Coach What You Have

        When we think about "keeping up with the Joneses," we tend to think about having all the shiny new toys.  We think of the big house, the newest BMW, or the latest clothes.  Well, it happens in sports too.  As coaches, we're guilty of seeing other teams and wishing we had a couple of pitchers like they have or hitters with the kind of power they've got.  Have you seen their facilities?  Wow what I could do with those.  It's normal to think this way.  The alternative is to focus on what you do have as a coach.  Maybe your best pitcher doesn't throw 92, but he can spin a breaking ball in any count.  You may not have guys banging balls over the lights, but you've got guys who can work the count and run a little bit.  You may not have a huge weight room with the latest gadgets, but you've got enough to do what you need.  Speaking of focusing on what you have, I'm currently reading Bill Walsh's The Score Takes Care of Itself."  To say Coach Walsh was a man ahead of his times would be an understatement.  The book is peppered with lessons on leadership that could be learned from regardless of your field, but it's fantastic for coaches.  I'm about a third of the way through, but it's been great so far.  One of my favorite stories so discusses this concept of working with what you have or "making lemonade out of lemons." It's a story I think we can all learn from and one I'd like to share.

        Before Bill Walsh led the 49er's organization, he was an assistant coach with the Cincinatti Bengals.  One year, he had a quarterback named Virgil Carter.  Carter could move around well and was accurate with his passes, but he did not have a strong arm.  Many coaches try to fit players into a system instead of emphasizing the strengths of the athlete.  Rather than focusing on everything Carter couldn't do and pining away for another QB, Bill Walsh designed an offense that would emphasize the strengths of Carter.  The system was centered around moving the quarterback around and using a lot of short passes.  It would later be known as the West Coast Offense and come to be used all over the league and in colleges across the country.  Walsh didn't create the offense with the intention of it catching on all over.  He was just trying to figure out a way to take advantage of his player's strengths.

        The message behind today's blog should be clear:  "Coach what you have."  Rather than spending your time focused on all of the things your team doesn't have and all of the weaknesses of the players on it, figure out your lemonade.  Find ways to help the players you coach be successful with the skillsets they do have while still emphasizing development of other skills.  This is one of the most difficult balancing acts there is at the high school level, but it's something we have to do if we are serious about helping kids as much as possible.  We've got to do it in order to help the lemons become lemonade.  Start squeezing today.


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