As stated in my last blog, our club had the rare opportunity to return to campus a full week before classes began. This year was the first time in six seasons as a head coach, that I was able to take advantage of a “football like” pre-season training camp. During winter break, our staff brainstormed ideas for camp that would build team unity, as well as prepare us for the marathon season that was just around the corner. All of the activities and workouts revolved around two concepts: be purposeful and be efficient.
One would think that a full week of baseball without the restriction of class and the NCAA Twenty Hour Rule would allow for an infinite amount of groundballs, batting practice and bunt play execution. But, in all reality, how many balls can one team hit, throw, and catch before focus lacks and physical fatigue begins to take its toll? The mental game also takes up a large deal of time during almost every team practice but the human brain can only focus for 60-90 minutes before the brain becomes fatigued. What else did our team need to make them successful this season?
I learned a lot of tough lessons from last year’s disappointing season. We were coming off of the best year in school history—44-12 and a trip to Cary for the Division II World Series. Most of our team was back and early polls, bloggers, and college baseball experts had us pegged for another deep run into the post-season. On paper, it was hard not to have big expectations for our 2012 club. However, the biggest lesson that I learned was that no amount of talent can overcome teamwork. So, when the club returned from winter break, as talented as ever, our staff had a goal to bring this group together as a single unit.
As a Christmas present, I presented the coaching staff with The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. As soon as we started digging into the text, we saw major similarities with the corporate team in the pages of the book and our 2012 baseball team. When the players returned, we introduced them to one dysfunction every day. It ended up being my favorite part of the day because our team, like our coaching staff, seemed to have a light-bulb moment every time the next dysfunction was revealed.
The five dysfunctions are as follows: the absence of trust, the fear of true conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and the inattention to results. It amazes me, as a student of the game that I failed to realize, in my first five years of coaching, that trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, and the attention to results (team goals before personal goals) could so negatively impact the success of a team—especially in a game that revolves around individual success. Think about it this way: Even on a team that lacks any of the five functions, no individual wants to fail. Shortstops do not want to kick groundballs, pitchers do not want to walk hitters and hitters do not want to strikeout—no matter how selfish they or their teammates are. So, what makes a team fail when one cannot control the success or failures of their teammates and everyone wants to individually succeed? I do not have an absolute answer for you. But, I do know that with a man on second base with zero outs, the player willing to give himself up by hitting a ground ball to the right side, more often than not, hits a “ground ball with eyes” that trickles through the right side of the infield for a base hit. I do not believe in “baseball gods,” but the game certainly gives back to those who put their team first. Individual success, at its highest levels, usually comes to those who play the game selflessly.
Reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team will not make your team’s problems disappear instantly—we still have a lot to work on as a team here at Millersville. What team does not have something to improve upon? However, awareness of the Five Dysfunctions has certainly changed our train of thought on how to build and prepare a ball club. Our club is 1-2 on the young season after an opening weekend series with Winston-Salem State. This weekend we travel to North Georgia College for single games against North Georgia, Shorter and West Florida.