This past week, I had the pleasure of attending the Virginia Baseball Coaches Association Annual convention I saw a lot of great coaches speak and I might write even more about some of the presentations I saw. That said, the first night of the convention Paul Mainieri spoke; Mainieri is the head coach at LSU, he had a lot of great wisdom to share but one thing that stuck with me in particular was a quote he made reference to, “Success isn’t final, failure isn’t fatal.” So I wanted to spend some time writing about what that means to young hitters.
So many young athletes/parents don’t understand success and failure in context. The reality is that every time that a baseball or softball game is played, it tests the current abilities of the athlete, it is only a point of reference for the future of that athlete. Often kids and parents live and die with the every pitch thrown. Baseball/Softball don’t work that way, it’s a grind, and although you need to compete on every pitch, as a hitter it’s important to understand 2 things. 1) hitting is really hard and you’re going to fail more than you’ll succeed. 2) Success isn’t final, failure isn’t fatal.
Often I see athletes and parents not being patient enough with hitters, they frequently expect their 12 year old to be a finished product. At the age of 12, almost no one is a polished athlete even the best players in your son or daughter’s league.
The flaws in things that we see in our day to day life are easy to spot. For example, we can all easily see that the below house is not finished. Moving into that frame of a house would not be something that anyone in their right mind would recommend. We all also know that the builder still has a lot of work to do before that house is ready for move in.
In comparison, the swing below is flawed. But the amount of work that needs to be put in to fix and optimize the below swing is generally unknown to the majority of the population (Below: same swing different views).
Below is a swing that is much closer to ideal (Below: same swing different views).
Turning the swing on top to the swing on bottom takes a lot of work. And any failure prior to the having a workable swing, that can produce good results doesn’t matter. For the hitter who has a flawed movement pattern, all their hitting focus should be on changing the pattern to a workable/repeatable solution. If your house that’s being built isn’t yet livable you wouldn’t move into it. If the swing that you make isn’t yet playable you shouldn’t be playing much. If you are playing a lot, don’t expect game result until your swing has improved.
Once your swing is improved, it’s still not easy to immediately execute it in a game setting. Be realistic and put your failure in context. That said, we shouldn’t shield athletes from their failures, letting a kid feel the burn and hurt of failing can be one of the most motivating things for young athletes so when your kid gets his or her butt kicked don’t run to the rescue. They’re either going to fight get better or fold. If they fold, that’s when you need to step in and ask them why they selected that path.
Not only is your failure something that needs to be put in context. But your success needs to be put in context as well. It can be easy to trick yourself into thinking that your swing is great by playing against low-level competition. Two categories of people can hit the ball really well against poor competition with a bad swing 1) Plus athletes and 2) Large Humans. Being really big, athletically gifted or both is a blessing because these athletes have the highest ceiling. But can be a curse, because these athletes are easily fooled into thinking that they don’t need to make any changes and tend to be very stubborn about making any adaptations to the increased level of competition.
If you’re currently a great hitter at the level you currently play, it’s important to find out how good you actually are. How hard do you hit the ball relative to others in your age group? Does your swing match up with the way other great major league hitters swing (or in the case of softball, great college hitters or great NPF hitters)? If all that you know is you hit the ball well for your age group, you should know more than that, so you actually have an idea of where you stand relative to others.
As an athlete, just know if you not performing well, smart and targeted hard work will help you improve. Inversely, if you’re a great athlete for your age, others will surely pass you by if you stop working hard. “Success isn’t final, failure isn’t fatal.”
Thanks for reading,
Kurt Hewes – Director of hitting and Founder of Ignite Baseball
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