The Batting Coach

As a Little Leaguer, I was not much of a ball-player. A fact that bothered me, but also bothered my dad. My father was an uber-athlete, a champion in his youth, and a coach, referee and umpire in his middle-age. Sport was everything to him. And four out of his five sons followed suit.

The fifth son, yours truly, was the exception. More of an egghead than the others, I was best at academic performance, and a shambles on the ball field. I had no skills and little discernible aptitude.

My dad was encouraging but he tended to invest his energies in the other better players. One evening at baseball practice, an assistant coach named Ed approached me. I was pretty amazed that he was even speaking to me since I was a third-string splinter-collector.

Ed said, "Let's see your swing, Terry."

I got up, grabbed a bat, and showed him my style. Appraising me carefully, Ed began to coach me, saying "Hmmm. Let's try this. I want to change a few things, OK? First, I'd like you to get the bat off your shoulder. Yeah that's it. Raise it up. Now spread your feet further apart. More. OK good. Bend your knees more. Yeah good."

I went along with his specific suggestions, modifying my batting stance and swing. Why not, I said to myself. It couldn't hurt.

After a few minutes of pantomime practice, Ed said, "OK. Let's hit." He indicated that I should step up to the plate.

At this point, I felt a mix of feelings. I was not much a hitter, but I wondered if Ed's approach would work.

He said, "OK Terry, try what we just practiced." Then he gestured to the pitcher to throw.

I reshaped myself into the stance Ed had suggested: bat in the air, legs apart, knees bent.

Ed called to me: "Terry, get closer to the plate." I did as he said.

The pitcher wound up and threw the ball. I put my eye on the ball and swung the bat.

To my utter surprise, I connected, solidly, and heard the thwock that I always wanted to hear, and saw the ball floating in the air over the shortstop.

"Way to go, Terry!" Ed cried from the sideline.

I was euphoric. I was a changed person. I can hit! I know how to hit!

In the next game, the coaches took a chance on me and put me in to hit. I did not disappoint. I whacked the ball, got all the way to third base, and drove in two runners.

As the years have rolled by, I have often reflected upon this incident. I marvel at the effect this coaching has had on my life. I became a teacher; then an industrial trainer; and now a coach myself, working with supervisors and managers on ways that they can be more effective.

A good coach can have a direct and meaningful impact on performance, output, morale, and engagement.

For more ideas on coaching and unleashing the potential of others, contact Terry and invite him to speak to your managers.


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