“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” (Publilius Syrus)

Adversity: how fitting that this word tops the list. Adversity is what tests the mental make-up of us all. I still recall-and use -the words my father expressed when, as a bed-ridden child. I complained about my plight. “Suffering’s good for you, kid ­as long as you survive it.” I survived it.

Every hitter suffers -sooner or later. I always tell players that I hope it’s sooner -when they are the most resilient and the least “spoiled” by constant success. The key is to trust your talent and trust your approach. That trust will keep you from losing your head -from changing your stance every day (after every at-bat?). “This too shall pass,” I’d tell my own children during difficult times. Trusting is doing something about it. For a hitter, it’s staying with what has always worked in the past. Minor adjustments are often made by a hitter, but major changes based on frustration or panic are counter-productive. And likely to put the hitter deeper in the depths of his ineffectiveness.

Mike Jarvis, coaching the St. Johns University basketball team, said about his players, “We’re tough, but what I want to emphasize is that we’re mentally tough. What I look for are play­ers who have not just won all their lives, but who have been through some type of adversity and who have found a way to come through it.” Good for him. Better for them. Hitters talk constantly about “being uncomfortable.” They should not be seduced by the “feeling” of comfort. Behavior is the key, and it is when faced with adversity -situations or “slumps” [see reference below] -that we are all most in touch with what is the greater value to us: being given what we want or working persistently and effectively to get what we want. Baseball won’t develop character, but adversity in the game will surely reveal it. To develop yourself as a hitter and a person, you must face difficulty with intelligence and courage. Many in the game call it “character,” and I’ve heard managers, coaches, and scouts say “character is destiny.” It might serve you as well to invert the thought. Your destiny is also your character. Adver­sity will test you -and reveal you.

The Mental Keys to Hitting

post pic 02-06-12

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