3 Lessons from Baseball we can Pitch to the Workplace

Baseball

Playing baseball on my school team, The Forest Hill Falcons, was one of the highlights of my childhood. The games, the friendships, being part of a team…and of course the end of season pool parties my parents graciously hosted for the team each year!

This summer, by joining the B’nai Brith Canada women’s softball league, I’ve had the opportunity to slide back into that innocent world after many years – if only for just a couple of hours per week. The experience has not only been fun, but it’s been a great reminder of how important “soft skills” are to success.

Yes, mastering hitting, catching, throwing, and pitching can certainly make the difference between winning and losing (as a new team in the league, we’re doing a bit more of the latter…but we’re still smiling!) And often these are the skills that receive the glory. Naturally, we cheer the loudest for the grand slam and the triple play.

But sometimes, it’s the less obvious interpersonal-related talents and interactions that transpire behind the scenes – and on the diamond – that give a team its edge. Not unlike what occurs in the working world.

I’ve spotted three soft skills in particular that have made a huge difference in our performance over the season – and we’re not done yet! If we continue to commit to focusing on these attributes as a team, I’m confident the triple plays will come soon (okay…we’ll settle for double plays).

Now, insert the same logic for the workplace, and you can see where this metaphor is going: technical skills matter, but let’s not underestimate the importance of soft skills.

That said, here are three competencies that matter a whole lot in baseball….in our careers…in relationships…and let’s face it…for the big game of life!

1. Communication

 “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.”

– Yogi Berra

Especially in our first few games, we were pretty much striking out in the communication department. We weren’t calling the next play (i.e. “Play is to First or Second!), calling pop flies (“Got it!”), and we didn’t know all the rules of the game (“Don’t touch home plate when you come in for the run!”) Um…yes…there are some interesting rules indeed.

But now, about 10 games in, we are listening to each other, collaborating, and as a result we’re more mentally in the game – and we have a few wins to prove it! We make sure a third base coach is there to coach the runners; we call pop flies (and catch them more often too!); and we’re better at helping each other know when to hold the ball vs. attempting the often long throw to first base.

All of these gains, simply by opening our mouths…and our ears!

2. Leadership 

 “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

– Jackie Robinson

After about five games, it was clear we were a bit (okay A LOT) rusty and a practice would do us good. At that first practice, one player emerged as an obvious leader. She’s not only a solid player, but her leadership skills have helped boost our confidence and teach us some important strategies of the game (such as who should cover who, when you need to tag a runner, and oh…what to do about that in-field pop-fly rule). She is doing an awesome job bringing out the best in each of us and ensuring we maintain the positive and fun feeling we signed up for in the first place.

And I know behind the scenes, before our games, she and our captain devote their personal time to drafting the roster and batting order for each game – ensuring we each have the opportunity to try new positions, while providing enough consistency and leveraging our strengths to enhance our chances of winning.

Hey, Coach – it’s working!

Hey, leaders everywhere – take note!

3. Encouragement 

“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

– Babe Ruth

I am one of the pitchers for our team. I love the challenge and although I sometimes feel I’ve let the team down if I walk a couple of players, I’m surrounded by a great team that ensures no one player feels bad or accountable for a poor play. We all fumble. We all miss balls we should catch. We all throw to first when we should throw home. But we’re so pumped to have this experience together, it doesn’t matter all that much.

One of our regular back-catchers is especially awesome in the encouragement department. For my solid pitches, she cheers me on. For my not-so-solid ones, she has a great, natural way of boosting my confidence for the next one by providing specific feedback and advice – a little higher, a little further…and with her uplifting commentary, more often than not, my next pitch is a strike.

If managers in the workplace only knew how little it would take for them to get the best out of their staff. What’s that they say about a little encouragement going a long way?


So aren’t these skills – and the importance of them – obvious by now? Isn’t every other LinkedIn article about this stuff? Maybe. But seeing them in action really hit home (yes, pun intended). The discernible improvements we’ve seen since these three attributes have become centre stage are, in my opinion, truly remarkable.

Think about it – if this is happening on the baseball fields of Toronto at 9:30 on a Tuesday night, imagine what companies and teams could gain by scoring big in these areas!

Thanks to the talented and fun women on my team – and in the whole league. If you can’t already tell, I’m having a blast…sign me up for next season!

I’ll be the one with no fear.

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