For Paul Mainieri, the 2013 season can’t get here soon enough. Mainieri begins this season with a team that is full of great speed, defense, and different lineup variations. In a sense, this is the type of team that Mainieri has been looking to build ever since the NCAA imposed regulations on the bats, thus nearly taking power out of the equation for a typical college offense.
However, Mainieri believes that while all of those things are great to have on a team, the one necessity is good leadership within a program. Heading into 2013, Mainieri is lucky enough to have all of those things, and a great senior class.
“[Raph] Rhymes, [Mason] Katz, [Chris] Cotton, [Joey] Bourgeios, [Kevin] Berry, I could go on and on,” said Mainieri. “All of the seniors here are great leaders for us. I don’t care how good of a coach you think you are, or what kind of preparation and execution you have. If you don’t good leadership among the ranks, then you have no chance for success.”
With so many leaders within one program, the chances of success have to be pretty high. Mainieri explained that after he set the framework for what he expected from his leaders, the rest of what is to happen is up to them.
“I do everything that I can do to teach the guys what it takes to be a good leader early on,” said Mainieri. “I want the guys to take ownership of the team, because this isn’t about us as coaches. This group has done a tremendous job of this. This is about the players and this is their team.”
Even though LSU has been pretty successful in recent years, Mainieri explained that it is all part of the process. At the foundation of that process is the development of high character players that are eager to learn from one another.
Also, while the 2013 squad is primed for another successful run, Mainieri explained that it has been quite some time in the making.
“A team is one year,” said Mainieri. “A program is an ongoing process. You hope that the younger players learn from the more veteran guys. That is when you have consistency in a program.”
Surprisingly, veteran players aren’t the only leaders on this year’s team. A couple of new faces to the team, and the starting lineup, are expected to step up big this year, after their work ethic was noticed early on.
“I don’t think players need to wait until later to be leaders,” said Mainieri. “Everyone is a leader by example. Mark Laird and Alex Bregman will definitely be leaders of this team, regardless of them being freshmen.”
Throughout the week leading up to the opening weekend, most LSU seniors have been asked what it means to be starting their final season in a Tiger uniform. While most will reflect on their time around the campus and the program, Mainieri said their general attitude is much more focused on the task at hand.
“They don’t want to get all nostalgic on things because they are just focused on their roles and doing their jobs,” said Mainieri. “They just want to win games and get to Omaha so badly. That is their only focus heading into the opening game this weekend.”
Because the 2013 squad is ripe with players that know their roles, Mainieri believes that several players from the 2012 team are responsible for instilling the leadership beliefs in the younger players.
“I thought we had great leadership for the last four seasons with guys like [Austin] Nola and [Tyler] Hanover,” said Mainieri. “We had a good year last year and I think that transferred the leadership over to this team pretty effectively.”