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Coaching and Playing for a Winning Team

As the playoffs are now over and the baseball season closes, I want to share a couple baseball stories that relate to EMS management.

Focusing on the Next Pitch

I grew up in Missouri watching and listening to the St. Louis Cardinals games. As a proud member of Cardinal Nation, I have to start with a story about a current player on the team.

Albert Pujols's one of baseball's most prolific hitters. He was named last year's National League MVP, and the six-year veteran's performance has consistently put him at the top of many of the annual hitting statistics. During this past season, I read an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Pujols that illustrated why he has been so successful. The article was about his approach to hitting. No matter what the situation was in the game Pujols could have two strikes on him in the bottom of the ninth inning and be 0-5 in previous at bats yet he just focused on the next pitch. It didn't matter what had happened in the past or the significance of him getting on base or needing to hit a home run. Pujols was focused and locked in on just one pitch the next one being thrown to him. Afterward, he reviewed his performance by watching video of his actions at the plate, regardless of whether he got a hit, knocked one out of the ballpark or struck out. He critiqued his execution.

After reading this article on Pujols, I thought about how his process of execute and critique applied to our field. EMS leaders should be focused, when facing difficult decisions or dealing with a crisis in their organization. They need to just look for one pitch. They can't let the buzz around them affect their decision-making. They need to be locked in and have their eyes on the decision they need to make.

It is also important to constantly evaluate your performance as a manager. Do you try to make your accomplishments better every time you get the opportunity? Is your approach and execution of your performance as a manger able to meet your personal standard?

This leads me to my second story.

Handling Controversy

Early in game two of this past World Series between the Cardinals and the Tigers, the baseball announcers noticed a smudge or a stain on the hand of the Detroit's pitcher. The Cardinal's manager Tony La Russa also noticed this, and he mentioned something to the umpires. La Russa asked the umpires in a very low-key approach to look into what he felt might be a problem.

At the top of the next inning, the smudge was gone, and the Detroit pitcher went on to win the game. Many baseball fans in St Louis were outraged about the incident and were upset with La Russa for the way he handled the situation. They felt he should have protested the incident and had the pitcher thrown out of the game, which may have helped the Cardinals win the game.

Afterward, La Russa explained his approach to the incident. He believed there was no intentional attempt to break the rules by the opposing team or pitcher. He felt that the Cardinals needed to forget about the controversy and focus on the next game. La Russa stressed the importance of being professional, instead of looking for excuses for poor performance.

As an EMS manager, you also will encounter controversies and events that may not be fair to your organization. It is important to keep your team focused on the important aspect of your service delivery and to not allow external forces to distract you from your mission. Your team members and even supporters of the organization may be vocal in their demands for your reaction to a perceived problem. It is up to you to evaluate the situation fully and act professionally.

Team Performance

My final baseball story is that of Detroit Tigers' manager Jim Leyland. In an interview just after the World Series, Leyland was asked about his team's performance and if he was disappointed in their loss, especially after being the favorite. Leyland's response was the he was proud of his team, and that it was his fault for not preparing them better.

Like Leyland, you can't make excuses for poor performance or try to shift the blame to someone else. As the EMS manager, it's your duty to accept responsibility for the performance of your team members and coach them to a better outcome for the next time.


EMS, unlike baseball, is played year-round, and so as the coach you never really get a great deal of time off. It's important to keep motivated and be the best leader and coach you can, and play to win!


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