I have completed another fun and fruitful season as a youth baseball team manager, and what I have to show for it might surprise you.
There are the stories of progress and the smiling faces of young ballplayers. There is the appreciation of highly supportive parents. I even have a trophy due to the success of the team. But it catches people off-guard when I tell them I also have gained professional development that complements more traditional forms of training.
Here are a few examples of the education I’ve received from leading 8-, 9-, and 10-year-olds onto the field this year:
Learn to delegate by making it the only option.
Do you struggle with "I’ll Just Do It Myself Syndrome"? Coaching youth sports makes you go cold turkey. You have to let the kids play. After all, the umpires won’t let you play. At some point a coach can’t do any more and has to let the players go about their business.
Build a collaborative culture, or crumble.
The most successful baseball practices are those that move players in small groups through a series of stations. These stations involve frequent repetitions of certain drills for a short period of time. Then, the players move on to another activity. However, the only way to accomplish this is to recruit enough assistant coaches to man the stations and lead them with enthusiasm. To run fun practices, a manager has no option but to create a culture in which people want to be involved and want to take ownership of their responsibilities. The same can be said of a creative and energetic PR team.
Identify what you don’t know, and learn it.
Let me put it straight: I am not (or at least was not) qualified to coach baseball. Everything I teach about baseball skills I learned fairly recently through coaching clinics offered through our city’s Little League program. As Hall of Famer Cal Ripken emphasizes, baseball is simple in that the teams that can catch, throw, and hit the ball tend to do better than teams that are not as strong at these skills. There are correct ways to teach these aspects of the game, though, and a manager must be open to learning them and committed to demonstrating them. Sound like the rapidly changing world of PR?
Positive feedback makes behavior change possible.
You might see the one thing that a player must do to improve his play. Rather than yelling that out immediately, it proves more effective to first point out something he is doing very well and then provide the needed instruction. That approach plays to human nature, and it also applies to individuals across all generations in the workplace.
Embrace innovative cross-training.
This season, I figured out a new way to manage field-position assignments. The new method helped me to plan ahead, while remaining flexible to make pitching decisions and key fielder placements based on the game situation. Applying problem-solving and design skills in a new venue left me refreshed and inspired to attack new PR strategies, too.
A wise league commissioner once mentioned this saying to me: “We’re completely rational people, until they start keeping score between the white lines.” I believe most people on the ballfields try to demonstrate good sportsmanship. However, as the saying indicates, I’ve been surprised by some of my own reactions in the middle of a tight game. I really do believe people are more conscious of exhibiting sportsmanship on ballfields than they are at exhibiting civility in other aspects of life. It is worth maintaining civility in our professional dealings (even when on deadline), as we have been trained to do on the athletic fields.
Oh, yeah—have fun!
If you’re coaching baseball and you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong. The same can be said of your day job. I am much more productive when I do my professional work with the same attitude that is conveyed in John Fogerty’s baseball anthem, “Centerfield.” Your boss might look at you a little strange if you yell out: “Put me in, coach; I’m ready to play!” But your boss will look at you in a positive light if you bring that spirit to your work.
I get much more from coaching baseball than I ever could give to the endeavor. The return on investment is unbelievable. The ability to contribute to the enjoyment and development of our youth definitely tops the list. But the professional benefits are very real, even if they are surprising to many.
Chris Krese is senior vice president of marketing, communications and media relations at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores in Arlington, VA.