Did you visualize your successes before baseball season last year?
The answer doesn’t matter because it is in the past. If you are going to experience more success, then you need to start planning and working. Unfortunately for young players goal-setting can be difficult. They have little to no experience writing viable goals. Most often young players say something broad and difficult to measure like, “I want to be a better hitter.”
That’s a good start, but what does that really mean? More home runs? Less two strike strikeouts?
C’mon, you know what that means.
Of course. Everybody knows what that means. But how does a young player work on EVERYTHING? They can’t. They need to focus. That leads to measurable success which helps them to keep improving. What is the best way to help young players set goals?
- Specific: You want to set a clearly defined goal; often easily answering the five W’s – who, what, where, which, and why.
- For example, for the player that want to be a “better hitter.” That’s too broad. A more clearly defined version of that goal could be, “I want to hit better than .400 in USSSA tournaments this season.”
- Measurable: Concrete criteria for measuring progress and attainment.
- Baseball makes it easy to measure many things on the field. But what if your goal is to have a better mental approach at the plate? That can seem more difficult to measure, but there are lots of things you can do. Video tape at-bats, both in practice and games, and look at your pitch selection. Are you chasing balls outside your preferred zone early in the count? Document and track your efforts. Or maybe you just get nervous? Then maybe you need to start learning deep breathing, meditation, or something else like that (eg, Tai Chi, Yoga, etc.). Even tracking the classes is better than nothing.
- Attainable: Things that can be accomplished – realistic and attainable. It may take several goals to reach the final one.
- Every baseball player would love to hit more home runs. That sounds like an awesome goal. But you’ll likely need to achieve several goals before ‘home runs’ is realistic and attainable. You may need to work on your swing, lift weights, or understand the count and game situation better. It’s ok to have a big goal, but set the smaller ones first to get you there.
- Relevant: Will this actually help?
- What kid wouldn’t want to emulate a player like Justin Verlander? He throws a four-seam fastball, a curveball, a slider, and a change-up. However, a 10U player doesn’t need four pitches. A reliable change-up can be devastating at 10U. Instead of working on a slider, focus on having a change-up that can be thrown effectively at anytime.
- Time-Bound: When will this be accomplished?
- It won’t be tomorrow. For young players, growing up in an instant gratification world, this can be difficult to figure out. Lasting change takes time and effort; the less time and effort given – the longer it takes. It can be even more frustrating for young players when time and effort is given and the changes aren’t happening fast enough. I like the six-week rule – every six weeks assess and adjust. It helps keep goals specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
Maybe the most important thing for young players to remember is that goal attainment doesn’t mean stopping. Listen to Nolan Arenado:
“We worked early almost every day,” Arenado said. “It didn’t matter if we had a late bus ride the night before. Every day we had an early workout at 1 p.m. Then we had batting practice, some drills again, then play the game. He gave me the push on those days I didn’t want to work. He wouldn’t let me slack off.”
It is a lesson Arenado learned well. Now in his sixth big league season, his work habits are stronger than ever.
Even with five Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers and four All-Star Game appearances, Arenado isn’t satisfied.
“It’s never-ending work,” he said. “I don’t want to let up. You could get lazy out here. I think the older you get, the more you have to keep on it. So I always try to do my drills, and do them the same way I did my rookie year.”
It is important to visualize your baseball successes for next season. The next step is writing down the SMART goals that will help you achieve it. What are your SMART goals for 2020?