Spencer is entering his 11th season as an assistant at Oregon State. The
associate head coach and pitching coach of the Beavers, Spencer has been
instrumental in helping the Beavers to back-to-back College World Series
appearances and the 2006 National Championship. He joins
CollegeBaseballInsider.com for the 2007 season.
March 20, 2007
People get into coaching for different reasons.
Most are pulled by the love of a certain sport. Others are driven by the
thrill of competition. Some have more noble aspirations in their genuine concern
for young people and sport becomes the vehicle in making a connection with kids
and young adults.
In my case, initially it was the game of baseball, joy of competition and the
lack of other options with my life. When I started coaching at 21 years old,
things in my life were a little less complicated. When my playing career was
over, I was offered a local coaching job. I worked crazy hours while finishing
my college degree. I found that I loved coaching and planned my career goals
around always being involved in young people’s lives.
I have found that the people who stay in coaching long-term have different
goals. The secret is that the athletes are keeping these coaches in business. I
have been fortunate to coach four players who have played in the big leagues
with hopefully more on the way, but the reality is that the vast majority do
not. Consequently, most of the players are going to need their college degrees
and life skills to earn a living and raise a family.
The player-coach relationship at the college level lasts between three and
four years, but the personal relationship lasts a lifetime. I am fortunate in my
profession to be a part of the player’s everyday life. With that also comes the
responsibility to mentor each player not only as an athlete, but also as a
student, and most importantly as a person.
I believe it is part of my job to bring 18 year olds to fully responsible men
in the few years that I have to influence their daily decisions. There are
consequences and rewards - all the normal stuff of most programs - but often
what is needed is just the willingness to spend the time.
There are no prouder moments in a coach’s life than when former players drop
in to visit, or when Susie and I receive invites to weddings, and eventually,
celebrate the birth announcements.
The relationship between coach and player is just that. A trusting bond forms
during the recruiting process and carries through the athlete’s career and
lifetime. If a player has a problem that is not an emergency, my conversations
and actions are first with the player and not the parents.
Part of the maturing process for young people is to become independent and to
handle daily obstacles on their own. For example, if a player has an issue with
playing time or is having a hard time in a particular class, it is his
responsibility to talk to a coach about it or my responsibility to initiate the
conversation. This is not an issue for his mother or father to call on behalf of
the player. If there are health or family issues that I should know about, that
is when the parents are contacted or a call coming from them would be welcomed.
A coach’s relationship with player’s family is vital, but it is separate from
the player-coach relationship.
After 21 years coaching and hopefully many more to come, I still love the
connection with our players. Life is much more complicated now, we have our own
three children, and with that comes many responsibilities.
I am proud to have been with players through rough times, personal problems,
family crises and unfortunate surgeries. Sometimes a player will need to come to
the house and work through a problem; I consider it an honor to be that someone
that a player would turn to in time of need.
Home Stand - Finally (3/9/07)
Neutral Counts (2/8/07)
Opportunity Knocks (1/2/07)
Recruiting Athletes (11/27/06)
(photo courtesy of Oregon State Media Relations Office)