Goal setting is always a great tool to achieve the outcome that you desire. Some examples of goals would include, “losing weight”, “hitting a home run, “shooting 3 under par” or “winning the tournament”. Do any of these goals sound familiar? They are all great goals, but setting the goal is just the first step.
If you have ever gone on a vacation, there is a certain amount of planning that has to happen in order for you to get to your destination and have a great time. Let’s say you wanted to go to Hawaii on July 4th. Your bag is packed with swim suits and sun tan lotion! You even went and got a spray tan!! Well, it’s July 3rd and you don’t have airline tickets or a hotel. Oh no, you were so prepared, it was all planned out except for how you were going to get there and where you were going to stay. So you see where I am going with this…
If your goal is to hit a home run and you go to practice all week, have your favorite bat and look good in your new baseball pants and cleats, it should happen, right??? Well, not really! In order to achieve your goal, there has to be a specific plan in place. Let’s walk through the same goal with a more specific plan.
Goal: Hit a home run in the next game
1. Work on pitch selection in practice
2. Keep my head down
3. Drive through the ball
4. Visualize hitting the home run
5. Time the pitches when I am on deck
The next goal that you set, make sure you have the directions to reach your destination and remember this quote by Larry Elder:
“A goal without a plan is just a wish”
All too often, athletes, coaches and parents get so caught up in winning, that they forget how to have fun! Yes, the “F..Word” is fun! Call me crazy, but isn’t that why we got started playing our sport in the first place? When did it stop being fun and start being stressful?
Sports today are getting so competitive, at such a young age, that parents and coaches are putting so much pressure on the kids to win and excel that they are taking the fun out of the sport. After every game, instead of rewarding their effort, they are focusing on all of the stuff they did “wrong”! Some of the repercussions from this type of feedback include:
1. Athletes are playing to “not” make a mistake.
2. Increases anxiety in the athlete, which tenses up their body.
3. Takes the athletes focus away from the moment.
4. Puts the focus on the outcome instead of the process.
The expectation of any athlete is that they give 100% effort. The most fun of any sport comes from the challenge of ALWAYS being able to improve! If an athlete did everything perfect all the time, it would be very boring!! Athletes learn the most from the mistakes they make, which helps them grow on and off the field. It gives them goals to work toward and motivates them to train even harder. How sweet is it for a baseball player to see their batting average go up, or for a racquetball player to beat an opponent that he has never beaten! Now that is fun!! As athletes, you need to enjoy the game and the process of making adjustments along the way. If you are solely focused on the outcome, you are missing the opportunities you have in the moment to truly enjoy what you are doing.
If you look back on a time you were playing your best, I guarantee you were using the “F..Word”!!
Athletes typically have a routine that they follow before starting a competition. They have pre-game warm ups, which would include stretching, hitting, throwing, depending on their sport. They also have mental routines in place to get their mind in the state that helps them perform at their best.
I believe the key to consistent performance is having a solid mental routine in place to maximize concentration and block out distractions. There are many different ways that athletes can put themselves in the right state to perform at their best in every situation; they may listen to a certain type of music or take some time in a quiet area to relax.
I have been watching a lot of Angel games and one player that caught my attention, when he was at bat, is Mark Trumbo. When Mark is at bat, he does the same routine EVERY time!! I noticed he takes a deep breath; he holds the bat up and stares at it for about 10 seconds then points the bat out and is ready for the pitch. Wow, it is so impressive and a great example of “what to do”!!
After last night’s game against the Astros, Fox Sports West interviewed Mark Trumbo and asked him how he was feeling when he hit a two-run double in the 8th inning after having 2 strikes that lead to a 6-5 victory. His reply was that he “threw out” the strikes and visualized a good hit. Wow, that is a perfect example of how he used mental techniques to perform in a pressure situation that lead to a great performance! What can we learn from his reply?
- He has a solid mental routine to regain his concentration
- He has a focal point which seems to be the bat
- He visualizes a great hit while up to bat
- He was able to stay in the moment and not let the strikes affect him
Modeling what successful athletes do on the field is a great way to learn, take what you learned to practice, and develop the technique to fit your personal style and personality!!
E.S.P. is an abbreviation for extrasensory perception. E.S.P. is defined as, apparent power to perceive things that are not present to the 5 senses.
Wow, how helpful would it be if we all had the ability to know what others are thinking? Often times we think that we have E.S.P. and “know” what are kids and athletes need, because we “always know” what is best for them! I am sure that parents can attest to the fact that every kid is different, which means that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to motivating and coaching.
Ok, now that we have established that epiphany, let’s get down to the technique that is simple to use, we always have with us, but sometimes forget about-our ability to ask questions and really listen to what the athlete needs!!! I am sure everybody knows what happens when we assume that we know something. The only way to truly know what makes your athlete “tick” is to ask! I am a student of this lesson with my own son. He is 9 and is playing Little League. When he would get up to bat, I would cheer him on as a good parent does. I would also cheer using some instructional words, such as, “watch the ball!” I just “knew” that this was helping him and he needed to hear that, until one day when he looked at me and gave me the shhhh sign. I was shocked, was my E.S.P. not working!! After the game I asked him if he liked me cheering for him,( because I “knew” he did), and he told me that he does after he hits the ball, but it is distracting to him when he is getting ready to hit. Well, knock me over with a feather!!!
I learned a valuable lesson that day, and after meeting with numerous clients, I found that this is a very common occurrence with an easy solution. The best way to help your future superstar is to ask the following questions:
- What do you need from me ?
- What is helpful to you when you are in a game situation?
- How can I best support you?
The needs of every kid are different, so by asking the right questions, you now have an educated E.S.P. system that will give you the tools to best coach your child or athlete!
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to control the fans at a baseball game? Maybe they could be quiet when you are getting ready to bat and always have encouraging words for both teams! Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen. Often times, fans can be extremely distracting to the players on the field. The fun starts as young as Little League, when everyone, especially parents, seem to be expert coaches from the stands! They don’t just yell out instructions to their own child, they feel compelled to coach the whole team! It is amazing to see moms, who have never played the game, think that shouting helpful hints as their son is getting ready to bat will make a difference and result in a home run.
The truth is that you can’t control the fans, all their words of wisdom, the heckling and the expectations that they have for you. However, the good news is, you can control the effect that they have on your performance. I like to look at the fans as “white noise.” When you hear someone mowing the grass, you hear the noise, but do you analyze the noise or give it any thought? Another example would be a parent telling a kid to clean their room; they hear the parent talking but have a remarkable ability to block them out as the kid is totally immersed in their video game!
There are several mental training techniques that you can use to start controlling your experience with the fans by learning to make them “white noise”. The most crucial element to concentration and being “distraction proof,” is to stay in the moment and focus on the task. If you are a batter, your focus would be on the cues that you look for when a pitcher winds up. Once your batting mechanics are in place from working on them in practice, your body will automatically know what to do-you are in the zone!
It is essential to have a mental routine that you have practiced to help you stay in the moment. An example would be:
1. Take a deep breath (relaxes the neck and shoulder muscles)
2. Have a cue word (such as focus)
3. Visualize a great hit
4. Enter the batter’s box and look at your cues
Once you learn how to stay focused on the task at hand, the fans will have the same effect on you as elevator music!