Our 2015 series on learning baseball from those who teach is best continues with this week’s feature on “passion”…for life, for competition…from University of Dayton coach, Tony Vittorio.

By Tony Vittorio, Head Baseball Coach, Univesity of Dayton

I know that some of you might want to hear about baseball.  Believe me, it will come.  But I must take some time presently to explain to you what I believe is the most powerful word in baseball, or any other competitive sport – PASSION.

You have to stand tall for what is right and you have to do it with PASSION.  So let me explain this word PASSION.

PASSION, intensity, energy, enthusiasm are all like a coat of paint.  These words cover up our weaknesses.  And guess what? We all have weaknesses.  Some of us have more weaknesses then others but the bottom line is that not one of us is perfect.  If you do things with PASSION, intensity, energy, and enthusiasm than the majority of people will not see or they will bypass the weaknesses that we have in us. In locker room talk, PASSION, intensity, energy, and enthusiasm will win five to fifteen games a year that we were not supposed to win.  Everybody says that they are sincere about winning.  If you are sincere about winning and PASSION will win more games for you or make another sale for you, why would you not be PASSIONATE about what you are doing?

My good friend Frank Pacetta, author of ‘Don’t Fire Them, Fire Them Up’ and ‘Stop Whining and Start Winning’, talks about HO-HUM.

What”s HO-HUM?  HO-HUM is those people who walk around without any PASSION, intensity, energy or enthusiasm.  Basically, they are people who are boring to be around.  Do you have any idea how many people are boring to be around?  The majority of people are boring to be around.  Here is a ‘baloney’ statement “never too high, never too low.”  Who in the right frame of mind came up with that saying?  If we are lucky, we might be on this earth 50 to 100 years.  Why should we not be high about that?

Now to be successful in what we do, we might need some mechanisms to slow us down at times.  Successful parents, teachers, coaches, and employers love teaching people how to slow down but cannot stand to teach people how to wind up.  The bottom line is that successful leaders would rather wind you down then wind you up.

The majority, this day and age, need wound up.  This is not a fun tool to teach.  As a matter of fact, it will wear a parent, teacher, coach or employer out.  This is HO-HUM!  This is boring.  HO-HUM and boring is almost impossible to lead.

You will not get to where you want to get in life without PASSION.  Even if you were given enough mentally and/or physically to get somewhere, you will not get there quick enough without passion and energy.

How about this quote about passion from Travis Pastrana, who’s a Professional Motocross Rider:  “The common denominator among every great athlete I’ve ever known is passion.  ‘Luck’ and ‘talent’ are often used to describe winners.  Luck can be manufactured through determination, and there is nothing natural about talent.  If you do everything by the book, you’ll be beat by those who write their own.  The talent and luck it takes to win starts with passion.”

It is a zest for life, a commitment to a dream, a hobby or a goal that supersedes the mundane.  It is one of the most difficult edges to walk and because of that, one of the most rewarding.  We envy those who have it.  We all know someone who does.  There is a sparkle in their eyes that betrays them.  A fire in their soul.

It is easier to describe through the works of those who embody the very heart of passion.  Artists and writers, environmentalists and read leaders who exemplify what it is to live life to the fullest.  It is seen clearly in the sensual brush strokes of Vincent Van Gogh.  I cannot look at the stars on a windy night and not see Starry Night.  A painting of Van Hogh’s room hangs in my office, reminding me of the need to live life with intensity and passion.

There are others who have shown us how it is done: Roosevelt, Mandela, Aretha, Picasso, John Muir, Hemingway, King, the list is endless.  What all of them share is a singular focus, an ability to envision their dreams and pursue them through to the end.  Men and women to whom failure is only a momentary stumbling block on their way up to the mountaintop.  They don’t live life, they grab it.

All of us have this ability.  Be it a passion for shelling or philosophy.  Up at dawn, flashlight in hand, scouring the empty beach in search of some elusive mollusk, or reading Sartre at midnight, searching for an explanation.  Be it for traveling, or reading, fishing or watercolors, all of us have the potential to partake in the sheer exhilaration of finding our personal passions.   And we should follow those dreams.  Because with passion we find meaning.

It is a balancing act.  Walking along the edge of what we love to do and knowing when to resist its seductive invitation.  Knowing when the voice becomes the song of the sirens, calling us into the rocks of self-absorption.  No one but you knows when that moment is, but the knowledge of it must never be allowed to fade.

Henry David Thoreau once wrote that, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  It is a quote I have never forgotten.  Unfortunately, it is still true far too often.  It doesn’t have to be.

Take hold of something, anything, and dive in.  Be it a golf club, a tennis racket, a paint brush, a pen or a model airplane.  Become possessed, enthralled, and captivated by the magic of the moment.  Life is so much richer and far more beautiful for it.  Passion!  Search your heart and find it.  When you do, let’s dance.”

—Unknown

Pretty powerful, huh?

Until next time………………..

Coach Tony Vittorio

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