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Don’t Go it Alone. Find a Coach.

Don’t Go it Alone. Find a Coach.

One of the traits that makes the St. Louis Cardinals such a strong organization is that they invite former players and managers to spring training to work with the team.

Can you imagine being a young player working hard to make the team and getting fielding tips from Ozzie Smith? Or base running advice from Lou Brock? Or recommendations on pitch selection from Bob Gibson?

And then there’s this guy.

Red Schoendienst is 91 years old. He’s been a part of baseball for seven decades and still helps the team during pre-season. Red played with or against some of the legends of the game: Musial and Mantle and DiMaggio. Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, and Willie Mays. He was an all-star 10 times and has 5 World Series rings. Five!

What an incredible opportunity for a young player to bend his ear at spring training or just while away a night listening to Red’s stories of legendary games and legendary players.

But what if — out of arrogance or perhaps insecurity — these young players didn’t take advantage of the wisdom and experience of Red and Gibby and Ozzie? What if they decided it best to just to figure it out themselves? What a waste. To have all of that experience right in front of you and never tap into it.

Seems silly, doesn’t it? But are you doing the same? Are you trying to figure it out yourself or are you tapping into the wisdom around you?

There are likely several men you know who could help you navigate your personal and professional life. Look at the older men around you. Select a man with character and integrity. A man who loves his family and is respected by others.

Then…simply ask. 

You might think that making the request will feel awkward but t doesn’t have to be. You could say something like this:

“I’m at a point in my life where I could really use the advice of someone older than me. Someone who has experience and wisdom that I currently don’t have. I believe I could learn a lot from you. Would you be open to meeting for coffee once a month or even once a week for a few months so I could bend your ear about some things? Nothing in particular, just life stuff. Don’t answer me now…think about it. And if you don’t have the time, no worries. I’ll be happy if you just consider it.  Let me know.”

Trust me, any older man who hears these words will be thrilled. Even if he politely declines he’ll be honored that you consider him worthy enough to be asked. I’ve been asked by two different guys at two different times. In both cases, I considered the request itself an incredible compliment.

As I suggested above, I’d recommend you ask to meet with him for a specific, limited period of time to  (“…for a few months.”). This is important. If you leave it open-ended then he might be hesitant to say yes, especially if he has other commitments. Chances are good, though, once you begin meeting, the mentoring relationship will continue. But it won’t be forced, it’ll happen naturally.

There’s an old proverb that has been commonly attributed to Buddha but the origin is ultimately unknown:

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”

When you’re ready to grow in ways you can’t yet imagine, look around you. Chances are very good that your coach is nearby. And all you need to do is ask him.

(Photo Credit: Creative Commons – Todd Awbrey via Flickr)


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