Be the Victor: The Philosophy of Corey Koskie
Image courtesy of 2004 Topps Heritage 174 Corey KoskieCorey Koskie was in a pickle. The fan-favorite retired Twins third baseman was retired and cutting his teeth in the business world as a Planet Fitness franchisee in the Twin Cities. And while the Manitoba native made a name for himself in Twins Territory for his smooth lefty swing, things weren't going as smooth in the office.
“My first couple of years at Planet Fitness were terrible, I was a bad leader,” Koskie recalled. “I had a high attrition rate of employees. The difference between being a leader in business instead of youth sports or a family is that in business they can fire you.”
Leadership was a passion for Koskie. Yet it seemed like the train was falling off the tracks. That changed one night after a conversation with a close friend.
“I was complaining to a buddy about how I had a high turnover rate. He said 'there’s one common denominator between all these issues, it’s you Corey’. Before you try and fix other people and fix the world you need to fix yourself.”
That mantra stuck with Koskie in the business world, but more importantly rings true in another sector of his life; coaching. After nine years in the MLB and a healthy stint in the business world, Koskie continues his love of baseball at the helm of the Providence Academy High School baseball program.
Raised on a farm in Manitoba, baseball was an appetizer amongst an entrée of other sports for Koskie at a young age.
“Hockey was my favorite sport, volleyball was my best sport, and baseball was what I used to pass the time between those seasons," Koskie said. “It was something that we just played to pass time with buddies.”
The young, talented volleyball-hockey crossover didn’t embed himself into the competitive baseball world until his late teens followed by college baseball in Boone, Iowa. That was followed by an appearance at the National Baseball Institute in Canada that blossomed into a roster spot on the national team and Koskie being drafted by the Twins in 1994.
Still, baseball found a way into Koskie’s life from a young age, as he looked up to Blue Jay greats like Kelly Gruber, Tony Fenandez, and Devon White.
“I grew up on a farm, and we had three television stations, one channel was the French channel, and so most nights I’d have the Blue Jays on the English channel and the Expos on the French channel,” Koskie recalled.
“They're Yelling the Wrong Things”
A father of four boys, coaching became a reality for Koskie following his career in the MLB. However, it didn’t come to fruition as he would have imagined.
“Growing up I was going to be one of those dads who sat in silence and watched his kid’s game. That lasted about two weeks when I heard all these other dads screaming at the kids,” Koskie said.
And while Koskie didn’t enjoy watching other parents yell at his kids, he was more inclined to what they were saying.
“If there’s anyone that’s going to scream at my kids it’s going to be me, and on top of that, they were screaming the wrong stuff," Koskie said. “I was frustrated with that, interjected myself and got into coaching.”
With the 2019 high school baseball season scrapped due to COVID-19, Koskie will make his head coaching debut for Providence Academy this upcoming spring. It won’t be his first rodeo, as Koskie has coached over 100 different youth hockey and baseball teams.
A Community of Trust
For Koskie, coaching youth and high school baseball has a hierarchy. One, develop the person, two, develop the athlete, and three, develop the baseball player. Those three things co-exist in a community that Koskie believes is bound in trust.
“A player needs to feel like you have their back and that you love them. No matter what happens you need to love them in all scenarios and they need to know that your love isn't dependent on their performance,” Koskie said.
That sense of community is one that Koskie shared with names like Torii Hunter and Shannon Stewart as he paved his way to the big leagues alongside them.
“It’s fun because we’d known each other a long time and it’s great to see all your brothers playing ball,” Koskie said.
From his time at Planet Fitness and hours upon hours of reading about leadership Koskie learned that motivation isn’t external, it’s intrinsic and has to be found within an individual. As a coach he strives to create an environment of motivation and exploration by eliminating the barriers of external stress that players often feel.
“You have to take off the handcuffs and allow them to play the game freely; there’s all these pressures that they put on themselves, the game puts on them, their parents. You’ve got to put them in an environment where they feel safe to explore,” Koskie said.
Through that environment Koskie hopes that his players feel safe to explore, be themselves, and evolve as better baseball players and human beings.
“I don’t like robots, I don’t want to tell them everything they need to do, they need to explore and play the game,” Koskie said. “That happens in a high trust environment.”
Victor, not Victim
When looking back at his relationship with baseball Koskie cherishes the opportunity that he’s had to see the game from multiple perspectives. He’s played the game at the highest level, coached hundreds of youth athletes, and has had the unique experience of swapping out the ‘dad’ and ‘coach’ hat while coaching and parenting his own sons.
At the end of the day, Koskie hopes that his leadership instills resilience and tenancy in the lives’ that he has touched.
“We live in a society of victimhood. I try to counter that with being the philosophy of being a victor,” Koskie said. “It's easy to point fingers and be the victim, but how do you face adversity and become the victor?”
If there’s anyone that knows what facing adversity on the field, workplace, or life looks life, it's Koskie. Through his experiences his philosophy creates an environment of growth on the diamond and in life.
“One of the hardest things to do is to look yourself in the mirror and say I screwed up, I need to be better. It’s the true champions in life that are able to fight through the adversity and become the victor.”
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