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Ice Cream! The Ice Cream Man Is Coming!

That's the only way I know how to coach and I fundamentally believe it's the only way to do it right.

~ Coach Tanner Lang

The spring season upon us, a telltale sign that it's also the start of America's pastime...Baseball! I've been playing baseball practically my entire life, and I feel privileged to be able to remain in the sport by coaching young adults. I've had the opportunity to coach baseball at the high school level for the past four years with Mountain Vista High School as well as coaching club teams within the Slammers Baseball organization. In addition, I coach many of these same boys off the field at Halftime Help.

"It's truly what I'm most thankful for and why I do, what I do.”

Coaching high school baseball is a challenging, yet rewarding, experience. As a coach, you accept the role of teaching the fundamentals, techniques and tactics of the game but perhaps more importantly, you assume responsibility for developing players and skills for life. I take great pride in coaching both on field performance and the off field process of becoming a better person. Don't get me wrong, winning is great...and winning a state championship is the thrill of a lifetime. However, the relationships I've formed with these young men and having the opportunity to influence their lives is the most meaningful part of this coaching adventure. It's truly what I'm most thankful for and why I do, what I do.

As a young coach, I figured out early on that in order to build a trusting relationship with my players, I must find out their why and what works best for them. People are different...they come from different backgrounds, possess different strengths and weaknesses, are driven by widely varying motivations and have unique sets of expectations. So if I ever want a trusting, meaningful coach-player relationship, then I know I have to invest in each of them to learn who they are, what they want and why they even play the game. With that information, I've found that I'm much more effective in their development, both on and off the field.

Tom Martinez, the late, renowned quarterback coach and mentor to Tom Brady, coined a phrase that was quote in the book Outliers that perhaps bests captures my thoughts:

"Every kid’s life is a mix of shit and ice cream. If the kid has had too much shit, I mix in some ice cream. If he has had too much ice cream, I mix in some shit.” ~ Tom Martinez

No two players are alike and their motivations aren't either. Some respond better to pressure, others want constant, constructive criticism while others may find more success with consistent reassurance. So in order to maximize the potential of each player, it's me (the coach) that must adapt to the style that works reasonably best for them. As a team, there is still order, structure and clear expectations; however, as a person, each player deserves a coach that invests in their individuality.

I've previously experienced the one size fits all coaching approach and I can say without hesitation that while it wasn't a great experience for me, I did learn from it. I learned that it's not the kind of coach I ever want to be. Instead, I'm going to keep investing in developing a trusting relationship with each individual player, embrace their respective differences and hopefully impart some wisdom that can help them in their journey. And of course I'm going to teach the fundamentals, techniques and tactics...but beyond that, I'm going to coach the player, not the game. That's the only way I know how to coach and I fundamentally believe it's the only way to do it right. Hmmm...maybe I should have been the ice cream man?


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