For the past five – 14u teams I have coached (2006, 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014) I gave them the book “Coach” by Michael Lewis to read — about 75 books. I do it for two reasons:
1. Because it is about a baseball player their age that they can relate to
2. It reflects my single biggest fear in coaching teenagers.
So, most players dutifully read the book and send me the one paragraph or one page book report. The impact of the story is not long-lasting. Attention spans are short, and it usually takes 1-2 years for life experiences to catch up with the book. Here is the Amazon link to buy the book, 90 pages, $9 worth every penny.
My favorite passage in the book is:
“It was as if this baseball coach had reached inside me, found a rusty switch marked: ‘turn on before attempting use’ – and flipped it.”
Flipping switches is not pretty. Sometimes the switch is hidden kind of deep and you have to dig around and it gets messy. Sometimes, the switch turns back off and needs to be flipped back on again a couple of times. And, ocassionally it does not switch on at all.
If you have just 10 minutes, please read the story about Coach Fitz that Michael Lewis wrote for the New York times http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/28/magazine/28COACH.html (it’s free — although the book is a lot better).
Even though the story is now 10 years old now, it provides good insight into the coaching challenge in 2015. Flipping switches is 10x more challenging (and more important) then teaching kids to throw hard or run fast.
Sometimes when I interview people for jobs, I explain the Coach Fitz story and ask the candidate “who is your Coach Fitz?” The answers vary between incredible stories and just blank stares. It’s about 50/50, but with declining numbers for Coach Fitz.
Sadly, the NY Times article ends like this:
“And when I think of that, I become aware of a new fear: that my children might never meet up with their Fitz. Or that they will, and their father will fail to understand what he’s up to.”