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Swing Smarter's The Dugout, Issue #017 -- Revealing the biggest mistake Coaches Make
April 15, 2010
Hi,

Welcome to The Dugout, "Hitting Baseballs from the Neck Up." Here's what to expect from this month's issue...

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction to this Month's Issue
  2. On Deck for Next Month's The Dugout
  3. Please Share the Wealth
  4. This Issue's Heart of the Line-Up
  5. Surprise BONUS Thought of the Day
  6. Heads Up! Concern of the Month


INTRODUCTION TO THIS MONTH'S ISSUE...

(Whole article word count is 3,932 with an average reading time of 15 minutes & 45 seconds)

Issue #017 begins our 3-Part Series on WINNING. Once again, this month we'll draw from Bob Bennett's priceless kernels of knowledge, and of course, our own experiences. Here's a little snip-et of Coach Bennett's resume:

What if you could learn from a coach who would run 4-7 miles everyday (in his 70's BTW), write poetry, coached at the Division 1 college level for 34 years and won over 1,300 of those games, which is an average of over 38 wins per season out of about 55-60 games, he was a NCAA Coach of the Year, U.S.A. National Team head coach, his 1988 team played in the College World Series, he coached the likes of Mark Gardner, Bobby Jones, Jeff Weaver, Tom Goodwin, Steve Hosey, and guys I played with signing multi million dollar contracts still playing in the minor league system, former scout with 3 Major League teams, former all-star catcher at Fresno State, AND coached high school baseball? Whew...what a mouth full, and I didn't take a breath the whole time!

Some of the topics we discuss in this issue:

  • Focusing on the possibilities of success,
  • Learning to identify distractions,
  • Using energy only on the priorities which achieve success,
  • Consistent and systematic evaluations,
  • Paying attention to details,
  • Correcting even slight drops in interest,
  • Avoiding alibis,
  • Killing lazy thoughts and habits with extra effort,
  • Simplifying procedures,
  • Taking charge of the game's rhythm, and
  • Playing in the NOW.

Don't miss it!

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ON DECK FOR NEXT MONTH'S THE DUGOUT...

We're going to wrap up our 3-Part Series on WINNING with a dramatic close from the book The Mental Game of Baseball: A Guide to Peak Performance, by H.A. Dorfman and Karl Kuehl.

We'll look into what Coach Vince Lombardi meant by saying, "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing." And how most talking heads get his intent wrong. We'll delve into doing things "right" as opposed to what it means to be a player who constantly cuts corners.

We'll go into how WINNERS make a choice...a few snippets:

  • To get something out of all situations, rather than complain about them.
  • To hustle, rather than dog it.
  • To be prepared, rather than just show up.
  • To be consistent, rather than occasional.
  • To be early, rather than just on time--or late.
  • To want to learn, rather than want to explain or excuse.

I'm going to say it right now, even though people would like to believe it, WINNING isn't for everyone. In fact, only a slim percentage of players (1%) can call themselves winners. They are the ones who in an all out sprint are given 5 seconds left, and they stubbornly push themselves harder through those last 5. Whereas the loser always says, I'll start slowing down now, this is "good enough."

Tune into next month because we're going to tackle some controversial topics and mindsets...

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Let's get started with this month's issue, shall we...

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THE ISSUE'S HEART OF THE LINE-UP...

Brandy Chastain Winning

(This section is 2,100 words with an average read time of 8 minutes and 30 seconds)

Here's a catch-up of the 1st WINNING article of three drawing from Coach Bennett's second-to-none coaching style...

When I played under Coach, we were ranked in the Top 25 my Frosh and Sophomore years, and even with mediocre talent my Junior year we still finished 5 games over .500. Coach has a knack for making men out of boys, he's NOT one of those coaches who seeks already developed players, so he could just sit back, put baseball on autopilot, and be a Lazy Coach.

Absolutely NOT...he recruits boys he can develop into baseball men, because he loves the challenge, which is how the game is suppose to be for all young college adult males...34 years he did this!

If there's one thing Coach is an expert at, it's WINNING.

Here are some of the Coach Bennett-isms I took from his leaflet titled, "Championship Play," I received during one of our pre-season triple days my Freshman year at State. I'm paraphrasing most of it and adding in a few things I picked up from him along the way, so the following article is a hodge-podge of quotations and regurgitated in-our-own-words.

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There are 21 factors Coach Bennett talks about that are needed to play at a heightened state of play, and

I'm definitely NOT going to take away from Coach Bennett's message here, however I am going organize his thoughts into three main categories and it's circle of subcategories to be more succinct and concise to his main ideas and concepts about WINNING and being a part of the top 1%. Those include...

  • Preparation & Planning
  • Game Rhythm, AND
  • A Player's Self Awareness.

Preparation & Planning
We all know there can only be one overall winner during a season, so what does that one team, or at least the other teams going the distance into regional, super regional, and World Series births, do that others teams on the losing end don't?

"Failing to plan, means planning to fail."

So, according to Coach Bennett, we must do 6 things extremely well (subcategories), if we want to compete like an elite team:

  1. Focus ONLY on the Possibilities of Success,
  2. Learn How to Identify Distractions,
  3. Be very Attentive to Details,
  4. Simplify Objectives,
  5. Play One Pitch at a Time, and doing all this while
  6. Avoiding Alibis.

Focus ONLY on the Possibilities of Success
In Coach Bennett's words we have to think in terms of "great" possibilities, how to win, how to accomplish successful activities, how the feeling will be to accomplish them, and how many possibilities there are toward achieving success.

We waste too much brain power dwelling on the negative aspects of losing, being on the defensive, and NOT having the proper take charge attitude to control the tempo of the game. There are quite a few ways to win, we just have to find the right combo that's right for our team.

Learn How to Identify Distractions
The first thing we must do is figure out "What" it is that distracts us? If we stop there, then we're like all other teams...the last critical piece is learning how to eliminate or overcome those distractions.

Distractions come in all shapes and sizes: rowdy fans, off-color media attention, cleat chasers, pompous parents or coaches, other teammates, etc. We had a distracting player my Senior year at State (who is a Major Leaguer now BTW), and finally one of my other teammates got so fed up with his idiocracies, he popped him in the mouth...that was the end of that.

Be very Attentive to Details
"Off Time" for a player during a game should consist of: preparation, recognition, learning, and competing...NOT grab ass. We should be picking up on fine details like the pitcher tipping off pitches, signs he may be going to the plate giving us an edge on the base paths, and what kind of pattern the pitcher is revealing, etc.

Baseball has a lot of down time, so it's very easy to get lazy or complacent. Coach Bennett is a very details oriented guy, and took offense to guys laughing and joking in the dugout...we do need to be loose to play well, but there's a time and a place for that, so use those times strategically.

Simplify Game Objectives
Use the 80/20 Principal to game day objectives...what 20% of game activities will net you 80% of WINNING results? Always Keep It Simple, that's one of the golden rule in baseball, the harder we make things seem, the more we think, the more likely our game goes in the crapper.

It's just a game, treat it like one ;)

Play One Pitch at a Time
Don't get caught up in past at-bats or fall into the trap of anticipating future ones, for that matter. We should always be taking one step at a time. The best story I heard was a blind man who scaled Mount Everest...as he was climbing the world's tallest mountain, in the real world people see this man's disability as a hindrance to daily life, but being blind actually helped him because he couldn't see what was above or below him, only what he could grab onto at that moment in time.

So play as if we were blind to the past and future, and be in the NOW. Past mistakes should be dealt with immediately, then let go. To be a great ball player we must have the attention span of a gnat.

Avoiding Alibis
Most losing teams have a bunch of guys who do the opposite of this. They place blame on anyone they can lay an eyeball on instead of looking into themselves and taking responsibility for their actions.

Coach Bennett says to first, identify the problem/issue, then to admit to it, have the desire to correct it, and utilize a quick and ready effort to get back on track.

Moving onto the...

Second category to WINNING according to Coach, Game Rhythm, and its 5 subcategories:

  1. Become & Feel the Game,
  2. Take an Action Step (both Physical & Mental),
  3. Take Charge, and
  4. Tune into Self.

Become & Feel the Game
Play a part in the tempo of the game, and work like heck to get the tempo on your side. Most times than not, the football team with the most "Time of Possession" at the end of the game is the winner, because they're controlling the tempo.

Examine the game, size it up, sense its rhythm, and enjoy the parts as well as the whole. The game has a pulse and the best players are fantastic at playing Doctor, they seem to be efficient at checking its blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, etc., then create a plan of attack giving us control over our own health as a team.

Take an Action Step
This can be either physical or mental...walk in the game as Coach Bennett says it...make sure you're taking your physical preliminary movements, a fielder taking his ready movements before the pitch, the hitter moving rhythmically to relax before the pitch, or the base runner taking their preliminary after the ball crosses the plate.

Convey you're ready to react successfully at any given moment. On the cerebral side...

Learn to stay within yourself mentally, don't bite off more than you can chew, only execute what we can individually control on the field.

Take Charge
Each and every game has a certain rhythm, we should either take charge or join it. We always have three choices when faced with the dilemma of a current...go faster, swim with it, or go against it.

I agree with Coach Bennett in that he says most rewarding effort comes from taking charge (go faster than) because it shows we're in control. Steer your own current because going with the current doesn't hurt, but you're NOT in control.

Tune into Self
Be highly aware of our emotions, so if we're losing interest or energy, then we know a change is in order. If we're feeling tired, lazy, or depressed, then run some sprints, take extra hacks in the cages, or whatever we do, work up a sweat. If we're too anxious, nerves are running wild, then we can do some sprints, meditative breathing, etc.

The point is to pay attention to our emotional state and if something is off, then do what we have to do to correct it.

Moving onto...

WINNING by checking in with our SELF, which includes WINNING concepts such as:

  • Assume Nothing,
  • Self Check-ins (These aren't breast exams ;),
  • Use Energy on Winning Actions, and
  • Kill lazy thoughts and Habits with Extra Effort.

Assume Nothing
Make sure to communicate with teammates and coaches, using both body language and words. Do NOT use one without the other and make sure your teammate or coach acknowledges and understands you before executing.

If you're going to make a split second decision to do something without talking to coach or your teammates, then have a darn good reason for doing it. It's crucial on a WINNING team to have crystal clear communication.

Self Check-ins
Coach Bennett calls these consistent and systematic evaluations, which prevent, reduce, and eliminate problems/issues...know where we've been, where we are, and where we want to go.

When I give hitting lessons, I constantly ask the hitter to evaluate his/her own swing and tell me what we could do better. Sure, I'm there to guide and give feedback, but I want the player to be able to self-check.

A player must ALWAYS be checking in with their own feedback mechanisms. Training our body to be in a constant state of alertness will contribute to the most important element to WINNING, which is staying in the present moment.

Which leads us to...

Use Energy on Winning Actions
Here are the two most important mental focuses to Winning at the plate, or anywhere on the field for that matter...work in the NOW, and deal with only that which we can control.

Let me say it again, because this golden rule is extremely important:

Work in the NOW, and deal with only that which we can control.

Everyone knows Ted Williams said, hitting is 90% from the neck up. I think that's true of all of baseball...the best way to combat that is to revisit the golden rule above.

If we worry about which bully is going to beat us up after the game, the raw worm you were dared to eat yesterday at lunch (true story), or how the girlfriend didn't call you all day today, then our performance will suffer. Play for the here and NOW, and worry about all that "other stuff" when we set foot out of the ballpark.

And lastly,

Kill Lazy Thoughts and Habits with Extra Effort
Lazy thoughts are the bane of baseball players...they're like a weed, which seeds in a cement crevice, and then grows while reproducing more weeds as it gets bigger until eventually (another true story), we have a thick weed stalk growing in the middle of our bedroom!

Do you want to know the number one thing separating the best players from the average?

I want to turn it over to one of my personal favorite and highly successful blogger/author/rogue attorney Jonathan Fields, his helpful blogs include self authored JonathanFields.com and CareerRenegade.com, this post was extremely concise in describing where our "final efforts" should be if we're to become the top 1% of WINNERS, in killing those lazy thoughts:

"Because youíre there, refusing to give up when everyone else is throwing in the towel and saying, "screw it, Iím done." Youíre rising up and taking full ownership of the outcome of your efforts. And, thatís something astonishingly rare in a time defined increasingly by the quest for "good enough."

Itís just so much easier to relent, to coast, to say you donít really care...to blame.

And, Iím not even talking about the physical manifestation of your efforts during the final push. Your body may or not rise to the challenge of your will. The weather may turn, your friends may fall away, circumstances may disappoint. Those are things you work to corral and empower, but truth is, theyíre not always within your control.

What Iím talking about is what happens within that mass of matter, electricity and spirit between your ears, that thumping source of life that beats within your chest. Your ability to sustain them at concert pitch to the absolute end of the road, all to often, defines the difference between "life immortal" and a life of envy.

So, the question is...

What do YOU do in the final 1%?"

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SURPRISE BONUS THOUGHT OF THE DAY...

Making time for space...

Have you ever racked your brain about a specific problem or issue with mechanics, game strategy, or how to do something and NOT have any luck with the solution? It can be a frustrating problem for a hitter to NOT know what's the heck is going on with his swing, especially during a slump.

Today I'm going to give you a very powerful solution you can do I personally found myself stumbling into at times when I was playing, but if you stay mindful about your frustrated surroundings, then you can prevent or shorten the lifespan of a mind numbing slump.

Here are the steps you can take, revisiting another JonathanFields.com article:

"With a simple three-step practice. The more we honor it, the most powerful it becomes.

  • Step 1 Ė Define the challenge/problem
  • Step 2 Ė Work like crazy to find a solution
  • Step 3 Ė Build in space. Make a deliberate practice of stepping away, completely away and giving your brain and biology the opportunity to deliver unwitting greatness into your lap. Or, if youíre able, set aside a true Circle Day or half-day (or hour, whatever is practical with your job/life), commit to it for 90-days, and watch what unfolds."

"Work like crazy" is the key here, as Jonathan Fields says, "Thatís not to say that hard work is unnecessary. In fact, there are two steps to this process. Before stepping "away," you need to first invest a serious effort in discovering your breakthrough solution or creation. Struggle with it, toil with it, think of every conceivable option, permutation and invocation. Put in the time, the hours, the energy. You need to do the work first. This is where you plant the seeds.

Then, once planted and gardened with all your heart. If the answers coming arenít at the level you need them to be. Itís time for step twoóstep away. Completely away."

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HEADS UP! CONCERN OF THE MONTH...

My Freshman year at State we were doing our Fall instructional league practice, and we were going through preliminary movements for an outfielder.

Back peddling a bit, I went to a Stanford baseball camp the summer before my Junior year in High School and picked up a fantastic prelim. movement to help get a great jump on the ball.

Coming back to the Fresno State Fall instructional practice, one of my coaches saw the move I did and asked me where I had learned it, and stupid me, I revealed at a Stanford baseball camp a few years prior...he said to never do that move again while I'm at Fresno State.

WTF.

That enraged me so much, for the fact a coach wouldn't let me "Take an Action Step" that allowed me to get better jumps in the outfield than most of my faster and more fleeter footed brethren. You've got to be kidding me...if the shoe fits, is my motto.

What's the move that created all the stink, you ask?

It was actually taken from a soccer match where the goalie lines up to defend a Penalty Kick (PK). As the striker goes to kick the ball past the goalie, the goalie takes a subtle small hop, briefly leaving the ground with both feet, and where both feet end up hitting the ground at the same time. It actually gives positive ground for the goalie to explode equally in either direction (in such a small reaction time frame) to block the incoming PK.

For me in the outfield...I was always a 6.8-7.0 second 60 yard time guy, and this move allowed me to get a better jump than the 6.2-6.6 guys. Those roadrunners were so dependent on speed, their routes to the ball suffered, and most times than not put themselves at risk of NOT making the catch.

Because of one learned Stanford camp morsel, I was on the hot seat at State. Whatever. I still continued to use it, and I can tell you NOT one of my pitchers ever complained. Please subscribe to the Swing Smarter RSS feed, if you haven't already, to stay up to the minute on new happenings at Swing Smarter dot com, Subscribe to My Feed Here.

Thank you for joining us, and if you liked what you read today, please Submit a Testimonial about The Dugout eZine, so future readers can make a good decision to join our monthly meeting community. Your feedback is very much appreciated=-)

Swing Smarter NOT Harder,
Joey Myers
Swing Smarter Baseball Hitting Drills.com

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