As we began our winter training at the facility in November, we implemented something that I have developed and talked about on occasion over the last few years, but hadn’t really put into practice routinely. As our time with players is limited, it is of paramount importance that we get the most out of them, and they get the most out of themselves in their training. For this to happen, we are firm believers that players must go through four basic mental steps in order to fully reach their potential in any given session. These four steps can be summed up into our P.R.E.P. work, and have been an instrumental part of our development of well rounded and mindful players. By focusing on the Purpose and Routine during our pre-practice work, and on Evaluation and Process post-practice, we have provided a specific framework for our players to think through in order to maximize the day in front of them, as well as reflect on their performance and make necessary adjustments for tomorrow.
The P.R.E.P. model can be broken down in two separate contexts, but is approached in the same sequence. Today we will talk about the day-to-day application as it pertains to both the coach guiding the players, and the players working through the process themselves. P.R.E.P. will also be applied on a pitch-to-pitch basis, but we will save specific explanation there for another time closer to the season. Let’s briefly walk through our processes for both our pre and post practice P.R.E.P. work!
Pre-Practice P.R.E.P. Work
6-2-6 Focus Breaths x2
We begin our session with two breaths with our eyes closed, consisting of six seconds of inhaling, holding that breath for two seconds, and exhaling for six seconds. We tell our guys to think of these breaths as a bridge from pre-baseball into baseball, leaving school and personal life items behind and locking in fully on the workout ahead.
Here, we discuss the purpose for the day as laid out by the coach. We will run through what we are looking to get accomplished and why we are doing what we’re doing. Knowing what the goal is for the day and why we are looking to accomplish that goal gives the player a clear picture on what the benefits of the workout will be.
6-2-6 Purpose Breaths x2 – “The Why Ladder”
Players will work through two more breaths, this time focusing on their own personal purpose for the day. We ask them to work up the “Why Ladder,” forcing them to think through short term daily goals and work up to their long term goals as a player. Most guys will answer the first why with: “To get better,” which is a pretty easy answer. We’ve tried to get them to think a little deeper and find the real reasons why they play baseball and spend the time and money working at it. Some guys will end with the major leagues as their ultimate why, some will stop at having a good spring this year. This is for the player himself to reflect on internally.
Here, we go through step-by-step what is on the docket for today’s workout. We always start with our active warmup with both hitters and throwers, and from there things vary from day to day. We make sure to do our warmup after our P.R.E.P. work when possible, so that the warmup is utilized as a serious and focused piece of the session. It’s helpful for guys to know what exactly we are doing, so they can get a clear idea and prepare mentally, and it is good for us as coaches to run through piece-by-piece what our plans are. We don’t go deep into details about drills, as those are explained as we get to them, but a general outline is helpful
6-2-6 Routine Breaths x2 – Visualize Execution of the Routine
From here, we ask our guys to spend the last two breaths before the workout seeing themselves have success in our session that day. As we get deeper into our training, players understand what drills look like and their objectives, so we have them really focus on seeing themselves do them well. For things we do on the bag and in the mirrors, we have them focus on FEELING a good swing or throwing motion, while swings or live throws they are encouraged to focus on SEEING themselves hit hard line drives to the top back corner of the cage, or make great throws to their targets with the right amount of intent. It’s been proven by many a sports psychologist that the more the mind sees success, the better the odds that the player will find that success physically. Our guys should finish the routine breaths feeling as though they just had a great round of swings or throws, and ready to attack the session with energy. (Concentration, Commitment, Communication)
Post-Practice P.R.E.P. Work
6-2-6 Focus Breaths x2
After our session, we close in the same way we opened, with our two good breaths in which player’s focus completely on their breathing.
From there, this is where we as coaches break down what we did well and what we still need to improve upon. In addition, we evaluate the energy (Concentration, Commitment, Communication) of the group as a whole and if we were in the right state of mind to get the best out of ourselves that day. We try to keep this short and to the point, giving a couple main things that the group as a whole did and didn’t do well.
6-2-6 Evaluation Breaths x2 – “Build, On, Work On.”
In the first breath, players focus on one thing that they did well that they can build on. This may be a drill that helped something click for them, or a mental cue that a coach gave that stuck. Hopefully throughout the session, the player heard a few things from the coach in terms of what they did well. Once again, this is specific for each player. The second breath allows the player to think about something to that they need to continue to work on. In most workouts guys hear us give them things that they need to do better, and this is their time to really internalize those things.
Here we will discuss what we will work on during the next session and where we are headed in our training overall. This is where we take what we did and didn’t do well and put a plan in place to sontinue to improve. This plan doesn’t have to be detailed at this point, but simple things that really helped us or things that we need to keep working at or building towards are highlighted by us as coaches.
6-2-6 Process Breaths x2 – “How to Build, How to Work.”
Here the players finish the session by taking the time to think specifically about how they personally might build and work on certain parts of the workout. Again this can be specific drills or mental cues, and is specific to each player based on feedback he got during the session. This also serves as the last part of the bridge between the baseball world and the outside world. Once players have mindfully evaluated and processed, they can head out knowing they got all of the work they needed to get.
To conclude, it is our belief that taking the time each practice as a group to work through these processes is of paramount importance, as players rarely set aside time to do it themselves. If players can understand the workout ahead, visualize success, and then come away with just one thing to build and work on, they’ve given themselves a chance to be productive and forward moving in their training.