Home Baseball Content Opening Day Musings: Are You Willing to Put in the Work?

Opening Day Musings: Are You Willing to Put in the Work?

Written on April 5, 2012 at 7:56 am, by Eric Cressey

Earlier this week, Cressey Performance athlete Ryan Flaherty was named to the Baltimore Orioles opening day roster for today.  Ryan and I share a common trait in that we were both born and raised in Southern Maine, so we’ve had some good conversations about what it takes to compete on a national scale when you start out from what isn’t exactly known as a baseball capital of the world.  When I heard the great news about Ryan, the logical first choice for reading about it was our hometown newspaper, the Portland Press Herald, in this article.

One of the things that stood out for me about this article was the quote about how Orioles manager Buck Showalter still got so excited to tell guys they made the big league roster – because, unfortunately, it’s a conversation he gets to have much less often than the “You’re cut” interaction.

Being successful – and, even moreso, world-class – is very difficult.

Only 3% of guys ever drafted into professional baseball ever make it to the big leagues.  When you factor in free agent signings, it’s likely a 1 in 50 success rate.  Taking it a step further, if you look at the 118 first-round draft picks between 2004 and 2007 who actually signed, only 84 (71%) of them ever made it to the big leagues.  In other words, even if you are among the most coveted 30 prospects in all of the U.S. and Canada, you still have a long way to go, and a lot of time to fall flat on your face.

I hear it all the time from kids:

I want to make varsity.

I want to play in college.

I want to get drafted.

I want to make it to the big leagues.

While the goals are certainly incremental and far apart, the response needs to be the same: “It won’t be easy, and you need to be willing to work for it – not talk about it.”

Ryan was no exception.  He was one of the best athletes – football, basketball, and baseball – in the history of the State of Maine.  Then, he was a three-year standout at Vanderbilt, one of the best college baseball programs in the country, before being drafted in 2008.  Three years of hard work in the minor leagues later, he’s getting his shot in “the show” today.  Tim Collins was a great example from last year – and Tim had to work his butt off to keep his roster spot in the big leagues going in to 2012.

It would have been very easy to be one of the 98% who failed, though. There are thousands of ways in which kids go astray from their goals today, whether it’s due to apathy, poor coaching, overassertive parents, drug use, behavioral issues, or simply not being honest with themselves about how much they need to improve.  And, it’s getting worse with every participation trophy that’s handed out, and every time that a parent races in to school to contest a grade on a report card.

In the former case, the rewards should be the excitement of competition, the outstanding feeling that comes from being part of a team, the physical activity that comes with participating, and the character development that comes from dedicating oneself to a goal and working toward improvements to make it a reality.  What are we saying to a kid when he busts his butt and looks the coach in the eye every time they talk, yet we hand him the same participation trophy that we gave to the kid that shows up late to practice, refuses to pick up equipment, gets in the coach’s face, and dogs it through drills?

In the latter case, the parent has missed a valuable opportunity to teach a valuable, yet dwindling characteristic in today’s young kids: accountability.  When parent could be teaching a kid that “you reap what you sow,” instead, he/she instead chooses to show that you can cut corners in life because there will always be someone around to clean up your mess.  I’m all for standing up to your kids – but I think a lot of people today need to stand up TO their kids, too.

It isn’t just about showing up. It’s about genuinely caring about what you do, honestly evaluating where your abilities are, having a passion to become a better person and make the the world a better place, and acting accordingly – while being humble, punctual, diligent, and respectful.

Don’t get me wrong; we absolutely, positively need to encourage all kids, not just athletes – and overbearing parents absolutely crush kids’ confidence.  However, there is a happy medium between the two; I think we do them a disservice when we aren’t realistic with them about what it actually takes to be successful.  Only then can they appreciate the day-t0-day behaviors and practice they’ll need to be successful: the process for their ultimate destination.

Along these lines, over the years, I’ve had dozens of parents come up to me and say that one of the reasons they love Cressey Performance so much is that young athletes get to interact with and train alongside professional athletes so much.  The hard work they see from the pro guys does a better job of demonstrating what level of commitment it takes to succeed better than anything a parent could ever put into words.

I love seeing college and professional athletes involved with clinics for younger athletes, as well as charitable endeavors. It doesn’t just help the kids and charities, but also the athletes themselves.  It gives them not only a chance to give back and an opportunity to reflect on how far they’ve come and the hard work it took to get to where they are.

It’s important to not just discuss the drive and character it takes to succeed, but give kids visual examples of it. What better day than opening day, when dreams are coming true all over Major League Baseball? It’s a great starter to a conversation you ought to have with your kids and the players you coach; why not today?

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14 Responses to “Opening Day Musings: Are You Willing to Put in the Work?”

  1. Lou Schuler Says:

    Eric, great post, as always.

    I just want to push back a little on the vilified participation trophy. In my experience, kids today understand perfectly well the difference between awards they get for showing up and the ones they earn through competition.

    One of my daughters has some of each, and there’s no question that the smallest one — which her soccer team earned by coming in second in a tournament that turned out to be a lot more grueling than anyone expected — is the one she values most.

    The kids seem pretty good at finding their own levels of competition, vs. mere participation in the things they like to do. Suburban kids today get the opportunity to compete in just about everything they do, from sports to art and music. If they’re deluded about their abilities, it isn’t long before reality smacks them down.

    Trust me on this: For some kids, merely participating in something they aren’t good at right away is a very big deal. When I was a rec-league soccer coach I had no problem handing trophies to kids like that, even if it also meant handing the exact same trophy to a kid who was a much better player.

    The good kids learn as much from working with weaker players as the worst players learn from the ones with more skill. If nothing else, it helps prepare the better kids for the next level, where they might be the weak links on a much stronger team … at which point they seek out your services.

    And then everybody wins!

  2. Charlie Says:

    Very motivating article Eric, keep up the good work!


  3. James Says:

    Well said….in words of someone…..whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

  4. Marc Says:

    As a teacher & coach, I couldn’t agree more. It’s astounding how many kids I come across who think they’re going to play Div 1 college athletics, but have no idea what kind of work it takes to develop the speed and strength necessary to compete at that level. More work has to be done to educate athletes (and their parents) about importance of hard work, goal-setting, and strength training commitment that it takes to move to the next level.

    I always tell my athletes that the most noticeable difference that I saw in each progressive level of soccer was the sped at which the game was played. All sports have the same leap in speed with each new level, so physical speed is required to compete, but decision-making and the ability to process rapidly changing information is critical to excel.

    Great post, Eric!

  5. Bill Person Says:

    For hitters, timing is everything. For pitchers breaking up that timing is everything. Eric you must have been a great hitter. Your timing is so appropriate!! Well said.

  6. Michael Reid Says:

    Eric, this is a much needed, highly overlooked issue in the training of athletes in all areas of athletic competition. The training it prepares one for is invaluable. The lessons learned through the training are called LIFE! Accountability and definition are paramount in all things attempted. Great article.

  7. David Hirsh Says:

    I watched Collins pitch a ST game against the Mariners just because I knew he was a CP client. He didn’t have a great game, but it was so gratifying to watch a 5’7″ guy compete so damn well against MLB competition.

  8. Tim Peirce Says:

    Eric, Do mean to say the my clients kids aren’t entitled to success and an unqualified high self-esteem and the same trophy as the guy who actually performs and behaves well? You’re radical. . . . I love it.

  9. jason cox Says:

    The difference is the drive that comes from inside. For the most part being succesful is the ability to work hard for most young people today they are not willing to do that. Love the truth that is spoken here brah !!

  10. Conor Says:

    Great post! I’m a teacher that coaches quite a bit of sports in my community and the amount of work that kids and youth put in around here while expecting everything in return is sickning. Too many of today’s youth are just given too much too easy. In school, I don’t mind giving someone a good mark every once in a while when they didn’t deserve it, just to boost their confidence. The reason is because our community has too many kids living in unfortunate situations and they really need a boost every day. In sports, I’m not a fan of that, especially when it comes to the kid that has potential to be really good. They have to learn to go after something with all they have and in the end, they’ll be truly rewarded.

  11. Chris Says:

    As someone that played against some Gatorade Player’s of the Year in Maine in both high school & American Legion baseball in late 90’s (Matt Kinney, Brain Ross, & Brandon Brewer) it’s nice to see that some actually make it.

  12. Travis Merritt Says:

    Couldn’t agree more with this Eric!

  13. Stephen Thomas, PhD, ATC Says:

    Eric nice post! I couldn’t agree more. Kids need to learn that they don’t always get what they want and also that hard work gets you to where you want to be. Many parents try to protect their kids from failure and hardship but in actuality that is exactly what they need. Many people view failure as a bad thing but its not at all. Failure is required from time to time to make us better and smarter. Everybody is going to fail at some point in life and the sooner kids experience it the better but with failure they need to be taught perseverance. If you look back in history some of the greatest things came after the hardest times. Just remember when you come to a brick wall in life dont stop there just figure out how to climb over it!

  14. David Toy, CPT, HLC Says:

    Eric, your insights are timely, honest and most appropriate. We all live in highly competitive communities that are exploding with opportunities and challenges. How we teach our children to negotiate through the maze will determine what outcomes they aspire to in their future lives. We can inspire our children to success in multiple levels whether it be youth involvement in sports, school activities, life-in-general, family and community participation and raising the next level of awareness and appreciation, and yes, reaping the awards that follow.

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