RELENTLESSNESS -I Will Give My Best Effort No Matter What; I Will Compete

All coaches are looking for signs of leadership and toughness from their players.  They’ll see these signs when their athletes truly understand what it means to give their best effort one pitch at a time.  So often, unfortunately, athletes allow the situation to keep them from this lofty goal.  Many don’t truly max out their effort until it’s perceived to be a particularly important game, opponent, or audience.  Some “gamers” coast along early in the contest and truly put out their best effort only when they fall behind or it’s close in the late innings.  Many push at the start, then coast if they get a lead.  Others quit working hard when way behind, subconsciously thinking that a comeback is too unlikely to deserve their best effort.  Most have a natural letdown when the opponent is perceived to be weak.

 

Coasting is not the only reason athletes fail to relentlessly give their best effort one pitch at a time. “Normal” competitors have trouble staying confident when things aren’t going well, and they don’t perform as well when they’re not confident.  Some athletes become negative when it’s too cold, too hot, too bumpy, too far, too dry, too wet, or too dirty — even though they know they give a better effort when they are positive and having fun.  Many lose intensity in particular situations, like a 3-0 count, 0-2 count, 2 outs and none on, or hitting with none on base (RBI lovers).  Some stop putting out their best effort when they perceive (whether it’s true or not) that the umpire, a teammate, or a coach is putting out less than his or her best effort.  Whatever the situation, all of these examples represent a lack of mental toughness, a lack of leadership by example, and a missed opportunity to practice giving another best effort performance.

 

Hopefully athletes learn the dangers of letting an inferior opponent hang around, the risks of taking any situation lightly, and the joys of walking through the door that the other team left open for a great comeback.  Hopefully athletes learn to compete one pitch at a time.  Ultimately, relentlessness is about controlling the controllables, and you can control giving your best effort one step at a time, each step of the way. When you don’t do this, your self-esteem suffers a little hit. When you do, you feel like a success regardless of the things going on around you that are outside of your control.

 

What about relentlessness at practice?  Andrew Carnegie said, “The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world tips its hat to those who devote more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.”

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GOALS

We all have goals, whether we realize it or not. Some simply act to avoid pain. Others move towards pleasure. A select few systematically set and use their goals to navigate themselves towards exactly what they want in life. Well-stated, monitored, and adjusted goals will help direct attention appropriately, provoke physical action on this focus, improve time management skills, and increase persistence. These goal directed behaviors are not always normal, so if where you’re headed isn’t normal or average either, actually writing down well-formed goals will help you achieve the EXTRAordinary.

 

Short-term (under a year) goals should have six characteristics. They should be SMART and controllable. That is, they should be [S]pecific, [M]easureable, [A]ttractive, [R]ealistic, [T]imed, and Controllable.  It will not, in and of itself, help me to say that I want to be great. I need to define greatness specifically, in controllable and measurable terms. Then I must choose a level that is both attractive and realistic, and a date by which I will reach this level. For example, a softball hitter may commit to having quality at-bats two-thirds of the time by April 1– where a quality at-bat is one where she sees each pitch well, makes all good decisions about whether or not to swing, and then either gets a base hit, advances a runner (when trying more to advance the runner than get a base hit), or hit the ball very hard.

 

Short-term goals must be monitored and adjusted. This is what separates the goal setting process from setting New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions are usually set on January 1 and forgotten about by January 15. Adjusting goals so that they remain both attractive and realistic is critical to maintain motivation and prevent frustration. This monitoring process will also keep goals relevant and help increase awareness of what controllable factors (behaviors) are working and should be repeated, and which are not and should be changed. Key point: goal setting is an ongoing process, not a one-time thing.
Formal daily and/or weekly goal setting as described has been consistently shown to increase the quality of a person’s behavior and outcomes. This is true across the board, plus this process is particularly powerful for people who have or had Attention Deficit Disorder. Despite this, following this procedure is rare. If you decide to invest the time into goal setting and commit to your goals (rather than just being interested in them), give yourself a pat on the back. If you want some forms to make this monitoring process easier, email Coach Traub at aaron@CoachTraub.com and he’ll send them to you – free (or buy his book – it’s in there).

 

Aaron Weintraub has been coaching athletes for 19 years, 13 of which he spent as a college baseball coach. He is a disciple of the late, great Harvey Dorfman, who wrote The Mental Game of Baseball and other books.

 

Weintraub published his own book, Coaches Guide to Winning the Mental Game, in 2009 and added An Elite Athlete’s Manual for Training Mental Skills in 2011.

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Friends don’t let friends “squish the bug!”

In teaching hitting, one of the most common teaching cues I hear coaches of young players using is, “squash the bug”.  What the instructor wants is the young hitter to rotate on their back foot during the swing in a motion similar to how you would squash a bug under the ball of your foot. I want to, once and for all, state that “squashing the bug” is NOT a good hitting mechanic.

 

I understand why it works at the younger age levels – young hitters are usually weak in the upper body and coaches see this technique as a way to increase strength (and bat speed) especially off the hitting tee.  When a player squishes the bug their hips get involved in the swing and generate more power. The problem is that this method of early hip turn can happen before the front foot is completely planted and the full stride is taken.  This can be limiting for their development long term.  In fact – if you are “squishing the bug” it means you still have a substantial amount of weight (and energy) on the back foot before your hips are used.  In “squashing the bug” usually the player lands their front toe, turns their hips and then lands the heel of their front foot. Do you know what this causes? It causes a player’s front shoulder to open prematurely and then we yell at our hitters, “Don’t pull your front shoulder out”, which is exactly what the result of “squashing the bug” is – just try it. Get in a batting stance – take a stride but don’t transfer your weight – now squish the bug with your back foot and low and behold your front shoulder must come out early and we all know that is bad mechanics!

 

See the pictures below, and I can find hundreds more, of major league ball players and high level softball players and you will not see one hitter “squashing the bug”.

 

So if the concept of “squashing the bug” with the back foot is incorrect, then what should you teach? Think front shoulder to the pitcher longer and have your hitters land their front heel before they get aggressively engage their hips. Have players focus on hitting balls back up the middle of the field rather than pulling everything.   We will cover more of the correct mechanics to teach in future blogs.

 

There are a lot of hitting philosophies out there and I have seen a lot of hitters with “bad mechanics” get hits.  But, as the competition gets better the best possible mechanics are my goal. Do you teach your players to be average, or do you want them to be the best? Strive for mechanics that give your player the best chance of success at the highest level.  Remember, we want to take the bugs out of our hitter’s mechanics not bring them in.

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To Play or Not to Play, High school softball that is!

By: Kim Gwydir – Former D1 Softball Coach and Founder FPOS

 

I am often asked a couple questions about the importance of playing high school softball.  The first question is generally, “How important is high school softball when it comes to recruiting?” The answer is – not very much. College coaches, unless they are from local area, do not go to high school softball games because they are normally in their own season.  Also, college coaches now that high school statistics are considered unreliable and can be inflated at times by coaches wanting their players to get end of season awards.

 

I will say, as a college coach it would raise a flag if I did not see a player, that I am recruiting receive an end of year award(s) such as Offensive Player-of-the-Year, Pitcher of the Year,  All-County or  even All-State. I want to believe I was recruiting one on the best players in the area, so in a small way it does matter. The next question is, “If it is not that big a deal should my daughter even play high school softball?” To me the answer is, yes, they should.  Every girl should play softball for their high school.  It raised even a bigger red flag when a player did not play high school softball because I would begin to question if this player could have a lack of leadership or socially has trouble getting along with other players. In my mind, high school softball is meant for the players who will not play in college, as it is the highest level they will reach and probably their last softball experience.  However, players who plan on playing softball in college need to use the high school season as an opportunity to become a better leader and make the other players around them better.  You have a chance to be a role model for younger players aspiring to play in college and demonstrate to them what being a leader and team mate is about.  As well, there is the factor of pride and playing and representing your high school in the best possible way.  Yes, playing in college can be the end goal, but, remember that even at that level you are playing for the university or college you attend and the pride of doing so should be very important.

 

I am also asked, “Do you think there are reasons not to play in high school?”  Yes, I do.  I have heard some horror stories of the treatment of players where I can totally understand why they wouldn’t want to play in high school. It is one thing to be a tough coach but there is a line between trying to get more out of your players and being abusive. Each family has to make their own decision in this case.  The important thing, when asked, is that a player has to be able to articulate why they are not playing.

 

Another reason I like high school softball is because it is one of the few opportunities players have today to compete for something.   What I mean, is that even though travel or select teams playing in the summer are playing to qualify for their national tournament, there is a “showcase mentality” that can set in – this is where players are guaranteed a certain amount of games in a weekend and it is more about your own statistics than whether the team wins. In high school you play every game to win.  There is district, conference, state championships and there are elimination games.  Reaching these goals as team are important as players grow and understand the team concept.  These accomplishments and the chance to win a state championship are experiences players will not forget no matter what they do in the future.

 

Ultimately, it’s your decision to play or not to play, but consider all the positives that can be learned from the experience.

 

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