Former big-leaguer Chris Colabello wrote an article on the Bob Tewksbary blog called “Bigger Moves Are More Fragile.” The title grabbed me because it articulated something that I’ve thought, if not said to an even more detrimental degree. Bigger movements are more difficult to master and control so why not be simpler? I hope I didn’t sound like the “old school” coaches Colabello refers to in his article who told him over and over again:
“That’ll never work — when you get to higher levels, guys are too good, you have to keep it simple.”
The fact of the matter, whether intended or not, I probably did sound like those guys. I probably failed to give the player (or players) room to have a conversation, explain their thoughts, or even show me what they’re feeling in their swing movements. Whether it was a leg kick, hand movement, barrel tip, or whatever the player wanted to try, I was probably too quick to disengage and think like the “old school” coaches mentioned above - “You can’t hit like that at the higher levels.”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this many years of coaching, it is that you can’t control or manipulate success in the game of baseball, and you certainly can’t be fearful of potential greatness.
Thankfully, some time during the summer of 2012, I started walking down this road of great swing movements. It was here that I started to engage with a player (Jason Mishler, to give credit where credit it due) and ask him about what he was learning. We watched video on baseball road trips. We battled and went back and forth on different ideas. Ultimately, I learned. I grew. I got better. Not only did I get better, I watched players get better. I watched them play with more freedom. I watched them have more fun. I watched our team break program hitting records in spite of the move to BBCOR bat. Hmmmm, something was happening.
Fast forward six years and I’m seeing guys who I work with continue to find success, and I’m seeing guys at the next levels of the game experience great success as well. Take Keenan Eaton as an example. After a couple of stints at different schools at the Division I level, Keenan is now playing at Colorado Mesa University. Keenan is a great kid, a great listener, and willing to do what coaches asked him to do (I mean, he is the son of a coach, after all). Unfortunately for Keenan, it seems like the voices he was listening to at the Division I level were like how mine used to be - attempting to control success and potentially keeping a player from greatness. Out of the gate here in the spring of 2018, Keenan was named RMAC Player of the Week.
Colabello finished his blog post by saying, “Don’t be scared of bigger moves but remember the bigger the moves get, the more accountable a hitter has to be for them." This is the hardest part for any coach - the player is accountable for his moves, not the coach. The coach is accountable for his job, and how his teams comes together. It’s hard to release the control of the movements to the player. But it’s what we’re called to do as coaches. We’re called to serve the player and be a guide on the journey. The sooner we realize that, the sooner our players and teams will experience astronomical success.