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Geno’s Viral Video

Posted on 22-03-2017

I think it’s likely that by now you’ve seen this video, but if not, it’s worth 2 minutes of your day):

A few things popped into my mind after I watched it.

First, I realized how lucky I am personally to coach players at the Little League level where selfish, me-first attitudes are much less common than at the higher levels of the game. I don’t envy High School or College coaches at all!

Then I thought about what I hope was the only time I remember being a selfish player.

It was my sophomore year of High School and I was the starting catcher on the Varsity team. We were on our annual Spring Break trip to Florida where we were always the underdogs playing against more experienced, more talented, warm weather, public school teams.

It was the 6th inning – I can’t remember who were we playing – and we were up by 1 run, needing just 4 more outs to secure a rare southern win. With a runner on 3rd base and 2 outs, our pitcher bounced a fastball that I went down to block. It was a ball I absolutely should have kept in front of me but instead it ricocheted off my arm, rolled to the backstop, and the tying run trotted home.

After getting the 3rd out on the next pitch, let’s just say I wasn’t happy with myself when I got back in the dugout. My initial reaction of anger and disappointment was healthy and certainly one I felt I was entitled to after letting my team down in such a crucial spot. However, as our first batter stepped to the plate in the top of 7th and our entire team stood up on the top step of the dugout to start cheering him on, I still remained planted on the bench with my head in my hands, sulking and feeling sorry for myself.

My best friend (still to this day), and the only other sophomore on the team, noticed that not only was being hunched over on the bench completely disengaged from the game counterproductive to getting myself ready for potential extra innings, but that I was robbing my teammates of support that they deserved and the team needed in order to rally back.

Sully, in a very lovingly but PG-13 rated way, told me to remove the part of my body where my brain is from the part of my body that I sit on, and to start thinking about the team instead of myself. So I did. I honestly don’t remember how the game ended, but that episode is a memory that has stuck with me, even a full 20 years later (yikes!).

Two takeaways from this story.

First, no player in any sport is born knowing how to be a great teammate. Athletes learn how to treat each other, their opponents, and the game from those around them: their teammates, their coaches, and their parents. It truly does “take a village” to raise athletes who know how to compete, but also how to be positive teammates and good sports at the same time.

Coaches: every time you complain to the ump, or throw your hands up in disgust after one of your player’s makes an error, or chirp at the other team’s coaches…your players see that. And it tells them that that type of behavior on a baseball field is OK.

Parents: every time you do the same towards the umps or the other team, it sends the same message. Every time your son hears you say “so and so” shouldn’t be playing shortstop, or “so and so” shouldn’t be hitting 4th, it sends a message to your son that individuals are more important than the team. (This was Geno’s message in the video).

By the same token, every time you thank the ump after the game or high five a kid on the other team who made a great play, they also see that.

When I sulked it wasn’t because I got benched or because someone was playing instead of me or because I was batting 9th in the lineup; I sulked because I wanted to win so badly that I let that emotion overcome me when I made mistake and I didn’t have the emotional tools to bounce back. The reasons why we end up focusing on ourselves do not matter because the action is equally damaging to the team.

Second, what my buddy did by rallying me to emotionally rejoin the team rather than continue to wallow in self-pity is what REAL leadership looks like. At the time, I thought he was being a jerk and wish he had just left me alone. How dare he come tell me what to do? Didn’t he see how upset I was? Didn’t he know how badly I wanted to win and that my reaction was warranted? However, with a little perspective, I realized that what he did was exactly what I would hope every single one of my players would do to help a teammate, and the team, at that moment.

What made what he did for me, and the team, even more impressive is that he was literally the youngest guy on the team.

Like I tell the boys at camp all the time; you don’t have be the oldest, or the fastest, or the strongest, or the best player on the field to be a leader. If you run on and off the field every inning, eventually your teammates will follow. If you are the player always hanging on the fence cheering for the batter, eventually your teammates will join. If you are the one encouraging the pitcher on every pitch (even from LF or the bench), then eventually your teammates will join.

Geno says he watches game film to see who’s disengaged from the game. If I was watching the same game film, I wouldn’t be looking for who on my team was sulking, I’d be looking who on my team noticed the sulking player and then went and did something about it!

The season is almost half over. Let’s ALL make it a priority in the second half of the season to make sure that in addition to playing hard and being competitive, that we continue to emphasize the team over the individual.

Comments posted (1)

Wow! Such a powerful message! Thank you for sharing this Dan!

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