Playing to Win - Coach Greg

Bryce Harper PassionI recently saw a youth travel tournament where every player in the tournament got a trophy.  It was called a "participation trophy".  It made my head spin and my heart break.  Can someone please tell me what the hell we are teaching our youth?  A participation trophy?  Really?

I've been playing or coaching baseball for the past 27 years.  I've been on and coached teams that have competed and won on a state and national level at all ages.   I've been through all the ups and downs that baseball brings on a daily basis.  And through it all, what I've seen every single day is that competitive players are the deciding factor in a game. Here is how I was raised to play:


  • Compete every pitch
  • Be disciplined
  • Play with aggression
  • Place Team before Individual
  • Concentrate the entire game
  • Out hustle and out work the competition
  • To win you will need sweat, grit, and sometimes even a little blood 

Today most coaches and parents state that baseball is about development and about having a positive experience.  I have even been guilty of saying "I don't care about winning and losing as long as we get better on a day to day basis."  I would like to clarify that statement.

Do I care about development?  YES-  We need to get better every day through practice and game experience, and we won't get better unless we have the work ethic.

Do I care about winning?  YES-  We play the game to win the game.  If you don't care about competition and the drive to be the best, then why do you play?  In this everyone gets a trophy world, the philosophy of competition has changed.  Now we compete against other teams so we can all have a good time.  Seriously?  How does that shape us for our future?  I will tell you that ALL of the extremely successful people, players, and coaches that I have ever met have the natural instinct to win and beat there opponent every single time they take the field.  To compete means to give every ounce of energy that you have to come up victorious at the end of a battle and beat the person that is trying to beat you.  When competitors lose, they find a way to fix it.  They hate it.  They can't sleep because of it.  They get up earlier, they work harder, and they prepare themselves mentally to be better than their opponent next time.  Champions are fighters.

Let me give a real life, non-baseball example.  When baseball is over and you have to get a real job, do you go to job interviews to get better?  Do you go just to say that you are in the interview process?  Do you look through the newspaper, online, and vast social media sites just to waste your time?  No.  You don't.  You go to interviews to get a job, beat every other applicant in the field, and to get a job that allows you to support yourself, your family, and live.  Life is meant to be prosperous.  Looking for jobs doesn't bring prosperity.  Getting the job, getting promoted, and being better than the rest of the field brings prosperity.  Why would baseball be anything different?  Baseball prepares us for our future.  

The disconnect between baseball and real life is astounding.  If we know we have to fight and compete every day to get a job, keep a job, succeed at that job, and then master that job, why in the world would we allow our youth to not compete to be the best and win?  We are creating a losing mentality.  You want to succeed in life?  START NOW.  

So, is baseball more about development or winning.  The answer is simple.  Winning.  True champions in every walk of life have a natural instinct to be the best at what they do.  My personal belief is that God has instilled every one of us to be the absolute best at what we do.  He didn't create us to collect participation trophies and have a good time.  He created us to compete, maximize our skill, and to endure against all obstacles put in front of us.  He created us to endure.  To last through all hardships.  Participation trophies tell us it is okay to lose.  

If you play the game without a constant goal (WINNING) you are simply wasting your time, your teammates time, and your coaches time.  If you don't want to win, you are in the wrong sport.  It's time to get very honest with yourself.  Do you want to win every game?  Do you have the drive to find a way to get better so you can win?  If not, that's fine...but baseball is not your game.  All of enjoy winning more than losing.  Losing is a part of the process, but don't ever allow it to be okay.  Let it light you on fire and stir up your competitive juices.  Let it make you better.  Your job is to win.  So find a way!

I hope this challenges some of your thinking.  I hope it challenges our youth to get off the couch, get to the gym, put their smart phones away, get to practice early and stay late, and play the game with integrity, passion, desire, and heart.  Why?  Because this everyone gets a trophy philosophy makes us soft.  America was built on grit, ingenuity, pride, and work ethic.  I don't see that today.  Let's get back to the way we were.  Time to compete and be the best.  Get after it or get off the field.  Period.

Each player has a choice to make.  And either choice is fine.  Some players truly play the game because they like to hang out with their buddies, collect trophies, and eat cupcakes after the game.  Good for them.  Players who play to be the best LOVE to play the game because it stirs every single possible emotion with in them on a daily basis.  They love the challenges in front of them every day.  They love to break through obstacles.  Every practice and every game is a war against themselves and their opponent.  Champions are competitors.  Competitors will find success on the field and later in life.

Let me be clear.  Rhino Baseball plays to win every single pitch, game, and season with grit, sweat, and sometimes even a little blood.  I challenge you to play to win.  You won't regret it and you will be a stronger player and human being through the process.

Coach Greg

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# Andy Tehako 2013-05-13 16:56
Awesome stuff Greg!
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# Micah 2013-05-13 17:07
I agree with Andy...AWESOME!
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# coalers123 2013-05-13 17:40
privelage for just showing up.My kid should play even tho over the 14 innings he has played he has no hits and 10 errors.Where these kids/parents really stick out is when "little johnny" gets hit by a pitch with two on two outs in a one run game.Both him and his parent actually think its done on purpose.Just watch them mouth off to the mound while mom and dad show thier true baseball knowlagde from the stands.
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# Ciska 2013-06-17 18:21
track and field springbok athelete, wmarthon,cross country,agree it is all about winning.What happend all the best athlete . Winning is not t, the need to coach, winning not everthing but the only everthing. Business Management.
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# Paul Cocco 2014-09-10 21:01
Wow!! I just read your philosophy on "Playing to Win". Playing organized sports definitley provides great core value to our youth that can last a lifetime.
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