I am a baseball dad. I never thought I would say that. My family didn’t play baseball. Hudson didn’t play baseball, so I assumed Charlie wouldn’t either. He came home a few months ago and announced he wanted to play baseball – but only Rookies.
“Rookie” is a step-up from Tee Ball. Charlie really hasn’t played much, and to make the jump to Rookies seemed a bit much. (Rookie’s players range from Kindergarten to 3rd grade, and Charlie is in Kindergarten.) I took him to the try-outs, and we were NOT prepared.
As we pulled up there were dads all over the infield in sweats with bats, gloves, toting baseball “bags,” MLB swag, and their kids in full baseball uniforms. Then came the Scofields . . . Charlie in hoop attire, me with a cup of coffee in khakis and no mitt. We walked on to the field and had no “baseball bag” to drop . . . for me, it was a painful, anxious experience.
Nevertheless, Charlie did great and made a Rookies team. He is one of two kindergarteners on the squad – and he has had a great season. I want to give some lessons I have learned on leadership from this baseball season.
4 Leadership Lessons from Rookies!
- Lesson #1 – Coaches on the field.
We have a pitching machine, we have access to a snack bar, and they prep the infield before every game so there are no footprints. Rookies is a step UP. Nevertheless, they allow for the first half of the season a coach on the field – the outfield – to offer up some advice to assist the kids with the strategy and “whys” of the game. I love this! (I also love that they eventually work themselves off the field.)
I think we need to assess areas of our own leadership. Specifically in the baton passing, or delegating, and make sure we give it ample time to give the strategy and the “whys” behind it. It seems that some leaders leave the field too soon – maybe even they are anxious to get to the dugout. Coaching from the field is masterful. The view, the proximity to the action, the ability to whisper some guidance. Who do you need to coach from the field?
- Lesson #2 – Players will play all positions.
I love that at 6 someone isn’t putting Charlie into a “pigeon-hole.” Throughout this season he has played every position a few times. (He is a very cute catcher, BTW!) I honestly don’t know what position is best for him. I know that by moving him around we have received more knowledge of the game, as well as, increased his knowledge of strategy and different positions.
I remember moving to a Young Life job where the rumor about a certain staff person was that they didn’t do “real Young Life.” I said, “What do you mean?” The answers that came back were that they had small clubs, didn’t grow up in Young Life, didn’t take kids to camp, and didn’t do assignments. I remember meeting with this person and laying out a plan of attack. We set up a plan to have them “play all the positions.” Today, they have led the region with camp numbers a number of times, they have done all the key positions of leadership very well, and they have multiple clubs. This person just needed a coach to move them into different positions, coach, and give a chance to play. Are there people that you have “pigeon-holed” that you might need to play in a different position?
- Lesson #3 – Every game ends with celebration, awards, and a snack bar ticket!
I can tell you that Charlie loves his team, loves the game, and loves to give it his all. I also know that he loves to be given a “wrist band reward” for doing something well, he loves the team gathered around the coach on one knee for affirmations, and he LOVES the infamous snack bar ticket!
We need to rally our teams and celebrate! Figure out a way to pause, to give a mini-award, and pass out whatever would be for your players a “snack bar ticket.” We all know that we respond to affirmation, and that we desire it. This is a just a great tradition that keeps it all going – what about you? At the end of a project, a day, or a conference can you pull your squad together? Could you give a couple awards that endorse your principles and values? Could you celebrate with your people? Can you give out some form of a “ticket” that people can tuck away and use later? I can tell you this – it works!
- Lesson # 4 – Hits, Strikes, and Losses.
Tee Ball was fun, but it had no reality. No score was kept, every kid swung til they hit, and there were no winners or losers. This year is different. We have umpires, we have a strike count, and we keep score. It’s not a bad thing, it’s a dose of reality.
I think that it’s fair to coach our people, but it’s also important to have conversations about the statistics of the game. It doesn’t matter whether it is sales, project days, finances, or number of kids to camp. There is a story behind the stats. We lost a couple of games and when we looked it over it was because of two basic things: (1) We were not hitting the ball, and (2) We were unable to throw it hard and accurately. So, we worked on these two fundamentals and we saw our game improve (and our record).
I would consider this a hard conversation. Who do you need to coach along by discussing their numbers, stats, or “game performance.” This is the only way to get better. No one gets better by the Tee Ball strategy – it will “just work out.” We need to keep score, stats, and numbers so we can learn.
We have a play-off game tonight. We practiced hard last night and focused on what we struggled with in Saturday’s game. Should be fun!
Hope you learn from these baseball lessons. I am not sure who learned more this year . . . Charlie or me. Maybe it’s a tie!