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Thursday, June 26, 2014

THOUGHTS ON TEACHING AND TEAM BUILDING FROM TIM CORBIN


I watched a great number of games on the College World Series.  I have become of big fan of Vanderbilt's baseball coach Tim Corbin through Don Meyer.  I love studying coaches that have a passion to teach and care about their players.  The following our excerpts of an interview with Vanderbilt's baseball coach Tim Corbin.  Interestingly it was written in 2011 by Margaret Reynolds for BreakthroughMasters.com.  You can read the entire interview here.  I say interestingly because I think it gives great insight in to what Coach Corbin's philosophy is in some key areas that has culminated with a National Championship last night.  I have added a few thoughts in bold/italics.

What some coaches don't realize and what most players fail to see is how early the process starts in developing a championship culture.  Fans see the game winning home run, the buzzer beating jump shot, or the last second field goal in a championship game and think that is the defining moment.  Championship cultures are created long before the championship is won and Coach Corbin addressed that here:

I think that the key to success of where we are right now and how we got to Omaha stems from an event that happened back to 2003. I mentioned this to the kids last fall. I was trying to explain to them how I thought that they were in the position to win a National Championship. I think it stems from a home run that was hit by this young man named Worth Scott in 2003 that sent us to the SEC tournament. Why that was so big was that Vanderbilt had not been to the SEC Tournament in 11 years. Why that moment was so big is that it gave our program a ton of confidence and propelled us to a Super Regional the next year. Why that was big was when we went to that Super Regional in 2004, just our second year in the program, it gave us a major lift in recruiting. Because of the recruiting it propelled us two, three, four years forward into the situation that we were in last year. I think the reason we were in that situation last year is because we put together a lot of very nice freshman, sophomore players that played a lot early in their career and we felt we could take this group of guys and develop a championship team with them. Then from there, we really tried to continue that type of thought process. Once we got a good group of kids together, we came back year, by year, by year improving both mentally and physically. We talk a lot about rehearsing victory and in a way each year was a rehearsal for the next. Once we knocked down one door, we went for the next one. The door to Omaha had been opened long ago; we just finally blew through it.

Some coaches want to pretend that great teams are egoless.  I've certainly never been involved with one.  The key is how to channel those egos to perform towards team goals as Coach Corbin talks about:

Being self centered is a good thing from that fact that you have to be self centered, selfish and driven in order to be a very successful player. That is a truism for a lot of players. What you have to do is take that selfish part and intertwine it into the team. That internal strength and confidence could either be a hindrance to what we want to do or it could be productive, enabling us to be stronger as a group.

Here is a great excerpt with Coach Corbin talking about molding a team and developing roles and more importantly, making each role important:

The part that has to be taught is how you can take each individual, with their strengths, and bring them into one group, especially knowing there are 35 of them but only about a third of them are going to have an opportunity to show their skill on the field at any one time. The other part of that is making sure the kids that don’t get to play on a day to day basis feel like their function is worthy, that they have some self worth and what they do is just as important as anyone else on the team. I think that is the puzzle that a coach has to work through when he is trying to put a team together. It isn’t very different in some ways than the military. You take people from all different experiences, backgrounds and skill levels, and throw them into one group of people—whether that is the Army or the Navy for example—and mesh them into one core group working towards one goal. It is the part of college athletics that can take the most time if you let it go and leave it to chance; chances are it could take your team over. I think through good leadership, you can teach that. The desire or willingness to do it is often innate. We teach it and talk about it every day. We get the kids to move in that direction where they think, ok, it is important for us to drop some of the things that we want to do and ingrain ourselves into the team. It is a very difficult thing to do in order to get it just the way you want it and in order for a team to be very successful like this one was.

This is something that I've heard Duke's Mike Krzyzewski talk about.  He once was asked about "repeating" as National Champions and Coach K explained that it is impossible to "repeat."  Each team, each season is unique and you must realize this to coach them properly as Coach Corbin shares:

Next year’s team will be a different team than last year. It will have its own personality. It is like children; they are each different. This particular team will be a different child and have its own personality. That is good. It will have its own path. It will be as successful as it wants to be. I think the thing that is left for us is to try to get back to the College World Series again, try to win a National Championship, try to become that team that does everything at a high level. I think the experience we just had as a group will help us. It will give us visual pictures and feelings of what is possible when 35 people and a support staff jump in the middle of something and hold hands and won’t let go for an entire year. There are a lot of great things that can happen so I am looking forward to doing that with this group. I don’t know what the expectations will be of us. I tell the kids “expectations of others never matter; our expectation within our own group is what matters most. We are going to achieve exactly what we think and what we see we are going to achieve.” If we don’t see it, or talk about it and move toward it, then nothing is going to be achieved with this group. I look forward to moving a step forward from what we did this last year.