4 Industry Lessons From Youth Baseball

One of my greatest personal pleasures is coaching my son’s baseball team. Since he was four years old, I have spent each summer teaching boys how to play the game. Now that he’s in second grade, the speed of the game and the skill of the players are starting to pick up. At the same time, the personalities of the kids and the impression they leave on me as their coach has grown. It would be cliché to say they have taught me as much as I’ve taught them, but there are interesting lessons to learn, some of which resonate with me beyond the diamond and throughout my everyday work in the industry.

1. Embracing Challenge

Last season, we moved leagues to increase the level of competition: a rude awakening for some players. And yet, this challenge was met with enthusiasm. Players embraced it and worked harder because they were pushed to either get better or struggle to compete. This mentality is crucial when faced with business challenges. In most situations, only a few are ready, but the opportunity doesn’t wait until everyone is ready. Embracing challenges, even prematurely, pays off in the long run.

2. Real Recognizes Real

Even as second graders, certain players stand out more than others. There are kids that are more physically developed or possess skills that separate them from the rest. You tend to notice these kids by the sounds of the crowd, including their own teammates. When judging talent in the business world, it’s sometimes as simple as figuring out who stands out to their own peer set. If the people working right beside the stars can see it, perhaps that’s the best indicator for recognizing future leaders.

3. Apple is Still the Future

Early in the season, I showed up to practice wearing my Apple Watch. Since then, the only people who ask me more about it than the kids on the baseball team are college-aged cashiers at CVS. The kids tell me how cool it is and how they are asking for one for their birthdays. I cannot say whether this brand affinity will last until their buying power extends beyond their parents’ wallets, but for now, it’s clear that the future of the generation remains closely associated with all things Apple.

4. Thinking Long Term

Baseball is a funny game. Success for a hitter is getting the desired outcome three out of every 10 times. For second graders, measures of success have to extend beyond wins and losses. Learning the game and building a long-term foundation is more important than the short-term wins. It’s not dissimilar from an industry in its early stages, where short-term ROI is in constant conflict with the long term. That’s not to say that winning today isn’t sweet, but it’s just not the only measure of true success. It’s important to remember that no matter how important the now feels for most, it’s a process toward a longer outcome. A single game, like a single conversion or engagement, is just that: a one-time occurrence.

I coach because it’s a chance to spend time with my son and share my love of the game. I also do it because my father did it for me, and that’s the kind of lasting foundation I hope to provide to the players I coach. At worst, I hope kids walk away with an appreciation for the game. At best, I hope they build on their skills, strengthen their commitment to both the team and a common cause, grow into better players, and ultimately become better people. It’s the same thing we try to do every day in the business world: small blocks built upon every practice (or every meeting) to deliver a long-term impact.

Homepage image via Shutterstock

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