Color Coded Mindsets For Baseball
If you have been in the Marines or are in the gun world, you probably have heard of Colonel Jeff Cooper. Cooper was considered to be one of the world’s top experts on the use and history of small arms (handguns).
Among many of his books was one that introduced a color coding system to teach people the mindset that is required to go from a normal, relaxed state all the way to a full-blown gun fight. His color codes are as follows:
- White – Complete lack of awareness, not paying attention at all
- Yellow – Attentive, but relaxed
- Orange – Focus is directed at an immediate potential threat
- Red – Game on. There is a definitive threat in your environment
It was Cooper’s opinion that too many people walk around in White and are almost completely unaware of what is going on around them. As coaches, we know we have players like this too.
Even though baseball is not a life and death situation, the same color codes can be applied to the mindset needed for the game.
White. One can argue that a player should never be in this color when they are near a field. Good players are always alert to what is going on around them. Players who are in White are the ones who get drilled by a teammate’s errant throw during warm-ups. It’s the oblivious guy in the outfield who gets hit by a batted ball during BP. It’s also the guy who forgets how many outs there are while in the field or on the bases. Don’t be in White. Ever.
Yellow. Yellow will keep you safe and allow you to pick up things other player might miss. This mindset is required for players prior to the game and bench players during the game. It will get you to pay attention to the opposing pitcher warming up prior to the game. It will get you to watch the other team take infield practice to look for weaknesses and arm strengths. It will allow a bench player to notice when a pitcher tips off his curveball and how he pitches batters like yourself that are ahead of you.
Orange. The player who is in Orange is in the game. In orange he has his head on a swivel and is constantly looking for relevant information in his environment. This is because at any time the ball may be hit to him and he knows he better be ready. If he is not directly involved in the play, he still knows he will need to be somewhere on every play. It could also apply to the batter on deck who knows his time to hit is approaching. His focus narrows to what might impact him directly in the very near future.
Red. When the pitch is about to be delivered to YOU or when the ball has been hit and it’s coming to YOU is when a player shifts to Red. It’s game on and your entire focus is on the pitch or the play. It’s not a time to be thinking of how many outs there are or who is on base. All those variables are absorbed during the Yellow and Orange phases. Naturally, a player may have to adjust mid-play if the circumstances change but most of what a player should know to make the play should have occurred before the ball was pitched or hit.
Many players do not get this thinking correct. Some spend too much of their time in White. These players cannot be depended on. Some players spend all their time in Yellow. These players are great at picking up information but have trouble narrowing their focus when it’s game-on for them. Other players may always be in Red. Those players are a nervous wreck and tend to suffer from tunnel vision. They do not get the benefit of an expanded perspective during the Yellow and Orange phases.
Just like Colonel Cooper pointed out, a player cannot successfully “flip the switch” and go from White to Red and be successful. Each level of mindset helps prepare the player for the mindset required at the next level. We all know that the “Don’t worry coach. When the game comes, I’ll be ready” line usually doesn’t work so well.
All players need to know the different mindsets required and when they are needed. Getting it right is the only way to truly prepare for competition.