Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Anatomy of a Successful Baseball Program

     Finding the greatest, most efficient way of doing things in order to increase productivity or success rate is of fundamental value for any baseball program.  How coaches approach the details during the process of building a baseball team will determine efficiency and achievement. This is my personal account of playing collegiate baseball in two very different yet successful programs.
     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.


  1. When building a championship caliber baseball team (or any other sport for that matter), there is no “cookie cutter” mold to follow. As Kody mentioned, there are several different ways to succeed as a team at every level in sports. Now, obviously younger teams will require more instruction and closer monitoring, but there can still be a wide variety in how teams are run. I have been associated with teams who have been run like the Navy SEALS as well as teams where everything is done on your own. It cannot be said that one is particularly more effective than the other because both have succeeded and both have failed. Stricter, more structured team philosophies tend to build a higher level of camaraderie because everyone suffers together and respects each other for it; but who is to say that when a looser team goes out to the bar together and gets into a fight with the other team that it does not bring a team together, in fact, this may be a great team chemistry building technique. Either way, when teammates spend time with each other and care about each other, they have fun and usually win no matter the coaching style.

  2. I agree with both Kody and Jacob, there is no specific way to develop a successful baseball program. A successful program is solely based on an entire team buying in to the concepts, goals, and structure of the program. Although there are many different coaching styles and ways to structure baseball programs, as a coach, your ultimate goal is to have all of your players buy in to the structure you have set forth. The purpose of any particular coaching style or program philosophy is to develop team chemistry, have all of your players on the same page, playing together and for each other. Most first time collegiate baseball players coming straight from high school may be accustomed to a particular program structure and coaching style. For these athletes it can take time to adjust to a new coaching style or philosophy but if they are willing to buy in to the program with the rest of the team, success will eventually come.