Knowledge is Great, But People Will Always Be Better

FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster

As the calendar turns to a new year, for the baseball coaching community, that means clinic season in upon us. Whether it be at the American Baseball Coaches Association’s National Convention, or at regional conferences like the World Baseball Coaches Clinic at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, or the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association Convention, there are few better environments for baseball coaches to learn in than those taking place this month.

With spring right around the corner and all of us chomping at the bit to start our seasons, these coaching clinics provide not only a much-needed escape from winter for those of us dreaming of sunshine on diamonds, but also an incredible opportunity for us to grow as coaches to help make our players and teams better. One of the many great things about the baseball community is our openness and willingness to share our thoughts on every aspect of the game. Clinic season is that, brought to life, for tens of thousands baseball community members across the country.

Between on-stage presentations, hot-stove discussions, vendor expos, and countless side conversations, it really is impossible to leave one of these conferences without a number of new information nuggets to use for the upcoming season. A couple of years ago, Kai Correa (the infield coordinator for the Cleveland Indians, at the time) and Tucker Frawley (an assistant coach at Yale) tag-teamed what was THE best presentation on infield play I have ever seen. The year prior, the Head Coach of the Dallas Baptist, Dan Heefner, gave THE most simplifying talk on hitting: a space in the game that has grown more confusing and combative than any other. Companies like Blast, Rapsodo, and Trackman each present the most current technologies to advance player development through a lens that didn’t exist ten years ago. The landscape of our game has markedly changed in the way it is coached and evaluated in recent years, and clinic season provides a great opportunity for coaches to remain as current as possible.

Many times, by the end of a conference, you leave thinking how you have to re-write your entire playbook because you learned THAT much. Because of the competitive nature of those who work in sports, we are always looking for ways to do things better to give us an edge over our opponents. We want to be at the forefront of the latest and greatest in our respective sports- hoping that others will chase behind us.

With the countless advances that are displayed and discussed every season at various clinics, and for as much time spent conversating about how to better develop players on the field, relatively little is spent on a part of coaching that is arguably even more important: developing people, off the field. We’ve all heard the saying; they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. While I don’t whole-heartedly believe this- as players seem to still listen and care on day one playing for a new coach who hasn’t had the time to develop a true care for the player- I do know that they absolutely care more when there is a personal connection between player and coach. So, rather than just asking yourself, how can I teach *insert baseball skill* better, you should also be constantly asking yourself, how can I become a better leader? You’ll find your greatest impact, as a coach, in the answer to the latter.

In a world full of people competing to see who the smartest guy in the room can be, many have forgotten how vital… PEOPLE really are. You may know everything about the slickest new tricks in your respective area of the game; however, if you can’t connect with and lead those you’re trying to teach and impact, your knowledge is comparatively worthless. Invest in your own personal development, as a leader, in the same way you do as a coach.

So, as you are constantly- and admirably- working to become smarter and adding stronger skills to your resume, just remember this: the right people with the wrong resume will yield far better results than the wrong people with the right resume. People drive culture. People make up teams. People lead.

Knowledge isn’t the engine.

People are. And they always will be.

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.