By STEVE KRAH
A year away from baseball coaching made Jeff Scott take a look at his world.
“I started complaining to my wife about how different kids are — some aren’t respectful; some don’t work hard,” Scott said. “She finally said, ‘instead of complaining about it, why don’t you try to do something about it?”
Jeff knew Lindy (mother to boys Jake and Rayder and girls Gracie and A.J.) was right so he went back in the dugout at Martinsville High School (2017 will be his second season leading the Artesians).
“I decided I need to get back into coaching so I can impact these kids, maybe make a difference in their life so they can become productive citizens, good husbands and fathers,” Scott said. “That’s our goal as a (coaching) staff. That’s separate from baseball and yet it’s not.”
Teaching the game is important for Scott and assistants, but so is giving advice to young people.
But this time around, his methods are different.
Both Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famers were hard-nosed and Scott recalls a fair amount of yelling around the diamond.
“I grew up in an era of rough-and-tough,” Scott said. “That’s just the way it was. I played for two coaches who were real hard on us. It didn’t hurt me. I had to change my coaching style as a lot of coaches have.
“But I don’t think you can do that with kids today. As coaches, you’ve really got to evolve a little bit and find different ways to motivate and mentor kids.”
Scott and his assistants pride themselves on being approachable.
“You want to build a relationship with your players so they trust you and you trust them,” Scott said. “My guys don’t feel uncomfortable coming to talk to me. That’s very important.”
It’s also powerful when coaches show their players that even they are preaching all these values to the youngsters, they are not infallible.
“We all have some story that can relate to some kind of life lesson,” Scott said. “I think it’s important to share that. I don’t want my guys to think I was perfect. I made my mistakes; I learned from things; and I like to share those stories with our guys so they know they are not the only ones who’ve dealt with it. We turned out just fine. We learned from it and moved on.”
Another lesson that Scott teaches is about dealing with disappointment and difficulty.
“Baseball is one of the few games that can prepare you for what life’s all about just because of the adversity that the game throws your way,” Scott said. “There’s not many things we can do where 1 out of 3 is really good. That’s hard for young kids to understand. They don’t like to fail.
“It’s a game of failure. The success rate is so small and people can’t deal with it.”
Martinsville won just seven games in 2016, but the four seniors never mailed it in.
Believing what Scott had told them, they did not want to let down their teammates and kept playing hard all season.
A unique challenge for baseball and other spring sports is dealing with spring break, prom and the looming end of the school year. Some athletes develop senioritis or even junioritis, sophomoreitis or freshmanitis.
“It’s a about creating a culture,” Scott said. “It’s a tricky thing for spring sports, especially when things aren’t going well.”
Yet, Scott’s players maintained their focus.
Scott also looks for his players to keep up their grades.
“We have a GPA goal — where do we stack up with the rest of the sports at Martinsville?,” Scott said. “Our goal is to climb the ladder. We were at the bottom when I took over last year. Now we’re near the middle of the pack.”
There’s been another change for Scott.
“I never used to think about the mental game,” Scott said. “We talk about it quite a bit in our program.
Scott asks his Artesians to have a “next-pitch mentality.”
“That one’s gone,” Scott said. “You’re not getting it back. Let’s move on. If it wasn’t good, learn from it, but let’s move forward. We try to get kids to buy into that. If you can do that, you can have a lot of success in the game and have a lot of fun.
“That’s another thing. If you can’t have fun playing baseball, something’s wrong.”
Laughter is encouraged at the ballpark.
“We always had to be serious on the baseball diamond,” Scott said. “Why?”
Scott also tells his players there will be a time when they can play no more.
“I tell them, ‘don’t take your spikes off for the last time and regret it,’” Scott said. “I remember my last football game. I remember my last basketball game. I remember my last baseball game. It hurt. I cried like a baby — especially in football and basketball — because I knew I was never going to get to play competitively with my friends ever again.”