Put me in Coach!


My sons Teddy and Jay Jay are sports crazed 9 and 10 year old boys and so springtime means only one thing to them - Little League Baseball.

And a blessing in my life over the years has been coaching their teams.

Let me first note that I started coaching out of a sense of obligation.

I have two boys playing on the same team and folks willing to donate copious amounts of time and energy to manage and lead youth sports teams are always in short supply.

But from the very first practice when my boys were just four and five years old I was hooked.

It is just something about being outside, with kids, celebrating triumphs together, wiping away more than a few tears together, well it’s baseball, it’s life, and it's a heck of a lot of fun too!

Now that my boys are older it's all still in good fun, but score is most certainly being kept and this past weekend the competition and hard desire to win from players, coaches, and parents was palpable.

And without looking hard at all, many on life, on leadership, and on entrepreneurship were there for the taking.

First, this quaint but profound idea that the game is meant to be played right, or not at all. 

Now coaching youth sports has not made me holier than thou, but it has taught me how shallow victories can be when they are attained through bending or clandestinely flouting the rules and spirit of the game.

Then there is Hemingway's beautiful definition of courage as “Grace Under Pressure."

Well, watching a mix of unevenly talented kids try to accomplish that most difficult thing in all of sports - hit a pitched baseball - with usually most of the important people in their young lives watching (and from their perspective - judging) how well they do it...

...well if nothing else it has been for me a profound window into the emotional and philosophical elements that impact being our best selves at those moments that matter most.

What I have seen that works best is a relaxed confidence, a“Zen” place where this game, this at bat, this swing is the most important one of our lives, and...

...means nothing at all.

And finally the wisdom that in the end playing good baseball, like most good things, just comes down to a LOT of practice.

For sure some of us are more talented than others so need to practice less, but in our hyper competitive world any kind of meaningful winning is impossible without a lot of it.

And so the question I ask myself is how much are we, as adults, practicing our craft?

Now this "adult work" practice is of a less defined form than practicing hitting a baseball, but keeping up with and mastering the latest trends, technologies and innovations in our chosen profession is a often overlooked but critical success factor.

And the really great thing about practicing at work like this, unlike the untold thousands of little leaguers who practice every day with the almost impossible dream making it to the major leagues, is that most of the folks that we compete with in business don't practice at all!

Sure, we all send a lot of email and texts, we surf the net pretty well, but how many of us deep in our career really work on getting better at our craft like young athletes do?

It may not be as exciting and life memorable as scoring that winning run in a little league baseball game, but it is always the right thing for our businesses and careers.

Play by the rules, be always in the moment, and practice and prepare with all of your heart.

It works in little league baseball, and in business and life too.

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