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How to Win

A Night at the Ballpark

Last night I saw a big-league baseball game, my first in many years. Some thoughts.

One thing that stood out was how ORDINARY the game was. I don’t mean that in a bad way; the game was exciting and well-played. By ordinary I simply mean that at its essence, this event consisted of nothing but men batting and catching a ball. The fact that the game was on TV, was watched enthusiastically by thousands of people, and had its statistics recorded for all time had NOTHING to do with what happened on the field.

In other words, there were two things going on: the game itself and the importance that people attached to it. As peak performance coach Dave Cross says, “No situation has any significance except the one that you give it.”

Coaches must convey this difference to athletes. The significance of a game doesn’t get the job done; execution of the skills gets the job done. Master the skills, and things take care of themselves.

Second, no one in the crowd cared about the personal lives of the players. No one cared which players had slept the night before, or which players had broken up with a girlfriend, or which players were particularly psyched up for the game. The fans at Camden Yards were interested only in being entertained by the New York Mets and the Baltimore Orioles. The moral for any athlete or coach: It doesn’t matter how you FEEL. It only matters what you DO.

Third, in one section of the stadium, various markers in the sidewalk mark the spot where players have hit home runs. The markers list the player who hit the ball, and how far he hit it. This reminds me of one of the top motivational techniques I’ve ever heard. When someone on the team does something extraordinary, the coach can stop the practice and, using some floor tape and a marker, create a “Hollywood star” right on the court or field. It might read, “On this spot, on such and such a date, (Sally or John) drove for a ball (or whatever). Having a name enshrined in front of the entire team gives a powerful incentive for players to give extraordinary effort.


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