Growing up the youngest of 4 boys, I was always schooled on the fundamentals of athletics. I was late to the party, arriving nine years after my closest brother and 15 and 16 years after my two oldest brothers. I have vivid memories of my brothers hitting me ground ball after ground ball at the age of 9 and on. I remember shooting free throws for hours on end, or practicing my jump shot from the left side of the key, off the dribble of course. One day while I taking grounders from my brother Kevin, I took one ball to the face. I was pretty shaken up, and kept lifting my head away from the ball on the ensuing grounders. Finally, my brother walked over to me, put the ball on the ground in front of me and said, ‘Can that ball hurt you? Are you tougher than that ball?’. While I started to argue, that yes, in fact the ball could hurt me, he was already walking away, getting ready to hit me more ground balls. I didn’t really have any excuse to lift my head away, because I knew I would be giving into my fears. I didn’t want to disappoint my brother but at the same time, I wanted to be the best baseball player on the field when I was playing.

Fast forward to 1979, and I am trying out for the local little league minor leagues. I hit well that day, gobbled up all the ground balls and showed that I could pitch too. All that practice was rewarded when I was selected first in the draft, to the worst team in the league (um, is that a reward?). In my first game, I was playing second base and in the final inning we were clinging to a small lead. The opposing team had a runner on first as the batter hit a high chopper up the middle that was going to be a sure hit into center field. I ran behind second base, snared the ball, ran back over the bag for the force out and threw out the runner at first. A game ending double play, in my first game and needless to say, my training had paid off.
Over the years, I’ve had some great coaches, and some, um, not so great coaches. The great coaches were my Little League coach, Tony B, my grammar school basketball coach Armand B, and my football coach in high school, Al Morro (the legendary hammer coach) I’ve had other coaches as well, and all of these coaches, good or bad, have impacted my coaching style. Some were yellers, and some were not. I’ve always been motivated by ‘good job’, ‘nice play’ or ‘you’ll get ‘em next time’. I’ve never been motivated by the ‘get your head out of your butt’ comment. Even though some of the above coaches used the negative reinforcement tactic, it didn’t really inspire me to get better. This is one of the most important parts of coaching: an athlete has to be respected and has trust the coach! If not, all the talent and the greatest training plan in the world are worthless. I’ll touch more on this in a later post. In Part II I’ll write more about the men who helped mold me as a coach.
Mike Ricci, USAT Coach of the Year, and a Level III USAT Certified Coach is the owner and founder of the D3 Multisport coaching group. He is no stranger to business ownership and the exciting ride that brings. Having navigated the triathlon industry on the business side for over 15 years, he has learned what it takes to bring a business concept to the industry, maintain the course through difficulties, and to savor the success which is often hard earned. Mike is passionate about helping his athletes achieve their goals, helping the D3 coaches develop their own strengths and to initiate new business ideas and partnerships through D3 Multisport. Mike has a BS in Finance and an MBA in Accounting. He is a US Marine Corps veteran.

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