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Coach Dave's Impact Story: PCA's Talking Points Applied

by Dave Di Vito

12.21.2017

At PCA, we love hearing stories like this from "Coach Dave," a youth baseball and soccer coach from Scottsdale, Arizona. As a PCA supporter, we know you've already given, but we wanted to share with you Coach Dave's story about the impact of PCA workshops on his coaching below.

I coached an 8-year-old team within Scottsdale Cal Ripken that is one of only a couple in the league that does not play all year round.  Most of my players do recreational soccer, piano, recreational flag football, dance, or recreational basketball during other times of the year.  The teams for the baseball league are built either via request ofcoach (and then coach can accept or decline players) or they are assigned.  Therefore, the year round teams are top notch, with few players added/removed each year.  I share this only to provide color for the rest of the story…as you might imagine, since most of my players do other activities my team is usually made up of a few players from the prior year(s) and then “everyone else.”  This is the type of challenge others may run from, but I was excited to embrace.

The PCA course put on by Jeff Rodin with the Arizona Diamondbacks Coaching Academy was OUTSTANDING. It was exactly what I needed to build my confidence and ensure that we would have a great season. My only regret was not mandating that my two assistant coaches attend.  I structured my parents meeting at the beginning of the season to let them know that life lessons would be a big part of my coaching philosophy and I made a promise that “we would win some games and that we would lose some games” and that we would be good at doing both.

Before our first game, I printed out the first talking points (Effort) and read it, thought about it, and then wondered if these young kids might have the capacity to really receive the message (and/or if it was taking me out of my own comfort zone). So, I went into the living room and ‘tested’ it out on my son.  Once I realized I had his attention and that he was deep in thought about our discussion about the importance of effort, I decided to go for it with the rest of the team. Just before getting into the car to go to the game, I ran back in to get a silver sharpie so that I could write the kid's name/number on each hat.

When I reached for my son's hat, we were still talking about how important Effort is and how much I value it more than anything else. It occurred to me right then to ask him if he wanted me to write effort on the inside of the bill of his brand new team hat so that every time he removed/replaced it or looked up at it on the field he would have a reminder.

At the game, and with ample time before taking the field I went over the talking points with the team. I realized right then that this was going to work because they were all focused on the message. When I finished I asked my son to show them what he had done to his hat for his reminder and then asked if anyone else wanted it…hats came flying! Most weeks thereafter, they would be asking as soon as they saw me, “Coach – what’s our word for this week?” Each week, everyone would gather around as if it were the best part of their day and we would discuss that week’s topic. As soon as we finished, the pushing and shoving started in an attempt to get to me so that I could write the word/acronym for the week on their hat. Needless to say, they loved it.

Halfway through the season, and without yet hitting our modest goals (to score a run, to make it through 3 innings without getting run-ruled, to make sure every player gets one at-bat, etc.) these lessons became more important.  Sometimes I improvised portions to make them more relevant. I have to tell you though, attempting to be a Double-Goal Coach® can be absolutely exhausting!  It is hard to do!  Trying to always find not just one good thing, but multiple good things – per person in times when it may be rather difficult to do can wear a guy out.  My players never hung their heads, always felt good about something, but their coach was absolutely worn out (hopefully nobody other than my wife really knew that).  We were having a tough run, but nobody ever lost their confidence and they were improving rapidly.  It was at this time where I was worried about my promise to “win some games.”  Along with all of the progress we had made, and the schedule permitting some more worthy opponents, we eventually scored a run, we eventually bat through the order in one inning, and we eventually won a game. 

When we got to the end of the season playoffs, it was time for one more life lesson – no participation trophies this year, trophies must be won!  I love the lesson, hated to be the messenger.  Our team ended up making it to the championship game of the ‘tournament’ for our bracket (playing teams of equal competition of course) and lost a heartbreaker when the other team came back to win in the bottom of the last inning.  The tears were flowing, they were crushed because every one of them believed they could win and that they could be champions!  At our end of season party, with no trophies to hand out, I created a binder with a picture on the cover (see attached) and a copy of each talking points letter from the season.  I wrote a little note of encouragement in the front and handed each player their ‘book’ so that any time in their life they could go back and reference the lessons we covered this season.  They loved it more than any trophy they have ever received!

I really just wanted to share a success story and thank you for providing the content, the education, and some skills to make me a better coach. Once again, thank you very, very much for providing these tools. I will always be grateful and look forward to future programs.

Dave Di Vito is a youth baseball and soccer coach from Scottsdale, AZ, and currently coaches in the Scottsdale Cal Ripken baseball league.

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