After a long and busy off season, I wanted to pass on some observations through the unique perspective I’ve gained. I have been blessed with the opportunity to be able to coach young baseball players while continuing to work towards my lifelong goal of playing Major League baseball. It is important for every player to model a training regimen appropriately and accurately to increase their skill, so I hope this overview from a player/coach’s perspective aids in that process.
Through a coach’s eyes, it is obvious to see which players are focused and which are not. We use the term Deliberate Practice in describing this sort of work ethic. There is a distinct difference between simply executing a drill how a coach has described it to you and executing the drill with the intended adjustments in mind. We hear the phrase “going through the motions” constantly as players, and I think this phrase is 100% accurate. There is always a checklist of mental cues to concentrate on when doing a drill designed to change a movement or habit. Some players take specific note of this checklist, and some don’t. Those that do are those who see the biggest improvements in almost all cases. Often there is only 2 or 3 specific cues a coach asks for, but often, players stick to the most basic and simple ones that they remember. Sometimes I catch myself mid-round in the cage just swinging without any real purpose or cue. I’ve come to realize, as a player, these reps are a waste for me. My time is better spent trying to improve some specific aspect of my swing at all times, rather than just just swinging. There is plenty of time to do that in the game! Understand what is specifically being asked, execute it to perfection, and you will see the improvements.
Ability to Make Adjustments vs. Innate Tools
As an evaluator of players, those who stand out are, more often than not, the ones who have made the greatest improvements – or at least shown the ability and/or desire to improve. College and pro scouts both function this way as well. They want the guys with the high ceilings regardless of their current skill set. Yes, success on the field is always of the utmost importance, but if you’re not improving, your peers are, and that means you are getting worse. Coaches look forward to working with the guys who they know want to get better and will if they continue to work. Many players fall into the trap of thinking they are good because of the gifts they are given, not because of the work they have put in. These players often rely on their current state as a player on the field and often struggle improving simply because of their mindset. I’ve had too many teammates plateau early because they were under the impression that skills were given and not earned. Decide which player you want to be.
Responsibility For Your Career – The Two Way Street
One of the biggest struggles I faced coaching this year was accepting that many players will not take my advice and apply it to their game, no matter how many times they are told of its value. As a player, you must understand that, at the end of the day, a coach’s job is to simply provide you with accurate information and the steps required to achieve improvement. A player’s job is to accept the information they see fit and apply it! Showing up to practice does not make you better.
SHOWING UP TO PRACTICE DOES NOT MAKE YOU BETTER
The player coach relationship can be a variable one, but if a player does not want to take information to get better, there’s nothing else we can do as coaches but wish them luck. Don’t be that guy. Every coach has something to offer you. Find it and use it. Better yet, keep an ongoing conversation (for coaches accepting of one) with them so they understand what you need/want/believe and can tailor their coaching approach to your playing approach.
Importance of Strength Training
Baseball is a sport as physically demanding as they come, and too often strength training is viewed as a luxury instead of a necessity. Your body is a tool just the same as your glove or bat. You wouldn’t show up to practice without either of those things, so why do we show up with a body anything less than as strong as possible? There’s been numerous occasions in which I’ve asked a player to make an adjustment, only to realize that they simply cannot because their body won’t allow them to. Again, this falls upon the player to take responsibility for their strength in order to be a more explosive player, along with the ability to make the necessary adjustments to improve their game. In addition to aiding in a player’s ability to make adjustments, strength training is key to maintaining a healthy body. Season’s when I was more focused and committed to keeping my body in shape were the seasons that it felt better for longer. Take my word for it. Get in the gym.
Always keep in the back of your mind that you are never as good as you could be. Past performance is never a guarantee of future results. A growth mindset must be at the forefront of any training in order to become a better player. Get to work with both your broad and specific goals in mind!
Thank you to our players for allowing me to coach you this off-season, it has been a real pleasure and I hope to continue to see you next year!