One Secret to Bridging the Gap with Team Members


"By me realizing what I needed to do on my end to improve communication, the players met me half way. The best leaders are confident, competent, humble, and they lead by example." - Billy Horton

As many of you know, I enjoy spending time every March working with some pro baseball teams, who partner with us at Growing Leaders and use Habitudes® as anchors to teach life principles to their minor league players. Each time, I’ve been able to meet some stellar coaches and managers of these young men. One year (our athletic program director) and I met coach Billy Horton, and he offered to write a blog on a simple reminder he got about connecting with his youngest players. Enjoy it below.

“I was entering my 3rd year as a minor league hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants. In my first season, our big league team won the World Series, and the organization rewarded all of the staff with World Series rings. The next year, the team that I was the hitting coach for won the championship in the Arizona League. Two seasons, two rings. It goes without saying that I have been blessed with good fortune and a wonderful job.

In my playing days, my work ethic was better than my talent, and I was always looking for ways to improve my craft. In my year of coaching with the Giants, we had a good ball club and a lot of the players got better. However, there was a big disconnect between myself and the Latino players. The biggest chasm between us was verbal communication. I had taken Spanish class in high school and college, but over the past twenty years I have not used it on a regular basis. I was at a crossroad. I knew I had to lead the way if we were to connect. It became clear I needed to re-learn the language to better coach them.

“I started by learning what I call “Base-ish”- Baseball Spanish. I learned how to communicate our batting practice routine in Spanish and then moved on to body parts that are used in the hitter’s swing mechanics. I asked the players a lot of questions and they were more than happy to help me. According to a report I read, 25% of the players in pro baseball, that previous year, were Latin American. If I want to be able to communicate with my whole team, learning their language is very important. I could tell every player noticed the simple effort I put in to learn, not just lead. I believe life-long learners become life-long leaders.

“The funny thing is that when I first started down this road, it was for job security. I wanted to make myself more valuable to the organization. What it turned into was a bridge between me and the players. I showed them effort in learning their language, and they appreciated that. They saw I cared about them, and our relationships grew.

I’m convinced as a leader I needed to show the men that I was entrusted with, that I was willing to take the first step towards improving our communication. They in turn trusted me and were willing to make adjustments in their game. By me realizing what I needed to do on my end to improve communication, the players met me half way. I continue to observe each year—the best leaders are confident, competent, humble, and they lead by example.”

Written by Billy Horton

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