A four-year letterman at Texas Wesleyan University, I was introduced to a winning program that encompassed my idea of collegiate baseball. The coach handled discipline issues on an individual basis. Regardless of who showed up late to practice or how often this occurred was irrelevant to anyone but the guilty player and the coach. Only under extreme acts of insubordination was the team punished as a whole. This type of leadership by the coach created an atmosphere of relaxed, heart-felt competition amongst teammates and encouraged individuality on the team. The coaches would often times instruct, encourage, and say things to get desired reactions out of players with the hopes of ultimately increasing performance level. All of this was done pertaining to the targeted individual. Players with different mindsets and personalities proved to need encouragement tailored specifically to the player from coaches or fellow teammates.
The coaching philosophy at Texas Wesleyan University appears to have been successful. Over three 40+ win seasons, the Rams came within five games of three NAIA College World Series, making the regional championship game twice and ending up in third place in the regional tournament once.
Now for the polar opposite, Tarleton State University’s baseball program was extremely strict in nature. All players treated equally were also punished equally as a team. The person who was guilty of the crime matters not, the team was responsible, both on and off the field. Players were to be where they were supposed to be, dressed appropriately, on time (which means early), without any off-field complaints, and ready to put forth 100% effort. It seemed as if an individual was not to sleep without the permission of the coach at times. There were mandatory weekly team meetings in a classroom setting, 6:00 a.m. weight workout three times a week, daily practice from 1-5, and daily team conditioning at 6:00 p.m.
Having only spent a year and a half in the program, and coming from the aforementioned loosely coached program, TSU Baseball was an eye-opening experience that taught me that there are various ways to build a program. During the 2012 season, Tarleton posted a winning season for the second year in a row and also made an appearance in the conference championship game after being picked as the last seed in the tournament. Quite impressive considering that all of this took place after losing key players due to infractions of team policy.
It is for the player to decide which program suits him the best and pursue excellence in their desired atmosphere. Neither program is a “one size fits all” environment. Success comes when the majority of individuals buy into the type of program they participate in.