A Coach’s Journey: Butch Chaffin

A Coach’s Journey: Butch Chaffin

Butch Chaffin
Head Baseball Coach

Cookeville High School

 

For most nine year-olds, Little League means cracking jokes in the dugout, eating hot dogs at the concession stand, and dreaming of becoming the next Cody Bellinger. But, Butch Chaffin had a different game plan. He was so fascinated by his coaches, their practice plans, and their game strategies that as a nine year-old Little Leaguer, he knew, unequivocally, that one day he’d grow up to be a baseball coach.

And, that he did.

Currently, Butch Chaffin is Head Baseball Coach at Cookeville High School in Cookeville, TN. He is entering his 32ndyear in baseball which includes a four-year stint as a Division I assistant coach at Tennessee Tech, three years as a Special Assignment Scout for the Kansas City Royals, and 13 years with USA Baseball.

In his 25 years of high school coaching, Butch  boasts 13 District titles, 6 Region title and one State Championship appearance. He has led 19 All-State and five High School All-Americans and coached 126 players who went on to play college baseball.

Maybe it has something to do with the team culture Butch has created. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing with kids and parents sometimes pushing back, derailing the headway he’s made in building a solid, stable culture. And, while he freely acknowledges that it’s a work in progress and takes forever to get it going in the right direction, once it’s there, it’s there.

Butch believes in challenging his team every day. In treating boys like men. In pushing to the breaking point, and then going beyond. In giving his kids an experience they will remember forever. In creating a culture based on trust, honesty, and love.

Though he’ll never forget the post-game dog pile when his team made it to the Tennessee State Tournament for the first time, or winning a Gold Medal in Taiwan, perhaps his most rewarding moment was when a player asked him to be best man at his wedding.

It’s not always easy being a coach. But, when the game plan works, it works.

A Coach’s Journey: C.J. Gillman

A Coach’s Journey: C.J. Gillman

C.J. Gillman
Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
United States Air Force Academy

 

The guy C.J. Gillman most respects is his boss, Mike Kazlausky. The dude who’s been the biggest influence in life is his dad. And the best part of his journey has been getting to coach his little brother, Tommy.

Sometimes, the important people in our lives motivate us. Sometimes, they mentor us. Sometimes they change us. And, sometimes they do all three.

If we take even the quickest of looks at these MVPs, we get a pretty good idea of who C.J. has become as a coach and a man.

Mike Kazlausky, who was a walk-on to the Air Force Falcons’ baseball team back in 1988, ended up as a four-year starter who graduated with eight career records. With a couple of assistant coaching stints back at his alma mater between active service and deployments, he became full-time head coach of the Air Force Falcons baseball team in 2012. That’s following 20 years of service to our country.

Chuck Gillman, who served 40 years on the diamond, is a long-time Colorado high school baseball coach. He coached both of his sons at Columbine High School, winning the 5A title in 2006 when C.J. was a junior. When his younger son, Tommy, graduated in 2016, he retired as head coach to free himself up to watch Tommy play in college.

Tommy Gillman, with stints at Texas A&M and Midland College under his glove, decided it was time to fly higher. After he was accepted at the Air Force Academy, he found he had to start over academically and though a junior on the field was only a freshman in the classroom. But, all that basic training and hard work has been worth it, because he’s getting coached by his big brother.

And, of course, Papa Gillman couldn’t be happier. With his two sons together right up the road, he can continue to be a daily presence in the lives of the kids he coached from the time they could first hold a bat.

C.J. graduated from the University of Dayton in 2012 with a degree in Leadership. He lead the Flyers to their first conference tournament championship and NCAA Regional appearance in school history He is the season record holder in hits (91) and ranks among the top five for single season RBI, doubles and stolen bases.

After college, C.J. played two years of professional ball with stints in the Colorado Rockies minor league system and the Windy City Thunderbolts of the Frontier League before returning to Dayton to help coach for a year.

From there, he headed to the United States Air Force Academy where he is entering his sixth year as Assistant Baseball Coach. C.J. works with the catchers, base running, and running the offense as well as heading up the recruiting efforts.

C.J. Gillman’s coaching philosophy is Do Damage.

Head Coach Mike Kazlausky’s motto is Take Care of Your People.

And, that just about sums it all up.

Time to PARTY!

Time to PARTY!

One of the many highlights of Be the Best is the after-hours Coaches’ Party on Friday night. This informal gathering is where attendees and speakers mix and mingle, sharing stories and drinking beers. 

After a day filled with awesome information, it’s the perfect place to talk about what you’ve learned with those who know the game the best. And, after a few brews, there’s nothing better than boasting about your top players. Your championship team. Or even that walk-off you slammed over your high school fence back in 19…

Don’t miss the Coaches’ Party on Friday night. You don’t have to leave the hotel. The party comes to you. Exact time and location will be announced during the day. 

Can’t wait to see you all, party with you all and learn with you all!

Registration is still open!

Baseball Coaches’ Convention
Thursday, January 10 – Saturday, January 12
Make your hotel reservations NOW!

Softball Coaches’ Convention
Thursday, January 17 – Saturday, January 19
Make your hotel reservations NOW! 

A Coach’s Journey: An interview with Brent Treml

A Coach’s Journey: An interview with Brent Treml

Brent Treml
Baseball Pitching Coach
University of the Sciences
Philadelphia

How did you get your start as a coach?
Honestly, it all started as a favor. Back in 2010, my alma mater, Salesianum High School in Wilmington, DE, needed a coach for the freshman baseball team. I thought I’d be one-and-done, but after that season in which we went 16-0, I was hooked. I stayed for nine years.

During that time, I also coached American Legion baseball. Under my four-year tutelage as head coach of Delaware Post 1, we won one American Legion National Championship, a state championship and two state runner-up titles.

I have just begun my collegiate coaching career as pitching coach at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

What do you love about coaching?
I love the camaraderie that exists between coach and player and coach to coach. I love the highs and lows that come with working with players every single day. And, most of all, I love seeing the players buy into the culture we are trying to create and seeing a bunch of individuals turn into a unified force by the end of the season.

What is your best coaching memory?
The easy answer is winning the National Championship in 2018 or our first State Championship in 2017, both of which were filled with proud accomplishments and amazing moments. But, my personal favorite game was defeating Stahl Post 30 in the 2016 American Legion Semifinals.

Stahl had long been the team to beat in Delaware and there was a passionate rivalry between us. That year we split our first four meetings before going on to end their season on their field in the playoffs. It felt like a changing of the guard; after the victory we were viewed as the top dogs in Delaware, having finally earned the respect we deserved.

What was your biggest coaching disaster?
This was a very public disaster. It actually made it to number three in Sportscenter’s Top Plays that night! We were playing Las Vegas in the American Legion World Series Championship which was televised on ESPNU. In an unbelievable pitchers’ duel, the game remained scoreless into the 7th and baserunners were at a premium. We were able to get a runner to 2nd with one out and our number three hitter at the plate. We decided to pinch run our fastest and youngest bench player to increase our chances of scoring.

Las Vegas pulled a trick pick-off play at second, ending our scoring threat and squashing our momentum in a game where every baserunner was like gold. The Las Vegas pitcher stepped off the mound and pump-faked a throw to second, with the middle infielders and outfielders selling the fake beautifully. Our runner dove back to the bag, as he should, got up and began looking for the ball and then to me as the third-base coach.

And here’s where I kick myself. I began yelling, “Stay on the bag!” while simultaneously pointing to second base. The stadium was so loud that the runner couldn’t hear me, but thought my pointing was signaling that the ball was in the outfield. So, he took off for third. Of course, the pitcher, who still had the ball, was able to get him out easily.

I should have had my hands up, showing the runner my palms in our universal “stay” signal, but instead, confused him by pointing to the bag instead.

But, even this disastrous story has a happy ending. We won the title with an eighth inning walk off!

How did you create your winning team culture?
The key to creating a winning culture is for everyone to feel like they have ownership in the success of the team. Coaches and players have to have open and respectful dialogue about lineups and strategies. It’s much easier for players to buy into what you’re doing as a coach if they understand why. Why is the lineup constructed this way? Why are we trying this offense move in this particular situation? Why is our pitching rotation lined up for these specific opponents?

Bad culture breeds when we’re kept in the dark. And that goes both ways – for coaches as well as players. Players need to understand and accept their role, but coaches have to be willing to hear, and consider, what their team has to say as well. This give and take goes a long way toward building trust and confidence. It’s important for everyone to believe that decisions are made to make the team the best it can be, not for selfish reasons or to hurt feelings. To earn respect, you have to make sure your strategies are backed up with honest assessments and explanations for how your decisions will help the team win.

What is your personal coaching philosophy?
I want my team to be confident and aggressive. To know what goal they are going for. And to believe that nobody is in their way but themselves. I am an ultra-sticker during practice, focusing on the little details and not relenting until we have perfected what we’re practicing. I believe in making practice difficult, both physically and mentally so that the game feels easier.

On game day, I am ultra-positive. I never get on a player, unless there’s an obvious lack of effort involved. I want my players to feel little to no pressure during the game so they can be better prepared and more confident in making those instinctual, split-second decisions. I want to take the pressure off my players so they can place it on the opponent, giving us the advantage.

I like to talk about our goals in terms of visuals, like a dogpile. I will then come back to that visual throughout the year as we evaluate our performance. Are we taking steps toward the dogpile or away from it?

Is there one coach you particularly respect?
One of my biggest motivators and influencers was Dennis Walker, my high school coach at Salesianum. His practices were often stressful and difficult, but in preparing the team, he found a way to bring the team together as a by-product. He never let a teachable moment pass by. Ever. Though, he often left it up to us to figure out the lesson on our own. In my own coaching, I mimic this trait of his. Going off-script at times and doing something zany to let the players figure out the why on their own helps break up practice and make it less mundane. And the players more often than not, do learn the lesson on their own.

What are the most important qualities of a coach? Of a player?
To me, the most important quality of a coach and a player are the same. You have to be a sponge. This is a game of adjustments, so both coaches and players must be comfortable and willing to adjust to and try new things.

As a coach, you need to always be learning from other coaches, including your competition. You have to be open to discussing and debating with other coaches and share techniques and situations. Any successful coach out there has a strong network of other coaches with whom to bounce things off. I’ve yet to see a coach find success by existing in a silo. I, personally, have been blessed to coach under, with and against some brilliant coaches who have taught me so much and from whom I continuously “steal” ideas to add to my own coaching philosophy.

As far as players go, the worst trait you can possess is that of being un-coachable. As soon as you believe you know more than your coach you begin rejecting help and your growth in the sport is stunted. That doesn’t mean you have to blindly accept every decision or idea, but it does mean that as a player, you have to be respectful, evaluative and willing to try new things. Just like a coach!

Even Hall of Famer, Cal Ripken, Jr. went through countless different swings throughout his career as he adjusted to different pitchers. Think of it this way, if you were having great success, nobody would be trying to change you. Openness to new ideas is absolutely crucial to success whether you’re a coach or a player.


In keeping with the tradition that Be the Best is a convention created for coaches by coaches, we’ve asked for inspirations and stories from your contemporaries. Click here to share something about your coaching journey. Don’t worry about making it sound good — you coach the kids, we‘ll work the words.

Be the Best Baseball Schedule Released!

Be the Best Baseball Schedule Released!

Just in time for the holidays! Check out the schedule for when your favs are going to be at Be the Best.

This year we’ve got the bases covered with some of the game’s greatest coaches sharing their skills and stories about pitching, recruiting, team-building, base-running, hitting and more. There’s no better way to start the new year than attending the best coaches’ convention around. It’s full of information. Full of friends. And full of fun.

So, look at the line-up and make your game plan. Sign up for Be the Best TODAY. It’s less than a month away!

Baseball Coaches’ Convention
Thursday, January 10 – Saturday, January 12
Make your hotel reservations NOW!

Why do coaches coach?

Why do coaches coach?

Coaches coach for many different reasons. Some want to give back. To the game, to the community, to the people who helped them along the way. Others are motivated by the thrill of competition, the emotion of the game and the camaraderie of the team. And some want to propel their players to the next level, watch them succeed and have a positive impact on their lives.

But the bottom line is, coaches coach because it’s fun.

And that’s why Be the Best adds FUN to the line-up.

Ask anyone who’s ever been to the convention. It’s not about listening to lectures from top college and professional coaches. It’s not about one-sided dialogues and technical presentations. What makes Be the Best so great is the natural interaction, the candid discussions and the back-and-forth sharing of skills, ideas and stories.

You may find yourself exchanging emails with one of the most celebrated coaches in college softball, drinking a beer with an MLB coach or chatting over coffee with a professional player. Be the Best speakers remember when they, too, were making their way in the baseball and softball worlds and genuinely want to do what they can to enhance your personal journey.

Don’t miss the ball on this one. We promise that Be the Best is more than instructive. More than informative. It’s down-right fun!

Registration is open NOW!

Baseball Coaches’ Convention
Thursday, January 10 – Saturday, January 12
Make your hotel reservations NOW!

Softball Coaches’ Convention
Thursday, January 17 – Saturday, January 19
Make your hotel reservations NOW!