BY STEVE KRAH
Every head coach or manager has to find a coaching style and a way he is going to run his baseball team.
Mark Haley, who coached and managed in professional baseball for more than two decades including 10 years as manager of the South Bend (Ind.) Silver Hawks (2005-14), shared his ideas on team management at the monthly meeting of the South Bend Cubs Foundation Cubbies Coaches Club Tuesday, Feb. 5 at Four Winds Field.
Haley, who has talked about the presentation with friend and San Diego Padres manager Andy Green, emphasized the importance of building relationships and communicating with young athletes.
It is helpful to know the background of players.
What’s their family life like?.
What makes a kid the way he is?.
Because of the commitment of money and time, this is critical in professional baseball.
“It’s surprising how mentally fragile and insecure some of the best big leaguers are,” said Haley.
There are many differences in any given locker room.
These include cultural, social, economic, religious and in motor development.
“It’s a melting pot,” said Haley. “We (as coaches) have to dig deep. Give everything to your players and expect nothing in return.
“We’re here to help them. We’re here to develop.”
Haley outlined three primary learning styles (ways of processing information) — Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic.
Once the coach sees how an individual learns, he can find ways to get a message across the way that player will best receive it. The coach’s way is not always the only way.
“We pass judgement on kids because it’s not how we learn,” said Haley.
From working with him in the Chicago White Sox system, Haley knows that Hall of Famer Frank Thomas was a visual learner.
“He’s got to see it,” said Haley of The Big Hurt.
Visual learners want to see a picture and video. They notice things around them. They want information in writing.
A tip for this kind of learner is to use video to exaggerate the area that’s being worked on. Video can be used to anchor something visual and fix it in the player’s mind.
Auditory learners tend to use their voice and their ears. They remember what they hear and say. They want to know the “Why.”
They want no outside distractions.
Instructors need to repeat the information in “their words.”
It is also helpful to give the same instruction but in a different context.
Coaches are encouraged to make these auditory learners talk about the subject with a teammate.
Former White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko was auditory.
“You have to talk his language,” said Haley, noting that Konerko would use lingo that would have most running for a kinesiology book.
Aaron Rowand, a former White Sox outfielder, was kinesthetic. He learned by doing.
“He just wants to do drills,” said Haley.
Kinesthetic learners want to move, touch, create and physically interact.
They will be facially expressive and move around when they are interacting.
They want to know “How” to do something.
“They are the workers,” said Haley of kinesthetic learners. “They are the cage rats.”
With this kind of learner, coaches are advised to go over the area they are teaching with a step-by-step approach.
Haley talked about building a team culture. He defined it as “the formal or informal organizational systems the coach establishes to move the team towards its goal.”
Part of building a productive locker room is having a common goal.
“We have to have a commitment,” said Haley.
Roles include starter, key backup player or reserve/role player.
“Know your role and perform it well,” said Haley. “Clearly understand your role for team success.”
Players should understand complimentary roles.
“It gives them direction so they’ll know exactly where they’re at,” said Haley. “Never evaluate another kid to a player. You’re just creating animosity. Don’t humiliate them by saying ‘you’re not as good as him.’”
Haley accentuated the fact that it’s a performance culture that’s being built.
“Everything is done on how well we do, how well you coach etc.,” said Haley. “Feedback about performance has to be clear.
“It’s got to be productive. Don’t let them float off. Maintain communication.”
It’s important to find inspirational leadership.
Not a believer in naming team captains, Haley said the leader will naturally emerge.
If that leader is also bringing the team down with their attitude, Haley said the coach needs to override them or, perhaps, find another leader.
At the pro level, leaders who are negative need to be weeded out.
Haley wants to build an empowering climate where every player has a say in the fortunes and direction of the team.
There should be a compelling vision.
“We as coaches can keep that to ourselves,” said Haley. “Let the vision be known. Kids like that.”
Haley also believes in shared values. His are Honesty, Trust and Respect.
“Those are the three I preach,” said Haley. “You need to do that non-stop.”
Goal orientation is also a part of the plan.
“We’ve got to accomplish this as a team,” said Haley.
A “Can Do” attitude is a must.
“It radiates through the dugout and the locker room,” said Haley. “Young kids battle the fear of failure. As a coach, I’m never going to do that. Never be afraid to fail.”
For Haley, it’s about baseball development. But it’s also about making better people. That goal needs to be remembered.
Haley said coaches should take advantage of innovation that is constantly being developed in baseball.
“Find new ways of doing things,” said Haley, noting all the new metrics and devices available to coaches these days.
“Kids want instant feedback on everything,” said Haley. “We have to adapt to them. They are not going to adapt to us. We can influence them.”
Haley identifies three types of players on a team. There’s those who are seeking to get to the next level (No. 1’s). There are those who are satisfied with where they’re at (No. 2’s). Lastly, there are the players who are not even sure they want to be there (No. 3’s).
Haley, who is director of the 1st Source Bank Performance Center and a South Bend Cubs travel baseball coach, will see the No. 1’s all the time at the Performance Center. The No. 2’s come less often. The No. 3’s are a rare sight.
Having a team of 1’s and 3’s is a recipe for major conflict.
Haley said there are areas that help create cultural identity on a team. Besides common values, symbols will help build the cohesiveness and he likes to see these originate with the players.
Common heroes can also bring teammates together. Maybe they all root for the same big leaguer. That’s something else they have in common.
Rituals — chants, team meals, championship belts — also tell players they are a part of a group.
Coaches should show an interest in each athlete’s achievements and show pride in the team’s accomplishments.
With all of it, there has to be consistency.
“You have to practice it all religiously,” said Haley. “Good coaches don’t just talk. Everything that comes out of their mouth is for a reason.”
Haley said there is no absolute one right way to coach and finding a coaching style comes through trial and error.
Having a mentor helps. Haley’s was Jim Snyder, who spent a lifetime in the game including stints as a coordinator of instruction in the White Sox organization.
The final Cubbies Coaches Club meeting of the off-season is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5. For more information, call (574) 404-3636 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Haley, director of the 1st Source Bank Performance Center and a South Bend Cubs travel baseball coach, talked at the South Bend Cubs Foundation Cubbies Coaches Club meeting Tuesday, Feb. 5 about team management. (Steve Krah Photo)