Planning is usually where we start. Athletes must layout what they are trying to accomplish in detail and prepare for all possible outcomes.
Now that the MLB 2014 playoffs are well underway, it is time for every player, coach or parent to start watching the game within a baseball game. Just what does this statement actually mean? In basic terms it means stop watching the pitcher throw the pitch or the hitter swinging the bat or the catcher receiving the ball, but instead start watching what is really happening. In other words, stop watching for the outcome, but watch and observe things like how a pitcher stands on the mound before he begins his delivery; or how hitter sets up and initiates his rhythm in the batter’s box; or how a catcher delivers his signs and the way he shifts from his sign position to his receiving position.
It is our nature as humans to be much more in tune to outcome when watching a sports spectacle on television. If more time is spent of looking for things that lead to the outcome, one will become much better versed into the true nuances of what is really taking place.
So, here we have it, the best time of the baseball season...the MLB playoffs, with teams striving to be World Champions. We all sit intently in front of our big screen televisions and begin to watch. But what are we really watching? For most, it is for the outcome. That is fine for some, but for those that are aspiring to become better players, coaches or parents of players, it is your job to watch the game within the game and of course the outcome will follow.
In all sports, most people think of a particular coach’s philosophy as the style by which they like their teams to play the game. No matter the sport, each coach typically does have his way of thinking how the game should be played. A football coach may be a high tempo, run and gun, hurry up offensive guy who then finds players that fit the role. A hockey coach might believe more in defense first and deploy a defensive, neutral zone trap and establish this as the type of player he would like on his squad. A baseball coach might believe in big ball, sitting back, waiting for two bloops and a bomb, a la the days of Earl Weaver and the Baltimore Orioles. Absolutely, these are and will always be a part of any coach’s philosophy, but, there is far more than just coaching the X’s and O”s of whatever the discipline is.
Every SUCCESSFUL coach, regardless of what sport they are coaching, has a fundamental, rudimentary approach to the game that most will abide by. Each one of these successful coaches' philosophies involves components that go beyond the realm of these X’s and O’s, and are highly supported by attitude, beliefs, viewpoints and values. These are defining areas of significance, and in most situations, define who they are as coaches and how they impact people, players and staff around them. The philosophy is so impactful, that not only can it define from who they are as coaches, to how hard they work to get to the top, to something as simple as how they handle a player (maybe the best player on team) being late for practice. The success of the team is generally based on the philosophy instilled. Failure of good teams is not based on talent, it is usually failure based of philosophy. Talented teams, in all sports, have been wasted because of the lack of good, sound coaching philosophy. A coach needs to know what he is going to do before he does it.
How many times have you seen this as a coach:
A player is working on a specific movement in a particular discipline of baseball (such as hitting or pitching) and the player is asked why he is doing what he is doing. The player replies with “I don’t know, I was just told to do it this way”.
Wow! Wow! WOW!
It is truly implausible and hard to believe that in this day and age of coaching, with so many resources at our fingertips as coaches, that a kid can respond with an answer like that. As you look right in the eyes of the player and you ask him why he is doing what he is doing, the head drops down, the eyes stare at the ground and the shoulders are shrugged upward, and a voice responds with “I don’t know!" This is without question one of the most discouraging instances I face coaching kids for as long as I have.
How many times do you think a coach has heard this before:
Hey coach can you crank it up?
Crank it up?! That is exactly what hitters don’t need...a machine set up so fast or faster than what a player really needs to work at to have any type of success. It really amazes me that many hitters, coaches and parents think that the faster the speed of the machine, the better the hitter will become. Truth be told, a machine set up with speeds beyond the capabilities of the hitter will actually do more harm than good.
Here are 3 reasons why you shouldn't get too ahead of yourself and thus keep the speed of the machine from mimicking Nolan Ryan:
1. Just Poor Contact - In analyzing variable speed changes or increasing the speed of the machine, the primary observation that one should first look at is if the hitter can consistently make square contact with the ball, no matter what the speed is. I am not saying just contact, as in a foul ball, I am speaking of square contact, where the ball is being driven with authority to all areas in the cage and preferably to the sides and back of cage on a line. If balls are barely being hit or there are many swings and misses or the hitter is making contact occasionally, but contact is late...yes, that's right, the speed of the machine is too fast!
2. Sacrificing Mechanics for Contact -