It is pretty common to hear every player say that he desires success, but when pressed to “define” that success the conversation often becomes bogged down in details.
As a teacher and baseball person, I would agree that success is an important part of our coaching vocabulary and so we discuss it often.
Often, I will encourage players and parents to think about their own definition of success and to give it shape, structure and color with specific short and long range goals with a caution not to get caught up in what todays society places value on as often those values are misplaced.
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.
Yes, these accomplishments are part of the landscape and can often serve as a pleasant 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, on July 2 in the DR and both International and Domestic Free agents. That’s about 40-60 per team or about 1,500 new players. 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 90 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 President 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 say that “the trophies and Gold medals we receive when gotten is simply a by product of that effort”.