Canterbury High School baseball coach Pat McMahon receives national honor for positive coaching

Pat McMahon, Canterbury High School baseball coach. (Photo courtesy Canterbury High School)

Canterbury High School baseball coach Pat “Bubba” McMahon will be in Palo Alto, Calif., this weekend to be honored for his positive connections.

McMahon is one of 50 national honorees, and the only one from Indiana, to receive the Positive Coaching Alliance’s Double-Goal Coach Award. The PCA award is intended to recognize coaches who strive to win while also teaching positive life lessons in their sports.

More than 20 letters of recommendation from former McMahon players bolstered the coach’s nomination, Canterbury athletic director Ken Harkenrider said.

That’s the “connection” – one that goes beyond a player’s four years of high school – that helps set McMahon apart.

“He makes a very, very deep connection with the kids,” Harkenrider said. “And it’s ongoing. You’ll be talking to him and he’ll say, ‘I was just talking to so and so,’ and he’s talking about a kid that graduated 15 years ago.”

McMahon is in his 28th year of coaching Canterbury baseball, a commitment he makes despite not being a teacher at the school. McMahon and his family own and operate McMahon Tire and Auto Care.

“(Practice and games) are the best two or three hours of the day,” McMahon said. “People say, ‘Isn’t it hard with your work?’ There are some sleepless nights. But it’s fun. If you can influence these kids, they need that, and we can make a difference.”

McMahon is the fourth Canterbury coach to be recognized over the years by the PCA. He and his wife, Kim, will make the trip to be part of the organization’s black-tie event on Saturday.

“It’s the coach who creates the environment,” Harkenrider said. “First and foremost, it’s establishing relationships with the kids. …You want them to know you have their best interests at heart and, in the end, the kid goes away saying ‘I’m glad I did that. It was a positive experience.’ Part of the reason for that was the coach.”

Before he was selected for the honor, McMahon was interviewed by members of the PCA, including longtime Major League Baseball player and manager Dusty Baker, who serves on the PCA’s national advisory board.

McMahon said it felt a bit like a job interview as the PCA board determined whether he was worthy of selection.

He talked about how he used to think it took the yelling and screaming style of coaching to get his point across. In working with Harkenrider as the school pursued the Positive Coaching Alliance route, McMahon said he has grown more and more comfortable in the culture established by the group.

He wants to win, just as much as ever. But he also wants to win a way in which players thrive as growing young men, too.

“There was a study that said something like 98 percent of people can’t name their first-grade teacher,” McMahon said. “But they can name their first coach.”

The key, as McMahon has shown, is to make that connection a positive one.