Watching the Women's College World Series Confirmed Why Harvey Scouted Aggressiveness
Harvey Dorfman was the greatest mental skills coach I have known. Harvey was brilliant, insightful, and caring, and I could rattle off many other adjectives. People who met him, including me, rave about the impact he had on their lives. People who read his books (The Mental Game of Baseball, The Mental Keys to Hitting, The Mental ABCs of Pitching, or Coaching the Mental Game) rave about the impact his words had on their sports careers. Harvey was a national championship goalie in soccer. Harvey was a state championship coach in girls basketball. Harvey was a two-time World Champion in Major League Baseball. Why did the Oakland A's, Florida Marlins, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and Scott Boras hire him to be their mental skills coach? More than any of the adjectives above, what made Harvey unique is that he was very, very aggressive.
Harvey would tell the story of meeting a boxer he idolized when he was a kid. I expected the tough guy taught him something like, “It is always a good idea to avoid a fight if you can.” Or, “being a great fighter is for defense, not offense.” This reflects how I was raised, and it is not bad advice . . . unless you need someone else to lose for you to win. The impressionable, young Harvey was told by his boxing hero, “Best thing I can tell you, kid is that if you're face to face with a bully, make sure you get the first shot in.”
When a major league team sent Harvey to get to know a potential first-round draft choice, the biggest thing Harvey wanted to figure out about the kid was how aggressive he was. I thought about this as I watched the 15-inning marathon game between Florida and Nebraska at this year's Women's College World Series. Nebraska was leading 2-0 in the 5th inning when Florida scored 6 runs without the benefit of a Hard Hit Ball. One play stood out to me: a routine grounder to an infielder. This player went for a tag on the lead runner and it looked to be an easy out until the runner successfully avoided the tag. Many would not notice this play first in a game like this. They might make an excuse that the runner may have been out of the baseline, or that it was just bad luck. The reality is that the fielder did not go after that out, that tag, aggressively. Later in the same inning, she had another chance to get her team an out, but she needed to dive for a seeing-eye single and she did not. She probably hoped the shortstop would make the play after she let it go by. Players who lack aggressiveness often think, though they know better than to say it aloud, that “this is not my fault.” Perhaps the thought is subconscious.
An aggressive competitor wants the responsibility of winning! She is not just along for the ride with her star pitcher and teammates. She may or may not be a star, but either way, she wants to be a spark, to contribute significantly to the win. She embraces challenges and lives for opportunities to do something special on the diamond. On offense, she hopes to get the extra at-bat in the seventh inning. On defense, she hopes the ball is hit to her. On the bases, she knows the percentages and looks to take an extra base. Everyone fears failure. Not everyone acts scared. Aggressive people do not let their fear impact their behavior. If they think it is best to say something, they say it. If they think it is best to do something, they do it. Harvey did not mince words. His players gave him a t-shirt that said, “Help, my mouth keeps moving and I can't make it stop.” He called it “brutal honesty.” “Don't tell me you want to make the big leagues if you'd rather rest than lift weights after a game,” he would say. People act out what they want most. Winners act out aggressiveness!
Being aggressive is very much different from being stupid. Controls are needed, or balance is lost. A baserunner must know the outs and game situation. A hitter must pay attention to the umpire's strike zone and the pitcher's tendencies. A fielder must know the situation and avoid rushing. The call for aggressiveness is not permission to ignore the need for intelligence and self-control. It is simply a reminder that intelligence and self-control will not win when the level of competition gets to a championship level unless they accompany a lot of aggressiveness.
Like any skill, the mental skill of aggressiveness can be practiced. Motivated behavior, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, comes from particular patterns of self-talk. If you can figure out what your ideal balance of aggressiveness with control is, then you can pay attention to what leads to arriving at that balance in games. Then, you can develop a pre-performance routine designed specifically, in part, to get you there. This is what the great competitors do to maximize their consistency.
Aggressive competitors take initiative in practice. They work to put aggressive and legal tags down every chance they get, including pre-game infield/outfield. (Do you (or your team) pay attention to this “little” detail?) They invent drills to work on their specific weaknesses. They do not wait for a coach to tell them there is a problem. They assume a leadership role, working relentlessly to make themselves and their teammates better one step at a time.
Aggressive hitters recognize the wisdom of a popular saying in the Dominican Republic: “You can't walk off the island.” Why not? Because the Dominican is an island and if a baseball player is going to motivate a major league team to sign him and buy him a plane ticket to America, it will not be because he walks well. It will be because he hits well. Be aggressive.
Look to hit and play to win!
|Aaron Weintraub holds a B.A. from Emory University (1993) and a M.Ed. from the University of Virginia (2000). He served as an assistant baseball coach for 13 years before starting www.CoachTraub.com, a consulting business whose mission is to over-deliver value on goods and services designed to help you win the mental side of the game. He works with teams and individuals, adding clarity to help them get what they want for their sport. CoachTraub.com also runs camps and clinics and has an online store.Weintraub is the author of Coaches Guide to Winning the Mental Game (Coaches Choice, 2009) and An Elite Athlete’s Manual for Training Mental Skills (self-published, 2011). He lives in The Colony, TX with his wife, Nicole, and their four children.|
Have A Question or Some Feedback? Click and send me a voice message.
This content is provided with a Creative Commons Share-Alike License. Feel free to use this content, so long as you give credit to Gary Leland, of Fastpitch.TV and link to www.Fastpitch.TV