Soundtracks, Part II

Coaching Absolutes
By Dave Turgeon

A couple of years back, I used to do a segment with staff called “Soundtracks.” Before diving into it I would always talk about what a soundtrack is. Most of us have heard of them and been impacted by them when watching a movie. Some of us (myself included) have been moved to purchase the soundtrack of a movie. Soundtracks, the music of a movie, evoke and stir emotions and amplify a scene in some way. For example, most of us remember the opening scene from “Jaws” where the young woman goes for a swim and some music begins to play that makes us all feel the impending doom to come. And it did. Another example of a soundtrack that brings about some emotions is from the classic movie called “Rocky.” The scene starts with Rocky doing his road work (running) and ends with him running up the stairs to a song called “Gonna Fly Now.” It absolutely is an inspiring scene that was brought to life from that iconic song.

Just as movies have soundtracks, we also have our own personal soundtrack. When someone walks in a room you can usually feel where they are at by their energy, body language and facial expression. Whether we realize this or not, our soundtrack is playing when we enter a room or walk down the street or engage with others. This is about self-awareness and the impact our soundtracks have on players and our personal lives.

Alex Mehrabian

Alex Mehrabian did an interesting study on communication and he broke it down into three areas: body language, tone of voice, and words. His findings were staggering to me. He found the breakdown of our communication as 55 percent body language, 38 percent tone of voice, and 7 percent spoken words. It shows that it is not enough just to have something to say if you do not have the ability to deliver the message in a way to be received. In other words, if we are a coach or teacher and do not have an effective delivery system then we do not have the ability to help our athletes or students. Your soundtrack is big! Mehrabian was keen on the soundtrack! There have been other studies on communication and while the numbers show some disparities, they were all heavy on the body language and tone and light on words.

The soundtrack package of communication of our words, body language and tone leave out one component that is not to be ignored: Timing. Timing is the ingredient that allows us to leverage our delivery system. Timing, some might argue, is everything.


Mike Lum is a senior advisor with the Pirates and has been in professional baseball as a Major League Player or Coach for some 50 years. He played on the Big Red Machine of the 70’s and once pinch hit for Hank Aaron. He has been a mentor to me for the past 10 years. His specialty is the hitting area and he continues to evolve with the technology and the generation he teaches. His mastery of teaching hitting is two things: first, he has a deep knowledge of hitting and understanding how to teach each player as an individual. Second, he has the deepest soundtrack with the ability to command it of anyone I have observed in coaching. I have watched him teach every level of player, players from different cultures, players who did not speak English, and players of all ages. That is a lot of different soundtracks to master. He has the universal soundtrack. His songs are appealing, and they disarm the players he coaches. He uses very few words but when he does, they are timely and have affect. The business of coaching becomes more watch, more show, more do, and then great timing of words. It becomes more experience and feel when his players are learning. Master coaches have mastered their own soundtrack which allows them to master their craft. He has the most effective packaging system for a teacher I have witnessed in my career. The Master DJ is Mike Lum!

To be an effective coach, having command of our soundtrack is critical. Further, having command of many songs of your soundtrack will allow you to reach more players. When I say command, I am talking about having your self-awareness get to a point where you can adjust the song and volume of that song in order to connect and reach who is in front of you.

As a coach, there are two huge questions we must continually ask:
Which song does the individual need?
What song does the collective group need?

Transitioning from song to song and adjusting your volume along the way is what good coaching looks like. It is seamless and constant.

Turgeon is the AA Manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Turgeon played in the New York Yankees farm system from 1987-1990 under Stump Merrill and Buck Showalter after being drafted out of Davidson College. Before playing for the Baltimore Orioles’ AAA affiliate in 1998 he spent eight years playing abroad. From 2000-2001 Turgeon began coaching in the Cleveland Indians organization before entering the college ranks where he coached with Boston College, the University of Connecticut, Duke University and Virginia Tech. Turgeon was also the Bench Coach for the 2019 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.