One of the best college softball coaches in the country, Florida State’s Lonni Alameda, sits down with Brian on this episode of the Peak Performance Podcast…
- The impact that the late, great Harvey Dorfman had on Lonni.
- Florida State’s core values and how they came up with them.
- The idea of a “One More Board.”
- Coach Alameda’s unique answer to The Million Dollar Question.
- and more…
Follow Coach Alameda on Twitter @Coach_Alameda
E-mail Coach Alameda at [email protected]
But it’s a process. If we stay in the process and we keep preaching the process – and what is the process? Define it. It’s breathing. It’s your routine. It’s knowing that as a pitching coach working with pitchers, once that ball leaves my hand I’ve done everything possible for me to be successful, and if I’m not, then I have no regrets in it and it’s on to the very next pitch.
Cain: Hey, how are you doing? Brian Cain, your Peak Performance coach, here with the Peak Performance Podcast. You can’t talk about success or building a championship culture in college softball without talking about Coach Lonni Alameda and the Florida State Softball program.
Coach Alameda is the head coach at Florida State, also the head coach of the National Pro Fastpitch USSSA Pride. She was named ACC Coach of the Year in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, leading the Seminoles to the Conference Championship and to the Women’s College World Series in 2014 and 2016. In 2014 she coached National Player of the Year Lacey Waldrop and in 2016 she earned her 500th win as a coach. There are so many more accolades on Coach Alameda’s impressive resume, but what’s even more impressive is her passion for being a teacher and ambassador to the game of softball and how she selflessly dedicates her time, energy, and passion into growing players and coaches as part of her mission to leave the game better than she found it.
In this podcast she lifts the lid on the inner workings of Florida State Softball and gives you insight into their championship culture of FSACC, how they build a mindset and mental toughness, how they use measurement of the process to get more results, and on creating one of the most special programs in all of collegiate athletics. For more on Lonni, please follow her on Twitter @Coach_Alameda as well as @USSSAPride and @FSU_Softball.
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Cain: Please welcome to the Peak Performance Podcast Florida State head softball coach, Lonni Alameda. Lonni, thank you for joining us here.
Alameda: Cainer, thanks for having me. Such a huge success to our program is you, so I really appreciate being here, and I’m just excited to share a little bit about our program.
Cain: Well, we’re glad to have you. If you could – could you kind of catch our listeners (that are going to be predominantly coaches and athletes) – could you kind of get them caught up to speed on kind of from where you got started into the game of softball and then your journey into how you got to the head softball coach and Florida State?
Alameda: Well, we’re going to talk about many moons ago. We’re going to go through the whole story. I think after looking back at it, I guess kind of coaching was in my blood a little bit. Back in our day we had to have jobs, so in order to pay for my pitching lessons I actually worked at the pitching and hitting academy that I was at in Sacramento. So already I was kind of into being a part of teaching the game.
When I got to the University of Oklahoma, I gave lessons and I worked clinics and I did Camp 3 USA Softball and all that stuff, being privy because we’re 30 minutes from the Hall of Fame stadium, so it was pretty awesome. I just really got into teaching and just completely enjoyed it.
So from playing in Oklahoma and making some contacts there with camps and clinics, I went down to Barry University, met Lisa Navas, had an opportunity to work on my Masters down there and kind of changed the culture a little bit down there – not knowing really what we were doing but having fun, being pretty much big energy out there every time we went out there. I actually was able to meet Harvey Dorfman while I was down there and spend some time with Harvey, which I think is crazy in my circles. As I look back on it now, how awesome sports psychology has been to my growing up! So spending some time with him in that program and being with Lisa.
Then the Stanford job opened up. I never really kind of thought about coaching until the Stanford job. I barely was getting my Masters, so it was a GA position. I wanted to get some schooling done, see what the world had to offer. I wanted to go into sports broadcasting. When the Stanford job opened up, it was just close to home, two hours from home. Who doesn’t love the beautiful Stanford campus? What an opportunity, right? So I went out there, and nine seasons later we ended up taking that team to the World Series and being the first-ever coaching staff there to win a regional championship to go to the World Series. So all kinds of cool stuff that Coach Rittman and I did there.
Of course, from accolades like that you get the opportunity to go off and be your own head coach. I did that for five years at UNLV. I really had some awesome experiences at UNLV. I really grew as a young coach at UNLV. I really learned recruiting, but obviously, Vegas brings a different challenge. It’s Vegas. Everyone thinks what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and we didn’t want that in the softball field. We wanted everyone to know what we were doing in Vegas, so it was a little bit of a different challenge and so we were trying to change the culture a little bit there. Did so. Really enjoyed it.
Because of that I got the opportunity to come here to Florida State and absolutely loved it. Now I’m going into my 9th season here at Florida State. I think the one thing that I always remind myself is never forget where I came from. That came from a fundamental part of softball, learning the game, sharing the game, and loving people who are a part of it.
So that’s kind of my journey through coaching and my opportunities. Throughout there I got some chances to coach with Canada. I was in Beijing. Now the opportunity to coach in the Pro League, which has been amazing, and just honestly pushing myself every day to be a better coach for the student athletes.
Cain: Lonni, you mentioned earlier Harvey Dorfman. We had Raul Ibanez on the podcast earlier and he had mentioned that Harvey was somebody who was instrumental in getting him going into the mental game. What are some of the things that you remember from Harvey – who unfortunately is no longer with us – that kind of were like some staples in the mental game that stuck with you from an early age even till now that you use in your coaching career?
Alameda: I think the thing with Harvey is – and I got him a little bit later with the Marlins organization when I was down there – it was just the little things. He always talked about just the little things. So we would sit in the dugout and he would just chat with players. It was just so simple. And he really simplified things for them when the game got so big and that’s really what it is. It’s simplifying all the little things that we’re doing that show up in big moments but it’s still playing catch, it’s still the mindset, it’s put a good swing on a pitch, but it’s clearing all the shit that’s in your brain that you’re trying to get out of there – the negatives.
He’d keep it simple. He’d just cross his legs and sit on that bench and just talk like you’re just having a coffee and just chitchatting, yet we’re at a ball field and we’re just talking the game. That was probably the one thing I remember. It was just so relaxed, so simple – let’s have a conversation about the game and then let’s go out and just play the game. Play catch, swing the bat, and play the game.
Cain: Awesome. Harvey had a huge impact in my life as well as many others who are into the mental game. Lonni, you go from Stanford to UNLV and build that program up, go from UNLV to Florida State. Talk about kind of what you know now, having done that in two programs, that if you were to give advice to a younger coach who is going in to take over a new program, what is kind of the first step or the first thing that that coach should do when taking over that program?
Alameda: I think there are a lot of necessary steps in creating a culture. I think the very first thing starts with, you have to be comfortable with who you are. There is a style of coach and a person that you are and you can’t be anybody different. You can’t be the #1 coach in the country at the time. You’re not going to be John Wooden. You can take things from those people, but you’re not going to be them. I think that was one of the biggest things that I had to learn as a coach.
I think being a female – and if anybody knows me, I’m very family oriented, everyone come on in, everyone be a part of it – and with that you get a lot of judgment. Everyone likes to judge. So they tell me all the time, “You need to be meaner, you need to do this, you need to do that.” Over time – I was miserable trying to be somebody else. I truly had to figure out who I was. Once I was comfortable with who I was coaching and how my style of coaching was, then the players could be comfortable around me, then the messages are always pretty clear. So kids are going to see right through you. People will see right through you if you’re trying to be something that you’re not.
I think that was the #1 thing for me, was to make sure that I was very comfortable and my coaching style was who I was. I’m not a yeller and screamer. I have standards and I have pretty high standards of how I want to do things, but I will be right there with you when we’re going through it. People used to make fun of me. Like I’m taking the luggage out of the bottom of the bus with everyone else. I don’t make the freshmen do it. If I’m going to ask someone to do it, it’s our program and I’m going to do it with you. People all the time are like, “That’s silly, the head coach is taking stuff out.” I’m like, “Well, that’s just the way I am and that’s okay.” I think that would be the #1 thing.
Then #2 is really to get some core values of the program. That took me a while and Cainer was definitely a big part of me doing that and trying to figure that out. But you really have to self-reflect. Again, who am I as a coach? How do I want to imprint on the program? What are my core values as a coach, but what are the core values of the team too? If the team’s core values and my core values are pretty much on the same parallel, then we’re doing some pretty good things; and if they’re not and we’re not, then I’m not communicating very well to what this program is going to be, because it’s going to start from the bottom to the top or the top to the bottom. I think the core values is a big one. I think every player that has left Florida State – and I could even think at UNLV, we didn’t really say “core values” but we were definitely family, it was family. I know that I could call those kids and family would have been a part of their comments about UNLV when we were there.
Cain: Lonni, when we talk about that Pillar #2 MVP Process, the Mission, Vision, and Core Principles or the Core Values of your program at Florida State, you used the acronym FSACC. Could you talk a little bit about FSACC and what it means and how you use that in your program?
Alameda: I think that when we came down as a family, that’s a big thing to me, that is this program. There’s not a wanderer around this facility. Everyone gets a hug and gets to come be a part of us. You see that everywhere here. So we embrace everyone.
I think the big thing for me with team and family was my vision of family, Cainer’s vision of family, my second baseman’s vision of family, is all going to be different. Everyone grows up different. But when you come to Florida State Softball, there is going to be a family atmosphere because we’re going to be welcoming, we’re not judgmental, we’re going to work our tails off. We had to define family. It’s one thing to throw “family” out there, and I know a lot of people do it, but as soon as you do that, it’s like throwing “Well, this tastes sweet.” Well, what is sweet to me and what is sweet to you and what is sweet to someone else? We have to define sweet if we really want to know what that is. So we go over family and we talk about it.
Honestly, the biggest times we talk about it is when we’re struggling. When we’re struggling or something is happening, then we bring up: Okay, this is our core values and this is our standard, so there is no judgment right now. Someone made a mistake. They didn’t go to class or they flunked a test or I don’t know what the case may be, but we’ve all been there, we’ve struggled. We’re a family and we’re going to be there for each other. You fight with your brothers and sisters all the time. We’re going to fight. That’s fine. I think that was the very first one because then that just shows your standards right off the get-go.
Smart. We pride ourselves in making sure that when we go out on that ball field that we’ve covered everything possible that the game is going to present to us. That’s my job. But I want every player here to be able to leave this program and teach a 10-year-old team, a college team, an international team – they’re going to be educated on the game. They’re going to be smart players. If we become students of the game and we continue to learn the game, the game is always challenging to us. It’s always going to be fun at different levels.
Smart. We have a standards board in the back of our classroom. We understand Florida State Softball. We know what we are good at and that’s what we try to attain all the time. We’re competing at someone in the other dugout, but in essence we’re competing against ourselves because we have some standards that we want to achieve: 70% first-pitch strikes. No back-to-backs. Quality at-bats. Three extra base hits a game. Those are Florida State standards that we hold to. You have to be a smart softball player to understand where you fit into that and how you bring that to your team.
Hand in hand with aggressive. So FSACC – aggressive. We run the bases. It goes twofold. We want to be aggressive off the field, too. We want to take advantage of community service opportunities. We want to take advantage of being in the front row of a classroom and answering questions. I think that goes back to… my mission is trying to make available every opportunity for players here to leave Florida State and have taken advantage of everything. If you take advantage of stuff, you’re going to give yourself a really good resume for life. That’s kind of my mission for these kids. But if they’re not aggressive in raising their hand or they’re not aggressive in doing things off the field, they’re not going to get those opportunities. The same goes on the field. Be aggressive. Make a mistake 100%. Give us all you have in running bases and that kind of stuff.
Competitive. I think that goes without being said sometimes. Everyone is competitive at certain levels. But with being competitive comes failure. With being competitive comes putting things on the line. Again, we have to define competitive. We have to push competitive. I’ll get in the bullpen with the pitchers and I’ll try to piss them off the best I can because I know they’re going to get competitive, but sometimes there comes that line where we’re over-competitive and we’re not being respectful of the game and repeating the game and being respected at competition points. So competitive is huge. It’s a blood-boiling point that we really try to push a lot because we want to go into the game and play it right and compete at a good high level.
Then I think the thing that sums it all up is being committed. If you’re living these core values daily on and off the field – and the big part of it is as a coach we can really get a lot out in the field of these core values, but what are they doing in the locker room? What are they doing on a Saturday night? They’re going to pizza as a team, they’re hanging out. Are you still committed to the core values that we have set forward for Florida State Softball? When your players are talking that lingo, your job is essentially really done because now they’re drinking the Kool-Aid (essentially) and they’re proud of it and alumni are proud of it. People call back and they talk about the core values and we live the core values. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not an everyday thing. Sometimes we have to bring it back up and be like, “Hey, this is the standard that we like to hold.”
The other day in warm-ups we’re out there and some people are dogging it. I have everything on video. I video everything. I bring them up here. “Is this a committed team right now? Are you guys doing a good job of it?” At least it’s a line in the sand that we’re either crossing or we’re not, and we can always bring them back to it. That’s why I think the core values are huge to us. As a coach, if you want to be successful, that’s your barometer – to know that you are consistently doing what you from the top want all the way through, from your manager to your trainers. You’re living it daily. It’s been a difference maker for us. Cainer, you’ve been a huge part of that and I really appreciate that.
Cain: Lonni, one of the things you mentioned too as well is kind of you mentioned Pillar #2 the Championship Culture, then talked a lot about Pillar #4 Knowing Your Numbers and measurements and motivation, and talked about the process-based measurements that you have from 70% first-pitch strikes and quality at-bats. Could you talk a little bit more about the importance of measuring the process in terms of helping your team understand how the process leads to success?
Alameda: Big process, people – and I’m going to kind of keep saying this and people are going to get over this, but you have to live it. You have to live it. The hardest time living it is in the 3-2 count in the dugout when the bases are loaded. The kids are always looking at you as a coach and how you respond to those scenarios. So yes, are we going to fail one of those times? Yes, we are. But we’re also going to succeed.
But it’s a process. If we stay in the process and we keep preaching the process – and what is the process? Define it. It’s breathing. It’s your routine. It’s knowing that as a pitching coach working with pitchers, once that ball leaves my hand I’ve done everything possible for me to be successful, and if I’m not, then I have no regrets in it and it’s on to the very next pitch.
We work on that in the bullpen. We talk about it all the time. You have to talk process in every scenario, so when I can go out there in the circle in a big moment and we can take a breath together and kind of laugh at each other or do whatever we need to do to get them going – that is part of the process. Next pitch right here. Everyone focus on this. And let it go. The outcome is out of your control. It is completely out of your control what happens. But we can be focused right here as one unit.
Nine versus 1… that’s been a big one for us when we’re talking that. But I think that’s big. It goes with hitting, stepping out of the box, refocusing, getting your mind right, working the process of just having quality at-bats, but because of one pitch at a time. Really working one pitch at a time. Those are all things that you talk about. You want to say family? Live family. You want to say process? Live process. You truly have to do that.
I think also when you’re building up to process, we have a One More Board down in our cages, and on that board is every player’s name. It’s like a lineup card of every player’s name. They write what their one more is. Through the journey of you figuring out what kind of softball player you are, there are certain things that you’re going to have to get better at, whether it’s focusing, your curveball, hitting the outside pitch, bunt, stealing bases – whatever it is, you would write that on the board. That’s an accountability board, essentially, for your teammates to see because you’re actually writing it in front of everybody. It’s open. The doors are open all the time.
This One More Board, this is the one more when I go out today and I’ll do one more of these because I‘m going to get better at it and I’m going to work on this process of being a better curveball pitcher/focusing pitcher/whatever your one more is, and your team can hold you accountable to that – but now you’ve realized how to work the process to be better at that. Boom. Check it off. I’m good at it. Now I’m going to work at something else in my game.
I can’t get 10 things in one day. It’s not going to happen. But I can get one more thing better for my team and for me and then I can continue to work to build myself better. As I do that, it’s process oriented. Your coaches are in on it. Now your teammates are in on it. Now your teammates can come in and say, “hey, take a good breath, work through this pitch, this is the curveball we’ve been talking about right here,” and it becomes very present. It’s just so huge to the culture of what you want to do.
I think when you’ve got your standards board in the classroom when we evaluate our game – which you have to come back and evaluate. We play Florida, we play Auburn, we play family. It doesn’t matter. Somebody else. We come back, we evaluate our game. All the standards – check, check, check. Pretty darn good. Okay. W is the end result. But it was a process. When you go down and look at the One More Board, it’s about the individuals getting better for the team so they can create a better standards board for the team. So it all works hand in hand for us and it’s something that we as a coaching staff and the players continue to talk about and preach about.
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Cain: Lonni, you said so when you come back to that process board, you come back and break it down. Is it once a week? Is it after every game? I mean, in college softball you’re playing 3-4 games on a weekend, sometimes you’re playing during the week. What is your routine for coming back and breaking that down?
Alameda: This is the commitment part of it. As a coach, you really have to make sure you plan this out. We do not do it every single game. It’s kind of funny. Our soccer program – which are neighbors to us – they’re a pretty good program. They won championship in 2014 and always right there. They have the exact same standards board. Sometimes I check myself because I’ll often see their standards and they have red all over the board and they’re like #1 in the country, so their standards are pretty darn high. It kind of works for them.
But we check off usually on Monday or Tuesday. Depending on we’ve played Wednesday, off Thursday, played Friday, Saturday, Sunday, come back Monday usually is an off day, then Tuesday. So either Monday or Tuesday, depending on the off day or practice day, is early in the week we evaluate ourselves.
Softball is you play so many games. You can’t do it every single time. It becomes monotonous. But we’re down there in the dugout during the game with the quality at-bats, the quals, the quality at-bats. Coach Wilson has that down there. He’s checking them off. He’s talking to them about it. It’s a process. It’s during the game. The players come up before – so you’re in the batter’s box on that circle at the stairwell. When they’re at the stairwell, they’re talking to Coach Wilson. “Boy, that last at-bat, that really sucked” or whatever it was. “Yeah, it wasn’t too good of a quality at-bat. I would look for this pitch in this situation, I would do…” They get a plan; you know what I mean? So really our standard board is kind of rolling into during the game, which is the biggest part of it. You’ll hear the players talk about the multiple-base hits and all that kind of stuff.
But we do check in once a week and we just keep up with it, and then we go in there and we go: “Alright, you guys, this week we’re getting ready for practice and we have these people and these people. How are we doing right now? How is Florida State Softball doing right now? Let’s turn around and check. Hitting looked outstanding. Pitching, we probably need to pick it up a little bit. We’re lacking on our first-pitch strikes. Our hitters are getting it out of this right now, getting us out of jams, awesome. Pitchers, we could work a little bit more.” So now the whole team is like alright. You get out there, that first pitch, and they’re like, “Go get it – come on, Kinger – go get it, JB” because it’s brought to their attention, which is just huge.
Cain: That’s awesome. Awareness is the first step to making any performance change. I think a lot of that is what the numbers do, is help increase awareness. One of the things that you guys do (I’ll say) better than any college baseball and better than any college softball team is you’ve set the standard for the use of video. It’s unbelievable. It’s almost to the level of what you see with college football and those guys live in video. Could you talk a little bit about the importance of video and how you use video in your program as a teaching tool?
Alameda: I’m such a big learner. I want to learn the game. I want to learn every aspect of the game. I definitely know at some point in my career coaching the game is going to get by me and I’m going to have to move on, but until then I’m going to make sure I get every ounce on to learn. So I’m in here every night definitely breaking down practice video, game video, scrimmage video, opponents’ videos. I’m going to try to get every little ounce I can about making myself better, which in the end is going to make the team better. And I fall a lot.
We don’t have a huge million dollar system. We have an iPad that’s on top of our dugout here and our manager just iPads practice. So if I’m in the bullpen – which a lot of coaches ask me, “How are you the head coach and the pitching coach?” Well, I have two amazing assistant coaches and a team that kind of runs themselves a little bit right now, but I have a camera that’s getting everything so at the end of practice I can come up here and watch what’s going on and see our cuts and relays on the field, when I was in the bullpen wasn’t so sharp and we need to do that again tomorrow. Or I really need to talk to our middle infielders or whatever it might be. But that’s a one tool right there. You’re another coach in the sky kind of thing. An eye in the sky.
Number two is, are your players really working the process that you talked about? When you go out there and scrimmage and you put them in a lot of scrimmage situations in practice, they get done with icing, they run right up here right after practice. We spend five minutes and I can just pull up Kelly here at shortstop and we can talk to her, and then she is visually seeing what she has really been trying to work on.
So it’s affirmation right away like, “Dang it, I got that right; I knew I got that right” or “Ooh, I thought I was in line and I wasn’t in line” or when it comes down to pitchers (and I think it’s huge for pitchers) let’s look at the strike zone. You’re out there complaining about him not calling a ball or a strike. Tell me, was it a ball or a strike? If they think that they threw a strike and it was off the plate, now they’ve got instant feedback that “Okay, it wasn’t what I thought it was; now I can get better at knowing what my strike zone is” or whatever it might be. But just what you think sometimes is going on in a game and then you actually get confirmation of it, now you become more confident in what you’re doing.
We preach all the time believe, confidence – all those kinds of good words that as a coach you want to throw out there, but how is a kid going to be confident? You can’t just say “Confident dust, here it is; I’m going to go be confident.” It just doesn’t happen. You’ve got to figure out ways to measure it. A lot of these kids are visual learners. It’s kind of how they grow up. Now they can come up here and they can see it. They can start to see it in action. They get a plan for it. Now they’re like – I don’t know how many times in practice a play will happen and my shortstop or third baseman will be like, “We just watched that last night.” So right away they’re intrigued in it.
I think it’s easy. It’s an iPad. It’s a camera in center field. You get instant feedback. You’ve just got to take the time to do it every day. It takes 45 minutes every day to do it. If you wait, by the end of the week it’s three hours. You won’t do it. It’s too overwhelming. So it’s just one of those commitment things you have to stick with.
Cain: Speaking of sticking with the commitment, you also use a classroom to teach a lot of your leadership and character and mental game program as well. Could you talk a little bit about the importance of using a classroom and some of the things that you do to help build that leadership character and mindset?
Alameda: So there are a couple of things that I’ve always been a proponent of – and again, we’re coaching at a school of higher education so we all want to win, we want to be the best in our sport, but our job is to make sure that we get them ready to take on the world and their resume rocks and they’re ready to go.
I have a thing that we do at the gate, and we did it even at LV too when I was there. We used to have a calendar on the gate and you’d kind of mark it off. If you were the captain of that day, you’d scratch off the practice after you were done because you just don’t get it back. You just don’t get that day back. Even if it was a bad day – which is fine. Bad days are part of building who we are and you’ve just got to address it – or a good day or whatever it is. But you’ve just got to realize that that’s one more off for whatever team that is. This is team 34 at Florida State. There can only be one team 34, so let’s use our days wisely.
I think that we go to the gate and give your all to the team every day. That’s what the gate stands for us. We meet at the gate at the beginning of practice. It essentially is leave that craziness, the math test, the boyfriend or girlfriend, the whatever just happened, jump on the field. You’re with 23 players. Give your all. If your all is 80% of your all, give me your 80% of your 100% right now. Check in, engage, and kind of work from there.
With that, if we’re going to try to get the most out of every player, coach, manager, whatever it is, we do certain things where they have to speak up. Sometimes your freshmen don’t like to speak up, but you’re going to need them in big moments in games and be confident with who they are – which I kind of go back to that. So they’ll have challenges at the game. Maybe they happen to lead some sort of fun Rochambeau (rock, paper, scissors) tournament or just something. We just try to get them comfortable speaking in front of people. Then the same thing goes in the classrooms. Essentially the classroom is just a little longer version of the gate to me.
This year we did Wednesday Warriors. We set up different books. Cainer set up different books for us, and we came in and we talked about different ideas of kind of what encompasses us. So from leadership skills to accountability to legacy, different things.
We gave 2-3 players kind of the ability to stand up in the classroom and sing some songs and do some activities and just get outside of their comfort zone, but yet we’re still talking about the game. The game is having accountability. The game is having leadership. The game is all those things and it’s catching and throwing. But now I’m in front of my teammates. My coaches aren’t leading it, my sports psychologist isn’t leading it – the players are leading it. They’re leading their own team through an event. This gets them comfortable public speaking. It gets them comfortable with saying what they want to say about their teammates, which is huge. I think it’s a great opportunity.
I think a lot of them you’ll see, when you put them more into it – you don’t really see it in their freshman year really come out, but by the middle of their sophomore season and to juniors and seniors – they’re speaking up. We’ve created leadership within the program. They’re comfortable speaking in front of their players, their teammates, and their coaches. You want them comfortable speaking in front of you, and we want them to walk through the door and ask about playing time and ask about things so you can have a legit conversation, just like you’d want your player to leave here, graduate, walk into the CEO’s office and ask about a pay raise or a job opportunity or whatever it might be.
So I think those things go hand in hand and that’s something we do every single day at the start of practice. It takes five minutes and it has shown really good proof for us in the leadership role.
Cain: Lonni, you’ve mentioned a lot of things in this podcast about kind of teaching life through the game. You’ve talked a lot about the mental game. One of the things that you’ve done in your program which I’ve been fascinated with, and it’s really how we met, is you have a camp – like every coach has a camp at their program – but your camp has a lot of a different feel to it. I think it has a different purpose than what a lot of coaches do when they have camps. Could you talk a little bit about your camp structure at Florida State and why you kind of went down that path and some of the benefits that come from that?
Alameda: I think the one thing that hits every coach is that you want to come in – you get the opportunity to come in as a coach and coach at amazing universities and high schools and programs, and you want to leave it better for the next person to come along, so how do you do that? How can you do that? How can you give back to the game and create something a little bit better?
I guess maybe originally selfishly at Stanford… When I was at Stanford I was like, how can I get really cool people that I want to learn from to share the game – because it’s one thing to sit down and talk over dinner. It’s another to actually get out and troubleshoot with a 10-year-old, a 12-year-old, a 15-year-old. We can talk how you do things but let me see how you do things. Let’s go out and let’s work some hitting, let’s work some outfield stuff, and let me see you teach and let me be around it. So now all of a sudden I’m seeing you troubleshoot on hand right now and we can talk there. I think that was invaluable for me as a coach.
So, Stanford. I’m inviting 7-8 coaches that I want to learn from, that I want to be around, and I want to be around them for 2-3 days. And how can you pay for that? How can you do that? Well, you run a camp. Now kids are coming into the camp. Hey, come to camp – I’ve got these really cool people/really cool coaches that give to the game. So now you’re paying money to come to camp and all of a sudden I can pay these people to come here. It’s a win-win. The camp doesn’t make money but we’re completely rich off of knowledge, which is what it’s all about.
People started to like it and the camp grew, and then all of a sudden now to this point here – which we’ve done it for a gazillion years – but you get coaches coming here because they want to learn from the coaches here and it’s become a teaching camp. Sadly, we have to kind of turn people away sometimes because we just don’t – it’s literally like a 6 coaches to 1 camper ratio. It’s bananas how many coaches are here. But it’s awesome because you get two coaches off to the side talking about pitching curveballs while two coaches are working with kids, and then it kind of changes and they get – the amount of knowledge in an 8-hour day that is shared here, it’s been so awesome.
It’s not just me. It takes a village. We always talk about that. It’s just getting good people around good people and just sharing the game. This has morphed into an umpire training camp. So you get 20 umpires here that want to get better. Now it’s the same thing. The umpires are doing the same thing here for three days. It’s a coaches’ camp so high school coaches come in. It has become a lot of GAs and young assistant coaches driving down and coming in just to be around some of the older coaches so they can learn and just see them. So they’re not even a part of camp. They’re just sitting in the cages listening to how someone teaches hitting.
So again, I think if you feel the responsibility (which I do daily) to continue to make this game better, turn every rock over possible to learn how to teach, and continue to challenge myself – I think that’s another big thing is bring great pitching coaches in here to come and work with the campers and even our players. I love our players to be around and listen because I’m not trying to tell them one way to do things. There are a million ways to do things. Have them come in here and have them talk to the campers, our players, then like, “oh, why do you do this, how do you do this, talk to me about this” because now that player is becoming better and now I’m becoming better because I’m like, “I should have thought about it that way” or “I am right, I am doing things right.” It kind of gives you confirmation as a coach. I think that’s big.
Again, are you vulnerable? Yes. You’re going to be vulnerable. You’re bringing people into your program. You’re kind of rolling back the curtain and saying, “Here it is; tell me what my team and my program look like.” But if you’re pouring all your heart into it, what a better way to realize if you’re doing things the right way or if there are better ways you can do things. A lot of people nowadays kind of close the doors and they don’t want people involved, but how are we going to get the game better, how are you going to get your players better, if we don’t open it up and really try to learn to make ourselves better?
So that’s where that camp has come from. It is such a cool atmosphere. Cainer, you’re a part of it. You’ve been there. You’re working 9:00-9:00 and then having a little dinner, passing out, and getting back out here the next day and getting after it. But the energy level is just intense and awesome. It’s really been fun to watch it grow.
Cain: For any softball coaches out there that want to learn from the game and want to be around the best, they’ve got to come to that Florida State softball camp and be around the best coaches in the country. It’s an honor to be a part of that. Lonni, it’s been an honor to have you on this podcast. My last question for you is, what is it that you know now you wish you knew when you were just getting started? If you could go back and grab the young Lonni coach or the young girl Lonni coach, I should say, and say to her, “hey, you’ve got to know this,” what would you say to that younger version of yourself?
Alameda: That’s a tough one because I think a lot of people say, “Would you do things over again?” And I wouldn’t. I love my journey. I love – there were some things I did that were stupid and I remember losing it one time at UNLV. I was just so mad because people told me I had to be meaner. Then I look back and I’m like, that was so embarrassing. It’s so stupid. But I had to do that to realize that I could be who I was. So I would not do anything differently. I’ve loved every opportunity I’ve gotten.
I think that the one thing that I always tell our players is take advantage of every opportunity. Payment doesn’t mean a whole lot. I drove to camps and paid my own way to be a part of things because I wanted to learn. I tell kids nowadays – because I think there is definitely that “what are they going to pay me?” – later in life the knowledge and the connections and the learning is much bigger in pay than actual cash in your pocket.
Granted, some people need cash in their pocket. I get that. But I just really am grateful that my parents have always instilled that in me to just go learn, go entrench yourself into everything and try to figure out what’s best for you. That might be a weird answer, but I would go the exact same path I’ve done already. I’m so grateful for it and just love where I’m at and love what I do.
Cain: That comes across in the podcast and it was unbelievable. Thank you so much for being a part of this and thank you for the opportunity. For people that want to contact you or learn more about what you’ve got going on, we mentioned your Twitter handle earlier @Coach_Alameda. Is there a website or anywhere else that people can contact you should they want to come learn more or learn more about the DVDs that you have out there or come down to one of your camps?
Alameda: E-mail is the best for me. It’s [email protected] That’s the best way for business-wise to get in touch with me, and you’re welcome to anything and I’ll share anything I have with you.
Cain: Awesome. Lonni, thank you so much for being on the podcast.
Alameda: Thank you, Cainer. You’re the best. Thank you.
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