Posted by: knightbird | July 16, 2010

“Baseball is a Game of Failure”

“… coached by negative people in a misinformation environment.” Dr. Tom House

I have had three separate opportunities to spend time with Dr. House and the tremendous group of men and women he surrounds himself with. My 2 sons and I attended a pitching clinic his National Pitching Association held in Lynwood, WA. I was so mesmerized with his scientific approach to pitching I purchased one of his books. That led me to attend his coaching certification clinic in San Diego, and his recertification clinic held in Los Angeles.

Dr. House does not spend all of his time teaching the coaching of pitchers. His course covers mental, emotional and physical training as well. Dr. House has a Ph.D. in Psychology and 5 Masters Degrees in areas related to pitching. Nutrition and conditioning are prominent parts of his courses. He is also allied with Titleist, the golf company, in their pursuit of ever better conditioning protocols for “rotational” athletes. Some of the research they are doing is cutting edge and amazing.

As a Mentor or Sensei, Dr. House has influenced my thinking and behavior in a number of ways. The first was to help me alter my relationship with my sons. I grew up in an error of pretty bad coaching. I still have horrific memories of coaches who coached negatively. I did that with my sons. Instead of making baseball or basketball fun for them, I made it a negative experience through my comments and coaching style. I have actually apologized to them, and when I catch myself reverting to old behaviors, I think of Dr. House’s quote and try like heck to overcome my negativity and see the positives. My relationship with both boys is excellent today.

When Dr. House talks about Baseball as a game of failure, I began to look at our workplaces. We encounter a lot of failure in the workplace. I encounter it every day whenever I have to endure a long telephone queue to get a simple answer to a simple question. Business is a game of failure. Since I work in the healthcare industry, I understand failure in a very deep and personal way. When we fail, people can and do die. Our adoption of Lean Management, with its deep and abiding focus on creating Value for our customers, turns this statement into a positive one. When we don’t blame and shame people for the failures of the workplace, we can improve by reducing the number of failures we experience. What a wonderful concept.

I also see the workplace as a misinformation environment, in large part by our focus on money and profitability. Our heavy dependence in the business world on budgets and profitability alter our ways of thinking about achievement. We rarely measure what is right to measure—Value created for our customer.

For a pitching coach, the Value we create for our customer is first and foremost, a healthy career. By teaching a pitcher how to eat  properly, condition correctly and pitch with proper mechanics, we ensure the health and safety of his arm. Second, we want the experience to be enjoyable, which means we have to teach the positive mental and emotional approach to the game. This means not blaming the pitcher for allowing a home run. Instead, we can credit the batter with doing his job well, and winning that particular duel with the pitcher. Then we can teach the pitcher to learn from the duel, and move on—or forget the past.

Baseball, and sports coaching in general, are very similar to business and I am learning that the principles of business can help us change the business of coaching.

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