"They Have to Know that You care, Before they Care What You Know"
GUEST POST: CAM MARGARIS
Cam is a former client and trainer here at Redline, and is currently the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for Centralia Community College. He does a great job with his pitchers and is making a name for himself in the baseball world.
I read all the time where coaches are complaining about the “new age athlete” and how kids don’t care or aren’t as tough as they used to be. While I don’t necessarily disagree with that, I know that complaining about it only worsens the problem and makes it nearly impossible to pull the best out of your athletes. You can either sit and complain about it, or you can try to adapt to it and work on changing it! I am far from the best at anything in this game and definitely don’t have all the right answers, so I had no idea what to write about when asked to write my first blog post. I decided to write on something I have grown to feel is extremely important in player development:
Establishing relationships with your athletes
Tyler Gillum (South Mountain CC) said it best in his latest ABCA podcast about his players: “They have to know that you care, before they care what you know!”
Some of my favorite coaches I ever played for have been hard on me and held me to high standards. But before they started lighting me up at practice, they showed that they cared about me and my development first.
Being as young and new as I am in the coaching world, I found it extremely important to establish my identity and not stray from it. While that identity will grow and evolve the deeper I get into this life, one thing I know will stay the same: my players will always know I care.
Some coaches use fear as a way to lead a program, and while that has worked and been successful for some, I don’t feel it’s the best way for me personally. I really believe that Leadership and Coaching are in many ways, a lot like parenting. I was fortunate to be raised by maybe the best set of parents on the West Coast. In no way growing up did I ever fear them, but I feared disappointing them. I was motivated to do the right thing to please them, not because I feared a beating or the backlash, but because of our respectful relationship, I simply feared letting them down!
That’s the same approach I now take with my players. If you establish respectful relationships with them, they will run through a brick wall for you. Before I can get on a guy or get them to do something “my way”, they first have to know that I have their best interest at heart.
Every interaction that I have with my guys isn’t always baseball related. I try to make it a point every
day to talk to each of the 22 pitchers we have on our staff. A lot of the time, that isn’t about baseball at all. Maybe it’s a simple “what’s up?”; maybe it’s a question about their day or class, or even a joke …. but they all know that at the end of the day, I would always go to bat for them, because that’s what they deserve.
In all reality, it’s a choice for them to listen to you. I have been very fortunate that in my first two years of coaching at the college level, I have had the pleasure to work with an outstanding group of young men. These Pitchers, “The Meaty Clackers” (which is a story for another time), have bought into all my weird quirks and methods and have shown the utmost respect from the very beginning. This group has become extremely close and they really care for each other, which can be very rare. They all pull for each other’s success and enjoy the time they spend together. I’m sure a lot of that has come from the daily interactions and methods we have prioritized.
I was very fortunate to learn how valuable loving your players really is at the place where my whole adventure began, right here at Redline Athletics in San Juan Capistrano, CA.
During a transition phase in my life when I really didn’t know the next step in my career, the Founder, and Owner at the time, allowed me to live on the couch in the employee lounge for 4 months as I trained and worked under him. On a nightly basis, and sometimes way too late at night, we had talks of life, business, and baseball. Nobody in my career has more serious, more honest, or pushed me harder than Lyndsey Simmons. But before his yelling and screaming meant anything to me, he first showed me he cared.
You can be the smartest and best baseball guy in the country, but if you don’t have the respect of your athletes, then you are just wasting your time. If you want your guys to care about your program, then you have to care about them in your program! This is a tradition that is still the number 1 priority of Redline Athletics and the foundation to their success.
(Cam in his training days at Redline)
You and your coaching staff at the collegiate level are an extension of the player's family. Some of our players are 1,000 miles from home and their parents are entrusting you to take care of them.
Here at Centralia College, or anywhere else I may end up, I will always pride myself in taking care of our student-athletes on and off the field. At some point, baseball will eventually come to an end for us all and we will still be expected to handle this thing called ‘life’. There’s no better teaching tool for life than the game of baseball. There’s no better example of handling adversity than baseball - the ultimate game of failure. It provides an opportunity to teach how to deal with adversity because lord knows, there is plenty of it in life!
One of the biggest things a coach can show a player is that they are always coaching. Up big, down big, or in a tight game, you MUST be the same coach! Every play is an opportunity for a player to learn and for you to teach!
One of the coolest parts of coaching is not just teaching your players, but learning from them. We need to observe them and figure out what works for each individual player. No player is the same and we can’t allow ourselves to treat them that way!
It amazes me everyday how much I learn from our guys. You need to allow them to question things and you need to have answers for them. If you don’t have an answer for why you do something, then why are you doing it? And why should they have to do it?
Listen to your players; they will tell you everything you need to know. I am positive that there is absolutely no cookie-cutter way to be successful. I do know that players will unknowingly give you feedback on whether you are an effective teacher or not. We must strive to be a teacher of the game and of life.
A lot of coaches rave about hearing from their players after their seasons are finished, or seeing them become successful in life after they have played under them. It’s early in my career, but I have already gotten to experience that and I couldn't be more proud of it! A text from one of our past players put it all into perspective for me; this is really the goal of my mission in this career:
“Well I had tears for the boys I let down when I came out the game my final time. I had never experienced that. It’s truly hard to explain the game until you can't play it anymore and I’m sure you feel that more than anyone. I learned a lot at Centralia. God certainly made no mistake sending me there. Especially meeting you, I will never forget playing for you. Man, never forget CC”.
So I would like to thank all the coaches that have reached out to me and allowed me to ask the question “Why?” regarding all their methods. The Baseball Community continues to amaze me every day with how willing they are to help a young coach.
A huge ”thank you” to Kyle Willett, owner of Redline Athletics in San Juan Capistrano, for allowing me the opportunity to put some of my thoughts out there for others to read. I wouldn’t still be in this game if it weren’t for you.
Players, parents, and coaches: I would be happy to share thoughts or experiences with you, and am always happy to help out in any way I can. I don’t have many answers in this game, but I can guarantee I am in search of them!
Centralia Community College