All too often as coaches, parents, and mentors we are too quick to jump on
the mechanics bandwagon. If something is wrong the first thing that often
gets looked at is the mechanics of the hitter, and sometimes rightfully so.
But more often than not this is not the number one area of the athlete that
needs to be attacked. A much safer and foundational place to start is the
athletes thought process or mentality. This blog is written to shed more light
on the facet of the hitter that often gets forgotten. The mentality.

In my opinion the reason mechanics are the first things to go under fire is
because they are the easiest to diagnose. Nowadays anyone with a camera
or an IPhone can very easily look at the swing and dissect every single facet
about it from: weight shift, head position, front arm mechanics, front side
mechanics, swing path and everything in between. All of the access to high
speed video can of course be a great tool, but on the contrary it can also
slow the progression of hitters across the board. Having models and
resources on the internet to pull high speed video from and being quick to
compare and contrast the hitters is a great resource, but this easy access to
comparables can also set us up for failure. Taking a 12 year old athlete and
being quick on the trigger to compare his swing to Mike Trout hitting a 430’
home run is a recipe for disaster. Yes, we definitely would love for our 12
year old playing travel ball to have a swing that mirrors that of Mike Trout or
Bryce Harper but this is not always plausible or even necessary. Constantly
drawing from video and picking apart positions where the athlete should be
is not something that is very productive. In fact, showing athletes an expert
model and nothing else can actually inhibit the learning process of the
athlete. The fact of the matter is that a swing like Bryce Harper’s or David
Ortiz is nothing without the brains and the mentality that they have to go
along with it. I’ve seen countless times where a student or professional
athlete has a sound swing mechanically, but cannot produce up to the
standards of the swing. On the other hand, I have also seen the opposite
happen when a hitter has “subpar mechanics” and is still able to achieve
results at a consistent level. There are numerous reasons for this, but a huge
reason for their varied success is partly due to their mentality and thought
process. If the athlete has a great swing and is still not producing results in
the heat of competition chances are they need to have their mentality looked
at. This is a huge reason why I first like to take a look at the mentality of the
hitters that I work with. You can positively affect the hitters results often
times without changing anything about their swing. To me this is the best
way to go about working with a hitter because this is something that can be
almost crossed off the list in the beginning instead of always looking at
making swing changes. This is also a more organic and foundational
approach to working with hitters.

Since I have been working with athletes I have noticed a reluctance to look at
a hitters mental process while up at the plate. One of the biggest reasons for
this lack of attention to mentality is due to it being hard to diagnose. With so
many ways to break the swing down mechanically it is all too easy to find
something wrong with a game swing and try to make changes mechanically.
Because of the ease to break down mechanics it is becoming easier to miss
the mental aspect. Due to mentality not having a clear diagnostic check
mark, it easily gets overlooked. There is also a large number of people that
do not believe that mentality plays a large enough role in success for them
to spend time on it.

There are a lot of different books and resources to get ideas about mentality
and what mentality looks like. But for the purposes of this blog I would like to
share what qualities I believe a great mentality is and possesses:

1. Ownership
2. Resiliency/ Competitiveness
3. Clarity of goals

Ownership– in my opinion is the most important facet of a high level
thought process.  Without ownership none of this can truly get off the ground.
If ownership is nonexistent it becomes very easy to blame unfavorable
situations, results, and lack of adjustments on other factors that claim to be
out of someone’s control. With ownership you immediately have the power
to make positive changes that lead to more desirable results.

Resiliency and Competitiveness Are one of the same in my opinion
because one does not withstand the test of time without the other. Without
resiliency (the ability to bounce back) in the face of adversity
competitiveness (The act of not giving up during competition) will not last,
and without competitiveness you will not be resilient. They are co-dependent
on one another.

Clarity of goals– Is the third pillar of the mental process. If someone goes
into a game like situation and does not have a clear and concise objective in
mind, then it is highly unlikely they will find sustained success. If there is a
clear goal in mind ownership, resiliency and competitiveness will all work
together toward the desired result. Without the end goal in mind an athlete
can very easily be spinning their tires and very quickly going nowhere.

Always deciding to start looking a mechanics for the main reason of
performance inconsistency is definitely a slippery slope and time consuming,
not to mention this is not always the most effective form of coaching.
Deciding to overlook the mentality aspect of the athlete is not exactly
coaching with the foundation of the hitter in mind. If there needs to be
mechanical adjustments made we should definitely act, however they do not
always need to be the first thing to be adjusted.
Start with the foundation in mind.