A Challenging Season of Baseball

A Challenging Season of Baseball
A young Travis' baseball card at age 9, Circa 2006. This photo is not from the season/team mentioned in this post.

A large portion of this post contains my best recollection of a childhood event. Accuracy of details is not guaranteed.

Managing a Team

    At the beginning of 2023, I was promoted to my first professional management position. Without a doubt, it has been difficult and dysfunctional at times. Thankfully, I have had a few experiences and lessons learned from the past to lean on as I wade through these rough waters. In this position I want to succeed, however, more importantly, I want my team to succeed. In the absence of formal management and public administration training; I've spent a significant amount of time at the local library flipping through dozens of books related to these topics.

    The model of leadership and team development that sticks out the most is Tuckman's Stages of Group Development. More commonly, this is known as 'Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing'. In an attempt to better understand these principles and models; I've spent time documenting how they could apply to my past experiences of team development. The relation that stands out the most is that of Tuckman's model and a particularly challenging year of Little League. This post explores my understanding of that relationship.


    As a kid, every summer I participated in the local Little League Baseball. I was never the best and I was never the first pick; however, I enjoyed playing and had fun. At the beginning of the season, we had tryouts; afterward, the players were divided and teams were formed. In reflection, it's clear that the teams were not competitively balanced. A few teams in particular were primarily comprised of older and talented players. In contrast, my team was comprised of players like myself, younger and inexperienced. Early on during the preseason scrimmages, it was evident that my team was competitively disadvantaged. From the beginning, my team had low morale and low hopes of succeeding.


    During the regular season of that year, my team didn’t win a single game. There was never even a nail-biter of a game in which anyone thought we could have won. During the entire regular season, my team was in the storming phase of team development. We were very unorganized and rarely worked as a team. We didn’t have the best gear; I played catcher, and the strap on my chest protector didn’t latch properly on one side and it would just kind of dangle… We didn't have any exceptional players. The consistent trend of losing resulted in several players becoming discouraged and dropping off the team. In contrast to our team, the teams we competed against had progressed past this stage of team development.


    After our last regular season game, the coach called a huddle and gave us a talk. He explained that the first game of the tournament would be our last opportunity to perform. However, in retrospect, we were still in the storming phase of team development. His goal was for our team to go from storming to performing in one week. The Saturday before the tournament we spent a few hours doing practice drills, however, that wasn’t the important part of the day.

    After practicing, we had pizza and refreshments in a nearby park. Following this, we decided to play capture-the-flag on the playground. We were divided into two teams. Since our Little League team was comprised of players with similar abilities; our capture-the-flag teams were inherently competitively balanced. This was an opportunity for our team to experience fair competition. We began to devise strategies and worked as a team to execute them. There on the playground, we became a functional team, and in retrospect, we progressed past the storming phase.


    As the first game of the tournament began, our team was ready to perform. However, I didn’t know that and I don’t think my team knew that. The opposing team was up to bat first, they scored 3 runs. During our turn to bat we didn’t make it past first base. The writing was on the wall; we were going to lose. However, my team wasn’t ready to give up. We huddled in the dugout and did a team chant. We were ready. During the second inning, we tied the game and managed to prevent the other team from scoring. My team fought hard and we were performing. It was finally a nail-biter... By the end of the game, the score was 9 to 6. We won!

    Unbeknownst to my team, this was a major issue and our team was not supposed to win. The opposing team was the best in the league. They didn’t lose a single regular season game. Many members of their team were destined to join travel teams; they had great players. As the game concluded, verbal and physical altercations erupted between parents and league officials; the police were called to our Little League game! The other team refused to meet us in the middle of the field for the traditional "high-fives".

    Our team was now the threat, and we continued to perform game after game. At the conclusion of the tournament, we had won every single game! The team that was supposed to lose during the first game had become the champions.


    Recognizing and understanding team development is critical to success. In my experience, the unfortunate reality is that many teams are not capable of overcoming the storming phase. As a child, the concept of team development would have been lost on me. Admittedly as an adult, it's still lost on me at times. As I have during this past year, I'll continue to develop a better understanding of these concepts. In an effort to position my current and future teams for success, I'm determined to improve myself and the resources I can offer.


A great place to learn more about Tuckman's Stages of Group Development is referenced below.

TUCKMAN B. W. (1965). DEVELOPMENTAL SEQUENCE IN SMALL GROUPS. Psychological Bulletin63, 384–399. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0022100

A team will form, storm, and norm before they can perform.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! My 2024 New Year's resolution is to post once a month at a minimum.