Report from the 2013 ABCA Convention

Thu 17 Jan 2013

BSUK's London Regional Coach & Club Development Officer, Liam Carroll, attended the 68th annual American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Chicago earlier this month, a gathering of thousands of baseball coaches and officials for clinics, meeting and exhibits.  Here is his report on the event.


ABCA LogoThe ABCA Convention is an event that I have always circled in the calendar.  It’s an amazing event and while I don’t make it every year I was fortunate to be able to get to Chicago for the 2013 edition.  There are myriad ways to develop as a coach but considering the mix of clinics and networking, the Convention is one of the best ways to stay sharp and up to date.  I always leave the Convention even more excited to get back on the field.

The central component of the Convention is the clinics.  As always, the ABCA compiled a great list of speakers from different backgrounds who covered a range of topics.  All in all, close to 30 clinics were given by coaches from schools, colleges and professional organisations as well as by specialists in areas such as Sport Psychology and Strength and Conditioning.  Over the next month I will blog about each of the clinics so check my blog page if you’re interested in what some of the world’s best coaches had to say.

CONTINUOUS LEARNING

Something that impresses me most when listening to ABCA clinicians is their commitment to continuous learning.  Coaches who have racked up countless wins and championships and turned out great players, colleagues, husbands and fathers know that there is always more to learn about the game, about how to coach and about how to have a greater impact on their players.

Pat Bailey, assistant coach at Oregon State University and recipient of the ABCA’s Ethics in Coaching Award, summarised this sentiment best with the analogy of going to the doctor, only for them to tell you they had stopped learning about medicine 20 years ago.  I had surgery three months ago and I’d have been horrified to learn that my surgeon was operating without having up to date information.  I think our players deserve coaches who are well informed, just like we deserve doctors on the cutting edge of medicine.  At my first Convention in 2003, I took a lot of what was said as gospel.  What I’ve learned is these clinics give you information to evaluate what you believe and what you coach in order to do things better.  The master coaches speaking at the Convention are no different.

EXHIBIT HALL​

Another highlight is the exhibit hall.  Displays and demonstrations of every product you could imagine, as well as stalls for leagues and organisations, make for a baseball wonderland.  Coaches can stock up on equipment and create relationships to improve their facilities, outfit their team and source products for things like recruiting, scouting and travel.

Throughout the weekend there are various events such as divisional and regional business meetings, awards and receptions.  In the last few years the international meeting has evolved to become a development forum as well as a networking opportunity.  This year, Baseball Canada presented on Long Term Athlete Development and members of IBAF and USA Baseball spoke briefly on the World Baseball Classic and Olympic reinstatement.  I spent some time talking to European Baseball Coaches Association (EBCA) Board Member Chris Dassy, who is keen to get more British coaches involved in the association and attending their own convention.  The 2013 EBCA event will be held in Brussels towards the end of the year. Click here for details on the event.

MORE ENVOY COACHES​

Good news for BBF clubs was delivered at the Convention when MLB representatives confirmed that the Envoy Coach Programme will continue to send coaches to Europe, Britain included, in 2013.  Watch this space for how MLB and BSUK will collaborate on the programme this season.

Each year, the ABCA inducts coaches into its Hall of Fame and this year’s class is significant for British Baseball because it included former Great Britain Head Coach Ralph Rago.  He joins a group of incredibly accomplished coaches such as Skip Bertman and Jerry Weinstein.

OLD FRIENDS​

As great as the clinics, exhibits and events are, the highlight of the Convention is seeing old friends and making new ones.  It is always awesome to meet up with past colleagues and opponents and coaches I’ve played for, and to make new contacts.  How close-knit the community is continues to amaze me; the willingness of coaches to share information, knowing that the people they are talking to are opponents, highlights that the opportunity to build relationships is the most important part of coaching.

I think any coach who truly wants to improve their knowledge and make the greatest impact on their players should aim to attend events such as the ABCA Convention.  As mentioned earlier, there are alternatives closer to home, such as the EBCA Convention and other European events.  There is also massive room to develop by working with BSUK here in Britain; keep your eyes peeled for an announcement of a BBF/BSUK event in the next few days.

As for the ABCA, I’ve already put the 2014 convention in my calendar.  If you’re interested, it will be in Dallas from 2-5 January. Registration for the event opens on 1 September 2013 and further details will be published at www.abca.org.

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