Baseball is a challenging game, with a ton of failure built into it. In order to succeed we must be able to bounce back when failure hits us in the face. Whether it’s going 0–4 each of the last 3 games, or coming back from an outing where you surrendered 9 runs on 3 homers, baseball can beat you down. It’s a game that will humble the best and challenge the toughest of minds. If you don’t have a plan for building resiliency in your players, then the weight of failure may become too big.
When everything is going great and we are ‘in the zone’ this isn’t a problem. We aren’t overthinking anything because things are going well. However, that doesn’t happen for long, especially in the midst of a 162 game season. There will be ups and downs, ebbs and flows. What you do to create an environment that teaches players what to do in the midst of failure is incredibly important, made even more so in the midst of the social media era. What are you doing today to create such an environment? What are you doing to teach your players to overcome? How are you helping them to bounce back?
Here are 3 strategies that will help to build resiliency in your athletes:
- ) Create Failure, Teach Response, Practice Response
In order to deal with failure, we have to face failure. We have to create an environment for our athletes where they are failing before they enter into the actual arena. If the game is their first taste of failure, we are failing them. Create practice plans that are difficult. Yes, it will be messier and someone watching won’t think it looks pretty, but we should be and need to be challenging our athletes constantly. However, that’s not where it ends. If we only cause them to fail without teaching them a proper response, then all we’re doing is teaching frustration. After we create an atmosphere of challenge and failing, we must teach our athletes to respond. The best way I know how to respond to failure is by letting go and getting back into our breath…back into the present moment. We do this through the RRR Routine.
Recognize: When struggle happens, we must teach our athletes how to recognize what is going on. What the changes are in their BFS (Body language, Focus, and Self Talk). Before we can properly respond to failure, we have to understand the changes that are happening to us because of failure. Awareness is the first step.
Release: There are 3 steps to a release:
- ) Do something physical (ex. squeeze our hand into a fist, then let it go)
- ) Take a Deep Breath on a Focal Point, such as the foul pole
- ) Have a verbal trigger (ex. let go, or release)
Refocus: After you release you refocus by taking another deep breath on a focal point, and having a final TIF (thought, image, or feeling)
After teaching our athletes how to respond to failure, the most important, and I’d say missed step, is to continually practice it. This is not a once a week practice, but a daily, consistent practice. Just as we must continually be practicing physical skills, we must also be training our mind, so we know what to do when the pressure is on and failure has happened in the game.
2.) Teach Athletes to Know Themselves
One of the best ways to deal with failure and be resilient is to know who you truly are. Many people, not just athletes, have know idea who they are or what they stand for. They just go through life without much understanding of their purpose. This should not be the case for our athletes. We must start with Why. Why do they play baseball? Why are they the person they are? Why do they want to keep playing in the midst of struggle? These questions will help our athletes to understand what their true purpose is for playing baseball and help them to deal with any obstacles that come their way. After we have them ask themselves why, we need to help them create their own Mission, Vision, and Principles for their life. Their personal MVP Process (click the link to check out mine). This allows them to know what they stand for and can keep them moving forward when things may look bleak around them. It will give them an ability to be resilient in the face of adversity. It will allow them to know who they really are, and not be overly concerned about any outcomes they face.
3.) Process over Outcome
Lets first get this straight: outcomes are important. They do give us feedback, but the outcome should not be the main focus of our athletes. The process, to achieve the outcome you want, needs to be. Outcomes help tell us if our process is good, and we do need to assess our process every so often, but we must maintain focus on the process. So what is the process? The process to me is staying focused on the things we have control over, such as: our breath, how hard we work, our mindset, etc. If we can help our athletes to learn to stay focused on the things they can control, instead of the things they can’t, then failure doesn’t seem as big. If you’re focused on the process and you go 0–4 with 4 line-outs, then you know you did your job that day and there was no failure. If you are outcome focused, you failed 4 times and are frustrated the next time you come to the plate, when you didn’t do anything wrong, the game just beat you. Lastly, when it comes to process I think we need to understand something about true competition. True competition is not about beating an opponent. True competition is about competing to become the best version of yourself on a daily basis. It’s about process. If we are competing daily to become the best version of ourselves we aren’t concerned as much with outcomes of games because we are so concerned with just getting better daily.
So in order to build resiliency in our athletes remember:
- ) Create Failure, Teach Response, Practice Response
- ) Teach Athletes to Know Themselves
- ) Process Over Outcome