It is pretty common to hear every player say that he desires success, but when pressed to ´describe or “define” that success the description lacks detials and becomes very generalized. As a teacher and baseball coach, I encourage players and parents to think about their own definition of success and to give it shape, structure and specificity. Additionally success can be viewed in both the short and long range, with a caution not to get caught up in what todays society places value on as often those values are misplaced.
Defining your success is a key part of the overall lplan.
In baseball, all too often we mistakenly equate success with wins, batting averages, championships, rankings and trophies. Or better yet, the day we finally throw a baseball 90 mph or receive a college scholarship. Yes, these accomplishments are part of the landscape and can often serve as a milestone on the journey but they surely do not define success nor should they.
Is getting a college scholarship the definition of success? Is being drafted by a MLB team the definition of success? Is hitting 90 on the radar gun the new definition of success? Or maybe getting 100,000 followers or likes on social media is the current definition. I pray not.
Case in point: There are over 1,600 college baseball programs and each of them will recruit 6-10 players each year. That is about 10,000 or more players. How many of them will have a successful season? Not 10,000 I can say for sure.
There are 30 MLB teams. Each of them will sign players in the draft in June and then again in the International signing period in January of each year, formerly known as July 2. That’s about 40-60 players per team or about 1,500 new players each year. Success will only go to a few and not to the 1,500. The Yankees have more pitchers throwing 90 in the minor leagues who will never see the Bronx than they do at Yankee Stadium, so is 90mph a true measure of success?
My feeling and recommendation is that we need to be careful how we define success when we are talking to our players and helping them to plan a future.
The best definition of success we have seen comes from the great Basketball Coach John Wooden. For those of you who might need a refresher, John Wooden, known simply as Coach, holds more records for winning than any coach in any sport and his records will stand the test of time. In coaching circles, he stands alone as the undisputed best of all time and is revered by coaches from all sports. In 2000 ESPN selected him as the greatest coach of the 20th Century. In 2003 he received the Presidents Medal of Honor. Coach was a teacher first and coach second. We can learn much from him.
He defined success “as the peace of mind that comes with the satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming”. He continued by saying that “the trophies and Gold medals we receive when gotten is simply a by product of that effort”.
It is a fascinating fact that he never talked about winning to his players. Never! He never talked about the big game coming up or the big tournament that the fans or media thought was important. He never talked about rankings or points. He never talked about losing.
He talked about “The Process and the Effort required to be the best one could be” which interestingly led his teams and players to be the most dominating we have ever seen.
We mention this as we have seen our baseball parents and industry become so self absorbed with rankings, trophies, winning, and social media promotion. The word elite and nationally ranked has now come to describe hundreds of teams in every age bracket by adults profiting off of the hoopla and hype.
We now have Elite 6 year old National Baseball Championships. Really??
We now have Perfect Game hyping “elite” young players as they generate revenue millions of dollars from unknowing parents who have an insatiable appetite to see their childrens name in type. If they did this as a community baseball service I might buy in, but it is all about the money and the hype and having them bust out that credit card.
The definition of Elite means a special part of a group which is clearly superior:
It is a sad commentary that our baseball society in it’s quest to generate gobs of revenue has watered down that definition to fit the normal player who has parents willing to shell out money for the glitz and glamour that accompanies the hype.
The reality today is that travel baseball is expensive, over hyped and for every elite player hyped, there are 2-3 players out there who are bigger, stronger and faster but do not have the same opportunities afforded to many of us. And now every town in America is now featuring an Elite team in every age bracket and parents are buying into the false hype like never before and any coach involved in the mix is scrambling to be labeled elite after winning a tournament or 2 or risk being marginalized.
Want to be an All American? Just register on line, pay an inflated tournament fee, show up and you are an All American. And you can buy the jersey and a photo and fake ring to prove it on Facebook or Instagram just in case there is any doubt to the validity of such a bold claim.
Coach Wooden espoused lvery different values’ he preached humility, hard work, loyalty, cooperation, sportsmanship, and self control. He said do not look at the scoreboard, and never show up your opponent . He said focus on the process of being the best you can be. and success will be yours.
Apparently his message doesn’t garner likes or followers in this new age of Tik Tok and 1 line tweeting worshipers so his profound messages about teaching and leadership and attaining true success is not relevant or very newsworthy.
My feeling is that our players, families and society could benefit tremendously from his wisdom as a coach as we move towards our own definition of success for our children.