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UVA head coach Brian O'Connor

ABCA 2016 First installment

For the first time in 15 years I attended the ABCA conference (American Baseball Coaches Association) as a member rather than an exhibitor. My wife and I attended quite a few of the clinics, something we had never been able to do. It was very informative, instructional, and a lot of fun. This was the highest attended ABCA conference ever with over 5,600 coaches.

Brian O'ConnorThe key note speaker was Brian O'Connor, the head coach of the University of Virginia, the 2015 NCAA National Champions. Brian has quite a list of accomplishments. He spoke about the love of the game and the impact coaches can have on baseball and life. He talked about "Why we do what we do." The talk included the influences you can have on a young man's life and those that can influence you as well as the opportunities you and your players face. He encouraged the coaches to make the most of it.

He talked about teachers and claimed teaching was the greatest profession ever. That sat pretty well with my wife and I as we have been educators for close to 30 years. He went on to tell all the coaches, "We're all teachers." How true that is for both on and off the field.

He wanted to create a "loyal environment." This can be done, he suggested, by empowering the people around you, having true collaboration, trusting those you've entrusted (which I think means let them do their job), and by communication.

Another important topic was having a "championship culture." He said this could be accomplished with the following advice. You have to set the standard, surround yourself with the right people, serve others, let players and coaches know what the expectations are and have accountability. Learn from your successes and failures. One phrase or motto, he had was "Let them fail so they can succeed."

One of the points of discussion I liked was that players need to do each of 5 things that, as coach O'Connor put it, "takes no talent"
1. Be early
2. Be prepared
3. Consistent energy and effort
4. Right attitude and body language
5. Treat others with respect.

This was a great talk and he mentioned some personal mistakes he made along the way. So coaches at all levels, especially coaches for the younger players, instill in your players a love of the game. Don't ride them as you might be able to do at the high school or college level. Teach them the game, never worry if they will ever make it in this game. Get them to love this game of baseball so much, when the season is over, they can't wait until next year to play again. Teach them to respect the game and others. Teach them to have fun. After all, as someone once said, it's called a "baseball game", not "baseball work."

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