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.