Ahead Of The Curve with Jonathan Gelnar

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April 11, 2020  

TJ Bruce- Head Baseball Coach, The University of Nevada

April 11, 2020


On today’s show, we have TJ Bruce, head baseball coach at The University of Nevada. Th was hired at Nevada in 2015 and arrived on campus as one of the top assistant coaches in the nation after spending five seasons at UCLA where he helped the Bruins to four postseason appearances and a 2013 College World Series title. In 2019, Bruce led Nevada to the Mountain West Tournament for the fourth-consecutive year. As it won 30 games for the second time with him at the helm, including sweeping No. 2 and 2018 National Champion Oregon State in two home contests. On the show, we talk about what is was like when he arrived at Nevada and the first steps he took with the program. We also talk about how he goes about growing his assistant coaches to become head coaches someday, what their program standards are, how he helps grow young men in their program, and so much more.
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Show notes courtesy of Zach Casto

Ahead of the Curve Live Podcast: TJ Bruce (Head Coach of University of Nevada)
- During this time appreciate your family. It will keep your positivity during this
uncertain time.
- Have a routine every day to have something to look forward to.
- During this time you can continue to learn to help improve your players when we
are allowed to get back to coaching.
- “Everything you do is an opportunity to learn.”
- “This format makes you a better listener.”
- This is something that we need to be better at.
- As coaches, the best thing we can do for our players is to tell them to get back
and enjoy their families.
- In terms of baseball practice, you have to get creative.
- To stay in shape players can do pushups and pull-ups.
- Players can break down their mechanics on video.
- Players can throw into a wall or a net.
- Players can hit into a net.
- Players can catch up with friends and talk life and baseball and learn from them.
- If you have a team playbook, the players can read the playbook in order to
understand the complete team culture and play.
- “Be extraordinary in the ordinary.”
- As coaches, it is our job to prepare our players for the next level of baseball.
- When you get the head coaching job, you have no clue how the experience
will be until you get that experience.
- When you are in this situation, you need to lean on what you know.
- The most success that the team had was when there were roles.
- Players appreciate the organization and clear communication.
- As a head coach, it is your job to help develop your staff to achieve their
- Players need to realize the role that they are in on the team.
- Players need to accept responsibility and be the best at the role that they
are in.
- They can challenge themselves by being the best at their role.
- Have team-oriented statistics.

- Example: Quality at Bat
- This can help the young non-starters learn the game at a quicker pace.
- One Baton: This is the whole team.
- Every player has a role and if the team does the best at their role then the
team will only get better.
- Roles can change and improve.
- Lean on the coaches you have worked for every single day.
- Allow for your staff to collaborate and learn from other coaching staffs.
- Whatever access that you would have, allow for your assistants to have
that same access.
- Hire coaches that are smarter than you. (You need coaches around you
that will offset your personality).
- As a head coach, your job is to help the program.
- Assistant coaches need to be loyal, respectful, and competent.
- “If you help our program win, you will get yours at the end.”
- Allow your assistants to see what your role is as a head coach and what the role
of each assistant will be.
- Show them what you deal with every day.
- It is okay to be vulnerable to your assistants.
- This is a strength. It will allow for trust and respect to happen because you are
letting them into how you feel.
- Go over every aspect of the program with your assistants.
- Budget and playbook.
- Allow for the family to be involved in your program.
- Run your program like a college/Major League organization.
- Don’t be afraid for your assistants to give out ideas to improve the team.
- Allow for your assistants to be able to speak to the team.
- This shows to the team that the assistants are just as important as the
head coach.
- Ask your hitting coach what they see on the pitching side.
- Ask your pitching coach what they see on the hitting side.
- Understand that opinions are opinions and nobody is wrong.
- Don’t criticize your coaches publicly.
- Allowing your assistants to talk publicly will help them improve at public speaking
to help them be developed into reaching their goals.
- Ask for help from your assistants.
- Standards:
- What does it look like, feel like, and sounds like?
- Understand how the vision will look like in those three areas.

- You have to have a definitive mission.
- Vision, Expectation, and the Standard.
- What the players believe and what the staff believes will showcase how
successful the
- The program will make you a better man and will be relentless with chasing
- It is general and broad but allows for growth.
- The pursuit of perfection is in baseball, classroom, and personal life.
- Your vision has to be crystal clear and you have to feel that it will be a success in
your core.
- “You are either getting better or worse.”
- Outwork your staff.
- Example: Be the first one to the office.
- “The program is built upon how well you can control what you can control.”
- Don’t disrespect the program.
- That means be on time, being accountable, giving your best, and preparing the
best that you can.
- “You’ve got to be ready to be ready.”
- “Be where you need to be when you need to be there.”
- Place the needs of the team above your own.
- If you are not capable of taking honest coaching, please go home.
- The number one thing you can do to help create buy-in is honest
- Ask the players what they expect from you and tell them what you expect from
- Players will typically go to different instructors.
- This will create the opportunity for players to work on what the coaches want the
player to do.
- Video will allow for the player and coach to discuss what happened and
break down the thought process of the player in that situation.
- Ask your players how they learn best. Then once you know this you can
teach them the way they learn best.
- At the end of the day, all players want to improve.
- You have to really know your players.
- You have to have an identity for what you are trying to do in any aspect of
- You are trying to develop and win games.
- You have to have the right attitude and effort to have success.
- Make the routine play consistently.

- Handle the ball and keep it off the ground.
- When the team is stretching, take a ball and toss it and it will allow for the players
to compete with keeping the ball off the ground.
- Know the percentages and play them.
- Try to catch every ball as much as possible, but allow for your players to
backhand when fielding.
- Want the Ball.
- Separate offense and defense when playing.
- You can’t take the last at-bat into the field.
- The most important event in the game is the current pitch.
- “If I don’t get mine, you won’t get yours.”
- This means if you don’t get a hit don’t let the opponent get a hit.
- The best defenses don’t blame their teammate for an error or a hit.
- Have your players trust their eyes and instincts.
- Ask the player their thought process during a specific play.
- Get players on the whiteboard.
- This helps players understand the situation.
- It is an easy way for players to see things.
- Most players are visual learners.
- Watch more videos on defense than offense.
- “Players are brought up for 18 years on how to hit, not on how to play
- During practice, have one infielder talk for the day.
- This builds trust and the player learns what to say during the right time.
- Every area of play needs to have its own verbiage.
- Instead of saying step off say, “Black.”
- It prevents a balk from happening.
- The player will say 1- 1 thousand and then get rid of the baseball.
- When recruiting, you want to have a strong middle of the field.
- Catcher, Pitching, Shortstop, 2nd, and Centerfield.
- Ask your staff what they want to deal with and what they don’t want to deal with.
- Have a set of attributes that you are looking for in a player.
- If a player doesn’t match the attributes that you want.
- You need to ask the coach from the level below what tools the player possesses.
- As a high school coach, create a checklist for your players to improve
upon in order to get to the next level.
- An overlooked key is asking yourself if the player you are recruiting come
from a winning program?
- Be yourself.

- Example: If you are a yeller, be a yeller.
- If you are not being yourself, then you are not going to be successful.
- Your family mission will work into your coach mission.
- Surround yourself with great people.
- Don’t be afraid to show that you don’t know everything around your
- In the offseason, have your players talk to coaches who can really help the