Leading Champions: The Road To Omaha Part 2

by Brian Cain, MPM

All winning coaches and teams have clearly stated core principles. The coaches with the most championship titles are intentional about clarifying and implementing a culture and expect that the team’s principles are developed and demonstrated in the behavior of the coaches and players in the program.

What are the core principles driving your player’s behaviors and their performances?

Where in your office or locker room do you advertise these core principles?

Can your players quickly name these core principles if someone were to ask you about them?

Jim Schlossnagle, head coach at Texas Christian University (TCU) has 3 core principles/values that are the backbone of his program.  Selflessness, energy, and excellence (SEE). Those are the core principles that drive all the decisions and behaviors he and his players choose everyday.  You can see in the 2017 season hype video Coach Schlossnagle talk about SEE

Cliff Godwin, head coach at East Carolina University (ECU) call his program core principles The PIRATES Mission. You can hear him clearly define these core principles in his introductory press conference, setting the tone on Day 1 !  You can see and hear him establish this in the press conference video below.

Gary Gilmore led Coastal Carolina to the 2016 NCAA National Championship and the core principles we established for his program were to be Selfless and Relentless.  You can hear him talk about this at the 2017 ABCA National Coaches Conference.

What do all these coaches have in common?

Championship trophies.

Lots of them.

And, they all know what it takes to win on The Road to Omaha.

So, what does it take to win?

Lots of things. 

In my last article I talked about how champions are built months and years before the arrival to Omaha. Today I want to talk about the first building block.

Clarifying and implementing a culture through the intentional establishment of program core values. Or, what I often call core principles.

What you value will determine how you spend your day. How you spend your day will translate to how your week is going. Those weeks will add up to a month, which in 12 short steps becomes your year.

Choosing carefully your values or core principles is the foundation to winning on the field and in life.

In my Mental Performance Mastery (MPM) Certification I provide a long list of principles that can guide you in building champions. But right now, I want to talk about the 6 principles that build leaders.  The 6 principles that are essential for establishing trust and the 6 principles that the three winning coaches we mentioned above all exhibit.

The teams on The Road to Omaha are not chasing a title.

They are being led to a victory.

The champions crowned this year in Omaha will win largely because they were trained in how to lead by their coach.

Are you leading your team to victory?  Are you intentionally developing a winning culture and training your student athletes to be player led or coach fed?

Leadership is about influence and impact.

What kind of influence do you have in the lives of your players? What kind of impact are you making on their day, week, month, year?

If you want to have influence and impact, you have to build trust. So, let’s talk about the 6 core principles that you must develop and demonstrate in order to build trust.



Are you competent in your sport? In all areas of your sport? Coaches in baseball must be able to know what hitters want, what outfielders need, and how to foster great communication between catchers and pitchers. And, that’s just for starters.

Do you continually develop your skills? Every player is coming to you with a different set of circumstances and dreams. Do you know how to figure out the nuances of each player?

Having complete knowledge of your game and the skill set to coach it is paramount.  You have to know how to close the gap from where you are to where you want to be. 

Coaches are often hired for their ability to get results. So, competency will get you in the door and will provide you with a chance to lead. 

But, the other Cs of leadership is what will get you the championship. The kind of coach you are matters, but the kind of person you are matters more.

Character counts. In all areas of life, especially coaching and leadership. 



A coach with a lot of character does what’s right for himself and more importantly for the players he’s leading. 

Doing what’s right requires living out of a set of principles. 

Live out of principle not preference – do you have a set of principles that drive your behavior?

Doing what’s right for yourself and for those that you lead is what character is all about.

Don’t fall into the trap of being transactional. Don’t give your players a spot on the team, organize practices and games and expect that they just give you wins. That’s transactional coaching.

Being transformational is leading your players through mental, physical and emotional development everyday that they are with you. Inspiring them to do their best. In the process they give you wins and you equip them with life skills they can use for their next 50 years.

Did you know that unlike many college baseball programs, Vanderbilt receives money from their former players to help the program that they are no longer playing in?  David Price, pitcher for the LA Dodgers and Vanderbilt University alumni will tell you that he feels he will always be indebted to Coach Corbin and Vanderbilt University for what they gave to him. That’s transformational coaching.

Tim Corbin has a deep connection with his players. He treats them like family and refers to the clubhouse as their home. 

Connection with your players is what will get them to follow you into the hard work necessary to win championships. 



Connection doesn’t just happen. Someone might see immediately that you are a person they want to listen to. But, only time will establish the real connection that is necessary for winning.

Skip Bertman, 5x National Championship winning coach at LSU told me that the greatest characteristic of a leader is availability. You have to be available and you have to give your time if you want to be a leader.

So, make sure that you are available. And that your character is such that your players take advantage of your availability.

Time together conquering a shared adversity builds deep connections. Do hard things with your players.  Working out, learning together, talking about the lessons learned from the losses, and managing the wins well are all ways to spend quality time together.

Make sure in all of these areas you are consistent in your responses and behavior. If your players know what they will get out of you all at times, then they don’t have to stress about your response. Consistency in your behavior will allow your players to use their energy to grow and develop instead of having to waste energy thinking about how to manage your responses.



It goes without saying that your consistency must be neutral. You certainly shouldn’t bring negativity to any situation. But, you also shouldn’t get overly excited either.

Baseball is best played when everyone is in control of themselves – their emotions and bodies.  My mentor Dr. Ken Ravizza would remind his players often that “you have to be in control of yourself before you can control your performance.”

So, if you are someone who remains consistently neutral, they will have that calming presence to mirror.

Decide how you want your character to be, make sure you are making time to establish connections and then be consistent.

Be consistent in the following areas: 

  • Behavior – how you carry yourself throughout the day on and off the diamond.

  • How you treat people – all people. Being consistent in how you treat others shapes their experience with you.  You cannot treat one person one way on a day and then another way the next day so they don’t ever know what they will get from you.  Insert sound of players walking on egg shells here.

  • Show up on time – be there, always welcoming your players from the first arrival to the last.

  • Prepare the right way – know exactly what’s happening for each session, and have a system/routine for your meetings, practices etc. Your players should know that your opening sentence will always have substance and get them started on the objective of the day.

  • Pay attention to the detail – . The small details matter and add up to the big wins. How clean your dugout matters. How you stand for the National Anthem matters.  What time everyone shows up matters. The uniforms they wear to practice matters. Your opening sentence when they arrive and your final words to them before they leave matters.



We live in a distracted world. Even if you have the skills to stay focused, things are changing all the time. You must develop the communication skills to adapt to whatever comes your way.

For example, did you think you would ever have to coach your whole team over zoom while they did their workouts in their basements or bedrooms trying to find whatever they could use to replicate the gym you have in your facility?

No one did.

But the coaches with the best communication skills were the ones who were able to get their players to turn their camera on and be present as much as you can be present over zoom.

Elite communication that is established immediately will earn the most trust. Because elite communication skills enable your players to feel safe, heard, and inspired.

Elite communicators are also able to transition from 1:1 conversations to group seamlessly. They can communicate well in writing and over video.

Ways to develop your communication skills:

  • Talk in the mirror – Watch your facial expressions. Most of the way we communicate is non-verbal cues.

  • Try to tweet your message – Twitter limits how many words you can use. Being able to communicate your message succinctly will foster better communication.

  • Plan ahead of time – Reacting in the moment will often produce the least effective words. You should know your players well and plan what you’ll say when they do something that requires your coaching intervention.

Coaching takes courage. It takes courage to admit to yourself that you’ve been ignoring the small details. It takes courage to admit to yourself that perhaps you don’t know the best ways to communicate to your players so that they feel inspired to give you their best.



I don’t believe in fearlessness. Courage is feeling fear and going anyway. 

Some coaches pretend that success comes by creating the perfect plan. Making sure everyone is ready to go unafraid into the game.

But the great coaches know that fear is part of the journey. And that crawling, scratching, and grinding your way through all the adversity that comes your way is the only way to reach success at the end of the road.

Courage can’t exist without fear. So, the next time you sense that adversity, welcome it and put into action the process you created to overcome it.

You can choose to pretend like adversity won’t show up. Or you can choose to know that it will but that you are courageous and can conquer it.

All the 6 Cs of leadership are choices. They are decisions within your control.

You can decide to improve your competency.

You can decide to look at your character and ask how you can elevate yourself.

You can decide to connect with every one of your players in the individual way they need it.

You can decide to be consistent.

You can decide to learn how to communicate better.

You can decide to choose courage when fear comes knocking.

Decide to lead.

Decide to get results.

Decide to build a winning program.

Learn how to build a winning program like the coaches who are headed to Omaha. I helped many of them and I can help you too.

How you can master the mental game of baseball like these coaches and  teams who win in Omaha?

Join my FREE 60-minute mental game of baseball masterclass video and start developing the winning mindsets, routines, and the culture you need to compete one pitch at a time and perform at your best.