criticism were prevalent throughout the meetings, to the extent that no real conclusions were made.  What the players (and coaches) came to find is the setting was far more conducive to revealing the nature of the group.  As the group goal setting sessions closed, each player was asked to participate in a similar process individually leading into winter break.  Their task was simple.

Answer this question: “Why do you play baseball?”

The third beggar said, “Well, if we’re going to wish, let’s go all the way.  I wish I were Milarepa.”  The other beggars were puzzled, and asked who Milarepa was.

“He’s the Buddhist meditation master who lives in those mountains.  He has tamed his mind, so he is always comfortable.  He knows his own nature, so he doesn’t need confirmation from others.  He is completely content with whatever he has, so he never needs anything.  That makes him the richest man in the world.”

Let’s get one thing straight: I’m a baseball coach.  I am not an academic.  I am not doctor.  I am not an actor or entertainer (some would argue the latter).  I am not a philosopher, a fabled lover, or a renowned adventurer.  I’ve lived a charmed life.  No grim tragedy.  No epic struggle.  No epiphany wrought from days, months, and years of toil.  Regardless of what I am or am not, what I have and have not; I can never lose sight of being a baseball coach. My job is to find ways to make our players better at baseball.  For me to effectively do my job I must understand what truly motivates me as a coach.  I must know my true nature.

I am of the opinion that coaches can be categorized in two groups: those who love to be a coach and those who love to coach.  To be successful a coach must be aware of what truly motivates them. Without awareness, the sight of true motivation is lost and the coach is stirred by ego. As soon as ego gets involved, actions become selfish, needs of others are overlooked and the coach is blinded by the riches of his status.  The ego is fed.  The coach loves to be a coach.

Eliminate the ego and a coach may find riches in the simple nature of the job.  Ego-less coaching keeps the needs of players at the forefront of their work.  Selfless action leads to a deeper awareness of each player, a deeper understanding of their nature and how it can contribute to team success.  Greater self-awareness of a coach’s true nature therefore aids the process of the team finding its true nature as well.

“If you don’t need anything, you can appreciate everything.”

Peter Summerville was having trouble determining why he played baseball.  He was driving himself crazy trying to figure out the Keyshot_Flared_A_Final_Moment021907pict6822perfect way to express how he felt about the game and what specifically brought him to the ballpark every day.  Knowing Pete, he probably rubbed his forehead raw, put his palms up and broke a few ping pong paddles trying to find the absolute BEST and RIGHT answer.  His frustration led him to a textual (that’s text messaging) conversation with the coaching staff where he expressed the following:

“…I don’t know how to come up with one thing that motivates me to play.  Should I say being at the field? Or is it getting to hit or catching or the chance to drive in runs?  There’s nothing I don’t love about baseball and I honestly look forward to every day and everything.  This is so hard because I want to say everything.”

Like so many other players, Pete was blind to his true nature.  Absence of awareness stopped him from seeing what was right in front of him.  The human need to complicate and over-think was more prominently conditioned than a level of awareness that allows some to realize the awesome power of their nature.  Pete by nature loves everything about baseball.  Like the coach who loves to coach, or the third beggar, his nature is telling him he doesn’t need confirmation, he doesn’t need results.  He needs nothing.  The game gives him everything.  A team full of Petes could go a long way. nothing



One comment on “Find Your Nature

  1. really awesome post. i have been a coach for years (both boys and girls). i just “retired” this last year as my daughter has moved beyond my ability to motivate her. as i watch her play soccer with the other dad’s from the team (i’ve never been a spectator of my daughter, only a coach) it dawned on me that dad’s have a totally different perspective of their daughter’s playing than what might actually be happening. Dad’s see it from their perspective and their point of reference as male athletes. seeing this, i tried to categorize why girls, or any athlete, play a sport and i boiled it down to this.
    1. Identity “I’m a baseball player” 2. Social “this is my group” 3. Competition 4. Fitness. While a believe all athletes thrive in all four categories, the “pecking order” is different for every athlete. Rarely is competition #1 for girls and for those girls that rank competition #1 they go on to play soccer at places like santa clara. i know its not this simple. you cant just make a list of four things to answer the question but i bet if every athlete ranked these four categories, in private, they might understand who they are as an athlete, just a bit clearer.

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