Coaching Absolutes Resources

 My Revival (Part III)
(5/19/2022)
 
   

My Revival (Part III)


Coaching Absolutes
By Dave Turgeon


View Part 1 and Part 2.

Providing Structure and Space Versus Over-Coaching
Friend and teammate Juan Pimental (currently MiLB Pitching Coach Detroit Tigers) and I were having a conversation recently, which really wrapped my year up in a bow. We exchanged thoughts on what an ideal learning environment looks like, and we both agreed over-coaching is fairly common at most levels and not a healthy or robust learning environment. Now, over-coaching comes in different forms. There is over-coaching in information overload where players are fire hosed with information which cripples their ability to perform. There is also over-coaching where coaches simply quick fix players and give them all the answers, so short-term, the player performs but never understands how to fix and adjust himself. I also call this GPS coaching. To be clear, I have done both. It took years of learning and evolving to really get this.

My conversation with Juan allowed me to revisit this topic, and he came up with a great analogy for all of this. Juan hit me with, “So I believe as coaches we can deliver better development by providing structure rather than over-coaching. For example, horses obviously need substantial space to live and run around, but there still needs to be a structure or framework around that space. If not, you have horses running wild and likely will not return. The opposite of this is giving the horses very limited space, resulting in a miserable life for that horse. Coaches, in general, provide very little space.” I was in 100 percent agreement because my evolution as a teacher has gotten me to this spot. I have been that coach. I am no longer. Now how big that area is that you allow your players to run free is simply knowing your room. This is not science, but it is art. I do believe self-discovery with a guide on the side is the balance. I do believe that structure and space need a balance. I do believe over-coaching is never the answer. With structure and space, we can create problem solvers on the field. A good baseball player is a problem solver.

We All Need a Team Gray in Our Process
Mikey O’Brien and the Gray Varsity did more for me than I did for them. They reconnected me to the greatest game on earth called baseball. But it was more than that; they brought me back to the fundamentals of coaching/life. Connecting and listening are paramount. The gateway to coaching, leading, and influencing are just that. Walking it is more important than talking it. More is caught than taught are words to coach by! Thank you, Kory. And more, building teams is an exercise in intentionality and daily work, not an organic happening. Dan McDonnell holds a special place in my heart of understanding more deeply that 1+1 can equal three or more! Keeping it simple is the deal. You will not gain credibility by telling people what you know but by breaking something down in such simplicity to what they need. Then show them. That is the real deal. Lastly and arguably the most important share here is the environment we create for our players. Are we guiding them or acting as a GPS where thinking and problem-solving stop? Give em space to run around with your “food for thought” and see if it works. Or they may even figure it out on their own. Revivals are good. Varsity Gray in 2020 was my most recent. Thanks, men.



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.  


 My Revival (Part II)
(3/17/2022)
 
   

My Revival (Part II)


Coaching Absolutes
By Dave Turgeon


View Part 1 here.

DAN MCDONNELL and The Power of Team (1+1=3)
Bringing a room together is challenging. I have been on the player side at many levels and won rings, where it is an amazing feeling when this happens. I have also been on the leadership side, where you are charged to make it happen. Getting a group to believe in "team" (especially in the time of social media) is a great challenge. I have failed at this and found some success after realizing this does not happen organically, as we all may believe. Maybe the best I have seen at doing it in an incredibly short period of time is Dan McDonnell. It is no accident his teams are in the top five in the country yearly. It was inspiring to witness what he did with a highly touted group of college players (many of whom were first rounders) over six weeks to pull them together. It was daily, intentional, while coupled with a tough schedule on foreign soil. He had everyone pulling on the same rope and in the same direction, playing for the USA on the front and for each other. I took so much from that, and when arriving at IMG in January and games beginning in February, I went right to it.

Building cohesion was not one of the things but THE thing. Revival nugget number three: Building a team is intentional work/action, and when synergy kicks in, the forces of a team cannot be stopped. The “how” of this was multi-faceted between classroom sessions, video sessions, speed dating sessions, on-field training, and even love language test-taking, as well as lots of connecting via conversations and text threads, to name a few. The Gray team won their last 14 games, and Mikey and I got out of the way and just watched somewhere early in the streak. Somewhere in there, when Eli would bring the group together and break it down at the end of practice and games, it went from "IMG on 3, 123 IMG!" to "Family on 3,123 Family!" That was the moment they became a team. It became their team.

What is funny is that the players were so freed up and feeding off each other they began holding each other accountable and beat some highly touted teams along the way. Some players pulled me aside and said they wished we could keep playing. Truth be told, that will choke up any coach or parent, and I was honest when I said I wish we could too. The power of "team" allows everyone's skills to play up in an extraordinary way. "Team" is a force multiplier!!

Depth Year
I received an email from a friend a couple of years back, and it spoke of having a depth year. Put simply, the email talked about not getting more books but rereading the ones you have and learning them more deeply. It also talked about doing some of the things you did well and drilling down on them while improving and refining them more. Going along with that thought comes revival nugget number four; Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." I did not intend 2021 to be a depth year, but that is what it became. At this level, there is you, the pitching coach, and go get 'em! Because of this and the level, it allowed me to dive into all areas more deeply and break things down into more edible pieces. The reality is, this has made me a better coach because it was a place I needed to be anyway. This game is hard enough on its own. The player should not need a translator when his coach speaks. "Say less, but say more," or should I say, "say less and say it simply!"

Stay tuned for Part 3, coming May 19, 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.  


 My Revival (Part I)
(1/20/2022)
 
   

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.  


 Soundtracks, Part IV
(12/7/2020)
 
   

Soundtracks, Part IV


Coaching Absolutes
By Dave Turgeon


A couple of years back, I used to do a segment with staff called “Soundtracks.” Before diving into it I would always talk about what a soundtrack is. Most of us have heard of them and been impacted by them when watching a movie. Some of us (myself included) have been moved to purchase the soundtrack of a movie. Soundtracks, the music of a movie, evoke and stir emotions and amplify a scene in some way. For example, most of us remember the opening scene from “Jaws” where the young woman goes for a swim and some music begins to play that makes us all feel the impending doom to come. And it did. Another example of a soundtrack that brings about some emotions is from the classic movie called “Rocky.” The scene starts with Rocky doing his road work (running) and ends with him running up the stairs to a song called “Gonna Fly Now.” It absolutely is an inspiring scene that was brought to life from that iconic song.

Just as movies have soundtracks, we also have our own personal soundtrack. When someone walks in a room you can usually feel where they are at by their energy, body language and facial expression. Whether we realize this or not, our soundtrack is playing when we enter a room or walk down the street or engage with others. This is about self-awareness and the impact our soundtracks have on players and our personal lives.

Taiwan

I have had the privilege of working a camp in Taiwan every December for the last four years with friend and also the Boston Red Sox Coordinator of Baserunning and Outfield, Darren Fenster. I knew going over there that this would be a challenge, and it is every year, because of the language and culture differences. Darren is the Field Coordinator of this camp and asks me to spearhead the pitching for the four days. I find the camp a great challenge for the reasons I mentioned, but I also played in Taiwan professionally for four years so I always find a way with my limited Mandarin and rely more on my understanding of the culture and default to show and do, rinse, repeat every day. Darren, on the other hand, never played in Taiwan, but has impacted and improved a camp four years in a row because he has mastered what soundtrack the Taiwanese staff and players need and at what volume they need it, and when they need it played. With the use of his soundtrack of energy, care level, and heart, it has been so cool to witness his bringing together a group of 40 players and approximately 25 staff together in a four-day period. The last four years of working in Taiwan with Darren always serve as a reset for me because it forces me to bring back my teaching to where it needs to be in the first place. It is coaching with constraints. Remove the language and we are forced to develop our soundtrack, use few words if any, and create a “show and do” environment which is skill acquisition rich. It makes me understand the question, “Do I want my players to learn words or acquire skills?”

Thunderstruck

My personal Soundtrack has evolved and grown over the years. I am also happy to say my volume controls have improved. It will continue to and it has to. Staying connected with players and seeking more self-awareness is a great way of becoming a master coach. I failed to mention my personal soundtrack when I broke into managing / teaching 20 years ago. It contained one song called “Thunderstruck” by AC-DC and it was played at two volumes which were loud and louder! Needless to say, that does not work in coaching or parenting or any relationship we may have.

As technology and its use evolves in the game, remember first that improving our soundtrack must continue or it will not matter what you know if your delivery system is not current. I have mentioned the firing order of coaching in previous blogs and stand firmly by being an excellent relationship builder as critical to the process. So, keep refining and growing your soundtrack and become a master DJ so that anything you know that can help a player will be relevant. Best of luck to you all in your coaching endeavors!


Turgeon is the Coordinator of Instruction for the Pittsburgh Pirates. 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 2000-2001 Turgeon began coaching 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. Turgeon was also the Bench Coach for the 2019 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. 


 Soundtracks, Part III
(9/16/2020)
 
   

Soundtracks, Part III


Coaching Absolutes
By Dave Turgeon


A couple of years back, I used to do a segment with staff called “Soundtracks.” Before diving into it I would always talk about what a soundtrack is. Most of us have heard of them and been impacted by them when watching a movie. Some of us (myself included) have been moved to purchase the soundtrack of a movie. Soundtracks, the music of a movie, evoke and stir emotions and amplify a scene in some way. For example, most of us remember the opening scene from “Jaws” where the young woman goes for a swim and some music begins to play that makes us all feel the impending doom to come. And it did. Another example of a soundtrack that brings about some emotions is from the classic movie called “Rocky.” The scene starts with Rocky doing his road work (running) and ends with him running up the stairs to a song called “Gonna Fly Now.” It absolutely is an inspiring scene that was brought to life from that iconic song.

Just as movies have soundtracks, we also have our own personal soundtrack. When someone walks in a room you can usually feel where they are at by their energy, body language and facial expression. Whether we realize this or not, our soundtrack is playing when we enter a room or walk down the street or engage with others. This is about self-awareness and the impact our soundtracks have on players and our personal lives.

The Dominican Experience

The first time I went to the Dominican Republic I realized it was different than anywhere I had coached, starting with culture and language. In addition, the age range in the Dominican Republic is 16 - 17 and the paths of each player that took them to this point were unique in every way. So, I started from the beginning with my “serviceable Spanish” and started getting to know players and watching a lot. I coached very little. The Latin player is always so appreciative to coaches that make the effort to speak their language but also get to know them personally. When you need to get in there and coach them they receive it so well.

How is this different from coaching here in the States? It’s not! It is coaching 101. Get to know your players personally, watch them a lot, and then if they need coaching they will receive it.

So, what did I learn in this experience? I learned two HUGE lessons. First, your soundtrack is even more important if your language skills are limited. They realize you are trying to help them and care for them even if your Spanish is bad because your tone and body language speak volumes in the absence of words. The volume of your songs is especially big here also because they are so young and inexperienced you could be in danger of losing a player quickly if it is too loud too quickly. When they cannot understand the words always remember that they can FEEL you!

The second HUGE takeaway came to me a couple years ago when speaking with the legendary coach, teacher and author Frans Bosch. He said to me “players’ bodies really have no interest in your words.” I realized I may be a better coach in the Dominican Republic because my words are always distilled down to extreme simplicity and low numbers. I usually quickly transition to show and do, or watch (video) show and do. This is also coaching 101! Talk less and show and do more!

Before I knew anything about the science of skill acquisition I learned about what is needed for some real skill acquisition. Bernie Holiday, the Pirates Director of Mental Conditioning, said to our group a couple of years back another nugget on coaching and the use of words. He said our first language is not English, Spanish or whatever language we speak. Our first language is pictures, and it will always be our first language because we think in images. To Bernie’s point, if I said the word HORSE to you, your thoughts do not think of the word HORSE but an image of a HORSE. In teaching, master your Soundtracks, limit your words, and default to watch, show, and do more often!

To be an effective coach, having command of your soundtrack is critical. Further, having command of many songs of your soundtrack will allow you to reach more players. When I say command, I am talking about having your self-awareness get to a point where you can adjust the song and volume of that song in order to connect and reach who is in front of you.

As a coach, there are two huge questions we must continually ask:
Which song does the individual need?
What song does the collective group need?

Transitioning from song to song and adjusting your volume along the way is what good coaching looks like. It is seamless and constant.


Turgeon is the Coordinator of Instruction for the Pittsburgh Pirates. 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 2000-2001 Turgeon began coaching 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. Turgeon was also the Bench Coach for the 2019 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team.