Followers of this blog know that Matt works out regularly in the off-season with Chad Rodgers, former Baseball America top prospect and current LHP for the Minnesota Twins organization. Matt is fortunate to have Chad as a mentor, friend, pitching coach and strength/conditioning sensei. Chad has recently teamed up with Show Me Strength and is a regular contributor to the site. Every time Chad puts up more wisdom, you can also find it here…
It has been some time since I made a personal entry on this blog. Much has happened since the last one. My son Matthew is now a strapping 18 year-old All-Star pitcher and Honors student actively in the hunt for a college baseball scholarship. As he finishes his Junior year with Final Exams this week, he has been faced with difficult challenges on all fronts including academics, athletics (facing showcase tourney teams loaded with D-1 commits who can absolutely HIT the ball), and the unexpected, sudden ending to a meaningful personal relationship (nuf ced).
In the midst of this, I gave him a Navajo bear-claw ring which I had originally purchased for myself a generation ago while dealing with overwhelming loss. At that time it was a symbol of inner strength to me, and I wanted to pass it along from father to son as a token of strength for him in this difficult yet all-important time of his life.
Anyone who is the parent of an 18 year-old can appreciate that the depth of my intended meaning in this act might not be fully appreciated for what it is, but giving this ring is a Sacramental: an outward and visible sign of an inner and spiritual thing. Therefore, here is what I mean to say to my son who embodies so much Promise:
“Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you.”
For Native Americans, the Bear is a life-giving Mother icon: Fiercely protective, clever, quick, big and powerful. A Native American with the word “bear” in their name was considered to be both an excellent provider and a powerful warrior.
For young men still discovering themselves and baseball pitchers in particular, the Bear represents many valuable personal qualities including power, courage, confidence, victory, freedom, protection, discernment, resourcefulness and unpredictability.
Yet in spite of its size and power, the Bear also prefers peace and tranquility which represent harmony and balance.
Be a noble Beast within yourself. Be the Bear.
The Importance of Self-Reflection
Self-reflection is key in any area if we want to become better at what we do. It is good to have feedback provided to you from someone else but it much more powerful when the reflection on our performance comes from the person in the mirror. Whether you are a great lawyer, friend, doctor, teacher, coach, parent, they all require us to reflect on what we do and how to make it better the next time. That is the essence of having a growth mindset. Use the following list of 21 questions to have your pitchers self-assess so that they can create purposeful practice between now and their next opportunity to pitch.
- Did you have any outside factors stressing you today?
- How did your bullpen go before your outing?
- Did you let your stress or bullpen performance affect your outing?
- How focused were you from pitch to pitch?
- If your self-control wasn’t where you wanted it to be how did you refocus?
- Did you feel supported by your teammates and coaches today?
- How would you rate your mental game today on a scale of 1 to 10?
- What were your 4 Command-ment numbers for today?
- How do you feel about them?
- What was your best pitch today?
- What pitch did you use in clutch situations?
- Did you pitch with a specific pattern in mind or plan for specific hitters?
- Was the first pitch used too often?
- What pitch was hit the hardest?
- Which pitch did you struggle with for command the most?
- Were you able to spot your pitches where you wanted?
- What things will you work on between now and the next time you pitch?
- What specific drills will you use to help your progress?
- What are your goals (process oriented) for your next outing? (4 Command-ments-based)
- What was your rose, thorn, and bud from today?
- If you could meet anyone and eat dinner with him or her, who would it be?
These questions can be condensed, combined, or cut out all together. That is up to you. The key is that most pitchers don’t self-reflect in a proactive way. They let a bad outing stir and build-up without analyzing their performance critically with a growth mindset. These questions can start that process toward getting better and setting a plan of action for the future.
Play for the Present!
The best captains and team leaders have the following top 6 critical qualities which fall on the “Committed” and “Compelled” levels of the Commitment Continuum pictured above:
- The Best Captains are the Hardest Workers: The best leaders are the team’s hardest workers. They invest fully in whatever they do whether it is practice, weights, conditioning or competition.
- The Best Captains Encourage their teammates: Instead of being all about themselves, they consciously connect with and help take their team to a higher level. They encourage hard work, build confidence and keep going when times are tough.
- The Best Captains are Honest and Trustworthy: The best leaders keep it real. They are honest with coaches and teammates and earn a deep sense of trust. Because being trustworthy is one of the most important traits of a leader, the best captains work hard to earn and maintain trust and respect.
- The Best Captains Respect Others: Along with honest and trust, the best leaders are high character people. They treat their teammates, coaches, opponents and officials with respect, even when they disagree with their decisions. They seek to help, uplift and serve their teammates.
- The Best Captains Care Passionately: The best leaders care passionately about the team’s success, their teammates, and their sport. They love the game and bring passion to everything they do. They play their sport because they absolutely love it. They are the first ones to arrive at practices and workouts, and the last ones to leave because they invest so much in the program.
- The Best Captains are Relentlessly Competitive and Compelled to Win: The #1 trait that consistently comes through in the best leaders is that they are highly competitive people. Winning is a big priority for them and they invest the necessary time and energy to maximize the team’s chances of winning. They bring a sense of urgency to competitions as well as workouts because they are fully committed to and serious about success.