MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL CASE STUDY
FROM THE BALLPARK TO THE CLASSROOM
STRENGTHENING TEAMS THROUGH LANGUAGE TRAINING
The 2017 Major League Baseball season opened with a record high number of foreign-born players. In the major leagues alone, now consist of 29.8% of players born outside of the 50 US states. The Dominican Republic and Venezuela are just a few countries where this talent is coming from. Due to this, LTC is tasked with some unique MLB communication challenges.
Building a winning team can be challenging enough when all players can communicate effectively. Try adding in linguistic and cultural barriers and this only serves to increase that difficulty. In such an intensive and fast-paced environment as professional sports, reliance on the use of interpreters and translators to bridge these barriers can drag a team down, and cost them precious time they could be using to improve skills and build necessary team cohesion.
One franchise recognized these challenges and sought a solution. The San Francisco Giants partnered with LTC Language Solutions to design a program aimed at not only eliminating the language barriers of their Latin players, but building a culturally competent team.
“We knew we needed to provide the tools that Latin players needed to be able to communicate and further their careers,” said Laura Nunez, Coordinator of Education and Cultural Development. “That’s the biggest motivator for us, because communication skills definitely open doors to make the necessary adjustments faster.”
The culture surrounding baseball provides a unique learning environment, so the team set out to develop a program that would be the right fit. They had a clear vision for what an effective language program might look like for them; “Clear objectives, effective instruction, and tailoring the classes to fit [the players’] needs and learning style.”
Before implementing each program, the team works together in defining objectives. The curriculum is then designed around these objectives, with regular evaluation to make sure the program stays on track.
As for effective instruction, LTC pairs instructors who bring a wealth of knowledge and a unique blend of experiences with them. LTC’s focus on communicative instruction methods helps with the skills needed by players most; the ability to understand direction and communicate back with coaches and teammates. “The instructors that are working with us are motivated,” said Laura. “I find that they adapt quickly and can apply their knowledge from previous experience to where it’s really needed in the classroom.”
The instructional environment is unique not only because of the content, but also because of the students found within the program. Many players are newly arrived from their native country, and are experiencing what it’s like to live away from home for the first time. Not only does this bring cultural challenges, but also makes connection with their peers and instructor that much more essential.
“That human component that the instructors bring is a great asset to the program for the players, when they’re on their island on road trips with their team. Having someone outside of baseball is a great outlet for them to learn and build connections,” Laura said.
CUSTOM PROGRAMS AND LESSONS
The customized and tailored approach to language training has also seen great success in the program. As Laura puts it, “[The players are] kids at heart. They’re very visual. Interaction, energy, movement all work really well for them.” Providing students with training that matches their preferred learning style, while tapping into their interests, keeps them engaged in the learning environment.
With the availability of so many different technological tools to enhance instruction, the team knew this would be an important focus in their program. Utilization of tools such as video, interactive whiteboards, listening exercises and mobile applications bring relevance to lessons. “It’s had a huge impact on [the players’] learning process,” said Laura. “It makes the lessons so much more interesting, and keeps the players guessing what will happen next.”
This carefully designed approach to language instruction not only keeps the players excited to come to class and learn, but has also shown to be a success. Of the participating students, the team has seen a significant increase in the number of players now communicating fluently in English. Even of the students not quite considered bilingual, there have been noticeable improvements to their communication skills.
These skills have brought improvements not just to individual players, but across the entire organization. Therefore, teamwork comes easier. Coaches are able to spend their time coaching, rather than figuring out how to express their points. Players are appreciative of the new opportunities available to them with their new language skills.
“There is a great sense of improvement from coaches and players. Everyone is communicating better,” Laura told us. “As a result, teamwork and appreciation of culture [has] brought them that much closer.”
Better team communication allows each player to meet their highest potential. Improved language skills open doors to new relationships and new opportunities that in return build strong, tenacious teams. Lives are changed through meaningful connections. After all, baseball is all about bringing people together.