On Monday, Dansby Swanson was selected as the #1 overall selection in the Major League Baseball draft. It was not an accident or a stroke of luck for the Vanderbilt shortstop who has been intentional in his growth and develop as a baseball player from a very early age. We are constantly telling our team that success leaves clues and Swanson's story certainly bears that out. Ironically, Lipscomb coach Greg Brown has forwarded me an article last week on Swanson that was written by Adam Sparks of The Tennessean. It was very well written and you can read it in it's entirety here. Below are a few of my take aways from Adam's article to share with our team. My comments will be listed in gold-bold-italics:
The large majority of success stories and a strong vision of where they go. They also are locked in on that vision to the point that they can become tunneled vision. As Vince Lombardi said, "Success demands singleness of purpose." Adam's wrote of this part of Swanson:
Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson had no plan B for his life other than baseball.
Dansby opted for the one-track career path.
"I never had another one (besides baseball)," he said. "I couldn't even tell you a different one right now."
Another characteristic of high achievers is that they set goals -- goals that are specific and lofty. Then they make a plan and go about working on achieving those goals. I absolutely love this part of Adam's story on Swanson meeting with Vandy Coach Tim Corbin:
Swanson's goals were always set high. As a freshman, he told Commodores coach Tim Corbin, "I want to be the best player that's ever played at Vanderbilt," and that was before he even played a college game.
Earlier this week, the two-time All-American was named, along with teammate Carson Fulmer, one of four finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the top amateur player in the nation. This weekend, he leads his team in the NCAA Super Regional against Illinois for the chance to defend the Commodores' college baseball title.
Goals are not enough to get you there however. Once the plan is laid out you have to go about working the plan. This always includes obstacles and sacrifices. Adams points out that Swanson not only invested in his dream with hard work but also financially as he paid a major portion of his tuition to Vanderbilt:
But his path wasn't certain. Swanson took out student loans to come to Vanderbilt, supplementing his athletic scholarship and financial aid to pay for the private school's pricey tuition rather than choosing a less-expensive option at a state university.
Swanson did not disclose the amount of his debt, but he recognizes the trust he put in his own talent.
"I was willing to take whatever risk there was – 100 percent," Swanson said. "I knew coming here would be the correct first step in getting where I wanted to be because of Corbs. He's the best at what he does. ... Everyone who comes here excels, and not just in baseball."
In an era of helicopter parents who constantly work to eliminate adversity and obstacles for their children (which ironically become adversity and obstacles for their children), Swanson's parents were the exact opposite:
Corbin said Dansby's parents are ideal for an accomplished college athlete because they step away.
"They aren't hovering over him. I haven't heard from them. It's perfect, perfect!" Corbin said. "... Just give me your son and I'll get him back to you, hopefully a little better than he arrived. He's a helluva kid, something special."
The other part of Adam's story that resonated with me was how Swanson handled himself. He was a servant leadership which certainly is another piece of Vanderbilt's baseball success. Any baseball person will appreciate the story of Swanson and the rain delay:
But Corbin said jealousy hasn't bitten Swanson's teammates because he "does everything top shelf … including picking up buckets and serving other people."
At the SEC Championship game in Hoover, Ala., the stadium grounds crew saw that first-hand when Swanson led the team out of the dugout during a downpour to help pull out the heavy rain tarp. Florida players later followed before quickly returning to shelter.
As the rain continued, the grounds crew kept Swanson and his Vanderbilt teammates on the field to shake their hands and thank them for the much-needed help.
"That's our family's Christian background," Cooter said. "The leader is the servant."
And for us as coaches, its important to share with our teams that character still matters as Adam writes:
In draft scouting reports, Swanson's character and leadership qualities are listed in equal portions to his hitting prowess, arm strength and fielding range.
"What you've got on the field is obviously what you see, but he's even better off the field," said Fulmer, the SEC Pitcher of the Year and Swanson's roommate.
Ten minutes after his team was eliminated from the SEC Tournament by Vanderbilt, Texas A&M coach Rob Childress called Swanson "a superstar human being … (who is) going to play for a long, long time — not just because of his great talent, but because of his great character."