Michael Lewis: Coach Fitz’s Management Theory
Recently, some of us former baseball coaches (and current coaches) were cutting up reminiscences about a small handful of parents we have encountered over the years. We also reflected on some of our former coaches and Michael Lewis’ brilliant piece on his high school baseball coach was recalled. The truth is that most parents and coaches are fine people who have the players’ best interests in mind.
In 2004 (March 28th), in the New York Times Magazine, Lewis shared his reflections on Coach Billy Fitzgerald, the long-time baseball coach at the Newman School in New Orleans. “Coach Fitz”, as he has been called for decades, is a fabled institution in the Crescent City.
“When we first laid eyes on him, we had no idea who he was, except that he played in the Oakland A’s farm system and was spending his off-season, for reasons we couldn’t fathom, coaching eighth-grade basketball. We were in the seventh grade, and so, theoretically, indifferent to his existence… Our coach was a pleasant, mild-mannered fellow, and our practices were always pleasant, mild-mannered affairs. The eighth grade’s practices were something else: a 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pound minor-league catcher with the face of a street fighter hollering at the top of his lungs for three straight hours. Often as not, the eighth graders had done something to offend their new coach’s sensibilities, and he’d have them running wind sprints until they doubled over. When finally they collapsed, unable to run another step, he’d pull from his back pocket his personal collection of Bobby Knight sayings and begin reading aloud.” – Michael Lewis, Author
It seems like every metropolitan area has at least one “Coach Fitz” in the community’s history and the students end up better off for the experience. In my case, a physics teacher who was not a coach, George Samuel, proved to be a fine example for young people by teaching us the real value of treating our fellow man with respect. Also, our father was a great teacher of baseball… and the finer points of how to live one’s life.
”One of the things I had to learn growing up was toughness, because it doesn’t seem to be something you can count on being born with. Dad… says he may have told me, ‘Peyton, you have to stand up for this or that,’ but the resolve that gets it done is something you probably have to appreciate first in others. Coach Fitz was a major source for mine, and I’m grateful.” – Peyton Manning, NFL Quarterback
I wanted to share Michael Lewis’ views on “Coach Fitz” with you. Pay particular attention to the misguided actions on the part of some parents. These parents are the ones who are probably doomed to failure in teaching “life lessons” to their kids.
Hope you enjoy the tribute to Coach Fitz!