Willis discusses life, baseball with Rotarians
CROWLEY – Jeff Willis knows that baseball is a reflection of life with many ups and downs, and he tries to instill that idea and many other important life lessons on his players each season.
Willis, who is the coach of the LSUE Bengals baseball team and the schools athletic director, spoke to the Rotary Club of Crowley Tuesday about the many ideals he tries to instill in his players each year.
“I always enjoy coming speak to groups like yourself, whether it be Rotary or the Lions Club or the Kiwanis Club, because it is backbone of society,” he said.
Willis deals with 18- to 20-year-olds from various walks of life on a daily basis and understands that getting them to understand that anyone can leave a positive legacy.
Willis spoke about how his teams’ on the field successes over the years are not what his or his teams’ biggest goals.
For example, the current roster of Bengals, which are ranked first in the state and hold a 28-2 record, set their top goal as averaging a 3.2 GPA.
“You have to understand, the players we have playing for us, several are going to SEC schools, several are going to be Major League Baseball draft picks,” said Willis. “And for a group of guys like that to come up with that mindset says a lot about their character.
“I am very proud of those guys.”
The team achieved a 3.24 GPA in the fall semester.
The good, small class atmosphere coupled with the successes of the Bengals over the years, has also led to LSUE becoming a prime landing spot for many south Louisiana baseball players.
“When you hear junior college, I don’t want you to think that any high school kid can just walk in and play,” said Willis. “Last week we had two of our former players leading the SEC in almost all of the offensive categories.
“We’ve also had 39 draft picks in the last eight years. The schools in the state that have done that, LSU, Tulane, UL-Lafayette and us.
“Most of our players are from south Louisiana, and no matter his background, white collar or blue collar, it seems they always have a blue collar work ethic.”
The hard work on and off the field is one of Willis’ biggest ideals he talks to his team about. He believes that if you give your best effort in everything and if the players want to win at everything they do, they can expect and deserve good things to happen to them.
Willis also stressed the importance of remembering that respect is not given, it is earned, something he has seen a lot in the young people he has had to deal with over the years. He’s also seen how much parenting has changed over the years.
“I’ve seen it evolve from the mindset that sometimes the parent has to be the bad guy to nowadays the parent wants to be the best friend with the children,” he said. “That is what is changing our society. I see it, and I know you see it as well.”
Changing that is not an easy task, but helping instill the values of yesterday in today’s younger generation is an important step.
Willis knows that these things are also what many in the Rotary Club believe in, but feels its important to pass them to the younger generation.
“Our younger generation does not see the values that we see,” he said.
All things combined and more, according to Willis, can help these players leave a positive imprint in the lives of others and help them each to become a great person. It is also these principles that Willis has built the LSUE baseball program around.
“No one is ever going to be able to tell how good our teams have been over at LSU Eunice until 10, 15 years down the road when we find out what these young men turn out to be,” he said. “That’s when we’ll find out what kind of fathers these men have become and what kind of husbands these men have become, and that is what will tell us what kind of teams we have had.”