In life and leadership, we experience end of seasons. One thing that is certain, seasons are never wasted. We are better for the experience, good or bad. There is always something to be learned as we wrap up a season.
This past weekend we traveled to Destin, Florida to experience an, “end of season,” a baseball season. I serve as an Assistant Coach for the 13U Warrior Baseball Academy, my son Grant is a player on the team.
I have spent my entire adult life coaching either baseball, football, basketball, and wrestling. While the intent of coaching is to invest in others, I often find myself receiving a greater return on that investment. I walk away from the experience better than I walked in.
I would love to share four lessons learned from this end of season as it applies to our leadership journeys:
Build A Good Foundation
As a coaching staff, we strive to do things differently. Our objective is to develop good fundamentals in the kids, not just to get good at playing games. What do I mean by that? Too often, baseball coaches line up the scrimmages, games, and tournaments and expect their players to get better. They may get good at playing games, but fail to understand that Fundamentals are Foundational. The basics are easily neglected, failing to properly construct a solid foundation within the player.
Anything that is built is only as good as the foundation it sits on. We can build leaders and organizations that look really good initially, but over time deteriorate. People and organizations built on solid foundations, will stand the test of time. Great leaders build solid foundations for organizations that will live on well beyond their existence.
Slow Things Down
If you came to any of our practices, you would watch the same drills, same activities, over…and over…and over. It can be like watching paint dry. We always remind the boys that things are going to move faster in the games than they do in practice. When things move fast, your fundamentals are going to take over. Two things will happen, good preparation will take over or poor preparation will, it’s a choice.
We should emulate this practice as leaders. Great leaders put fundamental systems in place, prioritize them, commit to them, repeat them, and fall back on them when the craziness of this world speeds things up. Fundamentals slow things down.
It’s How You Finish
The picture above shows a happy group of players and coaches with an extremely misleading banner! Perfect Game Gulf Coast World Series Champions! Pretty awesome, right?!
What the banner fails to tell you along with some social media posts, is that we spent the first half of the week getting our tails kicked. We couldn’t hit, run the bases, field the ball, or throw strikes. Our team was frustrated and lacked good energy.
We went 0 and 4 in pool play (I know this probably makes you skeptical on the first two subheadings!). As a result, we were assigned to…not the gold, not the silver, but the bronze bracket. For those of you not up on your youth sports tournament lingo, we were basically competing to be the 13th best team in the tournament!
The good news…we won our final three games and became the 13th best team in the tournament. We finished well despite how we started.
In life and leadership, we can all agree, things don’t always go as planned. Too often we get caught up in the storms we face, the circumstance we didn’t ask for, the past that isn’t perfect, and lose sight of the end game.
It’s not how we start the game of life and leadership, it’s how we finish it. Tomorrow is a new day. Great leaders are resilient in the face of storms, patient in uncertain circumstances, and tear off the rear-view mirror to their past. They finish well.
All It Takes Is A Spark
We often remind the boys that all it takes is one player to get a hit or make a play to spark something big. As we entered bracket play, one of the players sent a self-initiated group text out to the team. It read, “Guys this is our last chance, do you guys want to end the season on a bad note? Just play defense and hit the ball like we always do in Georgia it is no different, we got this. Let’s turn this team around.” (Took some minor liberties to translate that generationally!)
I have coached this player for most of his life in various sports. Before the game started, I pulled him aside and reminded him that, “People will only follow our words if they align with our actions.” He is our leadoff hitter and after fouling off a few 3-2 pitches in his first at bat after the text, the moment grew big. I honestly believe that the next three games rode on this single pitch.
He crushed the final pitch to the base of the fence. All it took was a single spark to carry us through the next three games!
I really believe our generation of leadership has experienced some unique challenges. A world-wide pandemic, supply chain issues, labor shortages, inflation, you name it. Those of us left standing are prone to burnout, discouragement, and shear exhaustion. The game can easily get the best of us if we allow it to.
Sometimes all we need is the smallest of sparks to rekindle that fire. All it takes is one moment, one pitch, to change the trajectory of the rest of our season. Swing the bat, the pitch is coming.
Here is a lesson that I have learned over time, you learn through investing in others. Investing in others is coaching in leadership. Just like we do on the field of play, coaches love and care for their players, believe in them more than they believe in themselves, discipline them (a form of love), are their biggest fans, and help pick them up when they fall.
Great leaders are great coaches. Every coach is better for every end of season. How are you better off for experiencing your past seasons?