Marvelous Message from an MVP
By Greg Bach
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto loves the many challenges that are woven into baseball, including trying to hit 90-mph fastballs and knee-buckling curveballs.
And his approach to the game is one young players can benefit from emulating.
“The ups and downs are always going to be a part of it – and that’s the best part,” says the six-time All-Star and 2010 National League MVP.
Votto cherishes the work.
Savors the pursuit of improvement.
And navigates the good and bad days with a positive attitude and resilient mindset.
All terrific lessons for volunteer coaches to stress to their young players.
“I think the consensus among anybody who achieves anything – it doesn’t matter the craft – is that it takes time and it requires steadiness and perseverance,” Votto says. “I don’t think there are shortcuts and frankly I wouldn’t want a shortcut. That would have been boring and I would have lost interest in the game and would have elected to do something a little bit more complicated and more nuanced, where more dedication was involved.”
A part of what makes competing at any level so special is the work that takes place during practice sessions when it’s the coaches, the players, and that glorious time on a baseball or softball diamond.
It’s one of the many reasons Votto loves the game as deeply as he does.
CORNERSTONE OF COACHING
Votto played for a lot of coaches during his youth baseball journey.
And he reminds today’s volunteers that every child responds differently to how they are coached.
“Every child is different and every child has a different household, and so the coaches are an extension of raising a young girl or boy,” he says. “Some kids take to being firmly coached, some like a hands-off style, some like lots of play and some like structure.”
But what it all comes down to is genuine care for every child on the team, no matter their skill level.
“Ultimately, I think if a coach is sincere and continues to try and improve that youth can really feed off of that,” Votto says. “And I think they can tell intuitively that the coach is trying to help them improve and be truthful and make adjustments on the fly.”
Votto has seen players flourish under all types of coaching methods.
“There is no answer on what the best style of coaching is,” he says. “I liked being left be and that’s only because I’m just more naturally inclined to be that way. I’ve played with guys who just loved a firm hand and when somebody was on them and challenged them and was pushing them that they felt safe in that environment, whereas I felt not as quite as comfortable in that environment.”
The game tugged at Votto’s heart early on, and memories of playing catch with his father as a child still resonate.
“My father and I played catch every day,” Votto says. “It was our way of building a relationship and also a way of us getting outside and being playful. I played a lot of different sports but baseball was the one that was most strongly intertwined with my relationship with my father.”
Ever since, it’s been a sport that has had his full attention.
“Baseball has always drawn my interest,” he says. “And being a good teammate has always drawn my interest.”
Despite the difficulty of the game, it’s about sticking with it – and for youth coaches to encourage kids to continue working hard – and the results will surface.
“Every aspect of the game is hard,” Votto says. “You just keep plugging, you keep moving forward, and just give it your very best. And the game always lets you know. The game solves everything is what I say. So, if you’re riding too high, or you’re putting in a certain effort that is lackadaisical or whatever it may be, the game will solve that and it will let you know and give you the feedback and then you adjust from there.”
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