Knowing is Not Enough: Take Ownership

by Dave Vaccaro
(Bucks County PA)

As a coach, my radar is constantly set to receive any type of information allowing me to better present knowledge to my players. Attending clinics lets me gather new verbalizations and methods to explaining particular skills I teach. However, every now and then I come across helpful strategies outside of the realm of baseball, and this article is an example of one of these rare occasions.

Being a teacher, the first week of work involves a lot of workshops and seminars focusing on teaching methods and strategies. Just recently, I attended one focusing on vocabulary. A Power point presentation was used as the main source to deliver the content. During the presentation, I stumbled upon a strategy really catching my attention. Right away, I thought to myself, "I can use this with baseball."

The presenter was discussing strategies to help students remember the definitions of new vocabulary words. She stated knowing the definition of a word is one thing, but making the word part of your everyday vocabulary is another. If a word is part of your vocabulary, you not only know it but you can say you own it as well.

My wheels began to turn. I thought, "How can I apply this to coaching?" The answer became clear moments later. What if we replace the topic of vocabulary with the topic of fundamental skills? This would probably work. I know for a fact if I asked my players what they should try to do if they are up with two strikes, one out, a runner on third and the infield back, they would all answer correctly. "Hit the ball on the ground to score the run."

However, I also know for a fact only some of those players are actually capable of executing this skill on a consistent basis. Those who can answer the question simply know the skill. Those who can execute it can say they have indeed taken
ownership of the skill.

Therefore, with the start of a new off-season approaching, I have added something new to my repertoire. Each of my students I instruct in the off-season are going to get take-home assignments. The assignment will be as follows:

List as many baseball skills as you can think of such as sacrifice bunting, hitting the ball on the ground, coming hard through a fly ball, etc... Next, ask yourself how many of these skills you can define or explain. Put a "K" next to these skills to represent "knowing." Now go back and put an "O" next to the skills you can
actually execute on a consistent basis. These are the skills you have taken "ownership" of.

(Swing Smarter Response: another good point Dave, and I like the way you think; cross pollinating ideas from other disciplines and applying them to baseball, hitting in particular. This is good for players to understand their limitations and strengths.
A player knowing their role on a team is super important for a team to have purpose)

Dave Vaccaro is a high school and American Legion baseball coach in Bucks County, PA. He is also the creator of

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