Looking across the room during a short break at the ACC Campus Recreation Director’s conference this past week held at the University of Louisville, I got up from my seat and stood before my colleagues and asked them a question. After receiving a personally engraved Louisville Slugger baseball bat at the welcome reception the evening before, baseball was on my mind. I had a hunch about something, which would prove to be confirmed or denied, but I had to ask them for myself. With Campus Recreation Directors ranging from Boston College to Virginia, from Georgia Tech to UNC, I wanted to know about their playing days in the sport of baseball or softball.
I asked them, “How many of you were catchers when you played the game?” Of the 14 Recreation Directors surveyed, seven hands went up. I then asked how many were infielders. There were three. Of the remaining four, two played in the outfield and the others had never played the game.
It was an amazing discovery. Seven of the 14 directors had been catchers. As I returned to my seat I began to ask myself a question. “Is this just a coincidence or was there something to this?” I then began to think about the skill set which catchers develop during their playing days and whether those skills transfer into skills used later on in life. Specifically, are catchers more prepared than others to lead in our field? If they are what can we learn from them that can help us in our everyday experience as leaders in Campus Recreation? From what I saw that day, there is something lifelong which occurs when one says, “I’ll be the catcher.”
As one of those ACC Directors that raised their hand, I was reminded of the myriad of duties which catchers are asked to perform before, during and after each game. Of the numerous tasks required of catchers, I would like to carve out three important skills which I believe are vital for every player to be successful as a catcher in the game of baseball. Since half of the directors in the room that day were former catchers themselves, I believe that these attributes should be something that every recreational sports professional should consider developing in their own abilities arsenal as well.
The pitcher does not. He throws the pitches. The shortstop does not, for he is limited to supervising the middle infield and from time to time oversees the cut offs from the outfield. The outfielders definitely do not control the game as well. They respond to the balls as they are hit. Even the opposing offensive players do not control the game, the catcher does.
The catcher has it all in front of him and he sets the tone for the game at the pace that he prefers for it to be played. He can either speed the game up at times or he can slow things down. He can ask for some hustle or he can ask all to focus to accommodate the situation at hand.
So this begs the question: Are you controlling the game on your campus? Is the pace being dictated to you or are you stepping out in front of the plate, calling out the defensive set and giving a fist pump for all to lock in?
Receiving capabilities are the necessary skills which must be present when the ball is released from either the pitcher, an infielder or an outfielder. A good catcher catches the ball no matter how it is thrown his or her way. Whether the ball is thrown high, to the left or right or even in the dirt, a skilled catcher moves into position and catches the errant throw regardless of the velocity or direction of the throw.
A good campus recreation administrator does the same. When everyone knows that the person at the helm will catch the situation no matter how off the mark it is thrown, confidence and trust is built campus wide. An outstanding professional finds a way to catch the ball no matter who or what menacing situation is barreling down the third base path.
How do you do when mistakes are thrown your way? I agree that it is always nice to get a perfect throw from a patron, a supervisor or one of your employees. However, how do you do when something is spiked into the ground right in front of you? Will you get down in the dirt, take the ball off your chest and keep it in front of you, eventually making a tag play at the plate? Successful administrators are like successful catchers.
Not only does the catcher set the pace of the game, not only are appropriate signals and defensive sets called and not only does he or she catches every throw sent their way, but a top flight catcher always sees the possibilities for the team. No matter what the score, an outstanding catcher is always hopeful, always has a positive attitude and always exudes an enthusiastic spirit.
How are you when you are behind 10-1? Are your words, attitude and energy different than when you are ahead 5-0 on campus? Your team is looking to you not only for the pace and the skills to catch, but they are looking for someone who is a steady and unwavering who never ever gives up on them, the vision of what they are asked to do and the patrons and student employees who have been entrusted to their care.
Every game will bring to light outstanding performances such as web gems and homeruns. However, every game will also showcase errors which will cost teams runs. There will be mishaps resulting in losses in the standings column. However, no matter how the game is played and what the resulting score is, the catcher will dictate how the next game is to be approached. What will you do this week when a nasty curve ball is thrown at your feet? What will you do when you win in the bottom of the 9th? The catcher sets the tone, catches everything thrown and believes in his teammates.
Like the catchers, which I rub shoulders with in the ACC, every administrator has an opportunity to make a difference in the game being played on their respective campuses. What will be your story? When you gather on the mound this week, inform your team of the pace you desire, show them that you can catch their throws and then inspire them that no matter what the score is, that they have what it takes to get it done. Play ball!
Max Floyd has been the Director of Campus Recreation at Wake Forest University for over 22 years. Max received his Masters in Sports Management from The Ohio State University and his Bachelors in Education from the University of Texas at El Paso. In addition to what he does at Wake Forest, he is a motivational speaker, a youth sports coach, an all levels certified teacher, founder of the All Sports Camp at Wake Forest, a Certified Recreational Sports Specialist and a five time site manager for the NCAA Men’s Division I baseball championship.