Monday, December 29, 2014

The Hot Seat: Mental Game VIP Interview, Part 3

Positive Energy: Have to be a giver.

Confidence: Is a choice.

Championship Culture: Can be created, but takes a lot of energy.

Routines: If you don't have routines, you're just grabbing at random stuff and it's very much just luck and fortune.

Process: If you're outcome-oriented, it's going to be a grab bag, an assortment of luck. If you're
process-oriented, you always have something to go back to that gives you trust and self-confidence.

Controllables: Our thoughts are the most controllable things we have. If that's our focal point, the other things usually take care of themselves.

Mind-Body Connection: It has to be practiced. Awareness takes time. Most 22-year-olds
are way more aware than 18-year-olds. We have to help them understand that their thoughts and approach affect their body.

Success: Success is found in the process, not in the result.

Failure: Failure is necessary, no question about that. We're always spending all of this time trying to avoid failure, instead of trying to be relentless in the process. The thing that I've found in my career is that I've had to have failure to learn. I was learning at other times also, but the greatest leaps I've made in self-improvement, which have led me to be better across the board in my life, have stemmed from those failures.

Omaha: Omaha is obviously a pinnacle for Division One baseball. For us in Division Two, it's Cary, North Carolina. You have to have goals, but that's part of the result. You want to put that at the top of the Christmas tree, but you've got to start from the ground up.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How To Implement the Mental Game, Mental Game VIP Interview, Part 2

How do you implement the mental game on a daily basis?

Dedman: Certainly I use the experiences of the coaches of the mental game that I've been able to
learn from, because those are the ones that we believe in.

It starts with Dorfman, Ravizza, Cain, certainly there's some Tom House in there, but those first three are probably the core three that we are teaching—their books, photos, images, verbiage, the way they model things. The system that we actually use on a day-to-day basis, more frequently than anything, is Cain's 4RIP3. 

The 4 R’s are: to have a Routine, to Recognize your current emotional state (probably the most difficult part for a collegiate student athlete), to have a Release (what they really have to practice) and then to be able to Refocus, which is usually some type of visual or verbal cue. The I in 4RIP3 is Imagery, standing for visualization.

The three Ps are: being in the Present moment (not living in the past, not thinking too far into the
future) allows people to stay as a part of the Process, focusing on the things that we can control in the
here and now. The third P is Positive. Bruce Brown is an incredibly positive person and that's someone I've learned a lot about from interactions with books and CDs and seeing him speak live. Mark Brew, our head coach here at Lee, is a very positive leader and leads by example. It's a faith-based institution at Lee, so everything we're trying to do with our guys is centered around being positive role models for them. That certainly is ingrained and starts with the Bible, which is nothing but positive literature there.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

What is the Mental Game? Mental Game VIP Interview, Part 1

The following is part of an interview I recently did with @MentalGameVIP. Check him out on twitter. I will be releasing different parts of our conversation over the course of the next few weeks. 

What is the mental game? How important is the mental game in college baseball?

First of all, the mental game is whatever a player needs to do for himself to put himself in
the most confident place. Tom House, Brian Cain, Ken Ravizza and certainly Harvey Dorfman as well, talk about 'the zone’, what that is and what that means. Everyone wants to be 'in the zone' and it's tough to get into. So a lot of them have created systems or given hitters or athletes nuggets on how to get closer to that zone more frequently. To me, in hitting or in any sport, the mental game is how to get to be consistent enough that you can be in a committed and confident place even when your most recent opportunities have had more failure than success. That's first of all what we seek to teach in the mental game, to get people to believe in themselves even when their most recent opportunity was not successful. That necessitates practice and a lot of trials and tribulations for different people, because it's difficult to put your hands on something that is not so tangible when we're talking about the mind.

It's as important as they want it to be. The easy answer would be that it's extraordinarily important, but every player is going to buy in at their own level. If we're trying to sell everybody at the 10 out of 10 level, we turn some kids off. Some kids just aren't ready for that. I don't think we're doing them a service by making everybody get to a certain level, dismissing their intentions or their attitudes if they're not wanting to get there. Kids are at different places in their lives. They've had different experiences. They've had different opportunities to trust individuals. The way we teach and communicate about the mental game is what you’re trying to build to become a confident athlete. You're trying to trust yourself and your preparation.

Wooden said, “When opportunity comes, it's too late to prepare.” Certainly, we have to work hard before we get those opportunities, but everybody's got a different mind and a different path and learns in a different way. We try to reach them with different energy levels. Some guys may only be ready for a little nugget here and there. Some guys may be ready to dive all in. You give them what they desire.

If you're trying to give everybody everything, you may only catch the elite group that's ready for that, and you may turn some of the others off.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Pro Hitter Advice

I recently caught up with a hitter I was fortunate to coach here at Lee a few years ago. He is a true
professional, a cage rat, and a talented ball player. He's a gem. Here's his advice in a question and
answer session we had.

1.)   How has your mental preparation changed and how has it stayed the same since you got to college?

My mental game has come a long way from being an 18 year old freshman to now be a seasoned vet in the minor leagues. Mental preparation is the biggest reason why am in this position and without it I'd probably be working a 9-5 job. I remember my first time I started reading the Mental Game of Baseball and from that point on I took off!  I still carry that book with me in my backpack as we speak. I never realized that physically, we all have a lot of gifts and, realistically, we are all on that field because we have the physical tools, but we all don't possess a strong mind.

There are many players out there that don't know the game, don't understand how to get themself out of a hole or rebound from a bad call the umpire makes. These things are what separate us from being elite. Control what you can control and most everything will take care of itself. My mental game now consists of understanding that I've put in the work, trusting the process and I talk about the process a lot but the "process" is doing your due diligence in preparing yourself knowingly that you did everything you could to be ready for your next event.

Can you trust yourself enough to say that I put in all I had to be ready to perform on stage? If your answer is yes then the game should be easy because all the hard work is over. You just go out and play with passion and desire to win the game.

2.)   What are the fundamentals of your daily mental routines?

My routine isn't very hard. It consists of a few things.

1.) From the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep, I firmly believe in myself. I believe that any obstacle thrown my way I can handle.

2.) There is nothing and no one that will stop me from getting to my ultimate goal: the big leagues.
As far as when I'm at the field, I'm just reminding myself that I belong and I keep the attitude that I have something to prove every day. I'm never bigger than the game. I have things to learn and to get better at every day. Don't waste a day because you will never get it back!

3.) What adjustments have you made to your hitting approach in the minor leagues?

When I left college I felt like I had a pretty solid hitting approach. Hitting has always been something that I took pride in and I've always spent most of my time practicing it. It firsts starts in the dugout, watching the pitcher, studying his pitches and what he likes to throw. From there I take it to the on deck circle where I get my timing down and prepare myself for a battle. As I walk to the box I tell myself a few things and from there it's on. Drive something in the gaps.

Today a few things have changed: scouting reports are better and we have access to video. Now my approach starts when I show up the field. What pitcher is throwing tonight? What are his tendencies? Does he command the breaking ball? What pitch does he go to when runners are in scoring position? These questions I try and figure out before I even step foot on the field. From there most of my work is done, now I'm just looking for small things. Is he tipping his pitches? What side of the plate is he working on? 

As I make in-game adjustments it makes my job a lot easier. While I'm in the box, I'm focused on driving every pitch, staying up the middle unless the approach needs to change. Sometimes I'm sitting on a fastball on the outer half then I'm spitting on everything else in that at bat. I lock in more now than ever.

These pitchers only get better and when you got a guy commanding two and three pitches that night it makes your job tough. I just try to be disciplined and stick with my plan that AB and if I hit it on the screws or get the job done, I'm happy.

3.)   If you could go back and tell your 18 year old self one thing, what would it be?

If I could go back, I'd say work smarter rather than necessarily harder. Now I understand this could seem a little different, I still and always believe in a hard work ethic. The difference is I always thought that I could just outwork everyone and exhaust all my energy every single day. No days off, just expend everything I had all the time. I didn't understand that there was a process in doing things.

Whether it's physical or mental you gotta add and subtract. Work smarter rather than just harder is how I do work now. I know I'm putting everything into that task that day because it's a process. I don't have to go cram everything in at once. I used to try and lift for hours, run as much as I could and stay in the cages till midnight. Yes I feel like all that helped me and it kept me out of trouble. There were no distractions but as I've gotten older, I know my task and I know how much my body needs. I can structure my lifts and I can take time off hitting, knowingly that it'll come right back to me. I believe in the process and have no problem taking time off if it's going to help benefit me in the long run.

4.)   What does a day in the life of Blake Barber look like mid-season?

A day during my mid-season routine usually consists of sleeping, eating, playing ball and working out. I usually try and get an adequate amount of sleep each night as it varies whether or not we've been traveling or if we have a double header or if we play a day game. As I wake up, I usually go straight to the kitchen and make food; Eggs, turkey bacon, hash browns and coffee.

There will be days where I mix in protein pancakes or eat a bowl of power oatmeal. From then, I usually lie back down and relax for a few hours, watch some TV or talk with my family on the phone. As mid-day approaches, I make a smoothie filled with kale, Greek yogurt, blueberries, cinnamon, blackberries, raspberries, spinach and orange juice topped with a scoop of weight gainer. I'll usually walk to the field after this and go through my daily baseball routine which is looking at video, taking BP, talking with my buddies and getting dressed for the game. After the game, I'll eat take a second to think about how the game went that night and then it's over I'm on to the next day. I'll walk to my apartment, enjoy some time with my roommates and go to sleep.

5.)   What part of your game are you working to improve right now?

This offseason, I have a few things I'm trying to work on: getting a better first step on the bases and out on defense, take better routes in the outfield, strengthen my arm, improve plate discipline, and use the whole field at the plate. I'm ready to take my game the next level which hopefully will be double A. These improvements will need to be part of my game for me to compete at a high level and be an every-day player. I've embraced the utility role. Each night, I never know where I'll be playing. This has been a great role for me because as long as I can play multiple positions, I increase my chances of making it to the big leagues.