A Missing Link in Player Development: A Position Idea

        It's been said that "player development is the new Moneyball."  More and more teams are investing increasing amounts of resources in the area.  Soon to be behind us are the "sink or swim" days of players either making it or not.  While there is still much to be said for talent acquisition, teams are using resources to help with talent development as well.  Those resources are seen in areas like strength and conditioning, mental skills and mental health, nutrition, analytics, and technology.  They're being implemented from the Major League level all the way down to the Dominican Academy level.  Some organizations even work to create individualized plans for player development based on current skills and needs.  It is an exciting time for the sport.  With that, I think a majority of teams are overlooking a missing link in player development investment.  It is a facet of development that has been around since the beginning of sports and, although ever-evolving, will be involved in sports for as long as they're being played.  The missing link is coaching, specifically here coaching development.  Coaches are the ones who, beyond the players themselves, have the greatest potential impact in the organization on a daily basis.  Who is helping them to develop?  That's where the position idea of Coaching and Learning Development Coordinator comes in.

        The role of the Coaching and Learning Development Coordinator would be implemented to help coaches to grow.  In my opinion, you can split coaches into three general categories.  There is a small group in one category.  They are stuck in their ways and largely do things because "That's the way I did it when I played," or, "That's the way I was taught, and I turned out just fine."  These coaches do not do much of anything to continue to grow their knowledge.  With a largely fixed mindset, they see their role as imparting what they know.  While they certainly can have value, it's limited by their unwillingness to adapt to sports and people who are ever-evolving.  There is a small group in a second category as well.  These coaches are self-motivated and very good at directing their own learning.  They tend to be self-aware and attack areas for improvement.  Coaches in this level are good at not just learning but implementing what they learn in their work with players.  They know what they want to learn, know where to learn about it, and know how to use what they learn.  Finally, there is a third category I'd argue is the largest.  This third group wants to learn and get better for players, but they may struggle with how.  They would benefit from help focusing on what to improve, where to find resources to help them, and/or how to know if they are actually improving.  That's where the Coaching and Learning Development Coordinator comes in.  The Coordinator would not be there to tell coaches how to coach but to guide the coaches along the path to their own personal development.  In reality, all coaches would benefit regardless of what category they may fall into.  We all could use support in our learning.  Quality learning organizations in other fields from business to education are implementing these positions already.  There are sports and teams around the world with similar roles as well.  Baseball should be next.

        While I don't feel comfortable sharing all of the details for the position on a public blog post, it's something I've marinated on for almost a year.  The Coaching and Learning Development Coordinator would work with coaches on a group and individual level to help provide the support for their development.  If you develop the developers, you're going to have a better chance of then helping to maximize the growth of players as well.  Better teachers lead to better students.  From what I have heard, there are a handful of teams or so doing something.  There are seminars.  Good start, but a seminar once a year is going to be limited in impact.  There are mental skills coaches helping coaches.  Love it, but this spreads the people in these positions pretty thin.  Time spent with coaches comes with a trade-off of less time with players.  There are opportunities to attend conferences and learn from training facilities.  Again, good stuff but impact will be limited.  All of these initiatives are commendable, but a full time investment in the support of the develop of coaches with continual, individualized support would take learning to another level.  You don't have players attend a hitting camp and think that will suffice for all of their work for the year.  You help them take what is learned and apply on a daily basis.  Learning would take place from coach to coach and would take advantage of the variety of knowledge and experience within an organization.  A culture of growth would be enhanced.

        For now, it's pipe dream, but it's one I think is worthy.   We all could benefit from focused support with our learning.  Hopefully there comes a day where it's not a question of whether an organization has a Coaching Development Coordinator but how many.

- Ben


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