For fifteen consecutive summers I have been fortunate enough to volunteer manage for a youth baseball league, first through the DeKalb Park District and currently with Crystal Lake Babe Ruth. What began as a volunteer job because I signed up too late to be hired for the summer as an umpire has become an integral element of my life and a passion that I truly appreciate every day.
Over the years I have managed kids age eleven to fifteen years old, coaching with my best friend, Mike. We started first in college at Northern Illinois and for the past ten years in Crystal Lake. I have volunteered every summer all while working full-time as the manager of Nelson’s Jewelry. Mike and I have spent years working on a goal-based Player Development Plan that we modeled after collegiate and professional baseball and business organizations. The plan works to justify success by measuring accomplished goals that are set by the team and the coaching staff. The individual player’s plan includes current strengths and weaknesses and allows coaches to communicate with players about their progress, but at the same time makes each player more accountable for improving upon his specific goals.
The baseball plan is also designed to give a player a chance to succeed beyond the standard statistical method used by most teams. It demonstrates a player’s readiness for the next level of play as well as gives everyone a method to measure success that is more reliable than just using categories like wins, batting average and fielding percentage. In a sense, it is another way to evaluate the success of a given baseball season. This year, I implemented a similar model with our employees during the holiday season at Nelson’s Jewelry.
At the jewelry store, when a goal was accomplished, the entire team discussed this achievement and helped each other establish additional goals for the remainder of that day. By measuring success using an achievement-based system, employees were immediately rewarded for their hard work and dedication to the team, much like my baseball players were rewarded after accomplishing a team or individual goal during a game.
In the baseball model, the development of each player is the goal of the system. The focus is on teamwork, discipline and achievement of individual and team goals. Personally, I believe this success is achieved through attitude and effort, as it is expected that all players and parents that participate in the program will have a positive attitude, display a high level of commitment to the team and instill character traits that will allow players to be successful on and off the baseball field. For me, it is important that the success of the program is measured not by the score of each game, but by player development and the cohesion of the team. I trust that each player will achieve his goals with a commitment to those core values.
At the jewelry store, the goal-based system allows each employee to maximize his or her strengths, improve on his or her weaknesses and allows the store to demand that every employee provide as much effort as the management team is contributing on the sales floor. The same is true of players on the baseball field.
My favorite element to this system is its ability to foster a supportive team environment. All players cheer for the team when they capture a positively expressed goal. At the jewelry store, we rewarded a great sale by providing the entire staff with a special treat. Whether it was Starbucks coffee, a sandwich from Pot Belly or a drink from Jamba Juice, everyone was rewarded by one person achieving a goal. Eliminating commission-based stress from our sales team made working long hours during the holiday easier and life as the manager of a family-owned jewelry store feel as fun as a bag of Skittles at a Seahawks victory parade.
As I continue to learn from my managerial experiences, I am sure this goal-based coaching system will evolve, but for now, I believe the best technique to measure success and build a supportive team environment is to establish positive, attainable goals and reward the team when a goal is accomplished.