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Coaching Tips

What Failure Says About You

Marge Schott, former owner of the Cincinnati Reds, once fired some of her scouts, famously saying that “all they do is watch baseball games.”

Yes, and once they watch those games, they must answer this question: Which young players have the best chance of becoming a big-league star? It’s a tricky question in which scouts are more often wrong than right.

Their mistakes seem beyond belief. Mike Piazza, who turned out to be the greatest-hitting catcher who ever lived, was drafted as an afterthought. Albert Pujols, mega-star for the St. Louis Cardinals, hung around until the 13th round in 1999.

So what exactly do baseball scouts watch when they watch?

“Believe it or not we like to see kids fail in a game situation in order to see how they react to their misfortune,” said Andy “Swens” Swenson, associate scout for the Cincinnati Reds. “Sure, all players will rejoice in success, but baseball is a game of failure and we like to see how a player reacts after going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

“A player can have three-to-six tools in their repertoire, but if they can’t handle failure on the diamond they will more than likely not make it in professional baseball.”

Swenson, who is also owner of Swenson Baseball Co., makes a lot of sense whether you’re in baseball or not. It’s all about your reaction to adversity. Just look at the way Kirstie Alley reacted on “Dancing With the Stars.” She fell on one dance and she lost her shoe on another. But she kept moving, didn’t hang her head, and she is still in the competition. Any talent scout would notice that.

Last night in Los Angeles, the San Jose Sharks gave a clinic in the right way to react to failure. Falling behind 4-0 early in the second period, they rallied to defeat the Kings, 6-5, in overtime in a Stanley Cup playoff game. It was one of the most stirring comebacks in hockey history, and it came after the Sharks lost the previous game 4-0. In other words, at the time their comeback began, they had allowed eight consecutive goals!

“We showed our resiliency as a team,” San Jose player Logan Couture was quoted in the San Jose Mercury-News. “No one gave up. No one quit. We just kept battling.”

That is what scouts look for.

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Mike Tully speaks to sports, business and educational groups. He also works with coaches, athletes and teams to make their practice time more productive and efficient. He and Gary Pritchard are co-authors of “Ten Things Great Coaches Know.” To see Coach Tully and Coach Pritchard discuss “Seven Ways to Prepare for Adversity,” click here.


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