It Takes Time

FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster

Well… This one may make some people mad.

Not the message itself necessarily, but moreover, very few people in the game today want to hear it.

That message is about time.

A few weeks ago, the Atlanta Falcons’ Head Coach, Dean Pees, gave an impassioned speech about the growing entitlement among the younger generations of coaches. The speech went viral across social media, as it resonated with so many within the sports communities.

“Go work in a high school,” he started. “Go work at a Division III school where you have to mow the grass and you’ve gotta line the field, and then you will appreciate what you have, when you have it instead of being 25 years old and wondering why you’re not a coordinator in the NFL. Everybody gets on a computer for two years and thinks they ought to be a coach.

“Now it’s ‘how fast can I climb the ladder?’ I didn’t climb it very fast, but I feel good about the way I did it.” Pees didn’t get to the NFL until he was 55 years old. He felt like he paid his dues working as a high school teacher and a college coach, and this time made him a better coach and a better teacher in professional football.

In January, at the American Baseball Coaches Association’s National Convention in Chicago, Mississippi State’s Head Coach, Chris Lemonis- who was named College Baseball’s Coach of the Year after his Bulldogs won the National Title- spoke to roughly 5,000 coaches about what it takes to build a championship program. While detailing his path in the game that included 12 years at The Citadel, eight at The University of Louisville, and another four at Indiana University, he finished by saying simply, “it takes time.”

Scotty Bowman is a legend in hockey. He is a legend in coaching. With nine Stanley Cups as a head coach with three different teams, plus another five as a part of the Cup-Winning Club’s front office, his name is engraved on the most prestigious championship trophy in all of sports, a whopping 14 times. Bowman is among the greatest sports coaches of all time. Following his career as an athlete, he spent ten years doing various things within the game- including coaching kids, scouting, and working in Canadian Junior Leagues- before reaching the NHL for the first time.

Three different sports. Three different coaches. One clear message: time, and the experience that comes with it, is really important.

Time is the most valuable commodity in the world. You may go through life always having a roof over your head. You may never go hungry or thirsty. Money may come easy and in big bunches for you. But time… every single one of us on this planet has a finite amount. Every single one of us will run out of it.

We can’t rush time, nor can we slow it down. Time works at time’s pace, not ours.

My coaching career began in 2006, literally two weeks after I had gotten released by the Royals at the end of Spring Training. Energized by a group of players who made up the same Rutgers program of which I was a product, I believed I could really help our team, so I dove into coaching, headfirst. Coming out of a professional playing career in the Minor Leagues, I took the ‘I wish I knew then what I know now’ approach to coaching, as I felt I had learned so much. At the time, I foolishly thought- with no experience as a coach, no time actually spent coaching- that I would turn every player in an All-American, and our team, into a club fit for Omaha.

Hindsight 20-20, I really sucked as a coach for those six years at Rutgers. While I did know baseball well, and there was a ton of knowledge and new ideas that I did bring to our program, I had absolutely no clue how to coach. I had no idea how to work with players. And, I had no sense of how to work with other coaches. Now some 15-plus years into my coaching career, I realize I was the exact type of coach that, today, I wouldn’t enjoy working with. All because I didn’t understand how valuable spending time working in the trenches was. I can say now, without question, that time has been my best teacher as a coach.

As Dean Pees talked about, young coaches today want to jump to the front of the line without gaining the experience that will make them that much better in the role they want, and yet, most aren’t willing to put the necessary time in to truly earn that position. Similarly, many players want the magic pill that will turn them from amateur to Big Leaguer overnight. And, to aid the issue, there are coaches out there who claim to have that magic pill. The funny thing about those who appear to be overnight sensations, you ask, they take years to develop.

The manner in which you invest your time- those same 24 hours of those same days that everyone has- is a clear indicator of what you are truly willing to work for. If you don’t respect those things and the wise people that come with time- those things that NEED time- then you don’t truly understand the value of time. Contrary to the guy who says he can have you throw 95 MPH in a month or the other who claims you’ll be able hit a ball 500’ in two, anything worthwhile in life- baseball or otherwise- will take time. And, doing it is a genuine investment in the most valuable commodity in the world.

Darren Fenster is currently the Minor League Infield Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. In addition to being the Third Base Coach for the 2020 US Olympic Team, Fenster was previously Manager of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A former player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Fenster joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after filling various roles on the Rutgers University Baseball staff, where he was a two-time All-American for the Scarlet Knights. Fenster is also Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and can be found on Twitter @CoachYourKids.