None of that is connected to the book, but I want you to know the perspective I had going in. I am a Matheny fan. I was one of the few that was excited when he was named manager following the World Series win and retirement of legend Tony LaRussa. He is a calm, no nonsense kind of guy. The book centers around this character trait. He boldly addresses his challenges, weaknesses, and process that took him from the Gold Glove years back to Little League. While that may seem like a demotion, readers will soon find this journey to be one of eventual renewal and reward.
Matheny opens with what many sports fans already know and have read, the team letter that has become known as The Matheny Manifesto. When asked to coach a little league team in suburban St. Louis, Matheny wanted to lay the ground rules for expectations or players and parents. It turned into a seven page letter that was firm and unwavering, but was accepted my most all in attendance. He turned the focus from the "win at all cost" mentality to a disciplined approach focused on character and development. The results were incredible, but probably not in the way that you would guess. I'll leave that for you to read.
Other highlights that I enjoyed were his interactions with his father at an early age. He discusses the issues that are detrimental to youth sports in America today. Whether you agree completely or not, I must say as a veteran of youth culture and current sports media reporter, he is on target. As a coach, some of the items are hard to hear. I know I get it wrong, but hearing his perspective gives me encouragement and ideas for change.
Matheny speaks highly of his former teammates and managers, zeroing in on the lessons he learned from each. The stories are engaging and succinct, bringing home a point of relevance that makes the reader turn the page with anticipation and personal reflection. He dedicates several pages to the legendary basketball coach John Wooden. Those pages of quotes are worth the price of the book alone. They will be posted in my classroom immediately.
Matheny closes with his transition from sitting behind the plate to become the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. It is a story that few probably know. Being an avid sports fan, I thought I knew the story, but his level of transparency is an emotional journey through the fast moving conclusion of the book. I firmly believe the last 2 chapters could be a book in themselves.
Matheny is a tough, high character person who has traveled an amazing journey to the top. He is open about his faith and expectations, and he hold parents and coaches accountable for their interactions with these young men. It has been a great personal challenge to me, and I feel it is a MUST READ for coaches everywhere. This is not a nuts and bolts manual, but a challenge to personal character development and dedication to honing a craft you enjoy. I would let him coach my kid any day!
If you are a coach, get this book. It is not just a baseball text. It offers insights that can be applied to any area, many outside of the athletic arena. If you are a highly competitive parent of a young athlete, read this book. You have no idea how your words and actions can influence productivity. Finally, if you are a sports fan, you will love the insight and personal stories Matheny weaves through his Manifesto. I hope to meet him someday, and hopefully I will have the book with me to have it signed. Mike Matheny, you did a fantastic job. Your transparency is courageous and will influence coaches and players for generations to come!
If you would like to to see the letter that Matheny wrote that would become the Manifesto, you can see it here on his site, along with other information about Mike and his work.