Baseball is Just Like Life

The sport of baseball is just like life. Conversely, the sport of life is just like baseball. Things that happen on the “diamond” are things you will encounter in your own life. The same is true in many other sports, but to me, a nine-inning baseball game really mirrors a 24 hour day in the life of an ordinary person.

In the midst of a pandemic, I also see and hear things every day that reminds me of baseball.  So I thought I would share some of those parallels between baseball and the last 3 months of COVID 19.

Before I begin, let me make something clear: this isn’t a political rant with an endorsement for one belief or another. Don’t read into anything. It’s all about baseball.

Extra Innings
A baseball player has already gone through a demanding nine-inning game and battled their opponent pretty fiercely. But at the end of those nine innings, the score is tied, and they head into extra innings.

When COVID first hit, many Americans were working hard and were full of anxiety. Maybe we weren’t quite in the ninth inning, (maybe we were in the fifth or the sixth inning). But it sure felt like we were heading into the tenth inning.  We were about to embark on some long days and stressful nights. The whole country went into “extra innings”.

Caught in a Run Down
Or as my sisters and I would call it when we were kids…this is a “pickle”. It is where a runner gets caught up between bases. Maybe he/she was a little too aggressive and tried to take an extra-base, but the defense was on top of things and hindered that advance. Now the runners caught up in the middle, and they have to run back-and-forth until they either touch the base first or get tagged out.

I think many of us felt like we were in the situation during the first month of COVID. Many of us were glad that we were home with our family, but we were longing to get back to our routine. Some of us got to spend more time with our loved ones, but we were always worrying about the next paycheck. The country, and the world for that matter, is still caught in a rundown. I’m seeing it more now as we start to re-open and ease up on restrictions. Some are like the aggressive runner, and just dive right in with no mask and no care in the world. Others are like a conservative runner, and they wear a mask everywhere and are trying to be as cautious as possible

Hit and Run
There is a runner on first and he gets the sign from the third base coach to take off towards second base. At the same time, the hitter gets a sign to make contact at all costs. The strategy behind this is if the batter gets a hit, the runner will be able to advance another 90 feet and get a free base. In other situations, the person fielding the ball gets nervous and makes a mistake trying to speed up the play. 

To me, working remotely is very similar to a hit-and-run. The runner, at least for the first few steps, is running into the dark and running blindly. As the runner, you feel a bit helpless but you need to keep moving forward. You have a job to do and people are relying on you. The whole country is moving towards second base blindly right now. There is a level of anxiety and fear in all of us. But for many of us, we also know that moving forward with the trust in those around you is the only way to go. We HAVE to move forward. We WILL move forward. We’re just hoping the rest of the team does their job and gives us proper guidance and protects us.

Hit the Cut-Off Man
This is usually when a ball is hit to the outfield and there are runners on base. The outfielder quickly scoops up the ball and instead of throwing directly to the base, they hit the cut-off man (or the relay man). The cut-off man is an easier target, as he/she is closer and it is usually a shorter and more accurate throw. The cut-off man catches the ball and quickly throws it to the base to get the lead runner.

In many parts of life, we know we can bypass the cut-off man. And many times in baseball, the outfielder knows that too. But what we THINK we know, and what actually happens, can be two different things. It’s a tough political climate right now, and many experts are yelling at us to throw the ball to two or three different bases. During this pandemic, many Americans are willing to hit the cut-off man. They want to break that long throw down into a couple of shorter throws. That’s the phased approach we are in right now. Are you wearing a mask when you leave the house? Are you trying to stay 6 feet away from others? If so, you’re hitting the cut-off man. If you’re jumping into the deep end with both feet willing to deal with the consequences of those actions, you’re trying to throw past the cut-off man. That’s our country right now.

Those are just a few examples of how baseball is just like life.

And by the way, I’m really glad baseball is coming back. It’s been a long summer without you. This country needs you to put on a show.

You usually come through “in the clutch”.

Be safe out there.

Chris Hardie – Waynesburg, Pennsylvania

Cross Country Coach and Lifelong Baseball Fan

Outwork the Competition

There is no easy way out when you are trying to be successful.

NBA superstar Stephen Curry looks at hard work this way: “Be the hardest working person you can be. That’s how you separate yourself from the competition.”

Since a young age, we’ve all been taught that we must work hard and put a good effort into anything that we try. So, to me, this premise is already ingrained in most of us. In some cases, the one piece of the puzzle that is missing does go hand-in-hand with working harder. It’s working SMARTER.

I only mention working smarter, because hard-work won’t take you very far if you’re not directing your efforts at the right things.  So outwork the competition by putting in the effort in an efficient and smart way.

Our cross country program has a few core components. One of them is a quote by John Wooden, where he states that you should strive to “make every day your masterpiece“.  To us, this is all about taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Each work out, each challenge and each staff meeting at work provide you with an opportunity to grow and be better. We need to embrace those moments.  Take full advantage of each day, and outwork the competition.

I’ll leave you with five tips on ways you can begin to outwork the competition:

1. Get up early
2. Create a to-do list
3. Research and study the competition
4. Come up with a “plan”
5. Stick to that “plan”

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

Evaluate Often

If you run a Google search on “why evaluation matters”, 36 million responses come up in .40 seconds.  On the first page of that search you will find articles related to health, sociology, science, education, energy and government.  What is my point?

Evaluation occurs in almost every aspect of our daily lives.

Ironically, I am in the process of evaluating some areas at work.  It’s something that we do at the end of every year and the timing coincides with this blog today.  And it is not the only part of my personal life that I evaluate either.  As an athlete, I evaluate how my training is going every two months.  As a coaching staff, we evaluate every day but do a thorough overview of where things stand every 8 months or so.

So, what does an “good” evaluation look like?

A simple, yet detailed, overview of “evaluation” can be found in Michael Quinn Patton’s 1987 creation, “How to Use Qualitative Methods in Evaluation“.  The author notes that when you critically examine a program, you are doing a few things.  I summarized his approach the best I could below, but urge you to reference the work if you have the time.

When you critically examine a program, you are...

Collecting and analyzing information

Assessing program performance

Helping make adjustments and improve effectiveness

Helping to make informed decisions in the future

In essence, a “good” evaluation involves gathering data and finding out how you can be more effective in the future.  Motivational speaker, Chris Widener, explains it this way: “evaluation of the past is the first step toward vision for the future.”

If you are ready to evaluate your own position or program, there is an effective tool that you can do on your own.  It doesn’t take much preparation, time or money.  All you need is a notebook, some data on your organization and a quiet space to think things through.  You will be jotting things down on the notebook and this is called a “SWOT Analysis”.

I am not an expert on the SWOT Analysis, but I have worked on them for 20 years in many capacities.  But here is my take on how to complete them effectively.

You are going to be analyzing four different aspects of your program, so draw a line down the middle (from top to bottom) and another line across the page in the middle.  This gives you four quadrants.  If you plan on going into a lot of depth on this analysis, just give yourself a full page for each aspect.

Now, start thinking critically about four aspects of the program:  Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  You can handle each aspect as you choose, but I have defined how I use them below.

Strengths – look internally within the organization and ask, “what do we do well?”

Weaknesses – look internally and ask, “where can we improve?”

Opportunities – think about external things and ask, “where is there an opening for something positive to happen?”

Threat – think externally and ask, “where can things impact us negatively?”

You can help yourself and your organization be successful in the future.  It’s all about learning from your mistakes, creating a framework to be better and following that path for success.  Evaluating things now will help you when it matters most.

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

Don’t be Afraid to Experiment

Last month I started the ball rolling on a concept of “Making Success a Habit”.  Today, I wanted to highlight one of keys to success; at least in my eyes.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make that better.”  That is exactly what I was hoping to write about – not being afraid to experiment with things and work outside of your comfort zone.

As I type this, I am currently experimenting with new things – just like many of you struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are working remotely each and every day, and that has been a new experience for me.  We are not supposed to cluster in groups and have to stand 6′ apart from others, and this is strange sometimes.  And the gym that I attend shut it doors two weeks ago – so I am trying to get creative and work out here at the house with some lighter weights and an old weight bench.

Change is tough, but we have to embrace it and make the most of it.

(Note:  I certainly do not mean to minimize the concerns surrounding COVID-19.  I pray that you are all safe and healthy.)

From an athletic standpoint, it’s good to experiment.  There are so many good examples of coaches or managers thinking outside the box – I could fill up this whole blog.  But here are just a few of most popular in sports history:

“West Coast Offense” or the “Wildcat” in the NFL

Defensive Shifts and the use of the bullpen in MLB

The “trap” in the NHL

The evolution of the three point shot and dunking in the NBA

At some point in their careers, the athletes and coaches in those sports had to embrace a new concept.  And it worked out pretty well for them.  Why wouldn’t it work for you?

In a business model, companies are always trying to work ahead of the competition.  They are creating things faster in an effort to beat their competitors.  They are also marketing things differently with a creative lens in an effort to stand out.  If Fortune 500 Companies are doing it, why shouldn’t you?

The worse thing that could happen from experimentation is failure.  And if you know me, and how I look at failure, this will not surprise you.  But FAILURE equals GROWTH.  So a little experimentation could make you a stronger coach, athlete, manager, leader or parent.

Don’t be afraid to try!

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

 

The Habit of Being Successful

I am not a “success expert”….let’s just get that out of the way.

But I am the type of person who really likes a challenge, and when I focus my attention on a goal, I usually work as hard as I can to accomplish that goal.  Sometimes I am successful, and sometimes I fail. That is life.

My belief on success is that you really do have to work extremely hard to be successful.  If you own a successful business, you are probably the first one in the office and the last one to leave.  If you are a successful athlete, you probably outwork the competition and are willing to push yourself a bit more than those around you.  If you are a successful writer, or doctor, or chef or teacher – you have to work to be better each and every day.

You create your own success by being willing to work.

You create your own success by staying focused on the goal.

You create your own success by pushing through when people around you are ready to quit.

A study from 2009 that was conducted by Phillippa Lally of University College London, and focuses on the creation of habits.  82 people provided data over a 12-week period.  They chose a new habit and Lally studied the results of their journey.  What she found is that it took the participants anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a habit.  On average, it took participants 66 days to form a habit.

How does this study relate to success?

To me, success can become a habit.

There are highly motivated men and women in our society that refuse to lose.  I bet if you think hard enough a few of them come to mind.  They are focused on being successful and they have created a habit of winning.

All of us can create a winning culture in our lives.  In order to achieve that prosperity and that success, we need to develop some good habits.  And as Lally uncovered in her study, it may take a few months or up to a year (or more) to really create that habit of winning.

But what habits are the most important ones to develop in order to be successful?

That really depends on the goal and the journey you are about to embark on.  But regardless of the outcome, these three habits are extremely important to me:

 

Don’t be afraid to experiment

Evaluate often

Outwork the competition

 

If you like where this is going, come back and check us out next month.  I will focus on the three habits that I think are most important. See you soon…..

 

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

You Are a Star

You are a star!  Not for the reasons you might be thinking.

A few months ago during the cross country season, I asked our women’s team to watch a small video clip from Wreck It Ralph.  In that movie, there is a scene with many of the Disney princesses.  In that small clip you could see each of their characteristics and what made them special.  We then had a discussion on what princess they would be if they were in a Disney movie.  We talked about all of their strengths and weaknesses and how  those traits related to Cinderella, Ariel or Merida (just to name a few).

There are a lot of on-line character quizzes out there – you know, where you answer a few questions and within a few seconds it shoots out the Harry Potter character that you most resemble or the political candidate you most align with.  They can be fun.

While the entertainment value for those tests and surveys are high, they aren’t always completely accurate.  At least that is my guess.  There is really no way to test that theory though.  The most accurate character depiction and “star” that you resemble is….YOU.

When the lights go out on the movie production set, the actors and actresses go home and reveal their true characters.  They are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, coaches, leaders and followers.  Just like all of us non-stars, they are human beings.  They have moments of joy and times of trouble.

You are living your own TV show each day.  You wake up, you go about your day and go back to sleep at night.  In that small window of time you have moments where the audience, if they were watching, would be laughing.  Sometimes they might cry, or dislike you, or cheer for an encore.  But you are living out a real life TV show.

So what are you going to do on today’s episode?

One of my favorite quotes of all time is “make every day your masterpiece.”  It’s a quote from the Hall of Fame Coach, John Wooden.  As I explain to anyone that asks why I like it so much, I explain it as starting each and every day with a blank canvas.  You have been given many hours to create that masterpiece.

We shouldn’t live each day striving for perfection.  We will fall short of that goal time and time again.  But rather, take advantage of every opportunity that you have been given to live a good life.  Have fun, do the right things and help make this world a better place.  That’s the road map, or the TV script, towards a “masterpiece” day.

Like I said, you are the STAR!

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

Unmet Goals

When you are a collegiate coach, you try to set lofty goals for your team.  I have always been a big believer in making sure that those goals are not only “measurable”, but they are “attainable”.  But just because they are realistic and attainable, it doesn’t mean you are going to accomplish them 100% of the time.

That’s why I decided to outline a few things at the end of 2019.  Many of us failed to meet the goals we set out this year.  And you know what – that’s perfectly fine.

If you’re in this situation as we wind down the year, or you anticipate being in this situation in the near future, answer the following questions:

Were you close to accomplishing a goal?
Did you do everything that you could to accomplish the goal?
In the process of attaining the goal, what was your biggest failure?
 If you could change one thing about the process to attain the goal, what would it be?

These questions are really important, as they will help you evaluate what went wrong. But keep in mind, you could have followed the process step-by-step and given 100%, and you’re still going to have some unmet goals. It’s just natural.

Why do I say it’s natural to fail? To me it’s quite simple. When you set a goal, you’re trying to improve yourself and stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone. The whole premise means you’re going to struggle at times. Anytime there are struggles or obstacles in our life, we are more apt to fail, and we are less likely to succeed.

One final piece of advice that I would like to share – start the evaluation process immediately. Literally sit down with a notebook and a pencil and jot down all of your thoughts on why you did or did not accomplish the goal. That way, you can begin to craft the next phase of development in your life.

I’ve been coaching for 15 years at the collegiate level and almost 10 years at the high school/rec level. I can honestly tell you, that we have more unmet goals then met goals. I don’t consider myself, or those teams, a failure. I consider myself a lofty thinker and someone that believes in the potential of those that I coach. I’m always going to set lofty expectations and goals, and I understand we are going to fail along the way. You have to understand that too.

You can do this! I believe in you!

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

Do You Need Some Time Off?!?

If you spend any time with me, you know that I am a big proponent of taking time off when you need it. Whether it’s in an office setting, and you need to use a personal day or vacation day to catch up on work or spend time with your family, or you’re an athlete  that is starting to feel some fatigue, I think there’s a lot of power in taking some time off.

As I type this, I’m in the midst of a two week break from running. I’ve been training very hard for the last 32 weeks, and my body finally told me that I’ve hit my limit. I think it’s really important to listen to your body, and your mind, and take time off when you need it.

I look at it this way – if you don’t listen to your body and take time off when you need it, you’re really going to pay for it in the long run. From an athletic perspective, if I try to push through that fatigue, I might end up injured. From a work perspective, if the stress continues to build and you try and work through that, your production will slip and ultimately you’re going to end in a burn out.

These two weeks off have been really tough for me, but I can immediately see and feel the benefits. I have a little bit more energy, I have a little bit extra free time, and I’ve been enjoying some other things (most notably longer walks in this amazing fall foliage). I’m also getting excited for the next level of my training.

Long story short, take some time to step away from the things that you’re doing in your life that are stressful and that are causing some type of strain on you mentally or physically. It doesn’t mean that you’re not tough. It doesn’t mean you’re a quitter. It just means you’re in it for the long-haul, and you’re preparing yourself for the rest of the journey.

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

Inside the Huddle – It’s Time for Battle

In our sport of cross country, we bring the team together a few minutes before the race and run through a few things.  The head coach usually leads with a message, the assistant coaches add a few thoughts and the captains give a final word or two as motivation.  We always end with a prayer and what we call a “break down”, which is a final team cheer.

As head coach, I usually have some notes as I head into this huddle.  But this past week I decided I was going to “wing it”.  I didn’t prepare any notes the week of the race and I figured something would come to me.

Well, it really did….

As I was getting ready to head to the big race, something kept coming to mind.  It was something I thought of while I was sleeping, and it stuck with me that morning.  While I was on the treadmill in the morning, I re-framed it a bit, but it’s something I have thought about every day since that race (we are now 4 days out from the race).

The thought that kept coming to mind was something that I was struggling with.  As a coach, I am always preaching to the team about being compassionate to those around you and really showing love and care for those you interact with each day.  But what I was really struggling with was the second part of coaching – and that is to teach a young athlete to be aggressive and to be tough.  As I noted in the huddle, they have to be able to take the fight to the opponent at some points in the season and in life.

In the huddle, I explained that I want them to be human beings that change the world in a positive way; but it’s also important to be able to battle your opponent and be tougher and stronger than those you go into battle with.  That is my struggle.  Should we be teach the young men and women in our care, to love those around them, or should we teach them to battle for every inch.

After four days, I think I have settled on this – it’s a little bit of both.

A good program, a good team and good office really wants to make a difference.  They all want to be helpful and caring.  That is very important.  But a good organization is always looking to be better and to be stronger.  As leaders we have to teach our athletes and our employees to be tough and fight for things.  We have to teach resiliency, toughness and grit.

At the end of the day, both approaches are crucial to development within a team and an organization.  I think it is important to define what is most important to you as a leader.  And to define what is most important to your team/group.  Once you know what’s important and what drives your group, you can develop a course of action.

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.

ARE YOU STRONG?

What does it mean to be strong? As a college coach, I contemplate what this term means from time to time. I’ve never really sat down and looked up the definition in the dictionary.


I bet it would say something about being able to endure when the going gets tough (physical and mental toughness), or being willing to hit challenges head-on.  Or maybe it would say something about elevating your game when the going gets tough (staying focused on the goal you want to accomplish). That’s what a strong athlete means to me.


And you know the word “strong” doesn’t always have to relate to athletics. I’ve ran across many strong human beings in my journey through life. I bet they have the same definition of strong. Those strong people in my life are the ones who aren’t afraid of hard work.  They aren’t afraid of challenges and are ready to face all the obstacles in life.


How can you test if you are strong? It’s not always easy to figure out the strength within. But I do think you can evaluate how strong you are. The easiest way to see how strong you are, is to see how you measure up to the next challenge that is thrown your way. As an athlete this could be a difficult situation like the bottom of the ninth, two outs and the tying run on third. In the real world, it can be a difficult situation like how to confront that bully at the office or finding a ride home for your kids after school. 

We get tested on our strength each day and we probably don’t even know it.


Since I took the time to talk about what the word strong means to me, without looking up the definition, I thought I would end with Webster’s dictionary and the definition of strong.  It talks about “physical strength” and being “efficient and effective in a specified direction”.  It also states this could mean “well established”.

It turns out I was pretty close to the actual definition.


You are strong enough, you are talented enough and you can accomplish greatness. Have the courage to attempt things that you never thought you could accomplish. You are strong.

Chris Hardie is the Head Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Coach at Waynesburg University.  You can follow him on Twitter @Coach_Hardie_WU or follow the team on Facebook at Waynesburg University Cross Country.