Hello again loyal leaders! Capt. Fletch here with another exciting edition of the Leadership Toolbox. Last month, we discussed how job guidelines might sometimes exclude good candidates. This month, I wanted to look at something they used to teach us in the military: training your replacement.
Military culture said that, someday, we all get replaced via new assignments, retirements or any number of reasons. It was our duty to the unit to find the next person up and work to ensure they were better. As I dragged the infield of my team’s baseball field recently, I thought about this concept. The day would come when I no longer coach this team (for whatever reason), so what would I say to the next guy? Rather than my traditional column, today I offer my creative take on a “letter to the next guy.”
To the Next Guy or Gal (of course, women are just as capable of coaching as men),
If you’re reading this, you’ve found yourself in the driver’s seat of one of the greatest organizations I have ever known. The first thing you should know and always remember: No matter what, being a head coach is the greatest honor a person can have. The opportunity to have an impact on the lives of student athletes goes beyond any amount of hoped for money or glory. When I took this job, the team faced a precarious position. The program enjoyed a long legacy of winning and success. But, like any organization, they experienced bumps in the road and almost lost their identity.
Don’t let anyone tell you I saved anything. I did the things every coach is supposed to do. More than anything, I cared. I cared about my players as if they were my own family. I did everything in my power to give them a positive experience to look back on in their lives, and help them reach their goals.
Now that we have some history out of the way, let’s start with the field. She may not look like much, but she is one hell of a ballpark — easily one of the biggest yards in the county. The outfield grass has some bumps and the boys might tell you it’s a little unlevel. I think it forces them to read the hops and makes them better at their craft. We do our best with that warning track but you know how budgets can go and we have to spread it around as best we can. The infield is rough around the edges and the players have done their share of spreading and rolling dirt on the skin but, every now and then, she throws us a tough hop to keep us on our toes. Just break out that old Jacobsen greens mower and keep that infield grass at ¾-inches twice a week. Be careful: She grows fast on you if you don’t keep up. Everything else for seeding and working the field, and who to contact, is in the binder in the bottom left desk drawer. You will figure it out and find yourself sneaking away to cut grass just to relieve some stress.
As far as the team goes, I can’t really tell you how to run your show. I left examples of practice plans, old game notes and film, and some books I found useful in the office. Make sure you build a good relationship with the athletic office and follow all their guidance and rules to a T. They are your biggest supporters and advocates. What I will say about developing your own style is, you don’t have to erase the past to leave your own mark. Some who came before me tried to do that. The heritage of any organization is the most important thing it has. It is the heart and soul of this team. Embrace the past but forge your own path. I was not always the smartest baseball mind in the room, but I strived to constantly learn and keep myself up to speed with what coaches at the next levels do to train their teams to compete at their best.
Most importantly, when it comes to handling the business side of running this team, do everything by the book! I have spent years building a good relationship with the school administration, local community and families of these players. It may be tempting to find easier ways to raise funds, such as charging families directly or monthly, but it is better to just fundraise the old-fashioned way. It is definitely more work, but running a clean program not only ensures you stay out of trouble but teaches the players how much work goes into providing everything for them. It also helps them learn how to work for the things they want in life.
Truthfully, you have been ready for this role and one letter cannot teach you everything you will need to know. I trust you will figure it out and take this organization even further than I imagined it would go when I first started. Best of luck, coach. They’re all yours now.
As you look at your own team, someday someone will replace you. … Have you sought someone for the job to actively prepare them?
Maybe this is a little melodramatic, but I imagine when the day comes for me to leave this organization, whether it is 5 or 25 years from now, I will hand a letter like this to someone I taught to take my place and be better than me. As you look at your own team, someday someone will replace you. It is inevitable. Have you sought someone for the job to actively prepare them? Or are you too afraid to face this reality? Your true legacy lies in how you leave the organization.
Until next time, Capt. Fletch over and out.
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