The first week of December means that once again the MLB Winter Meetings are in action. The Winter Meetings are an annual event in which representatives of all 30 Major League Baseball teams, and their 160 minor-league baseball affiliates convene for four days to discuss league business, and conduct off-season trades and transactions. For those who are unfamiliar with the meetings - there are actually about 3 days of meetings with the performance staff and athletic trainers before all the cameras show up. For those few days there is an exclusive setting for professional baseball non-uniform staff to meet, take part in continuing education, and have the opportunity to seek out new products.
As a former strength and conditioning coach in the MLB, I have been to several Winter Meetings, and I have found that you can choose one of two ways to go about it. For some, it’s a dreaded few days that they have to leave their families (again) after just getting home from the grueling season. For others, it’s a great opportunity to improve their knowledge base, network, and improve their understanding of the best sports science available on the market. Also, it’s in Las Vegas this year - throw a smile on.
Just as teams acquire new talent and improve through a season, sports science companies often make drastic improvements over the course of the year. Constant customer feedback is key to driving improvements, but there are also important findings over the course of 12 months via data collection. All of the above push companies to grow and refine their products, or at least they should. With all that being said, here are 3 ways to make the most of your upcoming MLB Winter Meetings.
Understand your KPI’s - Where did your organization struggle?
A Key Performance Indicator is defined as a quantifiable measure used to evaluate the success of an organization, employee, etc. After 162 games it’s usually fairly clear what needs to be done more precisely, measured more consistently, or done with less subjectivity. What current systems need a tune up? This has to be clear before stepping foot in the meetings, because it will essentially provide your blueprint to each day. Without objectively evaluating your performance as a staff, how are you going to improve? Without knowing what problems you are trying to solve, no product (hardware, software, consultant, or otherwise) is going to help, it will simply add complexity. Once KPI’s are clearly established, it will be key to create a feedback loop to review them at specific times throughout the year - and just before winter meetings being one of those.
Make it to the reception
There is always a welcome reception (drinks optional) where it’s good to go and see some old friends. The problem is that it’s easy to hang with the people you know - and only those you know. While there is nothing wrong with throwing one back with your boys, there is also tremendous value in meeting (and learning from) other coaches. Often times other coaches will share a new perspective, or troubles they encountered throughout the season, the technology they utilize, etc. I have been just as guilty as anyone with this, but I learned in my last couple years how truly valuable it can be to go and introduce yourself to a stranger. I still talk, and learn, from many of them to this day.
Have an open mind
Baseball professionals tend to stay in their own lane - almost to a detriment. Learning from other organizations (and even other sports) is key in developing a well rounded knowledge base to draw from. Take the opportunity to learn about new technology, and ask questions about current products (from both other organizations, and vendors). Remember, there is no one “right way,” and no one has the secret sauce - especially when solid teamwork between staff members may be the closest to the secret sauce as you can get. Don’t be afraid of not knowing all the answers - ask questions, and ask again. Being vulnerable, and open to new processes is the best way to take a step in a positive direction.
Do your homework before you show up on site. Knowing what your organization really needs will drive how you organize your time. Expand your network. You never know who can have an impact on you as a coach or trainer. Go in with an open mind. Ask questions and have fun with those fighting the same battle.