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Swing Smarter's The Dugout, Issue #013 -- Can't get comfortable in the box? AND teammate bullies...
December 18, 2009
Table of Contents:
INTRODUCTION TO THIS MONTH'S ISSUE...
In this month's issue #013 of The Dugout we're going to look into RELAXATION. This is going to be one of the most important areas as it relates to the mental part of hitting.
RELAXATION techniques for stretching and breathing are the most under-rated and simple strategies a hitter can use to their advantage. Tense muscles are slow muscles, loose muscles are fast muscles, no matter how you swing it.
We have to attack tension two ways, by externally stretching the muscles, and internally training our respiratory system to loosen the muscles up from the inside out, so we can maximize bat speed, and get better in the clutch when runners are on base.
I love this subject and can't wait to pass on pearls of wisdom from my experiences playing, and sprinkle in some new age Yoga techniques.
ON DECK FOR NEXT MONTH'S THE DUGOUT...
In this month's issue #014 of The Dugout we're going to look into the proper mental environment of LEARNING. What are the stumbling blocks and how can we overcome them.
We touched on this with one of the first issues of The Dugout when we built a trigger for peak performance, but we're going to go more in depth on what it means to, as Ghandi put it:
"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were going to live forever."
If you want to learn how to be a sponge, then this month is for you, lots of fantastic talking points coming up!
So stay tuned...
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If you find The Dugout, "Hitting Baseballs from the Neck Up" interesting to pass onto your friends, please do, we'd greatly appreciate it. The more people we can get to tune in every month, the better, so please spread the love to your teammates, players, and best friends...and hope your competitors don't find us. ;)
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Let's get started with this month's issue, shall we...
THE ISSUE'S HEART OF THE LINE-UP... THE ISSUE'S HEART OF THE LINE-UP...
Wonder what the never ending battle is for a hitter?
It's how to stay relaxed in the art of war...what gets the blood boiling for most? Hitting with:
Hitters of all ages can benefit from this eZine issue, and with the proper training early on, the better we will be in the clutch. This issue is pulling from our magnifying glass look into information discussed from Chapter 13, page 248 of The Mental Game of Baseball: A Guide to Peak Performance, by H.A. Dorfman & Karl Kuehl. It's a great book and a must have.
We'll be looking into the difference between accelerating and braking muscle systems, and how most of the time, in tight situations, we're flooring the gas peddle at the same time as the brake. Furthermore, we'll learn how to spot crucial "tension tendencies" for ball players before it's too late, and lastly we'll reveal 9 different ways to deal with deflating that over-stuffed bratwurst you call a bladder in crunch time! :)
Let's dive right in shall we...?
As mentioned earlier, we have accelerating and braking muscles, if we didn't our joints would damage beyond repair. These are our push and pull muscles, one major group opposing the other, like Yin & Yang. Imbalances in these two types of muscles will most often lead to surgery, most common: Tommy John, Shoulder, Knee, and recently in the Big Leagues, hip.
For instance, if we're used to doing heavy bench press for the chest and we fore-go working our back muscles equally hard, then our shoulder joint will be packed full of TNT and will eventually explode; then you'll have to pay some high priced Doctor and Rehab Specialist, not to mention deduct over 6 months of playing time.
In the above example, the chest is an accelerator, the back a decelerator. If we have an overdeveloped chest, and a weak backside, then our arm will be speeding up with nothing to stop it, similar to a car going downhill without anything to slow it down.
What does this have to do with Relaxation? For most hitters the following "tie-in" is vital...
If you've been a follower of Swing Smarter dot com for any length of time, you know about our less is more hitting philosophy. The baseball swing is the fastest you can swing under complete control, so for percentages sake, let's say 85% of a full cut.
Grab a bat for a moment and take the hardest possible cut, at 100%. Did you feel how slow the swing became? It's because the braker muscles kicked in to minimize damage to the joints. Now, loosen the hands up and think about whipping the bat around at a 60% clip, see how much quicker, and more importantly, smoother, you feel?
Ted Williams said it best in The Science of Hitting...do you know when the grip is the tightest on the bat throughout the swing? Not in the stance, separation, or launch positions, it's but at the point of contact...the hands should be loose, until then.
We can increase our bat speed, not by swinging harder, but by swinging smarter...check out the Swing Smarter Albert Pujols inspired Increase Your Bat Speed in 30 Days Challenge.
There are key areas of the body most critical to relaxing before hitting in a tough situation, which we'll get to later, but first you have to become aware of the tension tendencies:
If we know what to look for and focus on, then it makes adapting so much easier, but first we have to become aware.
A quick story...
In the opening game my senior year at Fresno State, we were playing Fullerton and I was starting in center field. With this being my last collegiate year I wanted to make a great impression on my fairly new girlfriend (now wife), first year coach Mike Batesole (2008 National Baseball Champion) not to mention all 2,000 screaming fans in attendance, and of course the scouts.
I decided to chew some gum throughout the game to help with tension levels, well, long story short, we ended up dropping that contest, and surprisingly the next day my jaw was really sore. It didn't click until the next game when I started chewing another stick of gum and the soreness kicked up. I was so tense opening night, I chewed gum so hard it would make, head Chicago Bears football coach at the time, Mike Ditka proud during the 80's.
They once said during games Mike Ditka absolutely crushed his gum, and at the end he'd have a diamond!
So, being aware of your tension is the first thing, the next is learning how to cope with being too keyed up OR learning how to pick up the energy level if you're too relaxed. We want to be like a caged animal before stepping up to the plate, but handle it with controlled aggression. ;)
Here are 9 ways to find a happy medium into RELAXATION and peak performance hitting, and remember NOT all these are going to apply, so just use the ones that stand out to you...
1. Get Away
2. Talk Out Loud
3. Use Movement
4. Ballistic Stretches
6. Tense A Muscle
7. Change Your Focus
8. Break Your Face
Did you see what happen when you did that? You were concentrating so much on doing the task, I'm sure you forgot about every other obligation you had on your mind.
9. Breath Control
Tony Robbins, the famed motivational speaker, has said 10 deep diaphragmatic breaths per day leads to a whole mess of good stuff inside the body, the Limbic System being one of them. The Limbic System transports waste products in the blood to get out of the body, and a healthy Limbic System means less fatigue and sickness in life. This is one of the major benefits to Yoga because we take a ton of deep breaths throughout a full 1 hour session.
Taking one 8 count (4 seconds inhale, 4 seconds exhale) diaphragmatic breath will lower your heart rate at least 5-10 beats per minute, which to a hitter is huge in a pressure cooker situation.
BONUS TECHNIQUE: here's another good one you can try...whistling "Yankee Doodle." I did this my last year in little league and hit like .900, seriously. Like all the previous tips, it helps to take the mind of hitting...if you don't like "Yankee Doodle," then do "Mary Had A Little Lamb" ;)
Well, I hope you got a lot of cool tips to use at the plate, and for those coaches, teach some of them to your kids. A note to coaches, make sure the language you use with your kids as they're performing at the plate is positive and NOT desperate.
Examples of desperate language:
Swing Smarter ;)
SURPRISE BONUS THOUGHT OF THE DAY...
I saw another athlete playing with a broken body part today on SportsCenter...Kobe Bryant for the Los Angeles Lakers scored over 40 points in a game despite a broken middle finger! Two or three starters for the Collegiate Baseball Champion 2008 Fresno State miracle Bulldogs had broken bones in their hands and still won despite mountainous adversities.
I've seen players become heros for playing through pain, and I've also seen players ruin the rest of their adult lives for doing it too.
When is enough enough?
It's all about timing and circumstance. Is it healthy to make a 12 year football player with a blown out knee continue to play on it? I think professionals play by a different set of rules because they're getting paid the BIG bucks and get the best Doctors around to fix them.
In college, I saw a good friend of mine get cortisone shots in his ripped up throwing shoulder through a whole season, had surgery at season end, and will never have the same arm function again, and the fact he was never going to go pro anyway.
I've heard of coaches letting 12 year old pitchers throw curve-balls all in the name of winning, and now my job is to rehab this kid's elbow because if he's not careful, he'll be another young statistic for Tommy John surgery.
I've seen a young high school catcher smash his front teeth out, put the teeth in milk so he could re-attach them later, and catch the rest of the game. Now that is down right tough! :) I like to see that, but I couldn't do it.
When is enough enough? And when is winning for winner's sake?
HEADS UP! CONCERN OF THE MONTH...
Dealing with teammate bullies...
Recently, I had a couple hitting students of mine tell me about a couple bullies they have dwelling on their team. It urkes me these bullies haven't been stepped up to yet, and put in their place...because often times they're talented players, but after they throw a punch, they go running. They're weak individuals that need to be set right.
We had one at Fresno State, and it took another teammate to punch him in the mouth until he stopped his hi jinx. I'm not saying we need to punch every bully in the mouth, but we have to put them in their place. Here's a list of a few things you can do, not all will work, so pick the best to fit the situation:
You guessed it, you're never going to be without one of these knuckleheads, so you have to deal with it somehow, it's all a part of growing up.
The bottom line is to use your imagination, be creative, and don't always resort to violence. Unfortunately, most of these kids don't get the message unless they're beaten (figuratively or literally), and hit over the head by a 2X4. Stepping on eggshells around them will NOT get it done. 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.
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Swing Smarter NOT Harder,
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