I was 19 years old and running with a group of my teammates at Wake Forest University during a cold Fall evening. Coach Bobby Moranda (Coach Mo – our Head Assistant at the time) had us running the Reynolda run, maybe a 3 mile run through the Wake campus. 3 miles for a College Baseball player can seem like a lot, especially when I probably never ran more than a mile before that evening. He wanted us to finish under a certain time. Anyone that didn’t hit the mark would have to run it again the next evening.
I found myself in a lead pack of maybe about 8 guys. We came to a point in the run where we didn’t know which direction to run. We decided to take, what we thought of as a shortcut across a field. Who would catch us? Who would know? We were tired of running and just wanted this thing to be over. So we cut across the field. As we neared the end of the field, our worst nightmare came true. Coach Mo popped out from behind a tree, as if he knew someone would try that move. We all knew we were in trouble; and not just us. We knew we had created a problem for everyone.
When everyone finished the run, Coach Mo said what we all knew was coming. Because of the mistakes of a few, the entire team would need to run it again tomorrow, and at a faster pace.
Outside of my father, Coach Mo was the best coach for whom I ever played. He was relentless. He worked incredibly hard, studying film before studying film was a thing. He was a tireless recruiter and demanded the best from everyone. He questioned why you weren’t working or why you weren’t working harder. I can’t think of too many players that liked him; but I can’t think of anyone that didn’t respect him and that wouldn’t play hard for him.
Players ended up getting to a point where they worked hard because they knew Coach Mo was always working. If the Coach was putting in the hours, so should we. If the coach is watching endless hours of film, so should we. Simply put, he set the tone for the work ethic that was needed to win. And win we did. We captured three ACC Championships in a span of four years. In those four years, we went to the NCAAs in all four years; and advanced to a Super Regional in one of them. We were a National Power, and it started from the top.
I spend a lot of time watching practices for youth baseball; for both rec league teams and travel teams. I watch for a few reasons. What can I learn from this practice that can help me in my practices? What can I learn from this practice that I shouldn’t do in my practices? And what I am learning goes beyond just drills. I am watching the coaches too. How are they interacting with the kids? What are they demanding of the kids? And more importantly, what kind of tone are they setting?
I am a big believer that the coach, regardless of level needs to set the proper tone. You want your kids to be energetic? You need to be high energy. You want your kids to work hard? Your kids need to see you working hard. Our kids look to us as leaders. And we can’t be asking them to do things that we aren’t willing to do alongside them; or that they couldn’t imagine us doing. Yes, I know we’re not running bases with them; but if we’re screaming at them to run faster or harder, they need to know that you would be pushing yourself if you were in their shoes.
I can’t ask kids to tuck in their shirts if I am walking around with my shirt untucked. I don’t feel I can tell kids to push themselves in the gym if I don’t appear to be someone that does (or has done) the same. There’s a greater likelihood that you will get more out of your kids if they see you working hard to set up practice so you can start on time; jogging between drills; and displaying high energy during practice (as opposed to barking orders while sitting on a bucket).
So, why am I running 50 miles? There are several; but I’ll stick to a few. First, in order to finish 50 miles, you have to endure pain and exhaustion. No matter how hard you train, being on your feet for 50 miles is no easy thing. You will suffer. Second, you need to plan. You need to get in your miles months before the race. You need to plan your hydration and your calories. And lastly, you need to sacrifice. You need to make sure you’re eating right and getting your rest. You want to finish? You have to take care of yourself leading up to the race.
All of these things translate to your players. On hot summer days, your kids need to see you bouncing around like it’s a beautiful Spring day. You want your players to get better? Your practices need to be well planned. You cannot just show up and ‘wing it’.
Whether you’re a volunteer or a paid coach, set the example that you want your players to follow. Knowing the game is a small part of being a great coach. Lead by example. Challenge yourself off the field so it makes challenging your players on the field easier.