Recapping the Rob Bruno Conversation
Welcome to The Baseball Awakening Podcast where we dive into the raw, unfiltered, unsexy side of player development.
On this episode, Host, Geoff Rottmayer,recaps his conversation with Rob Bruno of NorCal Travel Baseball Organization. The biggest takeaways that he discussed in this show are:
- Rob explanation of the difference in youth baseball culture now vs 91-91 when he starts.
- Why I ask what the difference was between now and ’91-’92.
- How things have gotten out of control in the youth game.
- The process of starting an organization and what needs to happen.
- What a development team looks like vs people who say they are a development team.
- Everyone has the same opportunities but it up to the receiver to run with it.
- Unhappy players and parents.
- and more.
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Hey guys Geoff Rottmayer here with the Baseball Awakening recap show where I share with you the biggest takeaways I got from my conversation with Rob Bruno – as well as how I plan to implement what I have learned with my players that train with me at my academy in Tulsa Oklahoma.
Again, as I always say, we want to hear from you because different things mean different thing to different people so it would be interesting to see how you guys interpret something that Rob said or something that I am going to say today. I will make a show reading your email because we can all learn something from it, so my email is going to be firstname.lastname@example.org, so some your thoughts, comment, or feedback.
Rob Bruno, is a highly respected man and a guy that has had a lot of success. He is the pioneer of what we are calling travel ball and he could easily have gotten comfortable but he continues to learn and adjust to the changing times and well as continuing to put out the best team with a guy of high quality.
I start with asking Rob if he could tell us the difference with travel ball vs when he first started in 91-92 and I ask this question because I wanted some of our listener who maybe hasn’t been involved in the youth baseball culture very long to recognize how things have changed. Couples thing that he said that I absolutely agree with, he said several times throughout the conversation is things have gotten out of control, but the concept of league play. I love the concept of league play. I love the idea of getting together and playing one game, a complete game that is not a time limit, you can learn how to finish a game as well as start games. See a lot of these time limit games and kids are not learning how to finish games. I love the idea of one game because if you are really trying, you should be mentally and physically exhausted after one game. The tournaments setting with 3-4 games a day, you almost have to reserve your energy to make it through the day. I don’t know if anyone else feels that way. but I do. I walk to the ball field and there isn’t a whole lot of energy and the teams with the most energy are the team the perform.
The other things Rob said that I agree has gotten out of hand, if you do not have to qualify anymore to go to a national tournament, which has water out the competition and essentially becomes a money thing for tournament directors. When you have to qualify to attend events, you know you are going to get quality teams with quality competition. It’s ok not to be the guy that is ready for that stuff yet. Keep working hard and you can get to that level, but the ones that are ready for high-quality competition should be able to go places and see good competition.
I went on to ask Rob his process of getting players because his focus is to help the kids compete at a high level. Which means you need to find kids that are ready to compete at a higher level along with developing them into a kid who plays the game right. A lot of kids are not ready for a team like this, that doesn’t mean that they can’t develop into it. But these kids that have better skill sets work on it, they work hard to improve their craft and they want to go see how they can compete with. And they will use that competition to measure their progress and make adjustments so they can improve.
So I mention that because I see it too, the kids that work really hard, ask questions, study the game, hit the weight room, typically play for teams like Robs. These kids prioritize baseball and there is a place for players like this. Not a lot because as Rob said the travel ball team market is so saturated. Your son can be one of these kids, but you need to get with the right people to ensure you develop into a player that is ready.
The very next question I asked Rob was to talk about the difference between his development team vs teams out there that call themselves development teams. Development teams like Robs, invest time and effort into helping a player develop in: learning how to win, learning how to play the game, learning how to compete, learning baseball IQ, and cares for their players. The players are not just another number on another team. The things about Rob and Tony, is they have not gotten so big that they think they have it all figured out. Rob countless times throughout this conversation and through his year on social media credit other people for what he knows and credit the players for making NorCal what it is. Its never been about Rob and Tony even though they are a huge part of the reason they are successful. In an industry where there are so much alpha dudes who like to pump their chest it refreshing that there are guys like this out there.
Later I ask Rob what a player could expect when they first join the NorCal teams and he quickly said that they are welcome whole hearty into the NorCal family and as we take them through their process, they not only learn what they do but why they do it. Its very time consuming to explain to a kid everything they join something why one does what they do but it super important to one takes the time to do it. Put in the time up front and it will get easier as they buy in because they understand it. I have so many kids that tell me my coach told me to this or do that but can’t tell me why or even the problem they saw that would prompt their coach to make some such suggestion. The quickest way to ruin kid confidence is to make him change something he is comfortable especially if they are having success. So I love that they take to time to do that and coaches that are listening, take the time to explain why – trust me it gets easier over time but work hard in the beginning. Players build the courage to ask your coach to explain why and be open to such suggestion and try it out but at the end of the day you have to be your own best coach.
I went on to compliment him and his organization for focusing more on helping guys understand the game and teach the IQ part of the game. This is a huge part that is lacking at the youth level. What Rob said that I loved, was the way that coaches this was rewarding these stuff. So rewarding a guy when they do the things that are heads up plays and are trusting their instincts and allowing them to make mistakes. But I love to how that take that opportunity right then and there to discuss mistakes one might have done and make sure everyone can learn from that incident rather than jumping on them and getting mad at them. You look around youth baseball and a lot of kids are afraid of playing loose and making mistakes because their coaches will jump on them, but not only will they jump on them but they won’t tell them what they did wrong and what they should have done. Kids are confused as hell and its better to try and not make mistakes in their eyes.
Rob also explained how they provide the same opportunities, the same coaching, and the same advice to everyone and it’s up to them to run with it. This is so true, I try and give all our players everything that I know and some guys take it and run with it and do really well. Those same guys will study it and ask questions and grow as a baseball player. Some guy chooses not to do anything with it and therefore do not grow. At my place, we have a process, and there are guys that try to skip steps and half-ass certain things. We stay on top of them but at the end of the day, they have to want to get and be better.
I asked Rob how they dealt with kids that were unhappy because every team in the nation has players and parents that are unhappy. Mainly the ones who are unhappy are the one that “get it”, that’s a term that I use a lot and with some no matter how much you educate them they just don’t get it. But the player needs to present his case to the coach and Rob mention that there was a kid who approached him several times and he ended up agreeing. That what we want to teach our kids to do. Parents let your kids do the work, your job is to tell them to go talk to the coach yourself and work harder – you know like we did back in the days.
Next things I asked him that I want to talk about is starting your own organization. Its def hard, I tried it and we did ok with it but it was a lot of work, and it seemed like no matter how much I gave and the discounts I gave they always wanted more and I didn’t mind doing that but some people you just cannot keep happy now matter what you do and it was interfering with my ability to give me focus to the kids that train with me at my academy. So it was one those things where I pick my battle, but def need to be in it for the right reason, def need help, and you def have to understand you do need to differentiate yourself as Rob said, but man it needs a lot of education if you go away from the norm and its hard. So hats off to guys like Rob that can make it work, its very hard work.
The last thing I want to talk about regarding Rob conversation, I ask was his conversation with college coaches are like as to what they are starving for and he said the same thing I hear from coaches I talk to – guys that compete and know how to win. We are growing up in a time of showcase ball and there so much focus on individual, and I personally think it is important to be selfish when it comes to your development but and when you step on field to own your play, but when it comes to competing and winning games – you got to do what best for the team.
So all in all my conversation with Rob was great, I keep going back to how humble he is and how it gives credit where credit is due. So, there are a lot of takeaways. The biggest thing is making sure, if you play on a development team, that that’s what they truly do. A lot of organization take credit for kids who just happen to wear their uniform one time. So be careful about that, find the teams that truly develop, that will be honest with you, that will educate you on other areas of the game.