While attending Orioles FanFest this past Saturday, I heard one of the most asinine comments I’ve heard in a while. The comment came from another blogger during the fan forum and it really got under my skin. He basically said that coaching makes absolutely no difference when it comes to a baseball team’s record, in particular the Orioles. The ignorance with which this comment was made is what irked me more than anything else. You cannot sit here and tell me that a head coach makes absolutely no difference when it comes to how a team performs. And someone who is ignorant enough to make this comment is most likely someone who has never played competitive, organized, team sports in their life.

I understand the argument that the players are the ones who play the game and the outcome of games are based on their performance. But the head coach is the rock who keeps the team together. He is the one who knows his player’s strengths and weaknesses and coaches them accordingly. He is the one who makes important decisions at crucial times during a game. If you look at a team in terms of a family, the head coach is like the grandfather or grandmother that everyone looks to when times are tough to keep the entire family from falling apart. Sometimes he is not appreciated as much as he should be for all of the good things he does and is criticized too much when things aren’t going quite as well as expected.

Being a major league baseball manager, or head coach of any sport for that matter, surely isn’t the most envious position one can have. But the ones who decide to become head coaches know it’s going to be tough going in and they thrive on being in pressure situations and making crucial decisions. Considering the fact that some of the best major league baseball managers are making upwards of $3 million per year, this must mean they are pretty important. Granted, professional baseball managers don’t make as much as football or basketball coaches, but it doesn’t mean they’re any less important. In fact, I think they should get paid more for what they do because they make a lot of decisions that can directly affect the outcome of a game. These decisions can range from whether or not to keep a pitcher in to face a certain batter or who to insert into the lineup as a pinch hitter at a crucial point in the game.

But besides making important decisions during a game, coaches can also change the attitude of a locker room. Take the Orioles for example. Before Buck Showalter got here, the current players had no idea what it meant to be a part of a winning organization. The Orioles are a relatively young team to begin with, and even the guys who are a little more experienced have never consistently won at the major league level. They don’t know what the joy of winning feels like. But Showalter does know what it’s like to win. He knows what it takes to win. Now he’s going try and bring the winning tradition back to Baltimore, and I don’t see any reason why he can’t.

Showalter went 34-23 in 57 games after taking over for Juan Samuel, who was coaching the O’s on an interim basis after Dave Trembley was fired after a 15-39 start. The team’s record was much better after Showalter took over, but the improvement goes much further than just their record. The players WANT to play for him and they WANT to win for him. Besides the experience Showalter brings with him, he also brings a no-nonsense attitude to the locker room and demands perfection out of everyone. This has resonated with the players and they have responded positively to Showalter’s way of doing things. These guys want to win and they know that if they trust what Showalter is telling them, they can be a very good baseball team.

Like I said before, the players are ultimately the ones who are going to win or lose games. But head coaches are a very vital part of a team’s success. It’s not a coincidence that certain coaches achieve success no matter where they go. These coaches know how to get the best out of each and every one of their players and they are able to put their team in the best possible position to be successful.

If you still don’t believe me that coaches make a difference, here’s a quick story that may change your mind. I used to play club soccer for one of the best teams in the state when I was younger. We traveled everywhere and anywhere almost year-round and played teams from all over the country and did very well. My coach at the time was extremely hard on us and always demanded excellence out of us no matter what. At the time I just thought he was being mean, but looking back I realize that all extra laps he made us run and the long hours of practice only helped us become better players.

Fast forward to high school. Most of the same guys I played with on my club team were on my high school team, so you would think that we would be just as good if not better when we got to be seniors. Well the talent was certainly there, but our coach at the time couldn’t seem to translate all our talent into wins on the field. He had no clue on how to coach us and how to utilize our strengths. Needless to say, my senior year was the first time in 10 years that I had EVER finished a soccer season with a losing record. Meanwhile, my former club coach was coaching the Glen Burnie high school varsity soccer team and leading them to a state championship. Coincidence? I think not. Coaching matters.

Submitted by Steve Giles