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Tips to Improve Athlete Communication

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Kara Bolli

Los Angeles Angels National Scout/Crosschecker, Jason Smith, sat down with the Sevwins team to discuss communication in the business of sport. Learning how to build lasting relationships with coaches, recruiters, and new people helps propel people through their careers. Jason Smith gives meaningful insight on how to showcase yourself in a professional and concise way that allows people to form lasting opinions you want them to form about you. 

Jason, describe your role as an MLB National Scout/Crosschecker and take us through your typical day.

To begin, Jason noted that he has been very lucky to be able to work with great people. Jason’s career is centered around baseball and he gets to search for, evaluate, meet with, and report on both high achieving amateur and professional baseball players. His work spreads not only throughout the United States, but internationally as well. Since Jason is working with people at an international standpoint, his days vary a lot. Often, he will be on a flight, coordinating with rental car services, and heading to the ballpark to begin assessing the players. Once the game is over, Jason takes all the information he gathered on players and reports back to his team just so he can hop on another flight and do it all again.

What do you focus on to grow as a person and a professional, and what is your approach like in conversing with new people?

While Jason spends most of his time in the baseball world, he enjoys spending free time challenging himself and learning about areas of expertise outside of baseball. He finds that reading different articles, books, and learning more about “all different facets of life and business” to be very beneficial. Jason always takes what he learns and applies it to real-life scenarios, which helps him in meeting new people. The first thing Jason tries to do when interacting with someone new is to find a common ground; something that they both have a vested interest in so he is able to create a bond and keep them engaged in their conversation. Another approach he has is to ask questions and to listen and show people that he cares about their responses. In his own words, Jason says that, “I think people want to make a difference, they want to be heard, and I want to hear them out.” Finally, Jason spoke about the importance of following up with new connections. It helps to send them a quick email or text message just to solidify that bond you have created.

Tell us about what is most important for high-level athletes and communication, and how it relates to their success.

The most important thing to Jason about athletes and communication is for everyone to be honest with themselves. It is human nature to form biases and opinions about others when they first meet, so being confident in who you are allows not only athletes, but anyone, to express the most important things about themselves to others in a clear and concise way. Many of the conversations Jason has with athletes are time sensitive, especially in his line of work. When Jason is meeting with a player as a scout, that player’s current coach might only give them 15-20 minutes to talk, which means he has to be prepared for what he wants them both to get out of the conversation. 

Jason also mentioned how word travels fast in today’s society. Whether there be a cheating scandal through professional or even amateur baseball, information spreads rapidly; especially with social media. There are more unexpected sources of communication than people anticipate because you do not normally think about who is listening behind the scenes and what they are going to spread. To tie it all back together, Jason thinks that it is in everyone’s best interest to remain truthful, honest with yourself, and to, “put your best foot forward to being concise in speaking so that there’s no miscommunication.”

Explain how you teach and how it translates into the world outside of professional sports. 

While Jason has spent 20 years working with professional baseball teams, he has not spent much time outside of professional sports, but ultimately feels as though his teaching style would be the same both in and out of sports. Without these basic, synonymous concepts of communication, breakdowns result. These breakdowns lead to misunderstandings, misrepresentations, and confusion in any aspect of life. In baseball, Jason knows when a shortstop is communicating with his second baseman about who will take the throw from the pitcher on a comebacker, but without knowing these things, there is chaos in the game. Jason believes that this same idea translates off the field too, so it is important to maintain open communication with friends, family, teachers, and anyone in between.

What would you recommend people do to work on their communication skills?

In his personal life, Jason tries to keep up with what is going on – whether that be LinkedIn, Twitter, or other forms of media. In scouting, Jason is constantly looking for the next person to take a spot on the team. Jason finds it very helpful when athletes he is scouting are looking to connect with him on LinkedIn or email, so he highlights that it is important to work at reaching out to people and maintaining relationships. Overall, the best advice Jason gives is to make your mark by going old-school. You can always pick up the phone and call someone or write them a letter, but it is most important to simply walk up to them and shake their hand. Allow your name and who you are to resonate with the people you meet by being personal.


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