11/19/13 - Mental Reps
I’ll never forget the time I asked my Spring Training roommate, Sawyer Carroll, why he didn’t do much extra hitting, especially during a slump. You see, though mental prep was a massive part of my game, I was the type of player that wanted to have more work under my belt than the next guy. I came before “early outs” and took swings off of the tee, I’d hit early everyday, and of course, I’d take part in regular batting practice. Sawyer, on the other hand, rarely took a swing that wasn’t required of him.
To answer my question, he looked right at me and said, “This might sound dumb, but I just think about this stuff a lot.”
To me, it wasn’t dumb at all. I immediately knew what he meant because, though I geeked out on getting lots of repetition, I learned along the way that my internal focus was actually critical visualization for me. Sawyer was an all-star right fielder that drove in runs like I’d never seen. In the baseball world, we’d say someone like this University of Kentucky standout could “rake.”
But, he was “raking” without doing too much extra physical practice. In fact, he’d get better at hitting while sitting on a stool in front of his locker with his headphones in and his shirt off.
My reason for sharing this story is that I see lots of athletes, coaches, and professionals in other domains with a desire to be great. I see these folks doing all the “reps.” By that I mean they do all the work they’re supposed to do. They practice, they show up, and they work hard. Often times what they find, however, is that results aren’t quite exceptional or the pace of their progress isn’t great.
An often missed element of mastery is one that Sawyer knew best. If you really want to be good at this stuff, you must consume your mind with it. You can’t just aim your thoughts at it the hour a day that your actually in the gym, for example. In the same way, an aspiring drummer that thinks of drumming only while drumming, will not progress like the aspiring drummer who’s mind is captivated by drumming while drumming, but also in science class, while cooking dinner, in the shower, and while sitting in traffic.
The thoughts that fill your mind will absolutely shape your reality. Practice your trade with nearly every waking minute, because surely your competition is.
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