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On The Whistle Podcast | Building a Coaching System That Can Change Kids' Lives

December 9, 2020

Gary Goldberg

In youth sports, we talk a lot about changing the world. But once kids leave the field, how are they changed? Are they any different on the ride home in the minivan than they were when they arrived?

Keith Osik, former player for the Pirates and now Vice President for Coaching Development, and Steve "Jonesy" Jones, Senior Vice President of Coaching Systems, at Steel Sports, believe in coaching systems that change lives.

In this episode of the On the Whistle podcast, I talked with Keith and Jonesy about ways Steel Sports is guiding and mentoring young people to become better humans.

We discussed:

The story behind Steel Sports and how it's making an impact across America today Translating the plays for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back of the jersey, into action How to get kids thinking and behaving the right way on the field

 

Listen now

 

Full Transcript

Gary Goldberg:

Hey guys, Gary here. Before we get to the show today, I wanted to highlight our sponsor, Sports Engine. Sports Engine is dedicated to making the life of a youth sports volunteer easier. Through their applications, people are able to save time on administrative tasks, allowing them more time to focus on developing their athletes.

Gary Goldberg:

More than a million teams, leagues, and clubs use Sports Engine every day to run their websites, promote their programs, and to collect sign-ups. They also offer an easy solution for getting uniforms delivered directly to their athletes' homes. It's called Sports Engine Gear, and you can check it out at sportsengine.com/gear to get started. Great. Now onto our show.

Announcer:

You're listening to On The Whistle, the podcast that explores the impact that coaches, teachers, and mentors from youth sports organizations and schools have on young people's lives. Let's get into the show.

Gary Goldberg:

All right everybody, welcome today's edition of On The Whistle. Super excited today to have two senior executives from a really magnificent organization called, Steel Sports. And Steel Sports, for those of you who aren't familiar with it, was started by a gentleman by the name of Warren Lichtenstein, who is, I would call him an American industrialist. Who's had a variety of different corporations that have had significant economic success and Warren, as he was raising, as I've been told the story. And we can certainly clarify it with Keith and Jonesy who are on the show today, saw the impact that mentoring and coaching had on his child, and immediately started to connect the dots around the benefit of mentoring and coaching, not only for his own kid, but perhaps making a bigger impact across the United States in the communities that kids are growing up with.

Gary Goldberg:

So from what I understand, he started Steel Sports as an offshoot of his global Steel Enterprises.

Gary Goldberg:

And from there, the story we will learn more today, but it's become a really significant, important part of the youth sports organization in the United States. They've got programs across the United States. They run tournaments. They've purchased facilities, and all around the idea of not necessarily driving profits for this sports organization, but profits in the form of societal benefits for improving the lives of young people and preparing them for the world ahead in the lives ahead of what they have to manage.

Gary Goldberg:

And in particular, also potentially preparing them for careers at the company, Steel Enterprises. So super excited to have you. We've got Keith Osik, who is the vice president of coaching development on the baseball side of Steel Sports. And we have the grand poobah, senior VP of Coaching System, Steve Jones, who has told me he wants to go by the name of, Jonesy. That's what they call him.

Gary Goldberg:

And so, Keith and Jonesy, welcome to the show. Super excited to have you guys here today.

Keith Osik:

Thank you, Gary.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Yeah. Thank you, Gary. We're very excited to be here.

Gary Goldberg:

Good. So Jonesy, how much of that story did I get right, and how much of it did I get wrong?

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

No, you essentially got everything right. And I've had the pleasure of spending some time with Warren. And so I've had the conversation about the experience he had with his son. And there's an [inaudible 00:03:30] to it. And that Warren was actually a single parent bringing up his son. And so he was relying on and looking for different ways to help develop his son's character, personality, as well as his athletic ability.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

And the truth of the matter is, Gary, as you know, coaches have an impact, we just don't know if it's a positive or a negative impact. And Warren saw both things in his child's experience. And so he committed to establishing Steel Sports, which is a social impact company. We've taken the bold approach of saying, we're going to change the world. We're going to change the world by positively affecting the character development as well as the athletic development of every single athlete in our program.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

And so what we're very fortunate about, is Warren also happens to be a multi-billionaire. And honestly, we wouldn't have survived as a company over the last several years, unless he hadn't plowed his own money into the research that we've done. And I'm literally talking several years. And we've talked to athletes, we've talked to sports legends, we have an advisory board. We can talk about that later. But we've also delved into the fields of education, science, childhood development. And so we've put all of those ingredients into what we believe is a unique coaching system.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

And we are committed. Our mission clearly states, we are going to inspire youth to reach their potential on and off the field of play. We're going to develop them as athletes and people through our Steel Sports Coaching System.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

And so what we are committed to, and a lot of people are, please don't make me to be a person saying we're the only ones doing this. We're committed to focusing on the character development through our four key core values of teamwork, respect, integrity, and commitment.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Where we differ as an organization is Warren has given us the time, the money, the resources, and the connections to build a program that intentionally is inclusive of those things. So our staff have to go through an extensive training program to become a Steel coach. And we then do a couple of unique things in terms of observing our staff working with the kids on the field and giving them feedback.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

And just as one little example, our forms, and they're pretty lengthy forms, and a lot of feedback goes into it. But one of our sections that we rate our coaches on is positive developmental relationships. Kids can't develop character, strengths and life skills, unless they have a positive developmental relationship with their coach. Well, what does that mean?

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Well, we went to the source and we formed a partnership with a group called Search Institute who spent 25 years researching this in classrooms, in clubs, in societies, in fields. And really we tell our coaches, "You must! There's no negotiable here. You must express care for your athletes. You must challenge your athletes. You must provide support for your athletes. You must expand the possibilities and experience for your athletes. And the final one that all coaches and teachers struggle with, you must share power with your athletes."

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Now, if we just look at that section, we tell our coaches, "You've got to do this, and if you're not doing it, we're going to send you back to your training. You're going to do this unit again. And you've got to understand what that means."

Gary Goldberg:

So what does "share power" mean? I want to interrupt you. I got everything up until you say in the one that they have a tough time with is "shared power". I'm not sure I understand that. That sounds pretty dynamic.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Yeah. Well the truth is, kids want to have some responsibility for what they're doing. So "shared power" means that as a coach, you occasionally have to involve the children or their athletes in the decision-making process. And too many coaches and too many teachers consider their classroom, their field their fiefdom. "Hey, it's mine. It's this way. Or it's the highway. And that's all it's going to be."

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

It's proven. We worked with a lady called, Angela Duckworth, Grit, the author, who's the chair at UPenn. And it's true that kids, grit doesn't just mean you stick at it. Grit means you have a passion for it. And you have a connectedness to it, because you are involved in the process.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So we challenge our coaches to involve the kids, two ways: Every one of our sessions has a period of free play, which means when the kids arrive, they're in charge of the activity, our coaches are there to supervise, make it safe. But they come up with a game. They come up with the rules. They have the power to do that and a coach does that.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Sometimes in game situations, we've had coaches that at halftime of a game, have turned the game plan over to the kids, said, "Guys, we're down by two goals." Or in baseball, "We're down by three runs. What do we need to do?" And involve the kids in the process of solving the problem. So we don't as coaches always give the answer, we present the issue, we guide, but through self-discovery the kids come up with solving the problem.

Gary Goldberg:

What a great skillset to develop for young people, because they have to self-advocate, they have to collaborate, they have to formulate, and then they have to take a little bit of risk. "Hey, I hope our plan works." And then they have to deal with the results, because they had skin in the game.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Yeah, we had one. I'll be really brief, because I do this, I talk too long, so I apologize.

Gary Goldberg:

We're here to listen to you, Jonesy.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

We had one example, which was a demonstration of our core values as well as sharing power. One of our U10 teams played in the tournament. This was last summer in New Jersey. I just happened to be there, complete fluke.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Anyway, we go down the field. These kids, good players, ball is crossed in, our forward clashes with their keeper, goes down in a heap, ball drops to one of our players, our player reactively kicks in the goal. Referee, goal. Our players, "No, I think I fouled the goalkeeper." Referee, "No, no, it's a goal." But the goalkeeper's injured. Trainer comes on from the facility to deal with the goalkeeper. Our players nine and 10 years of age go over to the coach, express the opinion to the coach that they think there was a foul before the goal was scored. Coach says, "Okay, what should we do?"

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Players talk for a couple of minutes. They say, "Coach, if the referee won't disallow it, we want to let them score a goal." The kids, this was not the coach, Luis Prado, but it wasn't him.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Anyway. He says, "Okay, that's what you want to do, guys." Guys go out there, referee wouldn't call it back. The other team kicks off and you've seen this at professional levels occasionally, but nine and 10 year old kids making the decision, they go through and score the goal.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Post-game, some of our parents were livid that the kids allowed them to do that. And then the lesson was, hey guys, if we're going to say we're going to share power", and this is what they felt was the right thing to do, and it reflected our core values of integrity, then this is the right thing to do.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

It can be a gamble, but I think over the long-term, if you're going to have a social impact, you've got to empower kids and you used a great term, Gary, they're going to be self-advocates, right? So that's the story I like to tell about that, because it still makes the hairs in the back of my neck stand up when I think about it, yeah.

Gary Goldberg:

Yeah. I try and reflect on some of our guests experiences and share them against my own life. And my wife and I have been fortunate enough to raise three wonderful kids. All three are in college right now. And two of them were particularly good athletes, and one particular loved the game of soccer as a young kid and got to high school and had a soccer coach that absolutely broke his spirit. Treated him poorly, treated the team poorly, was a yeller and a screamer, and not that positive relationship that you talked about.

Gary Goldberg:

And he came to us and said, "I'm done with soccer." And I was kind of heartbroken, because I loved watching this kid play. But I realized right there, these boys and our daughter have so much to gain from the positive relationship and so much to lose from the negative ones, right? There's real risk involved in treating a young athlete poorly.

Gary Goldberg:

Keith, I'm just curious, we talked briefly before the show started, you've got your own travel team and you're also managing 30 teams across the organization, nevermind all the work that you're doing up at Baseball Heaven, with the various tournaments and visitors and different skill building camps and stuff like that. But when you hear Jonesy talk about the positive relationship and the coaching system that you guys have put in place, how's it working for you in the baseball side?

Keith Osik:

Gary that's possibly why I'm so fired up to be a part of this family and program and business. It's just been a fantastic ride. So exactly what we're talking about is just giving them more, right?

Keith Osik:

So I had a business before I came into Steel Sports. I had my own business, managed travel teams and basically what it was was just, you give them 10 winter workouts, you practice with them on the field, you play your games, and then you say goodbye. So we're just giving just so much more and I'm just really proud to be a part of that. So...

Gary Goldberg:

And for those of you who don't know, Keith Osik was a professional baseball player for the Pirates. He came up through a farm system and played in the majors for... How many years Keith?

Keith Osik:

I played in the big leagues for 10 seasons.

Gary Goldberg:

10 seasons. So that's 10 more than I played, but that's quite an accomplishment. So obviously, you know the game really well. And obviously it's had a huge impact on your life. I'm reading this quote from the website, which I think is really interesting. I'd love your guys' perspective on this. It says, "Steel Sports encourages a culture of positivity and fun. And as an organization, we recognize the value that sports and fitness has in improving meaningful and life changing experience for our country's children."

Gary Goldberg:

So I love how they put it in the context of the entire country and our local communities, right? We listen, we learn, communicate. And as Tommy Lasorda says, "Become a team which plays for the name on the front of the Jersey, not the name on the back." And that's a wonderful concept about humility and teamwork. And I always loved how Penn State football, if a kid ever scored a touchdown, he placed the ball in the end zone. And they never had names. It was very understated uniforms, because it was all about the teamwork, right?

Gary Goldberg:

And so I'm just curious, how do you guys translate the plays for the name on the front of the Jersey, not the back of the Jersey into action, as you take ownership of these young athletes in your programs? What tactics are you using to encourage that type of thinking? Keith, why don't we start with you?

Keith Osik:

I mean, so I've had coaches and mentors that have always stressed that aspect of partly why I only hit 231 in the big leagues for a career average and spent 10 seasons, because I've always been brought up with coaches, I've had some tremendous coaches and mentors growing up and in my playing days. So I think what we're trying to do here at Steel Sports is exactly that, is stress to all of our coaches and provide support to all of our coaches. That's exactly what we're doing.

Keith Osik:

We're doing more than just the X's and O's in baseball. We're trying to teach life lessons and I'm sure we'll get into the professional development on the coaches side. And that's exactly what we're trying to do, is we're trying to make all of our coaches accountable, and like we talked about it, it's not just giving them an hour practice or a two hour practice.

Keith Osik:

As Jonesy mentioned, we have a free play, and we're constantly stressing our core values to them. And in '21, we're set to launch a character development program also.

Keith Osik:

So we've done a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes over the last year, and we're just really looking forward to '21, so we can actually execute just like everybody else's in America.

Keith Osik:

I think Jonesy knows and all of our staff, we're really excited to be a part of something that's so much bigger than just going down there and coaching a game and coaching a practice. We're just trying to teach life lessons and impact as many young kids as we possibly can.

Gary Goldberg:

Jonesy, so what do you know? Because Keith says, "As Jonesy knows". So let's go over to you. What is the coaching system at Steel Sports? And if I want to be a member of the coaching system, what are your expectations of me? And what training are you going to put me through? And specifically, why are those individual components so important for your success?

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Yeah. So Gary, related to your question earlier, how are we saying you play for the name on the front of the shirts, as opposed to the back?

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

The Steel Sports Coaching System is an educational system for our coaches and our athletes and our families. So if you came to us and we believed you were a good quality as a person and would fit there for our mold, we'd be more interested about your character than about your knowledge of the game. The X's and O's can be taught very simply. What's missing from most coaches education and most coaches that are coaching youth teams is the how to coach. It's what some people call the soft skills and they're totally wrong, because they're the most challenging skills of all.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So as an example, teamwork. Well, not words should mean what you said, you're playing for the name on the front of the shirt. Well, it only does if, and you would go through this if you came onboard with us, you'd complete a module online called Foundations of Positive Coaching, which is the first step to becoming a Steel coach.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

And in there, you would complete a unit which explains not only what our core values are, but give you the techniques and strategies to genuinely and authentically model those things through your actions and behaviors, so that the kids can see in action those core values, then replicate them, then reflect upon them, and then take them to the field. But much, much more importantly, take them from the fields of their community, their school, their college, their life in work.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So what makes us able to make that claim is that we give our coaches strategies and techniques to teach every single core value. Here's how you teach teamwork. Here's how you explain to a nine-year-old what it is to give up your best interest to serve the team. And we do that intentionally. And we do that inclusively in all of our practices and games. That is, again, a non-negotiable with our staff.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So that "Foundations of Positive Coaching" is the first step. You complete that within 15 days of joining us, it takes about three, three and a half hours online. And yeah, there's an exam and you have to pass it. You don't pass it, you don't get 80% or more, you've got to do it again.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

After you've completed that, you'll get your first professional development experience, which is, one of our senior coaches. We've got a team of 18 coach developers, Keith is one. We'll come out and watch you, but we'll assess you on those things that you learned in our module.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

The reason our system works is that everything, vision, mission, core values, everything we do is aligned to the same goal. We haven't taken anything from anybody else, we've built our program so everything is specifically focused on kids first. Kids first, a lot of people. "Yeah. Well, of course, you put the kids first, right?" Yeah, we put the kids first.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

But the second part of what "kids first" means is, remember, they are kids first. So as a parent or as a coach, what are your expectations up here for? You don't expect your kid to walk into French class and speak fluent French. Why would you expect them to do that in a field?

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So we educate and engage families, athletes, and coaches through our Steel Sports Coaching System to make them realize there are opportunities for learning life skills, but they don't happen automatically in sport. Not unless your staff is trained to identify them, then has the tools to teach them, and then has the power and authority to let the kids go. To step back and say, "No, they can do it. They can solve this."

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So I think the Steel Sports Coaching System is soup to nuts. It's everything that we feel is important that a coach needs to know. I, for example, Keith is a baseball player beyond all recognition, is being very modest, and that's one of the reasons I love him. Hasn't told you about his home runs when he was playing in the MLB. Did you get a lot of those, Keith?

Keith Osik:

Not enough.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

He's such a humble guy, right? But it's the exact kind of role model you want for your kids. And that's what we want all of our coaches to be, through their actions and behaviors, to employing the techniques and skills we give them. So we teach them how to teach these things. We're not just saying, "Hey, this is what we want. Go do it." And then we're observing them, giving them feedback about how well they're doing.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So again, I think that quote from Tommy is a great one. You know, he's going through a tough time right now. I'm sure most people know that. But I've met him a few times. What an interesting character. And he believes that, and he coached like that. And I've seen his ex plays with him. I've seen him with Bobby Valentine, Dusty Baker, and the affection they have for him, which is what we want our athletes to have for our coaches, because they've taught them things that will stay with them for the rest of their life, on the field, in the home, in the community, in their college, and in the workplace later in life.

Gary Goldberg:

Our company, SquadLocker, has a completely parallel thought process around changing the world to make it a better place. And one of the things that we did when we started the company was kind of come to the following statement, which is, look, "We know the power of coaching and mentoring and what it has on young people as they take that journey into adulthood. But we know we can't coach people. We can't coach kids. But if we make their lives easier by making access to apparel and decorated things easier for them to do and manage, then they can invest more time in the kids and helping them become better adults."

Gary Goldberg:

Our cultural position is we want to change the world too by empowering you to do the work you have to do. So when we talk about changing the world, it's one thing to get these kids thinking the right way and behaving the right way on the field. Can you share with me a little bit about what happens when they go back to the minivan and back to school, and over to Sunday services or Thanksgiving dinner, what do you expect of your athletes from the bench to the classroom, to the house?

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Yeah. So there's a couple of things to that, Gary. And as you know, this is a long-term process, right? Because one thing young people won't do and we're guilty of this as adults in breeding this habit in them, they won't reflect on failure, because everybody says on the sports field, right? "Oh, you failed, move on, forget it."

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

But in fact, young kids have to be taught how to reflect on what happens. And the reason I say that is, every young kid I've talked to, and there's thousands across the country, I love having conversations with them. They all have a gut feeling just like adults. They all know when they're making a decision that's marginal or just downright wrong. What they don't know is how to deal with that.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So as Keith alluded to earlier, we've got this Leaders of Character program that we're very, very proud of. We've actually started it with the soccer teams already, and we have over 500 athletes enrolled. It was developed along with a guy called Dr. Peter Meindl. You probably don't know that name, but he's a pretty impressive character. He's the Chair for Honor and Character Assessments at a place called West Point Academy.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So if you imagine what he's doing on a daily basis. Came out of UPenn, has a master's, has a doctorate, and Warren decided he wanted a leadership character program. Who's the best guy for it? He said, "Well, this guy's training the military. Training the young minds that are going to lead men into battle in the future, hopefully not, but the premise."

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So we went out, we hired him and he's developed this program. It puts up players through a program over the course of a whole year. Focuses a lot on servant so that they can socially impact wherever they are. From the corny lesson of, "Hey, the kid on his own in the school cafeteria." You've had that experience when John missed the sitter on Saturday and you screamed at John, how do we learn from that? We learn how it makes him feel. And you probably don't feel great afterwards when you think about it. So can we then take that?

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So we also have a social impact, a young lady called Allie Hanal marvelous, young lady. Hopefully you're going to talk to her in the future, Gary, where we do community-based programming. We recently had a food drive in Pennsylvania. We had a Veterans Day tournament that Keith can talk about, which is unbelievable. It's a Baseball Heaven.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Last Christmas, our Texas branch did a whole giveaway for parents who couldn't buy gifts for their kids. We include these as parts of our program. Then we encourage our athletes to go and say, "Hey, could you do this at your school? Could you get on the school council? Could you perhaps take this to your church, as you mentioned, and could you be involved in a soup kitchen, food drive, wherever that might be? Because these are things that will give back to you as much as you give to them."

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

And again, I've got another great story. I'm full of stories, sorry. But this one was about one of our young '05 girls, players. She was down on the beach in Florida. They went to a tournament a year ago. And all of a sudden, I see on Facebook this post about the senior lifeguard at Florida wanted to thank this young lady.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

This young lady had gone out into the ocean to save a kid that none of the lifeguards had noticed was drowning out there. Hey, we're not taking the credit for what she did, but we like to think we put into her mind that social obligation that we all have. You're going to make the world a better place or a worse place. Very few people are going to be neutral. So how can you take what we give you and put it out there to improve your own personal self-growth and make that positive impact?

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So the Leaders of Character program is one. That's our high school aged players. Because there's a lot of difficult concepts in that. Pre-high school, we have a coin recognition program. So every time we see a kid demonstrating one of our core values, which doesn't necessarily have to be on the field, it might be somewhere else that we come across them. We gave one out to a kid for getting all A's on a report and he'd struggled previously in his school. And they have a coin system where they collect the coins and they keep them on their bag on one of those key chains. And we just started that program as well.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So we actually, again, we don't just talk about it. We don't just say there's an opportunity for it. We design programs that will reinforce it consistently. And I've got to tell you, Gary, the kids like the way it makes them feel, and that's what's going to make them take it and do it elsewhere. So...

Gary Goldberg:

Yeah. Building that self-esteem, building that self-assuredness through incremental success, traveling through incremental failure.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Yeah.

Gary Goldberg:

I love there's a picture, a cartoon where it says, to have all these little steps and the last step says "success" and each step along the way has the word "failure" underneath it. Because you don't start on the first step and get to success. You pass through many, many failures, and I've certainly experienced that in my own career.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Yeah.

Gary Goldberg:

But Keith, tell me a little bit about the veterans event that you had and specifically, what did you see in the kids that participated in it? What were you hoping to see? And did you see the faces change? Do you have any stories about any of the young athletes and how it impacted them?

Keith Osik:

Gary, so great question. Respect in the kids' eyes for our country. To put off an event like we did. We had veterans come out. I saw them being carted from the front gate all the way down to the clover of the fields. Each kid socially distance on the foul lines. The veteran came out, threw a first pitch. Tremendous. It was just a great tournament.

Keith Osik:

And even more so, besides the kids that we affected, how about the veterans, how they felt throwing out that first pitch? Maybe-

Gary Goldberg:

There's nothing more American than baseball. And there's nothing more American than having a veteran throw out a first pitch.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Yeah, it was awesome. It really was.

Gary Goldberg:

Yeah. And you said the respect, what did you mean by "respect"? Who is being respected and why is that important, Keith?

Keith Osik:

I think the kids unknowingly respect that veteran. That somebody special going out there. That's kind of an honor to throw out a first pitch, isn't it? We all think of movie stars and sports heroes, but for us to shine that little light on a veteran for that, that's why I feel like it impacted that veteran just as much as the kids seeing that. What did it take? Three minutes out of our time to affect somebody's life, so... I thought it was really special. I was down there watching games and it was cool.

Keith Osik:

We did it on, I believe every field. I wasn't at the 8:00 AM game, which was the first game of the day, but they played the national anthem. So it was a good thing especially when our country needs it right now.

Gary Goldberg:

For those who are listening who don't know what Baseball Heaven is. Can you just give me a quick synopsis? What is Baseball Heaven?

Keith Osik:

Oh, Baseball Heaven is... we have an indoor facility. We have four 90-foot diamonds. I'm sorry. Yes. We have four 90-foot diamonds. And we have the 12 and under fields with smaller fences, which I think a lot of the travel players themselves like to come down, because they actually have a shot of hitting home runs for their age-appropriate.

Keith Osik:

And also it's tarped. So there's not many rain outs. We provide leagues for them. This fall, we're launching soccer there. So yeah, I mean, it's a tournament destination. So like if I'm a travel coach, that's one of the destinations that I probably, if I'm from Connecticut, or I'm from Maryland, or I'm from... we've had teams as far as Canada come down and play tournaments. So we provide tournaments for them. We also provide scouting events for the older kids there too.

Gary Goldberg:

And where is it located? And if I wanted to bring my team or league to an event there, how would I learn more about it?

Keith Osik:

Obviously you would go to, I think it's baseballheavenli.com, and you can check the website. It has the tournament's. It does have a button on there for our indoor facility, and everything you need to know is basically on the website. But it's on the eastern end of Long Island, but I believe it's exit 69 off the Long Island expressway. And it's located in Yaphank, New York.

Gary Goldberg:

So if you guys want to learn more about Steel Sports, their website, steelsports.com. And I'm coming up to the question I like to ask everybody who joins the show. It's a pretty straightforward question. And I'm really looking forward to hearing your individual answers. Jonesy, we'll start with you. I know you've played a lot of games and coached a lot of games. I'm just curious, what have you gained more from, the wins or the losses?

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So as an athlete, I gained more from the wins, because I was selfish. I didn't have the good fortune of going through a program like this. And I grew up in England, obviously. I played a sport where I signed my first contract at 11, and it was all about winning and moving on and moving on.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

And honestly, on reflection, I think it's why I stopped playing. I got to a level where I didn't like the person I was as a player. I was overly aggressive, I was argumentative, I was very nervous playing in front of crowds. And I honestly think it was because I'd become an athlete who was different to the person I was.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So yeah, I have to say as an athlete, I didn't learn these lessons, and that's why it resonates with me so much now as a coach, I just love it. And I'll honestly say, Gary, I think I learned an equal amount by winning and losing, because what I learned about is my athletes. I learned about those that need to learn humility, which is something I didn't have as a young athlete. I wish I'd been more like Keith Osik. He's just a wonderful person, but so humble. I wasn't.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

I think you can honestly learn as much from winning and losing as to how your athletes respond, how you as an individual respond, and how even your families respond, because there's no way we can develop these young people if all three of those groups aren't on the same page. So the parents, the families, the coaches, the athletes, we all have to understand what is the main driving force for these kids. The kids love to win.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

And I'm going to tell you, and I say this to all of our coaches and everybody we talk to. Steel Sports athletes and coaches are fiercely competitive. We want to win every single time we step on a field. But we never, never, never, ever want to win at the cost of our core values. And if we do, it's a hollow victory.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

And I've seen coaches. We have a national ritual whereby at the end of every game, all parents and all players joined together in one space, the coach reviews the goals that were set that day for that game, and then they go over those, regardless of the results.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

I've seen a coach whose team won five-nil, and I've seen him say how disappointed he was in the way his team behaved, in the way that we achieved the win, in the lack of respect that was shown either to the opponent or an official, and this does happen at times, but we don't let it go. And I've seen parents stunned, looking like, kids just won. Yeah. But that's not the way we win.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So I think you can learn an equal amount from both.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

And as this is probably my last chance to talk, I do want to talk about a gentleman called John Kessel, who you may have heard of, coaching legend. I started off by saying, we make an impression. It's just whether it's negative or positive. And he put it the best way I can ever, ever think. And I say this all the time. I say, "Coaches, bear this in mind. Let this be your mantra. Never be a child's last coach. Never be a child's last coach."

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

So if I have a winning season and none of my players play next season, I've screwed it up. John Kessel, one of the legends in my lifetime that I managed to meet, talk to and learn a lot from. So I always like to pay some homage to him whenever I speak. Thank you, Gary.

Gary Goldberg:

Yeah, that was great. Thanks so much Jonesy. So Keith, onto you. You've played a lot of games and you've coached a lot of games, not a lot of tournaments. So what have you gained more from? The wins or the losses? And you played obviously like Jonesy at the highest level.

Keith Osik:

Oh, Gary, to encapsulate this into just one answer is really tough. And what I mean by that?

Gary Goldberg:

And by the way, that's why I asked the question. This is not a softball. This is not a layup. I'm stretching you guys.

Keith Osik:

It really is. So if I look at my journey as... obviously baseball's in my blood, it's in my family's blood. We talked before the show, my son's with the Chicago White Sox as an A-ball player, I'm a lifer.

Keith Osik:

So the question was, what's better? The wins or the losses. I just gain-

Gary Goldberg:

What did you gain more from?

Keith Osik:

What did I gain more? So I gained more just from the journey every day of just being the best coach, person, father I could be. So I love those steps that you talked about and success. And I feel like I still have more steps to go. That's why I'm really fired up.

Keith Osik:

When I was approached about being a coach developer, I quite know what to expect. And then as I gained more information about being a coach developer, it really stoked a fire. Because like I said, I was in the business of coaching teams and trying to make money as a business owner.

Keith Osik:

But what we're doing here at Steel just fires me up daily. If I can just talk about what our coaches at Steel, what they mean and what they do during a yearly process, we've provided practice plans for them. We just developed a Steel Sports baseball handbook. We've created a long-term athletic development plan. As Jonesy mentioned, they are evaluated. I almost got to every coach this year. So those coach evaluations, I feel like go a long way and there's a lot of magic in it.

Keith Osik:

And what I mean by that is, when you evaluate a coach and then you meet with them within 48 hours, and you have that meeting with them... I say this all the time. I wish that somebody would have evaluated me during my first either travel coaching or... I'm a college coach now at Farmingdale State College. So I wish I would have had support like that.

Keith Osik:

Yes. I looked up to certain mentors and tried to coach like them. So I would say to wrap it up, it's basically the journey that I'm still on. So...

Gary Goldberg:

I appreciate that, Keith. So for those of you who want to learn more about Steel Sports, it's again, steelsports.com. This is clearly a organization that's thinking and functioning at the highest level possible. And just to give an indication of the culture around the company, I didn't know anyone at Steel Sports. I found Warren Lichtenstein's story somewhere online as I was just exploring On The Whistle and people that I'd wanted to talk to or learn more about.

Gary Goldberg:

And I reached out to your CEO and he was completely open and willing to engage me and talk to me and look for more of a platform to share with the world, your story. And so just the welcoming culture of your company and allowing me kind of infiltrate things, and get behind the scenes and talk to you guys, and learn more is just indicative of the fact that you guys are working on such a positive vibe with so much transparency.

Gary Goldberg:

So super hats off to you. I think so many of us will benefit from kids who live in communities where these Steel Sports organizations are functioning. And you don't know where that positive benefit is going to come, and maybe holding the door for my wife when she's walking out of a grocery store, or becoming a person who works within the community as their careers develop. We just don't know, but there's certainly going to be a massive wave of goodness and wellness that comes out of the hard work that you guys are investing in every day.

Gary Goldberg:

So we're super grateful, On The Whistle. Super grateful for having the opportunity to hear your story and share it with our listeners.

Gary Goldberg:

So gentlemen, continue and maybe we'll check back post-COVID and see how things have cooked up once more kids are on the field and more scores have been taken. Does that sound like a good idea?

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Sounds great, Gary. Thank you for the time today. Really appreciate it. Thanks again.

Gary Goldberg:

Awesome.

Steve "Jonesy" Jones:

Yeah. Thanks so much.

Announcer

You've been listening to, On The Whistle. For more, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player, or visit us at onthewhistle.com.

 


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