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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Drills vs. Highlights

Drills vs. HighlightsLast week, I spent time at spring training again with a couple of pro baseball teams we work with at Growing Leaders. As a lifelong baseball fan, it’s always one of the highlights of my year! While watching the San Francisco Giants warm up on the field—the thought struck me: these guys just hoisted a World Series trophy in the air a year and a half ago…and now they are doing basic drills like running the bases, catching ordinary fly balls in the outfield, bunting, and stretching. It was funny because I was watching Tim Lincecum (a two-time Cy Young Award winner) Matt Cain, Jeremy Affeldt, Buster Posey and other greats practicing like they were Little Leaguers.

Then it struck me. Of course they are. The reason they remain contenders for a championship is not only their talent but the fact they’re willing to do the drills year in and year out. These gifted, rich major league baseball players were practicing the fundamentals.

Later that day, another thought struck me.

While conversing with Dayton Moore, General Manager for the Kansas City Royals, he shared with me the challenge our culture presents for his young players and his own sons at home.

We are raising our kids today, not on drills but on highlights.

Many young boys I talk to start their day by watching Sports Center on ESPN. I have to admit I love it, too. But this show is all about highlights. I rarely ever see them show athletes working out or practicing. They show games…and not just games, but the really fun part of the games—when a player makes a great catch or a great kick or a great hit. And our children today tune in and often, that’s all they see. The highlights.

Of course, the outcome is: they want a life of highlights. Why wouldn’t they? Not seeing all the disciplined and difficult moments of the private practice, they see the glitz and glamour of the best moments in the contest, where all the fans are cheering and all the fun is happening.

Call me crazy but may I challenge you with a reminder?

Somewhere, we must be intentional as adults, to not only give our kids a taste of the game’s “highlights” but of the moments when those highlights are earned through practice, rehearsal, purpose and discipline in the private moments when no one is watching, tweeting or texting anyone. They must know that great public moments are paid for by private disciplined hours of getting ready. Pay now, play later.

What are some ways that we can encourage students to focus on the drills before they highlights?


  1. Robert A. Sloan on March 13, 2012 at 3:15 am

    Encourage critical thinking and goal setting. Encourage kids to choose their own directions and do so on their passions. One of the things I would teach any kid or teen in a heartbeat is the value of stepped goals – short term goals and paying attention to every small achievement. Treating failed trials as just that and any progress as an achievement. That’s what will take them backstage to do the drills, practice the scales, draw blocks and cylinders, do the practice that makes them good at what they do.

    The problem that I see is the way schools have shifted toward teaching to the test and rote memorization over critical thinking and creativity. When students are engaged, when they’re defending their opinions and testing reality, they discover fast enough that reality demands more than a slogan or a tagline – they put effort into it when the goal is meaningful and they’re the ones that want it. No one outside them can make them want it. What can look like that is convincing them it’s possible when they already wanted it passionately but didn’t think they could do it.

    A lot of the current pedagogy is about doing what you’re told, coloring within the lines and following orders without question. That doesn’t get them anywhere and it doesn’t create leadership. 

    • Tim Elmore on March 23, 2012 at 2:49 pm

      This is great, practical advice. Encouraging students to pursue critical thinking and goal setting will serve them well over the course of their lives.

  2. Eric on March 13, 2012 at 10:15 am

    This is a great perspective Tim! It’s so important to help kids understand that things worth doing don’t come easy. Hard work, perseverance and, multiple attempts that may first lead to failure, are what build character. 

    • Tim Elmore on March 23, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      Thanks for commenting! It’s hard to break the desire for instant gratification but so important.

  3. Jeffrey Stark on March 13, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    By connecting them with the players who are ahead of them at every level; young athletes with high schoolers, Freshman with Varsity, high school with collegians, college athletes with pros. As coaches we do not carry the same ” credidibiloty” as those ahead of our athletes in a highlight world who are doing the work as a active player.

    • Tim Elmore on March 23, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      Great idea! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Trent Thomas on March 13, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    By sharing stories where hard work and practice revealed the “highlight moments”.  So goes the saying “luck is when preparation meets opportunity”.  Great Post Dr. Elmore!

    • Tim Elmore on March 23, 2012 at 2:51 pm

      So true. Giving students the background story behind what led to the “highlight moment” is a powerful reminder of what it takes to get there!

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Drills vs. Highlights