With the 2010 Herts Baseball AGM and Elections coming up this Sunday, 25 October, for the moment the Herts Falcons Manager position is the only one which has more than one candidate running for office. They are Jason Greenberg and Lee Manning. Following requests from members, both candidates agreed to answer questions from members posted online over the last few days.
The answers from Jason Greenberg are published below. To view the Q&A with Lee Manning (click here).
1. Does the candidate have any plans for coordinated work with the other team managers (whoever is elected)?
Truth is, Kal, the coordination is ongoing. In 2009 the managers' first planning session took place just days after the AGM elections, and we were in constant contact throughout the entire season… often speaking several times a day, each day of the week!
We also relied heavily on the other club officials, the club coaches and experienced players to get things done. I was fortunate to have very dedicated veteran leaders on the Falcons, like Andy and Kimiyoshi, who were willing to roll up their sleeves and act as team captains.
Undertaking this role is a very time-consuming act of volunteerism. In my opinion, the best skills a prospective sports coach or team leader can bring to the table are an appreciation for collaboration, delegation and group communication. I could not do this job without a team of supportive partners and, if elected, I'm keen to start our planning without delay.
2. What is the plan of the candidate for overall improvement of the skills of club members overall (in particular in preseason, as when the season has started, less time is available for training)?
There are two halves to the Falcons manager role, I think: organiser and coach. The first part takes the most time, and through the spring I would estimate that 90% of my work has been about planning and admin. The second part – coaching – is a critical skill not just for our managers, but for all our experienced club members. We all (myself included) need to get better at sharing knowledge and challenging one another to improve.
I will be completing a Level 3 Baseball Coaching award by spring 2010. I have also spent four days in October earning a Certificate in Tutoring Sport, which means I will be teaching Level 1 and Level 2 coaching courses for BaseballSoftballUK in the years to come. Part of my plans for this coming season involve conducting an on-site Level 1 course for as many Herts members as would like to improve their coaching knowledge, and re-inviting the ABUA to deliver another Umpires Clinic like was arranged in 2009.
Last season we really started to focus on pitching and catching work for the first time at Herts, with dedicated bullpen sessions. This proved very wise, as it helped many pitchers and catchers to improve, and allowed some players to get a foothold in a new position on the diamond. This season I would like to carry on with our conditioning, throwing, pitching and catching efforts… but spend much more time working on individual hitting. In particular, it would be exciting and useful to incorporate the use of videography to break-down our swings and identify areas for improvement.
3. How does the candidate envisage the role of the first team players in the overall development of the club (i.e. periodical scheduling of training sessions, training sessions for specific positions across the 4 teams, Little League development and coaching, etc.)?
I believe that playing for the Falcons is a privilege, and it comes with some responsibilities to the other teams at Herts. For the last two years I've toyed with the idea of an informal Charter or Club Commitment from first-team players. The Falcons get to play on the National League stage, with pro umpires and at fine facilities… and while the players are selected for their personal qualities (talent, dedication, attitude) they must find ways to give back to the organisation as a whole.
In 2009 this commitment was discussed by the Falcons at our first split-squad practice. We started a coaching rotation to ensure there would always be a pair of first-teamers available to help out at the Wednesday night sessions… but this, like so many grand plans, fell by the wayside as the season went on. Next year I hope to take the “Falcons Charter” to the next level.
4. Does the candidate have plans and what is going to be his role in across-the-club events (previous examples have been HSL, Kyle Hunlock, Croydon Tournament)?
My favourite times of the year are those that involve the entire club: spring training, the Hunlock Series, the London Tournament, the Herts Fantasy League, the indoor basketball sessions and our awards night. Since 2007 I've undertaken much of the work to organise these events, and I think it falls to the managers to collectively facilitate anything involving the adult programme as a whole. Lord knows Aspi has enough on his hands with governance, field development and Federation matters… and Marty with the entire Little League programme to shepherd. The adult team managers must be willing to carry their weight.
Like many other members, I wish we had more opportunities to socialise altogether. I have to admit this is not my wheelhouse; not that I don't love a pint after practice or a night out with the boys. I love Marty's idea for a Herts Baseball Club Paintball Tournament – this is a must-do in 2010. We must also find ways to better support and connect with our Herts Little League families in joint adult/youth activities.
5. What are the overall goals of the candidate for the season – skills improvement, game participation, and (if any) league positioning?
As ever, the goal is to improve on last year. I expect the Herts Falcons will return to the National Championships in 2010 and will fare better than we did in September. I also am excited to see the Raptors, Hawks and Eagles in the postseason. I fully expect it's within our reach for all four Herts teams to be league leaders. I was overjoyed on opening day when we took five of six games from our opposition. That, for me, was the best day of '09.
I am also excited to support the next graduating class from the Herts Little League. It was such a special moment this year when Mr. Liam Green promoted to the Raptors. How can we best lend support to the cadre of Herts All-Stars? It will not be long before the future Mr. Longboy, Mr. Martinez, Mr. Casal Jr. and Mr. Cullen Jr. will join our ranks, and our adult programme must have a strategy in place to receive these talented young men and help them to improve as ballplayers.
6. How does the candidate anticipate contributing to the recruitment process and to the amelioration of the attractiveness of the club for new players.
This is a very important consideration. EVERY club member should be looking for ways to help promote Herts Baseball. Whether it's signing up new recruits, putting up posters at local schools and sports halls or simply representing our organisation with class and sportsmanship on the diamond.
The current Herts website has been a labour of love. I designed the site from top to tail a couple years ago, and it's been properly (and thankfully!) rebuilt and recoded by Greg Bochan since then. It remains the best website in British baseball. Whether or not I'm reelected as manager, I hope to continue work on the site with Greg and our new Media Officer, Rob Jones (who created the Falcons first, excellent website some years back now). Next up for the website should be a revamped Little League homepage and the inclusion of alumni and volunteers in the Clubhouse. I also hope to continue producing posters, flyers, business cards and window decals to assist with club marketing… and can continue to design our Official Prospectus to help seek corporate sponsorship.
[I'm sure those of you who watched “Got A Ball?” are wondering when the next video ad instalment will see daylight. Stay tuned!]
The best thing we can do to grow the club is continue to win ballgames. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team, and I believe that now our place in the top league is cemented we will start seeing more high-level signees from other clubs and new recruits from overseas.
The simplest and most effective thing we can all do is to sincerely welcome new members to our club. It sounds uber-cheesy, I know, but it can be daunting joining a new organisation – especially one as well established and organised as ours. So this spring we must remember to walk right up to the new guys (and gals!), shake their hands, introduce ourselves and welcome them to the family. In the end that's what it's all about, right?
7. What other policies does the candidate propose to institute – both for the first team, and if applicable, across the club (policies could be league related, club event related or others).
I have many, many ideas I'd like to bring to the Executive Committee in 2010. Some are straight-forward, some probably very controversial. I look forward to discussing some of these at the AGM on Sunday and having conversations with club members in the months to come to be sure we're moving in the right direction.
1) ANNUAL SATISFACTION SURVEY: I think we should have a simple, online satisfaction survey for our membership, by which we can gauge if everyone is getting as much enjoyment as possible from their Herts Baseball experience.
2) TIERED PAYMENT STRUCTURE: Is it really fair that the fees from every club member go in the largest margin to support the Falcons? The time has come to structure our club fees appropriately, so Falcons (who benefit from two umpires and a dozen game balls every Sunday per BBF by-laws!) will pay more per season than do Eagles and Hawks. I also think that the Raptors (who may have a reduced game schedule) should pay less. That way we're also lowering the cost-threshold for new members who have never played baseball before.
3) INDEPENDENT SQUAD: I'd like to explore the possibility of a fifth, independent Herts team. This squad would play a reduced schedule (50% of the summer Sundays, perhaps). Two-thirds of their games would be co-ed slowpitch softball, which is easy to schedule with other softball leagues and tournaments around the greater London area. The other third of their games would be hardball friendlies against independent teams and Single-A BBF affiliates in the off-weeks. This gives newbies to the sports a chance to learn the ropes, have some fun, play at home and away, and all at a reduced membership rate.
4) FASTPITCH TASTER SESSIONS: I've made contact with some of the GB Women's Fastpitch Team coaches, and they are eager to run some fastpitch softball taster sessions in our area. Girls only!! It's high time we catered to the female population in Hertfordshire and expanded our membership to include our 'sister sport'. Taster sessions are a good place to start – the GB squad would do the coaching – and we can look to start a full-time squad in 2011 if all goes well.
5) IMPORT COACHING: Most of the National League teams in the UK have, at one point or another, explored import coaching. This is a process by which international expert coaches are brought in to deliver individual sessions, multiple weeks of instruction or, in some cases, a full season's worth of high-level coaching. I'd love to see about securing a Sam Dempster-type to help our Little League, A and AA squads, in particular, refine their play.
I am not one to wait around for change – and I'm always one to talk some baseball – so let's get some opinions flying round on the Forum, eh?
8. What are the commitmnent Levels of the candidates for training as i feel that as every year once the season has started the training drops off to near non exsitant with the managers not even turning out a lot of times
I share your sentiment, John, that our weeknight practices tail off as the season continues. We are all busy people, after all, and most of our members do not have the advantage of living near to the field and must travel great distances to be a part of our club. That, in itself, is a demonstration of great commitment.
However, I am very proud of the developments in club training over the last couple years. Now more than ever our members have numerous opportunities to improve their fitness and their game. Spring training has become a very in-depth slate of activity and the managers have worked hard to plan and deliver as efficient a preparatory programme as possible. A negotiated arrangement with Hemel Sportspace allowed us use of their large lower hall in November – February '09 when it's too cold to work on the diamond, and our members now look forward to indoor baseball skills training, conditioning and basketball. We are privileged to host the Herts Spring League and use that opportunity to test and train before the season kicks off. We've made much better use of the Northwick Park batting cages, even securing a special 50% off rate for all Herts training sessions. In off weeks I have arranged friendly games against other National League teams, and we've developed a good pre-season relationship with the Great Britain programme (they've already said their eager to return in 2010). Not least of all, Greg Bochan and I have worked countless hours to develop the Clubhouse members' site where managers and coaches can post training schedules and self-improvement materials, players can mark their availability, and everyone can share ideas and feedback in the Forum.
All that being said, organising the Herts Baseball training regimen is a job far too big for any one individual. That is why I've encouraged shared responsibility between the managers, a team of specialist coaches, and veteran players on our club. It is much bigger than the 'turning out' of any one individual. For our teams to practice effectively and help one another to improve we must have commitment from all our experienced players… our longest-standing members most of all. The tools are there: a great online organisational system, equipment, facilities. It's my hope that every Falcon will contribute to this goal, whether by offering some one-to-one coaching to a rookie, helping to plan a training session, arriving early to set up, or staying late to rake and drag the infield. This is a group effort.
My commitment is this: I will continue to seek ways to enable our members to develop their game… this winter, next spring, on off-weeks, at weeknight practice, in tournament play, and individually in their own time. I will continue to work with the other managers to ensure training is available and organised. And I will encourage my Falcons teammates to step up and support the rest of the club in their efforts to improve. I see that as a crucial responsibility that comes with the privilege of playing for our top team.
9. Do the candidates see the need for more player movement between teams as this season it was proposed that there would be a lot of movement between teams and wasnt hardly any with only a few members moving up/down
Throughout 2009 there were many individuals moving between teams. One of the best parts of the job, actually, was working with Andrew, Marty and Dave to encourage the promotion of players who really stepped up to become better baseball players and more dedicated club members. I, personally, was happy to welcome a few special call-ups to the Falcon's championships roster. Conversely, the hardest thing I've had to do as manager is ask someone to leave the Falcons and join another squad. It's a part of the job I hate because we are all peers, of course, and friends. But that tough responsibility must fall to someone, and I've tried to handle it in the best way I know – with honesty and sensitivity.
For the most part our tiered adult programme (modelled after the MLB franchise-system) has worked very well. This year no Herts team ran away with it all while another team suffered in the basement; generally we all had our share of winning and losing. The goal of moving players – rather than moving entire teams – serves to keep our squads balanced and encourages hard work, good play and opportunity for growth and new challenges.
Each decision to move a player was unique and was made in consultation with the other managers. I could never move players arbitrarily or purely for the sake of “player movement”. So, to answer your question John, it was done as much or as little as necessary – but not whimsically. Every time a personnel change was made there was a slew of factors in consideration: skill, experience, attitude, availability, versatility on the diamond, contributions off the field, etc. And in making such decisions these personal attributes were weighed against the needs of each Herts team (such as positional depth) and the development plan for the individual player.
So, in short, there is no task more challenging for our managers, but these tough choices are integral to our success at all levels. The managers are rightly accountable for the decisions they make, but the only way such a system can succeed is for our players to 'buy in' to the process, and support the managers and recognise the discomfort of asking your peers to re-evaluate their playing experience. It involves a great deal of trust, of patience, and of selflessness. We must all be willing to help out the club before we help ourselves.
10. With babies on the way would you be willing to pledge that the babies will be playing for Herts eventually (i.e. do you promise to start the standard Herts brainwashing early in their childhood)?
I do solemnly swear that J. Jr / Fabs Jr will one day join the ranks of the Herts Little League. Not even in the instance of severe geographical separation will Lil' G play for another squad…! (Unless they're called the Mariners.)
NOTE: We've retained the services of expert antenatal baseball agent Scott Boras, who according to the sonogram believes we've got a slugger in the making.
11. Ok. You have made a right administrative cock-up and have accidentally called up Kal Dimitrov to the Falcons squad for a must-win postseason game against the London Mets. How do you explain this to the rest of the guys?
I'd let Kal explain it. He's much more persuasive.