What’s your definition for ignorance and intelligence? For me, ignorance is when you don’t know what to do, while intelligence is when you know what to do, but are capable to do what needs to be done.
I’m in my 19th year of serving as a professional baseball swing coach, and I remember my first year like it was yesterday.
I was ignorant about hitting as a player, and was definitely ignorant about teaching hitting. I had a job coaching, because I played professional baseball and was charismatic.
Basically, I could make people believe that I knew what I was talking about when I didn’t know what I was talking about. My worse nightmare was an intelligent hitter.
Here’s the deal – several coaches would prefer that players come to them ignorant rather than intelligent for two major reasons:
A really good coach must have 10 things in his toolbox (see “Top 10 Checklist for Professional Instructors”). If he doesn’t have these qualities, intelligent players can pose a threat to him. Why? Because intelligent players will ask questions that often can’t be answered. Eighteen years ago, I didn’t have anything on this list. I was lost, and because of this, my clients were lost.
The good news for coaches that are ignorant is that they learn how and what to teach. When they do, they become intelligent. Arrogant coaches are an entirely different problem.
Arrogant coaches prefer their players come to them ignorant, so that they can exert their will over them. Arrogant coaches can be easily identified based on their insecurities, lack of self awareness and a strong desire to always be right.
When I was at my worst as a coach, I was beginning to experience early stages of success. It was around Year 5 of my career, and several of my players were signing scholarships and getting drafted, that things took hold.
Unknowingly, because I lacked self awareness, I developed an arrogant and intolerance attitude. Coaches that are intolerant often run from conversations that challenge them, because they don’t want to risk being perceived as wrong.
That’s a ridiculous mindset, because baseball is a game of failure. Even if you get a hit 30 percent of the time, you still are a failure when comparing your skill set to landing an airplane, performing heart surgery or teaching first students how to read and write.
I’ve become an elite coach because I’ve learned how to listen to my clients; especially the ones age 8-10.
Today, I’m a humbled man. I welcome intelligent hitters. I often have intelligent hitters come to me to be assessed. Being assessed and taught how to hit are far different. Sometimes, all I need to do is to confirm their intelligence about hitting and prescribe drills to do until I see them again 90 days later.
When I started coaching Jason Heyward at age 13, he already was an intelligent hitter. He watched a lot of baseball and had outstanding practice habits. My relationship with him was based on me assessing, confirming and challenging him. There was no need to talk about “letting the ball get deep,” etc.
Andrew McCutchen, on the other hand, was very raw at age 13. He needed to gain an understanding about the fundamentals of hitting. To his advantage, he possessed desire, high aptitude and athleticism, so once the fundamentals made sense, he could quickly convert his raw talent to skills that pay bills.
Intelligence is knowing what to do and being able to do it, while ignorance is not knowing what to do.
The question is: Are you an ignorant or intelligent hitter?
Remember: Intelligence trumps being smart.
C.J. Stewart has built a reputation as one of the leading professional hitting instructors in the country. He is a former professional baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization and has also served as an area scout for the Cincinnati Reds. As founder and CEO of Diamond Directors Player Development, CJ has more than 12 years of player development experience and has built an impressive list of clients, including some of the top young prospects in baseball today. If your desire is to change your game for the better, C.J. Stewart has a proven system of development and track record of success that can work for you.