By STEVE KRAH
In Link Jarrett’s second season as head baseball coach at the University of Notre Dame he led the Fighting Irish to 2021 Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title and an NCAA Tournament berth.
Notre Dame went 34-13 overall and 25-10 in the ACC and Jarrett was selected as Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association (Midwest), D1Baseball.com and the ACC.
Jarrett, who established his system for Notre Dame baseball in the fall of 2019, spoke to the South Bend Cubs Foundation Coaches Club Tuesday, Jan. 11 at Four Winds Field. His audience included youth, high school and college coaches.
A collegiate coach since 1999, Jarrett talked about what it means to carry that title.
“There’s still expectation in that level that you have because you do the things to help (players) figure out how to be successful,” said Jarrett.
In his experience, a coach should do the following:
- Be accessible.
- Study and Communicate.
- Use Video, Chart, Compete, Score It.
- Learn what motivates.
- Instruct, Motivate, Inspire.
Jarrett said being accessible means being there 45 minutes before practice for extra hitting cage work. It’s something that ND volunteer assistant Brad Vanderglas, who was in attendance Tuesday, knows well since he is the first coach to arrive at the office each day and the last to leave.
As for studying and communicating, it’s about giving players the right information.
“If you’re giving them the wrong information it’s not going to work,” said Jarrett. “You’re not going to ultimately be as successful as you would want. The older players start to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
“If you want them to listen, you better give them the right stuff. You have an obligation to give them the right information. (You must) study what they do and how they do it and use your resources.”
Jarrett suggests that something like a quick phone video of a player’s swing at practice and a review can be very helpful.
To promote competition, especially during the winter months of what can be tedious indoor work, Jarrett keeps score with some of the drills.
Motivation is not a cookie-cutter kind of thing.
“It’s just one at a time and pushing the right buttons,” said Jarrett. “Like some guys can take being crawled on a little bit and some you might have to sandwich what you’re trying to message in between two good things so they don’t melt down.
“If you’re not accessible and you don’t study and communicate, how can you learn what each guy needs and then give the right instruction?”
J.T. Jarrett, Link’s son, is a fifth-year player at North Carolina State University. The Wolfpack’s head coach Elliott Avent, who constantly sends strong motivational and inspirational messages.
Jarrett considers belief a part of inspiration.
“Sometimes (players) have to think that they’re better than they are,” said Jarrett. “You almost can make them believe that they’re going to win just telling them that if we do this the right way — man — you guys we’re gonna win and win big. It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“If you can get them to buy in and understand that this you can do. That confidence, that swagger, that belief when they walk out there, it does matter.”
Jarrett gave a presentation at the 2020 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic on “Building Complete Hitters” and he shared many offensive pointers at Tuesday’s gathering.
Among the concepts that he broke down was hitting approach.
Jarrett, who was part of an ABCA virtual coaching clinic on hitting approach in 2020, defines approach as “a mental and physical strategy to competitive success.”
Each hitter must develop their own approach. One size does not fit all.
What made sense for lefty slugger Niko Kavadas did not necessarily apply to other hitters in the Irish lineup in 2021.
The coach says there is no universal way to finish a swing. Hitters must be able adjust for hard stuff and off-speed pitches.
“We’re just trying to flush up as many balls as we can flush up and (hitters) know that,” said Jarrett. “The line drive is the ticket. Kavadas (a Penn High School graduate who hit 22 home runs and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox) missed some and they go out (to the opposite field). The hard ground ball and the hard fly ball are productive. But the goal in this is to how hard can you hit it on a line.”
Looking for his ND hitters to do damage, Jarrett says a .400 on-base percentage is elite in major college baseball and he wants his club to average seven runs per game and make a third of all hits to go for extra bases — something that’s not easy at Frank Eck Stadium where the wind tends to always be a factor.
“Somebody’s got to step on some balls because you don’t get enough opportunities against good pitching to string together 12 singles,” said Jarrett, who saw the 2021 Irish average post a .379 team OBP with 7.06 runs per game and 166 extra-base hits (36.8 percent).
Notre Dame opens the 2022 season Feb. 18 against Manhattan in Deland, Fla. The first home game is slated for March 15 against Valparaiso.
- The next South Bend Cubs Foundation Coaches Club session in the Pepsi Stadium Club (second floor) at Four Winds Field is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 8. Notre Dame’s Rich Wallace will talk on base coaching. All are invited. Admission is free.
- Instruct, Motivate, Inspire.