The Smartest Guy in the Room Is the One Who Doesn’t Know a Thing

FUNdamental Skills
By Darren Fenster

The New Year is upon us. When the ball drops in Times Square, not only does it represent a calendar change, but it is also the moment for many of us on the diamond when we realize that baseball is right around the corner. And to prime us for the crack of the bat and the pat of the glove, every January, convention season often acts as the unofficial kickoff to the baseball new year.

Throughout the country, various organizations put on clinics where coaches from just about every level of the game discuss and dissect just about every facet of the game. From topics as detailed as fielding a slow roller to as board as developing culture within a team, these conventions offer so many different perspectives on our game with one common theme: sharing ideas with a coaching fraternity who wants to help their players and teams get better. Those who attend these annual events also have a common bond: they are smart enough- and humble enough- to know that they don’t know it all.

In January of 2007, just months into my own coaching career, I attended my first American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) National Convention, the circuit’s marquee event. Listening to speakers from professional baseball, to big-time Division One head coaches, to high school skippers that I had never heard of, I was completely blown away by their knowledge of the game’s smallest details and even more so by their passion and willingness to openly share with other coaches, some of whom were trying to knock them off of their pedestal. During those few days in Orlando, I truly got to know how much I didn’t know.

At its core, our game is the same today as it was 50 years ago, or even 100 years ago. Teams try to score more on offensive and prevent runs when out in the field; that part hasn’t changed one bit. But what has evolved and always will evolve is the scope under which we look at, and in turn, teach the game. That ability to continue to grow as a coach right along with the game is a direct result of simply being open to learning new ways to do things. Staying current doesn’t mean year in and year out you completely throw what you know out the window, but rather being able to build from your foundation from previous years with potentially better or more efficient ways to get the most out of your players and clubs.

Now some 14-plus years into my own coaching journey, I have had the privilege of speaking on the main stage of many of the events of convention season where I previously have sat in the audience. I often end my presentations with the following sign off:
The dumbest guy in the room is the one who knows it all. And the smartest guy in the room is the one who doesn’t know a thing.
The know-it-all isn’t in the crowd at these clinics because, in their mind, they have nothing more to learn. The coach who “doesn’t know a thing” always knows that there is still something to gain with the end result of helping our game grow.

With convention season set to begin here in 2021, the pandemic has forced much of the circuit to go virtual this year, making it easier for coaches across the country to learn from more coaches across the country. USA Baseball has established Online Community Clinics that are part of the USA Baseball Coaches Certification Pathway. USA Baseball also offers Regional Clinics, two-day immersion events hosted in Major League cities and coordinated in conjunction with Major League Baseball clubs. Day one is spent with clinic speakers in a lecture style format; while day two is on the field, typically in a big league stadium, applying the content speakers referenced the day before.
USA Baseball Virtual Community Clinics
USA Baseball Coaches Clinics  

Below are links to a handful of other clinics:
ABCA National Convention
World Baseball Coaches Convention
i70 Clinic
Be The Best
Bridge the Gap

Darren Fenster is currently the Minor League Outfield and Baserunning Coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. Previously, Fenster was the Manager of the Portland Sea Dogs, the Double-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. A former player in the Kansas City Royals minor league system, Fenster joined the Red Sox organization in 2012 after filling various roles on the Rutgers University Baseball staff, where he was a two-time All-American for the Scarlet Knights. Fenster is also Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and can be found on Twitter @CoachYourKids.