Thursday, February 19, 2015


As a professor and administrative leader at a university in New Jersey, I have had the opportunity to teach and mentor students and other colleagues. The experience has been incredible for me and equally satisfying for the mentee. In fact, this week, we are sponsoring a Peer Coaching workshop for our education students, supervisors and other P-12 personnel. We are expecting over 200 people at the event that will provide an overview of peer coaching, what it is, what it does and how it can help move novice teachers to develop into seasoned/expert teachers.

According to the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), a major education organization here in the United States, "Peer coaching is a confidential process through which two or more professional colleagues work together to reflect on current practices; expand, refine, and build new skills; share ideas; teach one another; conduct classroom research; or solve problems in the workplace."  What does peer coaching or mentoring have to do with sports and specifically baseball?  I am getting to that.

Recently I reconnected with my friend and colleague Father Robert Hagan, the Associate Director of Athletics at Villanova University.  You may remember me referencing him in a recent Hot Stove report.  One of his major jobs is to mentor student-athletes as chaplain for Villanova athletic programs. I had the opportunity to discuss the importance of mentoring in an interview this past weekend.  Here are some of our thoughts on the role mentoring has in sports today.

BYB: Why is it important to mentor athletes throughout the the trajectory of their careers? What are the outcomes of good mentoring?

Fr. Hagan: It has been said that there are 2 kinds of people in this world. "Those who are humble and those who are going to be." No one knows it all or has all the answers. It takes humility and trust to be open to others who can offer some direction and wisdom that can and does make a difference in our thinking, and performance, and life!

BYB: What does good mentoring look like? On the field? Court? Or in everyday life? 

Fr. Hagan: Good mentoring can take the form of a trusted friendship. Someone with whom we can share strengths and weaknesses in an open dialogue with no fear of judgment. A good mentor has the other person's well-being at heart and knows that it is not micro-managing a person as much as sharing good strategies and techniques for the other person to try and apply in their profession and life.

BYB: How does mentoring affect a team's performance? Who should mentor?

Fr. Hagan: Good mentoring can help instill or restore confidence which is a key ingredient to success. Often people struggle because their belief in themselves has faded. A good mentor is often someone who has attained some wisdom and or expertise in a particular field and is now willing to share it and give back so that others can reap the benefit of their experience. A good mentor however might not have all the degrees, credentials or accolades, but still has the ability to listen and convey wisdom and truth in a way that the mentee needs to hear in a particular moment.

 BYB: Can mentoring change a player's physical ability? Why or why not?

Fr. Hagan: We talk all the time here at Villanova about how "talent is overrated." Sure talent is necessary to succeed, but time after time it is not the most talented person or team that succeeds. We were not the fourth most talented team in the country in the 2009 when we went to the Final Four!

Rather it is the ones who possess the intangibles that come from good mentoring and personal growth: Confidence...unity...spirit that never gives up...internal disposition to handle adversity and set back and get back up...attitude...The sum of the parts is greater than the individuals. Good mentors help people realize their potential and develop the whole person. It takes mind body and spirit, and when we are working out on ALL these levels, we can realize our utmost potential as players and as people!

With pitchers and catchers reporting in a few days and opening day only 48 days away, it is interesting to discuss this topic of mentoring as it relates to a team's opportunity for success.  There has to be a culture for mentoring instilled in a team in order for mentoring to be successful and there has to be mentors willing to step up and mentor players, young and old.  We have a new team this year with the opportunity to develop new leaders and fresh new players.  Who is going to fulfill the void of Derek Jeter?  Who is going to take on the role of mentor?  Who will people be drawn to and how will mentoring occur?  These are important questions to ask and perhaps they have been asked among the leadership this off season.  Perhaps the players have asked the very same questions of themselves.

Over the years we have seen rich mentoring relationships in baseball.  Guys like Tony Gwynn, Reggie Jackson, Yogi Berra, Cal Ripken, Jr. among others have all taken on the role of mentor to those willing to accept them.  January was National Mentorship Month and according to the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, "It’s rewarding to be among the cadre of mentors who give to the lives of our scholar athletes each week with the realistic expectation that there will be a return on the investment manifested in the productive lives of our mentees!" For the Yankees and other teams who are struggling to create a team that gels all the way into the post season, developing a clubhouse that mentors is the biggest investment they can make.

--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Senior Staff Writer

BYB Hot Stove Columnist
Twitter: @suzieprof

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