Richie Hawks. Sherm Blaszczyk. Wendell Sorrell. Jimmy Dawson. Jim Stokes. Denny Lankford. Donnie Vandgrift. These names may or may not mean anything to you, but they do to me. These guys (along with MANY others…I’m sure I’ve left several out…no offense intended) were some of the assistant coaches who surrounded Bill Miller during a run of four straight appearances in the Kentucky High School Baseball State Championship game (1993-1996). While Coach Miller gained the deserved notoriety as the greatest coach in Kentucky, his greatest decisions weren’t made on the field. His wisdom was best seen in the assistants he chose.
That’s the fourth lesson from little league I learned again this year: Having great people around you makes all the difference.
I remember when I began coaching my kids a few years ago. The task is overwhelming and a coach is foolish to do it alone. I’m sure some of the dads I recruited were a little uneasy at first, but I’m thankful that they jumped in and began to help. The assistants I’ve had, along with the parents of the kids on the teams provided a great experience for the kids.
Here are a few tibbits of advice for coaches and leaders:
1. If you are the smartest and most talented coach or leader your organization, you have a recipe for disaster. Do all you can to get people on board who are as good or better than you. Only prideful leaders and coaches are threatened by those who know as much or more than they do. The team and organization benefits when there are lots of smart and talented people coaching and leading.
2. Once you have good people around you, turn them loose. No, they won’t do it exactly the way you do, but don’t be arrogant enough to think that your way is the only way.
3. Be sure to represent your team’s assistants or organizations’s leaders well. Take up for them. Give them real responsibility and authority. Be the face of the team or organization that they would be proud of. Coach Miller was great at this and I’ve tried to follow his example.
4. Work hard to help those you lead also follow the other coaches or leaders in your team/organization. Making this personal, my son needs to know that other coaches have something to teach him about baseball and that he should listen to them. He asked me the other day if I would be his coach all the way to the big leagues. Well, that’s obvious. It’s not going to happen. He needs to learn to listen and respond to others besides me.
Before He chose the 12 disciples, Jesus spent an entire night in prayer, asking the Father for wisdom. You and I will never select 12 disciples, but we must take seriously the task of building a great team around us. It’s that important.