Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Implementing the Mental Game with University of Washington Hitting Coach Donegal Fergus

                                                         (Photo credit: www.tdn.com)

I met Donegal Fergus on a flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco during a fall recruiting trip. Fergie is a light in the room: energetic, bright and ready to go all day. We share a passion for teaching the mental game, breathing, stretching the mind...and hitting. Fergie is a giver who grasps the mental game and, most importantly, knows how to implement it into an aggressive hitting style. He was generous enough to share with us all. Soak it in.

Thanks, Fergie.



Q: How do you integrate the mental game into your offensive preparation in practice?

A: We talk mental game every day. Principles of our beliefs: growth, mindset, learning how to learn, curiosity and openness to new concepts. We start practice with group breathing exercises. Guided meditation. Individual breathing techniques are honed in BP. As our guys transition from cage to main diamond for their rounds on field, they first spend one minute on their own practicing "quick transition" breathing techniques before starting their BP rounds.

We also frequently use the classroom to discuss themes like confidence, failure, and commitment. My guys know they can always come and talk privately about anything and that happens regularly. We call it the psychiatrist's couch.

Q: What do the best hitters in your program do well mentally?

A: Our best guys move on the fastest from down moments. They get frustrated and upset like everyone but they hit reset much quicker than the rest.

Q: How do you coach the mental game differently now than you did five years ago?

A: I'm more open with my guys. I explain the "why" much more than ever. I used to tell them just trust me that it's right. "Shut up and do what I tell you," in a way. Now I encourage them to challenge me and ask questions if they don't understand or think they have a better way.

I tell them from the beginning that it is a collaboration. We're in this together. All in. No turning back. I trust them to listen and learn and push their own limits and they trust me that I have nothing but their best interests at heart. We talk about that openly. Allows me to try just about anything with them. It also allows for greater buy-in because it's all "theirs."

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