My first day as the head coach of the Academy Little League Rattlers was a little overwhelming. Nine and ten year old boys ran wild at Keller Park. After four years of college baseball and a few weeks of preparation, I drew up a practice plan for a group of all-stars. After my assistant coaches and I spent the first five minutes of our practice corralling the Rattlers, I realized I needed to revise our game plan. Thankfully, the leadership training provided in the Fellowship prepared me for the challenges I faced throughout the season.
As a little league coach, I was lucky to be accompanied by three close friends who were also Academy Little League alumni. None of us had a child on the team, alleviating any possibility for bias concerning parents or players, but we were also inexperienced and naïve. We probably couldn’t even tell you what a nine year old looked like before the first practice, and we certainly did not know their ability level. We didn’t realize that many of our players did not know the basic fundamentals of baseball. We had to take our practice plan and dial it back. We had to start at square one. By the end of the season, our team was the best in the league at playing catch. Great baseball teams win because they do the little things right. We focused on the nitty-gritty details day in and day out, to build our team.
We infused simple drills with friendly competition to capture the attention of our players. Our practices were fun. Some games featured partners or small teams, others we played until one man remained. The competitions increased our players’ confidence, and the Rattlers improved consistently as we built challenges into each practice. Some challenges were going to be unattainable the first time, and we intentionally designed these difficult exercises to see how the players responded.
By the end of the fall season, our players mastered the basic drills they couldn’t complete at the beginning of the year. They developed a sense of accomplishment and a bit of swagger as we won games. They trusted each other and the coaching staff.
The environment felt very similar to my experience at El Pomar. As Fellows, we receive an overwhelming amount of information in our first three weeks, but we start at square one. We learn how to deliver the mail and send a calendar hold before we are given any program responsibilities.
After we learn the basics, we are sent into the wilderness to take part in the Outward Bound experience. The experience challenges the entire team. We swim rapids and climb mountains. It forces people to rely on each other and grow together. Most of us are well outside our comfort zone on the Outward Bound trip, and it takes a few months before we feel confident and competent in our roles at the Foundation. We improve because we have a strong team and support system to develop our abilities.
As we transition into the new year, the 1st year Fellows feel more poised in our ability to lead teams and meetings. We know the fundamentals needed to succeed in our organization, and we are continually striving to improve our team.
I am so grateful that the Foundation and the Fellowship Program encourages us to invest in our community. I know I improved my leadership skills this fall, and I am confident I will be tested again this spring as another baseball season begins. Thanks to my training here, I was not snake bitten by a few unruly Rattlers.