Awareness, being aware, self awareness...just what does this mean? In life it can mean a vast number of points, items and details. Well, guess what players? In baseball terms it actually means the exact same thing...points, items and details. Check out what Webster’s dictionary says the word "aware" means:
Knowing that something (such as a situation, condition or problem) exist
Feeling, experiencing, or noticing something (such as sound, sensation or emotion)
Knowing and understanding a lot about what is happening in the world or around you
Now just how does being aware correspond to baseball? It’s simple, yet many players don’t grasp really how simple being aware can be. For example and for simplistic terms, let’s look at something as simple as the number of out in the inning. How many times have you seen a baserunner on first base with two out and not running hard on a fly ball hit to the right centerfield gap because they thought there was only one out? Well, that is a simple example of not being aware prior to the pitch or worse yet, being temporarily aware (first base coach gave verbal reminder and the third base coach flashed the number of out) but actually not being aware once the play happens. Sometimes these are also called brain cramps...the train of thought was momentarily lost at a crucial time in the game and, in this case, the ball fell in and the baserunner was only able to secure one base, instead of two. This type of thing will happen in all levels of baseball and many times does cost a team a run, or in some instances, the game.
Being aware can be as simple as what was just noted. But, can players become better equipped to be aware of situations, conditions and problems? Yes they can, however, many players very much struggle with clearly understanding when these occurrences are placed right in front of them.
Let’s take another certain part of the game. For example, hitters, when practicing or working on their swings, how many players are genuinely aware that their back side rotates well or doesn’t rotate well? We have all seen and worked with hitters that struggle to rotate when hitting. But, when working with them and asking if they are aware, most say they are not. It can be a frustrating venture when working with any hitter on rotation (or other parts of the swing), if they are not fully engaged and aware of what they are doing or not doing.
During the course of working with a hitter (in this instance) one of the things I try and do is ask him (or her) is to be more conscious or aware of the feeling or sensation they get when working on a certain part of their swing. Asking questions, clear explanation and quality demonstration, to go along with whatever drills are being used, can all assist the hitter in becoming more aware of what needs to be accomplished.
Being aware stretches well beyond mechanical breakdowns in whatever one is working on. Being aware means being aware...have a look at this short yet simple list of points to be aware of and in spite of all the coaching, teaching and constant reminders players still struggle to become aware of many, many situations in a game:
Score, Inning and Number of Out
Hitter and Baserunner
Sun and Wind
Sign or no Sign
Positive or Negative Count (ahead or behind, hitter and defence)
Turf field or Dirt and Grass Field
Long Hop, Short Hop or In Between Hop
Low Line Drive or High Line Drive
Forehand, Backhand or Routine Ground Ball
Catch (the ball) or Pick (the ball)
Block (the ball) or Catch (the ball)
Sacrifice Bunt or Bunt for a Base Hit
Suicide Squeeze or Safety Squeeze
Curveball or Slider
Two Seam or Four Seam
Base Stealing Lead or Hit and Run Lead
These are simple items that affect player awareness. As a result, coaches can never assume that players will be aware of the vast number of bits and pieces necessary to play this game. Those players that are keen and attention-to-detail type will excel at awareness and especially excel at in-game awareness and become much more detail oriented in their own development, but they are the exception more than the rule. The assumption has to be that player awareness is quite minimal (compared to a coach's awareness) thus it has to be coached on an ongoing basis.
Players need to take a much more active role in their own development...in other words, players, if you want to get better, then be proactive rather than reactive. Coaches, the same can be said. You must take a more active role o being proactive with your players rather than reactive. Reactive is actually undemanding, while being proactive means higher demands are placed on you and in turn these demands need to be translated to your players. Most players want this or they would not be playing. Most coaches want this or they would not coach.
So players, start becoming more aware of the fact that there are numerous conditions in and around a game that you need to start being more aware of. And coaches, start becoming more aware that your players' awareness can be accelerated greatly by sharing, coaching and being more proactive towards fostering their awareness.