By Mike Matheny and Jerry B. Jenkins
In his book, The Matheny Manifesto, Mike Matheny shares his thoughts on coaching baseball. I’ve coached youth softball for a few years, and have a few years to go. From that aspect I found this book outstanding. But, more importantly I think, it is just as good from the perspective of a parent, regardless of whether that parent has ever coached anything.
Mr. Matheny’s own parents and coaches believed that character is more important than winning. And he, in turn, wants to pass that on to those he coaches, whether they are on his youth baseball team or in the major leagues:
“Our role as coaches is not just to build up the scoreboard but also to build up our players so that they become character-filled leaders who will have an impact on those around them.”
Matheny writes a lot about his own baseball career. His book goes back and forth between sports biography and coaching philosophy. To me, his most interesting stories are from his days at home, when he and his brothers played outside until after dark. (His dad put lights up in the yard so they could keep on even after the sun when down.) Least interesting are the stories from the major leagues. But all of the stories get back to the same theme: instilling values through sports.
What I most appreciate is the straightforward advice to parents, advice which Matheny reinforces with stories of the kind of dad his own father was:
“My dad would put in long hours operating heavy machinery….He’d come home covered with dirt, and you could tell all he wanted to do was get cleaned up and relax. But he would always grab a glove and go play catch with me and my brother or throw batting practice for us. He never turned us down.”
Matheny’s number one piece of advice to parents who want their kids to excel is to just go out and throw the ball with them:
“To develop skills, the younger player needs repetition. For life in general, he needs time with his parents. It’s a win-win.”
It’s not just a win-win for the player. The parent, while spending time with their kids and teaching, has a great excuse to play and have fun, something which most of us need more of.
Matheny writes a lot about his Christian faith and how it has influenced him in life and coaching. There’s more gospel in this book than many books that are marketed as Christian books.
I’m glad I read The Matheny Manifesto just before our own youth softball and baseball leagues get started for the year. I plan to take Matheny’s advice and make it the most productive season my kids have had yet.