Episode 064 – Three-Time National Champion Baseball Coach Jeremiah Robbins
Coach Robbins talks about mindset, authenticity and a blue-collar work ethic that can overcome nearly all obstacles.
Hey everyone and welcome to the All-Star Leader Podcast, where together we learn about leadership from the best and brightest, and keep it fun by connecting it to our passion for sports!
I’m your host Daniel Hare, and today for the first time on the show we get to hear from a college head coach, and I can’t think of anyone more fitting to be the first than Jeremiah Robbins.
Jeremiah and I first met in 2010 at Western Oregon where he was the head baseball coach. While at WOU he led the Wolves to a 252-109 record, seven straight conference titles and five NCAA tournament appearances.
He left Western Oregon in 2012 to take over a Lewis-Clark State College, where all he has done is take the Warriors to five NAIA national championship games, winning the 2015 2016 and 2017 crowns.
More important than his on-field accomplishments, however, Coach Robbins is a tremendous leader, a man of integrity, and someone I am proud, humbled and honored to call my friend.
This is Jeremiah Robbins. Coach Robbins thanks so much for coming on the show!
- Most important question first: does the tropical fruit enterprise continue at Lewis-Clark State? Share with the audience what your team did every year with tropical fruit sales, how they did it and what the results were? What was the purpose in having your team do that?
- Instead they split/deliver firewood for a fundraiser
- The fruit sales was a great teambuilding exercise as well as getting the athletes out in the community
- 150 cords of wood; deliver and stack it.
- (Daniel – At D2/NAIA, finances are challenging and this is important to the program. How did you come up with these unique fundraisers, and why?
- They wanted to have a blue-collar approach
- Get creative
- Build bonds with the community and increases attendance
- (Daniel – encourage teams to match their off-field activities like fundraising to their program’s identity)
- Let’s now rewind and start at the beginning. Tell us about where you’re from, your upbringing, and when/how baseball was instilled in you.
- Grew up outside of Roseberg, OR
- Blue-collar town and family was in logging industry. Dad cut trees for 30 years
- Work hard, pay dues, put time in
- Led to disciplined, hard-nosed baseball at a young age
- Had some success in high school
- Opportunity to play in college and bounced around a few places due to grades. But got those in order and was able to finish up at Western Oregon
- Then jumped right into the fire as an American Legion coach immediately after finishing school/playing
- Struggled early on, but grew as a coach and got a JC job before moving back to WOU and then LC State.
- Early age is where all his qualities/characteristics were formed
- (Daniel – Can you speak to those who try and adopt others’ approach to coaching, etc. rather than being themselves? How important is authenticity?)
- Kids want real; they will see right through you in a heartbeat
- Very transparent; players know who he is and what he is about
- This breaks down walls between players and coaches and makes them feel loved
- Baseball is pretty simple, but the personal relationships, discipline, etc. are what separates
- Getting a player to trust you is harder and harder, so as a coach you have to be on your toes to connect with them
- Never faked anything and is always up front with his guys
- (Daniel – talking about Bob Stoops and getting close to your players)
- In many ways your college career looked similar to many of the players you have recruited and coached over the years, taking advantage of opportunities at both junior colleges and four year schools before arriving your final stop. Talk a bit about your journey through those college years and how that helps you connect with your current players.
- Would like to change his journey since he had to bounce around because he didn’t go to class
- But it has given him appreciation for the kid who has struggled some early on and just needs someone to give him a second chance.
- They often times just need someone to put their arm around them, believe in them, help them get a degree, etc.
- Learned from past mistakes and has made him a better coach
- Flunked out of school freshman year after not going to class all fall semester; lost his baseball scholarship and had to go get a job. Worked as a logger for a year and a half before getting back into baseball.
- Only one in his family to have a college degree. Wound up graduating with a 3.0 GPA after starting with a .2!
- Degree the most important thing for players; graduation rate improving at LC State.
- (Daniel – How do you evaluate whether someone deserves a second chance?)
- There can be sticky situations, and the relationship with the player
- Have you done your homework as a recruiter and a head coach before bringing them to campus? Must do this work at a higher level. Can’t just make it about athletic ability and can they help you win.
- Once it gets into someone else’s hands (law enforcement, etc.), there’s not much he can do.
- Things are getting worse. Social media is limiting face to face contact which is detrimental. He doesn’t let players email professors, etc.; have to go talk face to face.
- Coaches aren’t investing the time required to properly screen prospective student-athletes. Sit down and talk with the kids, for a long time and not necessarily about baseball, and just learn about who they are.
- First four days of the fall are meetings. They don’t touch a baseball. They have to write a paper about their “why.”
- They aren’t perfect; have had a few issues but generally have been pretty fortunate.
- Eliminate shortcut mindset and promote a growth mindset a team and hard work mindset.
- (Daniel – all that up front work is long-term approach which may not have short-term benefits but works in the long-run and you still win!)
- He has shrunk practices at times down to one hour of intense/focused practice, and gets more done than two and three hour practices he used to conduct back in the day
- Today he is meeting with all 45 players and they aren’t even practicing at all.
- Sometimes more impact from a 15 minute conversation with a kid than a three hour practice
- When you think back to your first year as the Western Oregon head baseball coach, what comes into your mind? What do you think you did well or right, and what maybe causes you to say “what was I thinking?!”
- Was the associate HC when the HC had to resign immediately before the season, so he was named the interim.
- Had immediate success
- But looking back he was so wrapped up in the game that he didn’t take time to enjoy it. Still struggles with that today, but is working on it.
- The personal relationships are the most important. His national championship is getting emails from past players.
- You’ve now had tremendous success at two different institutions, and at least at WOU you did so with very limited resources. How have you been able to accomplish so much with the odds stacked against you?
- Hard work
- Surround yourself with good people; you can overcome a lot with this.
- Coaching is not a one-man show; have a support staff of coaches/administrators who believe in what you’re doing.
- Don’t let a lack of resources be your scapegoat or excuse for not achieving. Compete. Have a growth mindset. It’s not about the scholarship but about playing baseball and getting a degree.
- Have a chip on your shoulder and use that as motivation against the better-funded schools.
- See challenges as motivation rather than obstacles.
- Go get athletes who aren’t after the scholarship, but instead those who want the LC State experience and community.
- (Daniel – lots of your players have been drafted into MLB, so you’re getting talented guys)
- How do you approach balancing success at work and success at home?
- Feels like he has failed at this, and feels bad for his wife and boys
- But working on it and getting better at it
- Wife has been biggest supporter
- This summer took a full week to just be together as a family; so setting aside time is important.
- When you’re home, trying to leave your job at the office
- All goes back to mindset. Recently reading much less about baseball and much more about mindset. Angela Duckworth (Grit), Carol Dweck (Mindset), Daniel Coyle (The Talent Code) all are authors he’s reading now. This helps at home in addition to coaching.
- Rapid Fire Questions (one word/phrase answers)
- Name one trait or characteristic you want to see in a colleague.
- What habit has been key to your success?
- Most important app or productivity tool?
- iPad app for Facetiming family and videoing hitters
- Resource recommendation (book, podcast, etc.)
- Extreme Ownership – Jacqo ; Lee Babin
- One bit of parting advice for our audience?
- Hard work and love.
- Name one trait or characteristic you want to see in a colleague.
- Final question: tell us what we can expect from your team this year!
- Whole new team – 7 guys drafted off of last year’s team (none were previously drafted so all developed while at LC State)
- Great mindset and ready to go.