The Lending Coach

Coaching and teaching - many through the mortgage process and others on the field

Category: Coaching (page 2 of 3)

Quality At-Bats

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One major flaw in the great game of baseball is the way we’ve been measuring and evaluating a player’s performance.  Similarly, most players will tell you how well their season is going based on what their batting average is at a given point in time.

I believe that this is a mistake – as you can do everything correctly as a hitter and still make an out.  How do you account for that?

Well, many coaches today are utilizing a different type of evaluation – the Quality At-Bat.

slid-show-pic-of-batting-practiceCliff Godwin, former assistant coach at Ole Miss and current head coach at East Carolina University gives a great definition of the Quality At-Bat.  He said, “A Quality At-Bat is an at-bat that makes a positive contribution towards our team goals.”

There are numerous ways that to have a Quality At-Bat:

  1. Executing a Hit & Run, Sac Bunt, Sac Drag, or Squeeze
  2. Executing a Bunt for a Hit
  3. Walk, HBP, or Catcher’s Interference
  4. Moving a runner from 2nd base to 3rd base with 0 outs
  5. Driving in a run from 3rd base with less than 2 outs
  6. Any RBI (Sac fly, 2 out RBI, etc…)
  7. All hard hit balls (NOTE: All base hits are not QAB’s. i.e. bloop hits.. We want HARD contact!)
  8. 8+ pitch at-bats
  9. When you can see 4 or more pitches after you are down 0-2 in the count

“Make a hard out, perform an offensive fundamental, throw any at-bat up there of eight pitches or more, a good bunt — not a bad bunt but a ball put on the ground where somebody’s got to make a good defensive play, a walk,” Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates Manager

Justin Dedman – Lee University Hitting Coach

One of my favorite coaches, Justin Dedman at “Hitting Mental” has a post worth viewing regarding his definition and planning for the Quality At-Bat:

Deadman

“Hitting is challenging, which is why we love it, but when a hitter is consumed with stress about his own stats, fearful of future performances repeating past failures, or distracted by expectations, hitting has become nearly impossible.  A focus on QABs allows a hitter to stay focused on simplifying the game.”

Here’s Justin’s list:

  • No one on base, first inning? I should be focused on reaching base, nothing more. Get a good pitch to hit, and I will maximize my chances of making a HARD CONTACT.
  • Developing toughness in practice, and the mechanical savvy to hold your ground on an inside pitch, allows a hitter to react appropriately in-game and take an HBP.
  • Acquiring plate discipline in front toss and batting practice allows a hitter to avoid weak contact more often, see more pitches, and improve his chances of coaxing a BB.After a foul ball and a close call for strike two, we find ourselves down 0-2. Battle your way from 0-2 to seeing 4+ pitches! You have just flipped the script on the pitcher! Now, many pitchers are begging to get any ball put in play, as they don’t want their pitch count to continue to skyrocket.
  • Any executed bunt, slash, hit and run or run and hit is a QAB! These are huge skills to master. Executing these skills keeps an opposing defense, pitcher and manager on the defensive, and alleviates the pressure to get hit after hit by only swinging against good pitchers.
  • With a runner at second base and 0 outs, it’s great to advance the runner from second to third, but this is situational. I should not give away at-bats in an effort to manipulate and push the ball back side. Our offensive goal is to score as many runs as possible each inning, not just one run, unless we are in a “tight and close” scenario.
  • Any time you get an RBI while making an out, that’s a QAB. Let’s not focus on perfection. An RBI ground out may not be ideal, but it’s quality. These aren’t called Perfect At Bats! Of course, hitters must be taught which situations ask for them to potentially sacrifice a more aggressive approach for something simpler that more consistently gets the run home. Most situations with a runner at third and less than two outs create this QAB opportunity.
  • Hits aren’t QABs, but 2-strike hits sure as heck are. To get a two-strike hit, a hitter must take advantage of a mistake or fight his way to getting a pitch he can handle to score the run.
  • Lastly, any at-bat that ends with 8+ pitches is a QAB, regardless of the result. The average number of pitches per plate appearance in MLB in 2015 was 4.30. Having an 8 pitch AB has a similar impact on a pitcher to having faced an extra hitter.

The True Believer and Preacher – Steve Springer

Steve-SpringerOne of the priemer mental coaches regarding the Quality At-Bat is Steve Springer – and his website called qualityatbats.com.  I’d highly recommend that you visit Steve’s site and grab his CD – his mental approach is spot on.

He’s worked with a ton of big league players and coaches – and he’s really brought the concept of the Quality At-Bat to the forefront of baseball today.

For example, what if during a game a hitter goes 0 for 4 on the night and the at-bats go like this:

1) Line out to the shortstop

2) Ground out to 2nd base that moves a runner to third with no outs

3) Grinds out a long at-bat by fouling off pitch after pitch late in the game, which ultimately leads to the opposing team having to go the bullpen

4) Scores a run from third with less than 2 outs by weakly grounding out to the middle infield that was playing back.

This player normally would consider the as 0 for 4 but in the Quality At-Bat system he would be 4 for 4. Players view their performances much differently through this system and it won’t lead to as much stress and frustration, which we know, are performance crushers.

I’d invite you to change your perspective on hitting performance metrics.  Don’t forget the end goal is to help your team win!  It’s not just about personal statistics anymore….

Playing Baseball and Mental Preparation

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We all have been there at one time or another – when you are playing with confidence and playing “free”, even when you are exhausted.  The game seems slower, in a good way – you see the seams on the ball more clearly and it doesn’t seem to be moving as fast. You can’t wait for your next at-bat or the ball to be hit to you or to throw that next pitch.  Really, it’s all about mental preparation and being ready in that particular moment.

“My ability to fully focus on what I had to do on a daily basis was what made me the successful player I was. Sure I had some natural ability, but that only gets you so far. I think I learned how to focus; it wasn’t something that I was necessarily born with.”

Hank Aaron

How do you get there?

I’d highly recommend that you first check out this video/interview with Evan Longoria about how he made the decision to really work on his mental preparation. Click on the image below to play:

longoria

As Tom Hanson and Ken Ravissa write, “working on the mental game is not a substitute for hard physical work. Regardless of how good your mental game is, if you are not putting in the effort on your physical body….you will not find out how good you can be.”  Hanson and Ravissa have co-written Heads-Up Baseball: Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time.

I’d invite you to take a look at their book, here:

It’s the mental side of the game that makes the difference in getting to that “zone”.  Most athletes leave their thinking to chance.  If they are playing well, they are easy going and loose – but when things are not going well for them, they can’t heads-up-coverget out of their own way.

I’m a big fan of both authors – and I hope you become one, too.  I love the fact that these guys want players to embrace being uncomfortable in practice – so that they will be better prepared when the game is on the line.  They encourage players to have a mental plan of letting the uncontrollables go and moving on to the next pitch or play.

I’d also highly recommend that you take a look at a variety of other “mental coaches” and read what they have to say.  Here’s a list to start:

If you are a parent, take the time to sit down with your player and watch the Longoria video.  And make sure to check out the links listed above.  Take heart – you never know when your physical tools will catch up to your mental side to take you to that next level!

Hitting Mental – Planning to Hit

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The mental game of baseball is always a great topic – because it is important, clearly has value, and players perform better the more time they spend on their mental game.  One of my favorite reads is Justin Dedman’s “Hitting Mental” blog – he has great content for players looking to better themselves at the plate.

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” – John Woodenslid-show-pic-of-batting-practice

Says Dedman “Wooden nailed it when it comes to hitting, too. Whether you are a college, high school or travel ball coach, or a hitter working on his craft during the summer or winter months, you better have a plan.”

Year-Round Planning

Dedman talks about how his team plans for the fall – they plan in segments.

“Over the course of a fall season, we have a skill work segment, team practice segment, and then more skill work. Our first set of skill work is three weeks, with one hour each week to work with a hitter, divided into two, thirty-minute sessions. Without a distinct focus and direction, we couldn’t optimize the time allotted to help our hitters improve.”

They then begin video work of their mechanics, although there is very little talk of mechanics in the first three weeks. Their plan is to develop rhythm, tempo and timing (their approaches) first. Justin believes that when a hitter implements these things first, there are fewer mechanical adjustments needed.

“Our plan also includes side work (next to the main BP cage) of exit velocity testing, forearm/grip strength development, mental game training, breathing techniques and mirror work. In the cages, during those two weeks, hitters throw to each other, work tee drills, overload and underload train, front toss, do mirror work and hit mini wiffle balls with a taped broom handle.”

Source: Justin Dedman’s Hitting Mental Blog

DeadmanThe Mental Workout

Secondly, Justin shares his “Mental Workout” – a pre-game process that will help players focus on the tasks at hand:

1.) Centering breath: Breathe in for six seconds, hold for two, breathe out for seven.
2.) Identity statement. Say a preconceived personal mantra to yourself that reflects your strength and desire for success.
3.) Personal Highlight reel: Spend 30 seconds visualizing three “done-wells” from the previous 24 hours, and then spend another 30 seconds visualizing three things you want to do well in the upcoming 24 hours.
4.) Repeat your identity statement (same as Step 2)
5.) Centering breath: Take another centering breath to prepare yourself for the upcoming performance. Again, breathe in for six seconds, hold for two, breathe out for seven.

If all hitters would take the time to see themselves doing great things – and breathing effectively to slow things down, I guarantee their success rate will go up!

 

“The Champion’s Mind” – Dr. Jim Afremow

Gold Medal Mind

“What separates the top few from the many in a sport?  Mentality.  The importance of the mental side of athletics was once brilliantly summed up by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: ‘Your mind is what makes everything else work.'”

Dr. Jim Afremow is a mental game coach, licensed professional counselor, and the author of The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train and Thrive. He is the founder of Good to Gold Medal, PLLC, a leading coaching and consulting practice right here in Phoenix, Arizona.  His book (it’s also available as an audio book) is really worth checking out.Champions Mind

Dogged determination requires keeping your feet moving forward through inconveniences, discomfort, and insecurities to reach your goals.”

Here’s an excerpt from his book:

“Mental toughness is built by doing something that is hard over and over again, especially when you don’t feel like doing it. Our society has conditioned us to believe that there should be no discomfort, to stop when we are uncomfortable. But the discomfort we feel when we’re doing a challenging workout is an important part of the strengthening process. Push through your down days when you’re not feeling your best (unless, of course, you are injured or ill).”

I’d encourage you to learn more about  Dr. Afremow’s book here.

Dr AfrenowFor over 15 years, Dr. Afremow has assisted numerous high school, collegiate, recreational, and professional athletes. Major sports represented include MLB, NBA, WNBA, PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, NHL, and NFL. In addition, he has mentally trained several U.S. and international Olympic competitors. He served as the staff mental coach for two international Olympic teams, the Greek Olympic softball team and India’s Olympic field hockey team. From 2004 to 2013, he served as a senior staff member with Counseling Services and Sports Medicine at Arizona State University.

Sports Performance 101: Visualization

Basketball thinking

Visualization is one of the primary techniques used in sports psychology today – and one of the most underutilized by athletes.  An athlete’s performance is often the result of what’s happening inside his or her head, or more specifically the movies and soundtracks playing inside that head!

Performance visualization is used by virtually all great athletes and research has shown that, when combined with actual practice, improves performance more than practice alone. Imagery also isn’t just a mental experience that occurs in your head, but rather impacts you in every way: psychologically, emotionally, physically, technically, and tactically.

Think of mental imagery as weight lifting for the mind.sport_psychology-300x198

There are two keys principles to keep in mind when practicing visualization. The first is, your practice needs to be consistent. 10 minutes a day every day, will always beat an intense hour long session once a week. It helps to make a commitment to practice your visualization the same time every day.  First thing in the morning as close to waking as possible is ideal. This is because the mind is still slightly lucid at this time, which makes it easier to conjure up images.

The second key principle is you must stay positive in your thinking.  Even if you can’t quite see crystal clear images yet, you will still gain huge benefits from your visualization practice.  Trust me, it still works.  For some people that will be feeling the image, or just getting a sense of what it might look like.  Wherever your current level is, nurture it and allow it to grow.

Accept that you can’t always perform the way that you visualizedClayton-Kershaw-Alone-on-Bench

Research has also indicated that the act of envisioning a relevant muscle movement can potentially result in electrical activity in the specific muscle, despite the fact that there is the absence of the actual movement of the muscle. That same electrical activity bears a resemblance to the electrical movement that occurs during the actual movement. In this regard, the relevant muscles are primed for the upcoming physical activity.Jason Day

Finally, check out this video  from one of my favorite sports psychologists, Dr. Patric Cohn.  I’m a big fan of the good doctor, as he really values and emphasizes the power of visualization in sports. Although this isn’t the most dynamic video you’ve ever seen, it’s content is extremely powerful.

Best of luck to you out there!

The Biggest Mistakes Parents Make With Young Athletes – Video

Quality At Bat screenshot

Attention all of you parents out there – of which I’m one, as well.

Steve Springer is the mental hitting instructor for the Toronto Blue Jays and one of the best instructors out there.  I’d invite you to visit Quality At-Bats site to find out more about him (he’s also featured on my site here under the “Coaching Links” section).  His “Mental Side” CDs are fantastic and can really help a player learn how to find the right mental state prior to competition.

Anyway, in this particular video clip, Steve is speaking directly to parents of young baseball players and talks specifically about the importance of perspective.  Please click on the picture above and take a look and listen to what he has to say.  It might impact the way you engage with your youngster.

“I know you would die for your kid….but your kid is playing the biggest self-esteem destroying sport in the world.”

047Instead, build your kids up – be as positive as possible, as the game itself is tough enough.  As Springer recommends, take your kid for ice cream after the tough outing.

Please, please remember that the relationship with your kid over the long term is far, far more important than his performance on the field.  More than likely, your son isn’t going to get a D1 college scholarship, let alone be a Big League player – the statistics really bear that out.  Do, however, show love and respect for your kid and be there for him, regardless of whether hes 0 for 5 or 5 for 5!

If you find this helpful, shoot Spring a note through his Twitter feed – @qualityatbats – I know he’d be excited to hear from you!

 

The Mental Game – Understanding Cause and Effect

Kids Cubs baseball-coaching

As most of you know, there are plenty of strategies, tools, techniques, and theories that exist today to help athletes.  With that in mind, I would argue that the most important thing for players is the understanding and mastering the mental game in sports.

To handle the inevitable ups and downs of sports, and life, what you need to know is that a circumstance (a win, loss, teammate, coach, the past or future) cannot cause you to feel a certain way.

“Your feelings are solely connected to your thinking. When your head is clear, you’ll feel good. WBigAlPlayerHittingGndBall-500pxhen you’re head cluttered, you’ll feel bad. Anything on the outside is actually neutral.”

Does that sound different?  As Garret Kramer states, it’s normal for it to appear that a circumstance has the power to make you feel anxious, frustrated, or even happy. But your mind, like the minds of all human beings, doesn’t work from out to in—it works from in to out. That’s why, if you’re a hitter, sometimes you’ll feel insecure when looking at all of those runners on base or all of the fielders out there, and sometimes you won’t. The base runners aren’t driving those feelings, its the added pressure of knowing that if you don’t score them, you will feel some form of failure.

The player’s cognitive perspective (level of clarity or clutter in the moment) is driving  this.

From my perspective, make sure tell your kids to relax and have fun.  I know that sounds cliche, but let them know that the reason they are out there isn’t to please parents or their coach, but to please themselves.  Youth sports should be joyful, not overly stressful.

Source: Garret Kramer’s The Mental Game

Young Athletes (and Parents): Here’s the Only Thing You Need to Know To Master the “Mental Game”

 

Athletes: Overcome Performance Anxiety

baseball success

I’m a huge fan of Dr. Patrick Cohn and subscribe to his twitter feed (@Peaksports) for great insight on the mental side of athletic participation.  He has put together a great piece on performance anxiety for athletes.

One of the biggest obstacles for players is pressure – how to want it and how to deal with it.  I’d suggest reading this post from Dr. Cohn so you can get a better understanding of how to actually practice and simulate these types of situations.

When you practice under game-like situations, you build confidence in those situation. So when you are in competition, you are doing what you have practiced often.

This type of practice doesn’t eliminate anxiety, nor does it guarantee that you will make every game-ending play, goal or shot.dr-patrick-cohn

Specificity practice increases confidence which helps you perform in anticipated situations.

As Cohn says, Villanova head basketball coach Jay Wright knows the value of being mentally prepared in critical situations. He credits mental preparedness for his team’s ability to produce in the clutch:

“We do practice that. We have certain plays with less than four seconds, from four to seven seconds. Every coach has this. Zero to four, four to seven, seven to 12. We have plays. So we know what it is. We practice it every day. I didn’t have to say anything in the huddle. We have a name for it, that’s what we’re going to do. Just put everybody in their spots.”

Dr. Cohn is right on in stating that If you anticipate and prepare mentally for different game scenarios, you will have a feeling of “deja vu” instead of being overwhelmed by the unexpected.

Click below for more…..

Overcome Performance Anxiety With This Practice

Hitters – Attack Like You Know Its Coming!

Ball out of hand

Attention Hitters – Stop Evaluating a Pitch Out of the Hand

I’m a big fan of Justin Dedman’s blog, “Hitting Mental”, as he does a fantastic job of highlighting the cognitive side of hitting.  I’d highly recommend that you visit this post on how hitters should treat each individual pitch.

Many hitters try to evaluate pitches out of the hand instead of thinking about hitting it. Of course, we don’t want to be swinging at pitches out of the strike-zone, but our brains must think “Hit! Hit! Hit!”, not “Is it good? is it good? is it good?” 

“Waiting to see a pitch out of the hand is foolish. Even the best hitters in the world cannot recognize spin until 10-12 feet out of a pitcher’s hand. At this point, a 90 mph fastball will be on top of you in less than three tenths of a second. That’s the amount of time it takes for you to blink. To then take the barrel to the baseball with an aggressive swing is nearly impossible. We end up with a lot of near-misses, or in reality, near-hits. Weak contact. Foul balls. Strike two. DeadmanAhhh, just missed. Yes. Yes, you did just miss. And that is all you are going to get in this at bat.”

Hitters need to be committed to the pitch they believe is coming. As Justin says, “This isn’t guess hitting. This is hitting.”  Be ready for the next pitch and stay loose.  Make a decision and get your body and your mind ready to attack that pitch where you can drive it

Source: Justin Dedman’s “Hitting Mental” Blog

Jeff Passan’s “The Arm”

The Arm

One tiny ligament in the elbow keeps snapping and sending teenagers and major leaguers alike to undergo surgery, an issue the baseball establishment ignored for decades. For three years, Jeff Passan, the lead baseball columnist for Yahoo Sports, has traveled the world to better understand the mechanics of the arm and its place in the sport’s past, present, and future.

Every year, Major League Baseball spends more than $1.5 billion on pitchers—five times the salary of all NFL quarterbacks combined. Pitchers are the lifeblood of the sport, the ones who win championships, but today they face an epidemic unlike any baseball has ever seen.

Purchase a copy here…

He got the inside story of how the Chicago Cubs decided to spend $155 million on one pitcher. He sat down for a rare interview with Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, whose career ended at 30 because of an arm injury. He went to Japan to understand how another baseball-obsessed nation deals with this crisis. And he followed two major league pitchers as they returned from Tommy John surgery, the revolutionary procedure named for the former All-Star who first underwent it more than 40 years ago.

Passan discovered a culture that struggles to prevent arm injuries and lacks the support for the changes necessary to do so. He explains that without a drastic shift in how baseball thinks about its talent, another generation of pitchers will fall prey to the same problem that vexes the current one.Slope pitcher

Equal parts medical thriller and cautionary tale, The Arm is a searing exploration of baseball’s most valuable commodity and the redemption that can be found in one fragile and mysterious limb.

 

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