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Maybe some were not surprised, but people just learning about Joe Maddon must have been impressed with his initial press conference as the new manager of the Chicago Cubs. Being about youth sports, I like to relate all things to that level, and he blew me away. Everything he talked about struck me as being great coaching lessons for youth coaches.
The thing I thought most noteworthy was that Joe Maddon went on and on without ever using the "F" word fun. From what I did know about him, keeping baseball fun is what he is about. At the press conference, he did not mention that he wanted players just to have fun. Yet, all his coaching strategies mentioned are the things that lead to fun. Fun is a result of coaching the right things. The players decide if they are having fun or not. He talked about sport being about people and connections, simplifying things, having the right goals, trust, patience, accepting challenge, optimism, reacting to failure, development and pressure. Fabulous coaching lessons for all youth coaches. In one line, he used a substitute for fun, "Don't ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." Well said.
Joe expressed the importance of gaining the players' trust, "I have to earn the trust of the players on the field. "One would think that was a given, especially being a major league manager and with the respect he already has. But, It is obvious that Joe Maddon does not take the trust for granted because it is not guaranteed to any coach. The idea of winning player's trust is essential in youth coaching. Without that trust, team and parent turmoil results, leading to unpleasant experiences for all.
Earning player confidence begins with these:
Joe Maddon said, "I'm going to be talking about playoffs next year"¦. I can't go to spring training and say anything else"¦ We're going to talk World Series this year, and I'm going to believe it."
The lesson and it applies to all levels gets to the definition of sport. Sport is competition. The definition of competing is, "Strive to gain or win by defeating or establishing superiority over others who are trying to do the same." The point is that it is OK to play to win at any level of sport. Playing to win at any cost is never right, but once again, having the goal of winning is right. Joe was virtually saying, "What's the point of baseball if it's not to win the World Series?" He said believing the way he did was in his nature as it should be for all coaches.
Youth coaches do not have to go to that extreme and set championship goals, but it's OK to play to win and coaches should want their players believing they are capable of winning.
Of course, you may think those were two separate points but Joe was beginning to work for the necessary player trust he wants to have. If the manager does not believe in his team, why should the players buy into it? I assume Joe Maddon will walk in the first day of spring training and say, "Anyone here that does not believe one hundred percent that we will win the World Series this year, raise your hand and we will do our best to trade you out of here."
Another line was so meaningful for coaches of all levels. Joe Maddon said, "The autocratic manager of the day of yesteryear are gone." Every community should post that message at every youth sporting event. As mentioned, it's about people and connections, not the "My way or highway" approach many coaches take.
So much of Joe's philosophy is at the heart of positive youth coaching. He also said, "That's the worst thing you can do to coach aggressiveness out of a player, to coach fear into a player." Another priceless coaching lesson for all coaching levels. I hope youth coaches were taking notes.
After playing major league baseball, Jack Perconte has taught baseball and softball since 1988 and offered valuable coaching training too. He has helped numerous youth players reach their potential, as well as having helped parents and coaches navigate their way through the challenging world of youth sports. Jack is one of the leading authorities in the areas of youth baseball training and coaching training advice.All Jack Perconte articles are used with copyright permission.
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