Chris Sperry, a consultant who works with young baseball prospects, tells about a lesson on discipline he'll never forget.1 He was attending the American Baseball Coaches Association convention, where for two-and-a-half days more than 4,000 coaches (from Little League to Major League) attended seminars on every aspect of the game.
After a day of learning about pitching mechanics, hitting philosophy, and team practice drills, Sperry felt it had been well worth his time to attend. But the session everyone had been buzzing about was an afternoon talk by John Scolinos, a retired college coach who began his career in 1948.
Well before his 1 p.m. address was to begin the lecture hall was nearly at capacity. Sperry showed up early and considered himself lucky to find a seat near the back. This Coach Scolinos, he thought, must be some kind of amazing speaker.
The thousands of coaches in the audience applauded as a nearly 80-year-old man shuffled out on stage.
Years later, Sperry can still remember exactly what the coach was wearing: dark pants, a light blue shirt, and around his neck, suspended on a string, was a full-size home plate.
There was some pointing and snickering from the audience, but Scolinos did not even acknowledge his prop until twenty-five minutes into his presentation.
After assuring the crowd that he'd not gone crazy, he began asking a very basic question about the item hanging from his neck.
"Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?"
Someone yelled back, "Seventeen inches."
"That's right," said Scolinos. "How about Babe Ruth?" (A league for older youth.)
The answer was the same, seventeen inches.
Scolinos continued to ask about this measurement for high school, college, and into the pros. Still seventeen inches.
"What do they do with a Big League pitcher who can't throw the ball over (these) seventeen inches?" he asked. The answer is that he gets sent down to the minor leagues, where hopefully he'll learn to throw the ball over a seventeen-inch plate.
What they don't do, explained Scolinos, is make the plate wider for him. It would be easier to throw a strike over a nineteen- or twenty-inch-wide home plate, but a plate that size doesn't exist in baseball.
Scolinos then challenged the coaches not to "widen the plate" in situations where they were responsible for holding people accountable—the foremost being the behavior of their players.
Finally, he said that we should "stay at seventeen inches" in our personal self-discipline.
"If I am lucky," said Scolinos, "you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard of what we know to be right...there will be dark days ahead."
Sperry remembers that the coach flipped his home plate to show the dark underside.
Discipline is doing the things we know we should even when we have strong reasons not to. Sticking with your financial game plan especially when markets are in turmoil is what true discipline is all about.
If we care about our future, whether financially or in life, we would do well to keep our home plate at seventeen inches. Working with your trusted financial advisor can help you design a game plan that’s right for you and keep the proper perspective when life throws challenges at you.
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