Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Teaching Confidence

The time we spend admiring the technique, mechanics, approach and unworldly talent of big league hitters can often allow us to forget the most important facet of hitting: confidence.

As a coach, I believe we can develop confidence as easily as we can breed insecurity. Now saying that developing confidence is easy does not mean it is quick. Confidence is a reflection of trust in self, and too often, security that others should trust you.

My goal as a hitting coach is to help my hitters become their own best hitting coach. While their awareness of their swing may not be as consistent or have the same perspective that I can offer them, ultimately they are in the batter’s box and I am not. They make decisions, have emotional reactions and can succeed or fail independently from others’ expectations.

Hitters can more consistently control their performance if they are in control of themselves. Confidence, like attitude, is both a momentary choice and an accumulation of certainties that training and preparation have the hitter ready to snatch success from the grasp of failure’s fingertips. Work smart and you’ll feel confident.

When Miguel Cabrera steps into the box, we assume he is confident. He looks confident. He’s hulking, swings a 33 ounce bat like a broom stick and imposes his strength at contact like a driving sledgehammer. But even Miguel has uncertainty. His load might feel off, or someone wrote a new article about his former issues with alcohol that upset him, or his oblique strain aggravated him again in BP.

Lacking confidence is really giving in to distraction. Confidence cuts with a razor-sharp blade through distraction and locks in with superior present-moment focus. Control what I can control. Confidence is simple. Confidence is aggressive but controlled, like a Mercedes-Benz.

We see hitters all the time who are “4 o’clock hitters.” Batting practice starts and they CRUSH 48-52 mph down the middle. They even have the audacity to drive the ball backside. Then the lights come on and the game starts at 7 and their approach sucks, their swing looks like a wet noodle through the hitting zone, and their body language looks as if someone just stole their lollipop.

So how the heck can we teach confidence? How can we GIVE them confidence?

Every teacher needs a system. We use Brian Cain’s 4RIP3 system here at Lee.

4 R’s: Routine, Recognize, Release, Refocus; 1 I: Imagery (visualization); 3 P’s: Present (moment focus), Positive and Perspective.

Most importantly, the way we teach on a daily basis is meant to reinforce perspective, kaizen (small and incremental changes), and being process oriented. When they focus on these three things, they can learn to control what they can control: attitude, approach and effort.

Hitters have no control of the ball once it comes off the bat, but how it came off of the bat is a reflection of mechanics, certainly, approach, definitely…and confidence.

If your hitters are having a bad round of batting practice, try encouraging them to get aggressive and COMPETE! Watch the results improve regardless of mechanical deficiencies. As they get better results, they should quickly realize that it was their mindset that had a significant and direct impact on their results. They dominated the process by focusing on their confidence, their aggressiveness…now that’s an approach we all can be excited about!

3 comments

  1. Great stuff here bro. Good start to this thing for sure.
    How much reading material do you provide to your guys of the course of a year and/or video or photos to reinforce what you are teaching?
    - Metz

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  2. Thanks, Nate! We like to give our guys different stimuli every week, but it is important to me that we do it with structure. We enter the fall and spring seasons with a plan for what we will teach when- though we certainly make adjustments to material we give them as needed during the spring. We do video review quite a bit, sometimes in our offices or at the field, sometimes just by sending them the videos by phone and texting them concepts. We definitely are all in with 4RIP3, Brian Cain's mental game system. Highly encourage buying his books and implementing them. We use, books, photos, video, sabermetrics and sometimes just man to man talks to get our guys on board. Without question, it is most important that they understand that we believe in them; they are here because we chose them and they chose us, not because we had to have a certain number of hitters.

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  3. Good stuff Justin. The emphasis on having players focus on "controlling what they can control" is huge for the confidence building process. That is a phrase my players probably get tired of hearing from me, but it's so important because it focuses the players attention onto what they need to do to be successful and ultimately help the team. Part of what I emphasize in game situations is being ready when players step in the box. It sounds simple, but a lot of my guys at the high school and junior high level don't realize that they do have the ability to control of the pace of an at bat - calling time, stepping out, etc. If any doubt creeps in, they need to take control of the situation before they step back in. At the very least they won't get cheated out of an AB because of doubt.

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