Momentum Is A Series of Events
By Jeff Doland
After struggling for the first two thirds of the 7th grade, my son has had somewhat of an epiphany. He decided to let his competitiveness fuel him to achieve grades that more closely resemble the abilities that God gave him. While God may give you the ability to do something, it is up to us as individuals to create the fire (desire) necessary to follow through in order to achieve success. So now my son has a taste of success, of confidence, of accountability to himself…so now what?
How does someone (a ballplayer for our purposes), avoid falling back into the trap of hoping everything will just turn out okay because you have _____________ (Fill in the blank: intelligence, athletic ability, successful parents, etc.)?
Often times we refer to a fork in the road as a decision to make after we have gone through difficult times or failed at something. The reality is, we are always faced with a fork in the road: the choice between the easy road, which is paved with broken promises, broken dreams, and unfulfilled potential, or, the hard road, which is usually uphill, littered with thorns, and grinding. Assuming you choose the hard road at that fork, what do you need to walk (or better yet, run) up that path.
Momentum is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as "strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events”.
As baseball players, we need those series of events to move us forward because the path to success is that hard road…uphill and full of landmines. Just when you think you have things figured out, this game will humble you. You have to be consistent in your work and preparation over a period of time.
An isolated moment of success such as a good training session with an instructor or going 3 for 3 in a game does not mean that you have things all figured out. Players need to build on that success over time, gaining small victories along the way to sustain that momentum instead of falling victim to the enemy of momentum: complacency. If you are satisfied where you are in your development you lose the momentum needed to conquer that hard road…the only road that leads to fulfilling long-term goals and dreams.
When you taste success, that is not the time to be satisfied. Being proud of your accomplishments up to that point? Absolutely. Small victories are important. But, the desire to continue working has to be there or you get stuck and eventually, you fall down the uphill climb of the hard road.
One of the best coaching points I have ever read was from Mike Shanahan in his book, Think Like A Champion. He talks about how he would push his teams harder when they were winning. At times when they were losing, he would back off a little. Players can take a lesson from this too. When you are struggling, give yourself a break. Analyze what you need to fix, relax, maybe do something to take your mind off of your struggles. But when things are going good, when you have a taste of the success achieved through hard work and preparation, floor that gas petal and push yourself…keep that momentum going!
Making In-Game Adjustments
By Jeff Doland
After spending months in the cages working on your swing mechanics, creating muscle memory through countless reps, watching video, doing mirror work at home, and more, the season is upon us. Inevitably, there will come a point in the not too distant future when something feels off and you will need to make an adjustment. In reality, you will need to adjust right away to live pitching, different lighting than you are used to indoors, a live arm, the pressure of a game, or any combination of these. How much do you trust in the work you have been putting in? How prepared are you? If you have embraced the grind of making yourself better this offseason by developing an elite, consistent swing, you need to trust your mechanics and make the right adjustments at the right time.
Baseball is a game of adjustments, especially for hitters. The pitcher starts with an advantage and it is up to you as a hitter to adjust to what he is doing in terms of pitch selection and timing. The pitcher will not adjust until you force him to! With that said, here are some tips to making adjustments after an unsuccessful plate appearance. It is important to use this process in order to make the RIGHT correction. Too many times hitters jump to the conclusion that there is something wrong in their swing instead of finding out if it may be pitch selection and/or timing.
Pitch Selection - First and foremost, make sure you are swinging at the right pitches in the right counts. Every hitter needs to have a plan of attach for every at-bat before stepping into the box. Look for fastballs to drive early in the count. Remember, the pitcher is trying to get ahead so look for a fastball to hit early and lay off of off-speed pitches. Take the approach of driving the baseball up the middle and remember to track the baseball with your eyes! Your zone expands and contracts based on the count and situations.
Timing - Before making any mechanical adjustments to the swing, you first need to make sure you are getting your front foot down and the hands back (“Launch Position”) when the baseball is approximately half way to you. Everything in the swing works from this position so if you are not getting there, that can cause you to have mechanical flaws in your swing such as flying open, collapsing the backside, rolling over, etc. If you are beating balls straight down into the ground, chances are you are late getting the foot down.
Mechanics - If you are making good decisions on pitches and getting your front foot down, then the problem lies in your swing. Ask yourself these questions:
“Is my head stable?”
“Am I starting the swing with the back leg?”
“Am I working to use my hands to stay inside and above the ball so I can let my hands work and throw the barrel?”
“Am I driving through contact (hitting in a 'big area')?”
Finally, remember that you could be doing everything right and just missing “squaring it up”. You are hitting a round object with a round object so sometimes, you are going to just barely miss hit the ball. Recognize that, too!
By using this method to make adjustments, hitters can diagnose problems and make corrections from at-bat to at-bat. Knowledge is power! Knowing what you need to do will put your mind at ease so you can stay confident, avoid taking bad at-bats to the field and put a stop to prolonged periods of struggling through multiple at-bats.