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Is it My Mechanics? What Adjustments Do We Really Need to Make?


Mindset Made Simple Tip #124 – Watch or listen HERE.


I had the opportunity to go to the batting cages with one of my individual clients the other day. Her dad felt like she was starting to struggle a bit at the plate and wanted to know if seeing her in action would help. I jumped at the chance to watch her mechanics – which work, by the way - which did not surprise me!


Like so many young athletes, this awesome kid is very hard on herself. She, not unlike other teenagers, struggles with the “imaginary audience” I mentioned a few weeks ago.


If you’ll recall, this phenomenon is when we think we have a captive audience for all we do. In our imaginary audience, EVERYONE is watching our every move!


We know this is not true because Dave Jones (the original Coach Jones) said about 35 years ago “they aren’t thinking about you, Jul. They are too busy thinking about themselves.” This age-old advice is rational, but not always easy to remember.


As Dr. Rob Gilbert, founder of Success Hotline says, we spend a ton of time thinking about WWOPT and WWOPS (what will other people think and/or say).


These thoughts bounce around our heads like static on a continuous radio station feed. Ethan Cross, the author of Chatter, calls it our own built-in B.S. radio station.


Since we can only have one thought at a time, these non-productive thoughts of WWOPT/WWOPS take up that precious space and keep us from focusing on execution.


When it comes down to it, these WWOPT/WWOPS thoughts are outcome-based. We worry about who we will let down by our lack of execution and what they will say about what we did or didn’t do. Notice there is no process thinking here!


When we fall victim to this common tendency, we are not priming ourselves to perform at our best…because we aren’t even focused on performing. We are focused on what will happen after we perform or what other people are doing (i.e., judging us) while we are performing.


Not good!


Add to this the always-growing tendency, brought about through good intentions, of the common line of thinking that constant adjustments to mechanics makes us better - or outright over-coaching.


In talking with this athlete and her dad, I quickly realized that not only does she suffer from the effects of an imaginary audience (which I knew from our work together), I also came to learn that they feel they had tweaked her out of a productive swing.


Trust me, I have done this before, too. Particularly early in my career!


We think we need to adjust mechanics at every turn when we aren’t getting immediate results (after two ground balls or flyouts). We focus on the feet, then the hands, then the bat speed, then the ______. You fill in the blank.


I almost fell into it as I watched a few swings, too.


I remember talking with every young coach on my staff who came in eager and ready to make difference, reminding each of them that we can only attack one problem at a time. And sometimes, letting kids figure out what adjustments need to be made is a much better approach than the coach's tendency to "right" everything!


First we need to figure out where the critical success factor is and start there (or get them to answer that question themselves) and maybe the other things you see that MUST be adjusted (or so we think) will fall into line. We must remember that if we change one thing, other things will change, too…and that may not be what we want.


The thing that is certain to change is our focus. Will we be so mechanically focused that we forget to focus on the target…or forget to scan for information that is necessary for us to succeed?


I am not advocating for no instruction. Nor am I suggesting all instruction is detrimental.


What I am getting at is that what we are adjusting may not be where we need to start!


When we over-tweak our mechanics or go straight to an adjustment after one or two undesirable outcomes, we may be missing the boat. Yes, mechanics matter. But what is causing the breakdown in the first place if they work when there isn’t a measured outcome (or imaginary audience judgment)?


If you listen to MLB Hall of Famer Sean Casey, he says he evaluated 8 or 9 things after an at bat before he got to a mechanical adjustment.


What could those 8 or 9 things be?


I believe, and I think you do too if you stop and think about it, that every mistake happens before the swing, touch or shot. The mistake happens in our preparation and in our pre-action focus or scanning.


If this is true, some of the things we may need to adjust before we think about holding our hands in a different spot or whatever adjustments you may make in your sport, start in our thoughts.


Thoughts become things. (If you want me to prove this to you, send me your address and I’ll send you a little exercise that will blow your mind!!)


Maybe Casey checked out a few of these things in his after action review on his way to a career .300+ batting average?


Where was my focus? What was I thinking? (Because maybe I shouldn’t be thinking at all!) Was I worried about what might happen? Was I wondering what my dad or coach was thinking? Did I have a plan, and did I follow it? Did I tell myself what I wanted to do instead of what I was trying to avoid? Was I focused on what I could control? Did I complete my routine? Was my mind quiet? Did I see the ball? Did I pick a good pitch?


We certainly don’t need to ask all of these questions. But you get the point!


EVERY ONE of these things will affect my results…and not one of them has anything to do with the physical act of picking the bat up off my shoulder.


Instead of reflecting like this, we hit a grounder and automatically go straight to “I rolled my wrist” or “I was out in front.” Both may be true. And both are probably the result of timing…which was most likely affected by the BS radio station in your head keeping you tight or one split second off because you were thinking about something other than driving the ball back up the middle.


Back to our hitting session.


After watching a few swings and talking about being in our heads due to our own thoughts AND thinking about every mechanical adjustment possible, here is where we ended up!


See the ball. Pick a good pitch. Swing hard.


We can’t pick a good pitch if we can’t see the ball. We don’t see the ball as well (physiologically speaking) if we haven’t calmed our body with a pre-performance breath. Rapid breathing caused by nerves slows the blood flow in our brains which eventually…and quickly…changes our ability to see. Seeing is a pretty important part of execution in almost all sports!


AND… it doesn’t matter how hard we swing if we choose a crappy pitch. Good pitches make good hitters, I like to say! No matter how bad your swing is, a good pitch will help it and vice versa! Swinging hard is something we can control…all three things are… and if we swing hard at whatever we choose, we have a better chance of success.


Simple. Focused. In our control. All three are a choice. Not chance!


Then. Ball. Ball. Ball. Ball. Ball. Bye!


One word. One thought. One focus.


If we are focused on the ball…we give ourselves a fighting chance. No guarantees. But we are where we need to be to execute. Period.


The real question is, if we aren’t totally focused on a moving ball that we are charged with hitting with another moving circular object, what are we thinking about? This goes for a cross on the pitch, a shot from behind the line, the landing on the beam, taking a shot on the mat, closing the sales pitch or any type of execution!


Not into asking 8 or 9 things after you perform before you get to mechanical adjustments?


How about asking this?


Was I where I needed to be to execute?


In other words, was I PRESENT? Was I FOCUSED? Was I outward-focused…scanning for the information I needed to execute?


Depending on your answer to “was I where I needed to be to execute?” you can decide what the next productive question is!


We are wired to wander and not to helpful places. Allowing WWOPT/WWOPS thoughts and thoughts around mechanics and outcomes to take up the precious “one thought at a time” space in our brains takes our focus away from what we need to do.


Ultimately, action matters. On-time action matters. Why allow that split second to get away?


How can we keep it simple, focused and controlled? What do we need to do BEFORE we act to leave space for that occasional completely physical blunder (they do happen!)?


Priming our brain to be where it needs to be our best gives us the best chance for success.


What does that mean for you?


If you are worried about WWOPT/WWOPS, outcomes or being perfect in mechanics, you are setting yourself up to be one step behind.


Choose a present approach…and you’ll find you have an aggressive approach, too!


Yes. Mechanics need to be adjusted. And we all need a coach to help in his area.


Coach or no coach, we are really good at filling our brains with stuff that doesn’t help us stay where we need to be. As I have said before, a full mind is an empty bat. A full mind is a problem, no matter what we are trying to accomplish.


One thought. One place. One thing to do.


After that “one thing” is over, we move on with the information we have and do what we can, with what we have, where we are…just like Roosevelt said so many years ago!


Julie


P.S. It’s time to start thinking about the next phase of your season. Contact me to kick off 2023 with the right mindset! Email me at juliej@ssbperofrmance.com or call/text 234-206-0946.


Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance

www.ssbperformance.com

juliej@ssbperformance.com • 234-206-0946

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