Former Houston Astros Manager AJ Hinch was interviewed yesterday for the first time since he was suspended and then subsequently fired due to his role in the baseball sign-stealing scandal. During the interview he said something poignant that I have actually been saying for years regarding building a culture when working with either an individual or a team. Hinch said, “Leadership’s also about what you tolerate. And I tolerated too much.”
This concept is something that all coaches should embrace and when I think back to the most common complaints that I consistently hear over the years from other coaches (sometimes including myself) are things like “these guys are lazy”, “no one takes this seriously”, “everyone just does what they feel like” or “they just aren’t committed.”
Hinch went on to say in the interview that he felt his immaturity at the time stopped him from doing what he knew was right. I can appreciate his sentiment, as early in my training and coaching career I might have been afraid to call out someone for fear that I would lose favor, or worse, my job.
However, when I look back at the teams and situations I’ve worked with where we had the greatest cultures of respect and discipline and I also had the best rapport with the players, were the times when I refused to tolerate anything less than the high standards that I knew were necessary to be successful. I’ve thrown the best player on the team out of a recovery session for continuing to be a disruption, threatened to stop training 5-Star recruits who wouldn’t clean up after themselves and stopped many team workouts midsession to sit everyone down and let them know their effort was unacceptable.
So coaches and trainers, next time you want to blame your client, athlete or team for not meeting your expectations, ask yourself if this could be your fault for selectively allowing their behavior to continue. Whether it is bad form or bad attitudes, missing workouts or ignoring the rules, stand your ground and don’t tolerate anything from anyone that lessens the value of your mission or principles.