Groundball deep in the hole, the shortstop makes a tremendous play, and the runner at first is…out. This is how the 4A State title game ended this year. Hello again, Loyal Leaders. Coach Fletch here, ready to dive right in and share some fresh leadership lessons I learned in the playoffs this season. 

In case you were wondering, my team was not on the winning side of the opening headline. We had a tremendous season that ultimately ended in defeat, but does that mean the season was unsuccessful? Most coaches and leaders, in general, for that matter, have sayings for which they become known. Little phrases or thoughts define who they are and the pillars of their organization. Every year at playoffs, I open the tournament, talking about ten days in May. I explained to my team that we work all year long to prepare for ten days in May. Ten days where we find out what the team and each player on the team are truly made of and what they are capable of. In those ten days, we find out who we are. 

Now, when this team began its campaign, it started the journey 2-7, not exactly the glamorous start we all had in mind. Truth be told, we expected great things out of the gate based on summer and fall season performances. My wife will be the first to tell you I was not the most joyful of coaches, to put it kindly. Being a coach’s wife is definitely no easy task, so kudos to my wife for always putting up with me through good and bad times. But, as we sat at the team banquet and I gave my annual speech about the year, I spoke about what I had learned about the team over these ten days in May. I found that this team is built on good men of character and hard work and that they played the game with honor, and they played it like men. So, was it a successful year? 

What is Success?

One of the most common questions any organization asks is how we define and measure success. When I was in the military, it was easy. Success was simply measured by whether or not the mission was accomplished. After all, when it comes to military operations, there is no consolation prize for second place. If you lose, it can be detrimental on many levels. This is a major reason why I coach sports. On the sports field, a loss does not impact life beyond the stinging pain of defeat in a heated battle. Young people can learn so much from these experiences. It was these experiences that helped me to understand the level of dedication and work needed to perform as a military officer. 

Moreover, in sports, you can find success even in the face of defeat. I watched players grow and mature rapidly and go beyond what they believed themselves capable of achieving. I saw a program that went from a 5-17 record three years ago to 20-14 and was the state runner-up this year. Despite the heartbreak I witnessed on the field several weeks ago, I measured our success in relation to the big picture and found that this season was a grand statement. The question becomes how do we replicate this experience of finding success even in defeat in the real world, such as on the job site?


We often talk about the importance of training. To me, training is a controlled environment where failure is acceptable. Much like a high school baseball game, a training exercise is where we work to make the conditions as game-like as possible to allow our teams to feel the pressure of performing and enable them to find success points even if they fail. In sports, we call this practice for those of you who were not athletes. In practice, we simulate real situations endlessly to expose players to the pressures of the game and break down where and why mistakes are made. In the military, we held countless training exercises to do the same thing. 

What does your training program look like? Are you exposing your teams to conditions that mirror the real thing as much as possible? Are you offering feedback in real-time? Do you highlight success points where they occur? In the military, we even looked for ways to turn training exercises into competitions because competition often brings out the best skills a person has to offer. This is also where you can find your personnel's talents that may have been previously unknown. This season, we played a game against a non-competitive opponent and found a player with skills as a catcher that we had not previously known. This played a major role in the playoffs because our starting catcher was injured early in the season, and we had found someone who could give our backup a break and enable him to pitch for us. 

Bringing it Home

So, success in the field is defined by our ability to accomplish the given task. However, if we learn to look at success at the operational and organizational levels and measure it in relation to both, we begin to see that we can find great success even if we miss the mark. The key to avoiding missing the mark lies in our training efforts and how we prepare our teams. If we create environments where failure is not detrimental but something to learn from, and we highlight our successes in those environments, our teams are more prepared to execute flawlessly when it is game time. Does this mean we will be forever successful if we follow this framework? Absolutely not. It does mean that we will minimize the likelihood of failure, set our teams up for success, and teach them the skills necessary to deal with failure when it happens and learn from it. Good training also creates buy-in, which is necessary for success in any organization. People who feel the organization is investing in them with quality instruction are motivated to execute plans in alliance with the organizational vision.

I believe Tom Hanks was wrong when he said, “There’s no crying in baseball.” Anyone who has strived for something as tricky as a championship knows the heartbreak of falling short. As I hugged my players that day and felt their tears stain my jersey, I felt a sense that this moment in time was going to inspire them to do greater things. In the game's aftermath, I already thought about what I needed to do so they could return and emerge victorious next season. As leaders of organizations, we must constantly focus on what we can do to enable our teams to succeed. I often tell my players, “I cannot play the game for you; all I can do is make moves to try and help the team win; when the game starts, it is in your hands.” The same holds true for your organizations. As leaders, we cannot execute the objectives of our teams; it is our job to give them the tools and the knowledge to execute the game plan and the vision we set forth. As you look to your teams, I encourage you to embrace a coaching mindset and think about your own version of 10 days in May. What is the significant milestone you strive for all year? What are you doing right now to prepare for it? What does success look like for you? Have you trained your teams to be game-ready? Answering some of these questions might prove to be the tool in your box that raises a championship banner in your organization.

Until next time, Coach Fletch over and out.