Bertman urges positivity, progress to SCIA members

Thinks he’s a dreamer
June 16, 2015
Laf. battle bloody but forgotten
June 16, 2015
Thinks he’s a dreamer
June 16, 2015
Laf. battle bloody but forgotten
June 16, 2015

Legendary LSU baseball coach Skip Bertman is in Omaha right now, rooting on his beloved Tigers as they chase the coveted College World Series Championship.

But before he boarded his plane and flew out to the plains of Omaha, Nebraska, he was busy giving encouragement to business leaders throughout the Houma-Thibodaux area.

Bertman spoke at the South Central Industrial Association meeting on Thursday night – an event that took place at the Cypress Columns in Gray.

A brief power outage at the banquet hall interrupted Bertman’s address. But once back on the stage, the Hall of Fame coach supplied his share of electricity, telling stories of his past and urging those in attendance to always give a honest day’s effort to attain success.

“What I did as a coach and an athletic director is similar to what you do, honest to God,” Bertman said during his address. “The fundamentals are the same. You get there early and you stay late. You have a sense of urgency, a great attention to detail and you take pride in your training. You lead your team, and of course, you serve the people. … That’s what we do. We help, we motivate, we service people and we can’t be afraid to fail.”

Failure is not something that Bertman had to deal with often throughout his 36 seasons as a baseball coach and seven-plus more as an athletic director.

A Detroit, Michigan-born boy with dreams of the Florida sun, Bertman played college baseball at the University of Miami from 1958-60, serving as an outfielder and catcher for the Hurricanes.

After earning a bachelor’s and later a master’s from Miami, Bertman got into coaching as the head baseball coach at Miami Beach High School – the program that started his ascent up the coaching ladder.

In 11 seasons at the prep level, Bertman won a state championship and was the Florida state runner-up twice. That success got him involved in the college game in 1976 when he became the Associate Head Coach at his alma mater.

After eight seasons in that post, he took over LSU’s team in 1984. During his nearly two-decade stint, he transformed the Tigers into the premier program in college baseball, winning five College World Series Titles and accumulating an 870-330-3 record.

Bertman served as LSU’s Athletic Director from 2001-08, and is now a member of the Miami Sports Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

The baseball diamond at LSU’s Alex Box Stadium is now called “Skip Bertman Field” in commemoration of the esteemed head coach.

Bertman said the key to succeeding in baseball or any other endeavor is overcoming the poison of mediocrity and striving to be great.

The longtime coach told a story of his earliest days at LSU, touting that the team’s players never had experienced success because they were OK with being a middle of the pack team.

Getting past that hurdle, Bertman said, was the biggest challenge he ever faced at LSU. Once expectations were changed, the success became easy, he said.

“They were so mediocre and they liked it there,” Bertman said. “They just enjoyed it so much. If they’d win 25 games and lose 25 games, nobody would care. They didn’t think they were special. They didn’t think they could handle that pressure. ‘If I were special or if I could handle that pressure, I’d be in New York or California,’ they’d tell me. And of course, I’d tell them back that they were silly.”

Bertman said the same challenges are in place within business, and that once a CEO, executive or even an entry-level worker accepts that he or she can make progress, they can then better their lives and also make things better for everyone around them.

“You can be better than you were last year in many aspects,” Bertman said to the crowd. “People don’t get 10 percent better in a year. Maybe it’s 1 percent, 3 percent or maybe even 5. You can do that. Perfection is tough. … But focus on small and steady increments. You can do that right here. Focus on where you can improve. Think about something that’s small, but steady and going upward constantly. People respect that. You don’t have to be perfect. Nobody’s that. But you can be better. And that’s the challenge you have to accept.”

Longtime LSU baseball coach Skip Bertman talks to SCIA members during a banquet last week. The esteemed coach urged SCIA members to push forward and seek progress.