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PCA Huddles Up with Tony La Russa on Leading Successful Teams


Tony La Russa recently joined Positive Coaching Alliance for an online conversation centered on Leading Successful Teams. The Hall of Famer and 3 x World Series Winning Manager shared his experiences and principles on establishing relationships and culture:

On Coaching Style -

When Tony was a player out of high school the managers and coaches at the time were more authoritarian. He has learned that the most effective way to lead is through relationship building. You can do that in three ways:

1) You can earn their respect – through knowledge of the game, the reason behind practice drills, etc.

2) Building Trust – you need to say the truth, teaching with a positive approach

3) Show You Care – on and off the field

Coaches should make a habit of asking themselves how they can continually earn their players' respect, how they can build their players' trust, and how they can show their players that they care.

On Overcoming Mistakes -

Next play - Learn from the past but always look forward.

The "Pat ‘n Pop Philosophy - to be used when talking with someone about getting better. White Sox Owner Jerry Reinsdorf shared a business philosophy with him in the 80s called Pat ‘n Pop. When talking with a player or a work colleague, he suggested patting them on the back to reinforce the things they’ve been doing right, and then "pop" – tell them what they what needs to be worked on but be sure to reinforce that you believe in them and believe that they will fix it. It’s important for the player to know that you’re positive about what he’s done and what he will do.

“As coaches, there’s always something else you can do.” No matter how difficult the obstacle is, there’s always something else you can do to attack the problem to try to correct it.

On Delegating -

As the leader, you must build strong relationships with your assistant coaches. Show respect and care, and trust that they will go out and be responsible for their areas, but as the manager don’t eliminate yourself from any part of the game. Players need to know that you are involved, have working knowledge and that the assistant coach has your support.

On Building Culture -

PCA defines culture as “the way we do things HERE.” Tony shared that one of the things he tries to do is to create a family feeling. Relationships have to be started, maintained, and continued. Each person needs to make a promise to be a part of the family and be accountable to one another.

For Youth Coaches -

- Be careful what you teach – you don’t know, what you don’t know. Dig into the fundamentals – the A, B, C’s of fielding and hitting.

- Play vs. organized practice – the players should walk away feeling like they improved and that they had fun.

- Be personable and patient with kids

- Helping kids down on themselves – pat them on the back first and tell them that as their coach you will help them fix it and that they will do it with a positive frame of mind.

- If the other team is better, tip your hat. Ask yourself what you can do better and work on improving.

Following the conclusion of PCA’s conversation with Tony, a youth coach sent us a message that said that his biggest takeaway from Tony was, “Love your players and they will play harder.” He went on to share that, “I don’t think the kids realize that coaches coach at (our school) because they love the kids. So I am going to make sure our kids know it for the rest of the season.” That’s impact and we couldn’t ask for a better takeaway for the positive coaching community.

Tony Larussa

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