By Greg Price
Vauxhall Academy of Baseball Jets head coach Les McTavish will be a guest speaker as part of a panel in celebrating National Coaches Week (Sept. 23-30).
Alberta Sport Development Centre Southwest and Lethbridge Sport Council are putting on the Winning Edge Coaches Panel where McTavish, Peter Anholt (Lethbridge Hurricanes), Ashley Steacy (former Olympian and Pronghorns rugby) and Dean Spriddle (PGA of Alberta) are on the panel and will talk about their pathway and experiences from grassroots to elite-level coaching.
The panel will discuss topics such as coach development, culture and environment, lessons learned, specialization, and long-term athlete development.
McTavish has been coaching elite-level baseball since 2001, which has included the Prairie Baseball Academy, Team Alberta, Team Canada, Lethbridge Bulls and the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball for the last 12 years.
“I don’t know if I have a certain hard-core philosophy, but I have always maintained the fact you are trying to coach kids and our philosophy at Vauxhall has been ‘Better Person, Better Player.’,” said McTavish. “Not only with Vauxhall, but also coaching Little League with my kids, you are extremely influential on kids as a coach. And I have had great people around me like Jim Kotkas and Joel (Blake) in Vauxhall, Greg Hamilton with Team Canada and Blair Kubicek and Todd Hubka with PBA. We are constantly learning and growing as coaches and for the last three years I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of the T12 in Toronto with a lot of former Blue Jays from Alomar to Moseby to Duane Ward and Devon White and a lot of them have come to Vauxhall to speak.”
McTavish is hoping the free event will be beneficial to coaches, parents and athletes from all sports who attend the event, with McTavish just as excited being surrounded by his fellow speakers on the panel.
“I learned a lot from Pat Gillick (former general manager of Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies) when I got hired by the Mariners in 2001. He said surround yourself with great people who are smarter than you and you’ll look great. I know it is a small little excerpt, but I do remember him telling me that,” said McTavish.
“You surround yourself with great people, let them do their job and delegate. It sounds basic, but it’s important. I’m excited to hear from the other panelists, from the hockey world, the golfing world and the rugby and track world. Some of them are from individual sports where you can learn a lot from that as well.”
Coming full circle, McTavish is also now coaching little kids in Little League, and sees the ability in shaping youth both on and off the field. Coaching is not just about developing elite-level athletes for a particular age group at a higher level, but elite levels of life as a well-rounded individual in interactions with your fellow man/woman.
“It is such a balancing act. Do you turn your back on someone who may need a little direction and help? It can work both ways, where you have a young athlete who has maybe made some poor decisions over their career. Do you give up on that person or do you possibly take a chance on that person and change the direction they may go,” said McTavish. “It is a balancing act because you can’t put your program in jeopardy, but at the same time you have to look at each case and each person as an individual and figure it out to see if you can make a difference. There’s never a right or wrong answer to it, that’s the tough part of it. You are always going to be scrutinized when you make tough decisions as coaches. It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with a nine-year old or a 17-year old, there are decisions kids make that they have to live with and that’s part of growing up. If you provide the right culture and have certain expectations and they know the expectations, more often than not they will make good decisions.”
The Winning Edge Coaches Panel goes Monday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. at the 1st Choice Savings Centre for Sports and Wellness at the University of Lethbridge in Room PE 275 (Located down the hallway across from Tim Hortons).