Becoming a successful coach takes hard work, sacrifice, a little luck, and sometimes even a leap of faith. Eric Borba took that leap when he decided to leave the successful program he built from 2004-08 at De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., and take the head coaching position at Orange (California) Lutheran High School.
Over 13 years, Borba has proven himself to be an elite coach in high school baseball. He’s amassed a 160-74-1 record and two Trinity League championships in his eight seasons at Orange Lutheran. He’s led the Lancers to appearances at the USA Baseball National High School Invitational (NHSI) in 2012 and 2014. Borba has had four players sign professional contracts and 22 players sign Division 1 baseball scholarships under his tutelage.
Borba had the privilege of working for high school powerhouse De La Salle before transitioning to Orange Lutheran. His first stop set him up for success at his current position.
“I think the easiest part of the transition was that I had worked in a very competitive parochial school for five years at De La Salle, so I had a good understanding of how I wanted to approach the program at Orange Lutheran,” he said. “We all learn from experiences and mistakes made through them, so I was able to use those experiences to establish a set of philosophies that would help us be successful.”
Along with previous experience, athletes are what make or break programs at most levels. Borba has an eye for talent and an interesting X-factor when projecting success beyond high school.
“The obvious identifier is talent, but even more is recognizing the kids that have the ‘it’ factor that is necessary for a collegiate or professional athlete,” he said. “These young men have to have a passion and a determination that they are willing to put in the time day-in and day-out. Being a ball player is more than just going to the field to compete. It is all of the little things off the field that prepare them to go compete at the highest level.”
America’s game, America’s team
One of the highlights of Borba’s career was being able to coach the 2016 12U National team, saying there’s nothing quite like wearing “USA” across your chest.
“Baseball is America’s game, and coaching kids overseas is almost surreal, even to this day. Every time I look at the jersey or hear the national anthem, I pause and think about how blessed I am to have had this opportunity.”
One of the toughest age groups to coach is high school athletes, and Borba fully realizes the challenges that face him year after year.
“Without a doubt the biggest challenge is trying to instill that ‘team first’ mentality in each of them,” he said. “These kids are growing up in an era that highlights self. They go to showcases and play with outside clubs that provide a platform to highlight their own individual talents. The increasing pressure that has been created through early college committing has really made the mental game even tougher than before.”
Through the years, Borba has learned many things, but his biggest piece of advice is to find a sound philosophy as a coach and understand the importance of character as an athlete.
“Coaches need to create an environment that promotes not only skill development and wins, but also one that prepares their players for life,” he said. “Be sure to re-evaluate those philosophies regularly, as there are times where we must adapt to meet the needs of our players. Aspiring players need to understand the importance of character. They need to commit to developing their skill set but also need to commit to being a good team guy. We, as coaches, want winners … guys who are going to find a way to be successful, even when the odds are against them.”
Success over time is no easy feat, but Borba has shown that he has what it takes to be an elite coach wherever he goes.