New York Yankees Manager Aaron Boone, who begins his first season calling the shots today, has gotten a good amount of grief for landing the top spot without having any prior coaching experience. But, as Boston.com pointed out, that is simply untrue: Boone spent the past five years as defensive coordinator for the Scottsdale Steelers, his hometown’s youth flag football team.
Boone had a solid career in the majors, playing 12 years for such teams as the Reds, Yankees, and Indians. And since his retirement from professional baseball in 2010, he worked as a broadcaster and analyst for ESPN, so there’s no doubt that he understands the game. But coaching experience? Well, that’s where flag football comes in.
Boone, who played football throughout high school, told Boston.com that he’d always had “romanticized thoughts” about coaching high school football, so when the chance to coach the Steelers came about, he couldn’t say no. “I thought it would be fun.,” he said. “We had the same nucleus of kids every year and their parents, and it kind of snowballed.”
Still, being the manager of an MLB team is hardly the same as coaching youth flag-football…right? Well, maybe not. The same skills that Boone demonstrated on the football field will help him at Yankee Stadium. Mark Tapley, Boone’s co-coach on the Steelers, says the team is “all business,” on the field, and he notes how Boone’s calm and supportive demeanor is a huge part of their success.
“Aaron was calm. He’s observed. He’s not a yeller and a screamer by any means.” said Tapley before noting that coaching with Boone “made me a better person.”
While everybody wants to win, Boone’s primary preoccupation seemed to be molding his players into confident athletes and people. Boone also took a very individual interest in his players, often texting parents with updates about how their child is feeling and improving on and off the field.
“I really enjoyed trying to help them not only deal with success, because we were usually a good team, but also how do we react when we lose?,” said Boone. “How do we play when it’s hard, when you throw an interception or when a team is having its way with you?”
So no, it’s not Boone’s impressive coaching resume that landed him a job with the Yankees. It’s his baseball pedigree, yes, but also ability to connect with players, relax them, and bring the best out of them that’s helped put him at the helm of one of the most successful sports franchises of all time. Will he able to replicate that connection with millionaire athletes? Only time will tell.