As a small market team the Pittsburgh Pirates have come up with a number of ideas on how to not only put together their team on the field, but develop a winning culture.
One such idea is to run a Think Tank where individuals from their organization get together with individuals from sports, business or even the military, who can share ideas that can have a positive impact on teams and organizations.
When RDC athletic director Keith Hansen received an invitation to be part of the Pirates’ Think Tank 2.0, he jumped at it.
Hansen received the invitation after meeting the Prates assistant GM Kyle Stark at a seminar last year.
“Their director of mental training (Bernie Holliday) received his PHD at Idaho where I got my masters,” explained Hansen. “I was sitting with Bernie and Kyle and we got into a two hour conversation on coaching and performance and when we were done Kyle said to Bernie that I should be invited to the next Think Tank and I couldn’t get there fast enough.”
Hansen arrived at the Pirates training facility in Bradenton, Fla., last Friday and left Sunday afternoon. There were close to 20 individuals from the Pirates, including Stark and GM Neal Huntington, and 20 others, such as former NFL player Dwight Hollier and University of Oregon star linebacker Michael Clay.
“It was a great experience,” said Hansen. “There was less talking baseball and more talking about how to create peak performance and a winning culture.
“They want to learn about a number of areas such as championship mentality and how to stick to the process and how to maintain meaningful confidence when the results aren’t there.
“For instance we’d break into groups of four or five people and talk about it as a group then all get back together and present ideas.”
One group Hansen found himself in was with Huntington, Stark and “a guy in charge of professional development”.
“We spent 90 minutes discussing championship mentality . . . it was enlightening.”
Overall the weekend fit into what Hansen was interested in personally and in terms of building the college program.
“I’m into sports psychology and there was a lot of one-on-one where I got a chance to sit with Huntington and Stark and pick their brains. And what was cool was that they picked mine and they were equally as interested in what I had to offer. They treated every idea as seriously as their own.”
Hansen also got an opportunity to sit and talk with a number of professional people, such as authors — even one who the text book Hansen uses in his sports psychology class — and representatives from IMG Worldwide, which represents individuals in sports, fashion and media. He also found it fascinating listening to presentations from the military such as the Navy SEALs, Rangers and Special Forces.
“I got an opportunity to go to the IMG offices and hang out and see some of the stuff they do and also it was interesting to hear the military trainers talk about linking training to sports and sports psychology.
“They talked about how they trained to prepare to go to Iraq and what they did was a great way to give us topics related around performance and extra ordinary performance.”
There was so much more Hansen could talk about, or learn, but by the time he left on Sunday he had a number of ideas to bring home.
“One thing that struck me was the courage needed to run a team like the Pirates,” he said. “They’re under pressure to please everyone, but they have to have the courage to do what they believe is right. It’s a bigger stage than I’ve ever seen.
“As for talking with our coaches and talking about performance, I’ve know it for a long time, but you have to be different than the rest to be elite. You have to do more and make more sacrifices. I talked with a number of scouts and they’re on the road for over 200 days a year and they all have families. That’s something with our coaches. They don’t live ordinary lives.”
Hansen also brought back a couple of lighter moments such as the first time he met Huntington.
“We had a five minute meet session and we introduced ourselves and I asked him if he was from Pittsburgh and he looked at me kind of funny. I asked if he was with the Pirates organization. He was the GM. We had a good laugh over that.”
Hansen also got a chance to take batting practice against former major league catcher and Pirates minor league catching coordinator Tom Prince.
“There was a girl ahead of me and she hitting everything and I hadn’t swung a bat for 30 years and was nervous, especially with all the major league guys watching. But I managed to make good contact, so that worked out,” he said.
Hansen would love to get a chance to return when they hold Think Tank 3.0.
“It was the best PD (personal development) I’ve had, but even if I don’t go back I made a lot of great contacts.”
• It’s a big weekend for the RDC volleyball teams as they face SAIT in a home-and-home series — Friday at RDC and Saturday in Calgary.
The women get underway at 6 p.m. with the men to follow.
The Kings and Trojans are both 12-0 heading into the series with the Kings rated No. 1 in Canada and SAIT fifth. The Queens, 10-2, are ranked seventh.
• The basketball squads have the weekend off with the Kings ranked third in Canada.
• The hockey Queens, who are tied for top spot in the ACAC with NAIT, face Grant MacEwan Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Arena and Friday in Edmonton.
• The RDC soccer teams see their first action of the futsal season this weekend at Ambrose College in Calgary.
• Basketball Queens Desirae Paterson received the Boston Pizza female athlete of the week award after pumping in 36 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in a weekend doubleheader sweep of Lethbridge. The Queens received the Breathing Room Yoga Studio and Cafe team of the week award.
Volleyball’s Braden O’Toole, who had 31 kills, five blocks, two aces and 11 digs in a two-match sweep of Grande Prairie, received the top male award.
Volleyball middle Leanne Price and hockey’s Gillian Altheim and basketball’s Rob Pierce were also considered for the awards.