Guest Blogger: Drew Ward, husband of Horizon Point’s Mary Ila Ward
If you have ever had a son or daughter play tee ball there is only one word that can describe it…chaos. After being asked if I would coach tee ball this year my first thought was, “Lord, please give me the patience that I need to help teach the kids the game of baseball.” My second thought was, “How can we go from chaos to controlled chaos with 11 five and six year olds running around?” Little did I know that a couple of weeks into the season I would be utilizing many of the management skills that I use on a day to day basis.
One of my favorite things in my day to day work is strategic planning. I enjoy coming up with a strategy, putting that strategy into play, and then seeing the results of hard work. Three games into my inaugural season as a tee ball coach we had a record of zero wins, two loses, and one tie. You could say that I had officially received my tee ball education. At that point, I quickly realized that it wasn’t a lack of talent or that the kids weren’t trying hard enough, but that I as a coach wasn’t doing what I needed to do to give the team the best chance to be successful. The first time that I mentioned this to my wife she looked at me with a puzzled looked and said, “It’s tee ball!”
In our league, we can have a maximum of nine batters per inning and we play a total of four innings. An inning ends by making three outs or the fielder running and tagging home plate after the ninth batter of the inning. A few games in, I quickly learned the odds favored getting nine batters to the plate each inning and that an average inning consisted of 6 runs scored. If you could score 7 or more runs in an inning, or if you could hold a team to 5 runs or less in an inning, the advantage quickly swung your way.
Our goal quickly became scoring 7 runs in an inning and finding a way to strategically place our batting order to make that happen. It didn’t take me long to learn the strengths and weaknesses of our kids. At this young age all kids are in different stages of development, and we have some that can hit the ball to the fence and others that we are lucky if they can hit it past the pitcher. We have some that can really run and others that we could clock with a sun dial. I quickly begin to strategize ways that we could turn our weaknesses into strengths and reach our goal of 7 runs per inning.
We quickly began constructing our lineup with the assumption that we would get nine batters per inning and therefore our stronger hitters were positioned in the lineup so that they became the last batters of the inning. If one of my fastest players was the leadoff hitter, then I intentionally put one of my weakest hitters three spots later in the fourth hole because the percentages suggest that the fourth batter of the inning is going to come up to the plate with the bases loaded. I know that 90% of the time this particular batter in the fourth hole is going to hit it back to the pitcher, and 99% of the time with the bases loaded the others teams coach is going to tell his pitcher if it comes to him to try to run and tag home for the force out. This plays right into what I want him to do since one of my fastest players is on third base who I know that 99% of the time is going to beat that pitcher to home plate and safely score. We have now taken one of our weakest hitters and turned them into a strength player in our lineup.
If we have a hitter that pulls the ball to the third baseman no matter how we line them up, then they will always bat behind our player that more times than not gets an extra base hit so that we eliminate the force play at third base that is an easy out for teams to make. If we have a slow runner then he will be positioned in the lineup to be on third base when we have a stronger hitter at the plate therefore allowing him more time to run home safely. By strategically placing our batters in a particular order we have managed to turn weaknesses into strengths and over our last five games have reached our goal of averaging seven runs per inning which has also lead to five straight victories. And let’s face it, winning is pretty fun if done in the right way, and even five and six year olds know this. It’s especially fun when each kid knows that they contributed to the win.
How is this any different than what many of us do every day in our business life? Many of us are tasked with putting our employees in a position to succeed so that ultimately the business achieves victory. Little did I know that this would also come in handy on the tee ball field.