My Revival (Part I)

Coaching Absolutes
By Dave Turgeon

In the coaches' circles, the quote by Bum Phillips has long been out there. Then, a Head Coach in the NFL and aware of how hot that seat of leadership gets, he said, "There's two kinds of coaches, them that's fired and them that's gonna be fired." Of course, that is a classic and funny quote, but I would sometimes think to myself, 21 plus years into my coaching career that I would be the guy who somehow avoided the professional guillotine. Not! After almost 11 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, there was a regime/leadership change, and as they brought in their people to fill spots, they moved some of us out. I was one of those moves. Being a part of the "Been Fired Fraternity" has been an amazing learning experience from the end of 2020 to today. There were some emotional lows with so much sweat equity put into a cause for that long, but once I got to the other side of those with the help of my faith, my wife Theresa, family, and some amazing friends that came out of the woodwork, I started my bounce back. It was now time to practice what I have been preaching all these years to my teams and staff, and even speaking engagements about handling adversity, taking wisdom from it and moving on, and getting stronger in the process. In 2019, I was Coordinator of Instruction for the Pirates, bench coach for Head Coach of Louisville Dan McDonnell for Team USA (an amazing honor and experience), and then was named Manager of the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League. Life in my profession was amazing.

Then the dominoes began to fall. Leadership changed. The new administration gave me the opportunity to manage the Pirates AA affiliate for the 2020 season, but Covid came, and the minor league season never went off. I finished off 2020 managing the Pirates Instructional League team and pouring into some of the younger coaches, but that would be it. I learned how to exit a year earlier from a dear friend and mentor, Clint Hurdle, to handle it professionally and with class. Clint was let go at the end of the 2019 season, and over breakfast later that fall, he again shared his wisdom with me to "honor the exit." Be grateful for the experience, learn from it, and do not go down those negative rabbit holes we can be prone to. "Honor the exit" was something I leaned on and helped me move forward to my bounce back. From that time on, great things began to happen in my world. I landed at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and the learning was reignited in so many ways I wanted to share it with fellow coaches and friends.

Varsity Gray and My Mini Revival

In January of 2020, I was charged with being the Head Coach of the Varsity Gray team at IMG Academy. There are six varsity teams at the Academy, and the Gray was viewed as the 3rd tier of the six teams. On day one, this team put my bounce back into “revival” mode. What an amazing, emotional, and competitive cast of characters they were and will continue to be in their young careers. “The Blonde Bomber,” “Free Willy,” “Ram-Dog,” Max, Pep, Max, Papo, “Smitty,” Chase, Eli, “Bobby McGee,” Coop, Noah, “Daveed” and others came along. I had never coached at this level, but they showed me how with the help of my pitching coach Mikey O’Brien (longtime AAA pitcher). They gave me more than I gave them, and I will always stand by that. They took me back to coaching 101 and added depth by allowing me to coach em up. Revival number one: it all starts by connecting and listening.

The gateway to coaching, leading, influencing, and impacting begins here. The power of listening is inspiring, and if players feel understood and trust who is in front of them, the development process is put on fast forward. They are freed up. A freed-up player learns so quickly! The simple act of checking in with them intentionally on a personal level means so much. After the trust is developed and you get your message out of expectations and standards comes the second nugget of the revival.

Being a walking sermon of intentionality.” My longtime friend and teammate, and my current hitting coach (former Big Leaguer), Kory DeHaan, reminded me recently that “more is caught than taught.” Just because players are young does not mean they do not watch intently to see if your actions align with your words. Your impact will be showing them daily what right looks like, acts like, and talks like. The position of Manager of a team is a huge responsibility and a great honor. Billy Graham, the famous evangelist, once said of coaching: “A coach will impact more people in one year than the average person will in an entire lifetime.” That is heavy but true, so understanding this means every single interaction we have can either build up or break down confidence. Be dealers of confidence.

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming March 17, 2022.

Dave Turgeon is a contributor to the USA Baseball Develops Blog and is currently the National Team Head Coach at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. Turgeon played in the New York Yankees farm system from 1987-1990 under Stump Merrill and Buck Showalter after being drafted out of Davidson College. Before playing for the Baltimore Orioles’ AAA affiliate in 1998 he spent eight years playing abroad. From 2000-2002 Turgeon began managing in the Cleveland Indians organization before entering the college ranks where he coached with Boston College, the University of Connecticut, Duke University, and Virginia Tech. He spent the next 11 years managing and being the Coordinator of Instruction for the Pittsburgh Pirates Organization. He is also in the St. Bernard High School Athletics Hall of Fame as well as the Davidson College Athletics Hall of Fame. Recently, Turgeon was named to the 100 Year Anniversary Team for the Southern Conference.