This is Part 2 of My LinkedIn Series: Leadership Lessons from Little League
In his book Unreasonable Hospitality, Will Guidara tells new managers, "Don't canon ball." There is a natural human tendency to want to make a good impression when you've been hired into a position of responsibility.
My variation of this advice is, "learn the game." When I first got into coaching baseball, while I was familiar with baseball, I actually knew very little about it. Working in the video game industry taught me that there is an enormous difference between playing the game and making the game. As a coach, I was moving into game making. The people I coached would play.
Therefore, I had to do three things all at once - in an iterative cycle. In reality, I did them a little at a time and each step informed the next one and I kept going until I felt like I knew more than my players, and eventually until I felt like I knew as much as the other coaches I competed with. I never really felt like I knew more than anyone else - but my players, parents, and fellow coaches seemed to respect my knowledge, which was enough for me.
So what did I have to learn? The rules of the game. How the game is meant to be played. The roles for all the players.
I was constantly looking for insights as to how the game is played, little nuggets I could communicate with my team to help them internalize and understand what I was asking them to do. For example, Base running (a part of the game most coaches ignore all together), I realized is just a form of the game Tag. In fact, baseball is simply a sophisticated form of tag, and the tagged must have the ball to get someone "out". If you look at the language (base), and the chasing involved, you can probably see it too. That understanding transformed the way my players ran the bases because they "understood" at a very intuitive level what the game was. It stopped being a bunch of rules in their head they had to think about to follow, and it became something they knew how to play.