Jab Jab Hook – How to get good players to change
A former big leaguer once told me about an interaction between another major leaguer and a new hitting coach. On the first day of spring training, the player was hitting off a batting tee and the brand new coach walked up to him and said something like “We are going to have to do a lot of work on your swing this year.”
The player looked at him and responded with “Last year I hit 25 home runs and drove in over 100 runs. You’re not fixing sh–. Go over there and work with the young kids and leave me the f— alone.“
Although the player probably did not use much grace with his response, the coach made a basic mistake that a lot of people make when working with a good player. They fail to realize just how resistant to change these players can be.
Coaches need to understand that the player in question probably has had a lot of success doing it their way up to now. The last thing they want to do is jeopardize that success in the future. In fact, they are probably scared to death to change since they know that big changes often result in going backwards for a period until they get the hang of it. At the big league level, players are also very aware that one slump can put a them back in the minors faster than you can say “bus rides.”
No matter what level you are on, approaching good players and suggesting changes can be a little tricky. Even if you are absolutely sure the player needs to make an adjustment, your best bet is not to present it all at once. A better strategy might be a Jab, Jab, Hook method of instruction.
If you watch boxing, very rarely will you see a knockout right hook as the very first punch of the bout. Boxers feel one another out by using small jabs that can be used to set up their big right hook sometime later. Baseball instruction can work the same way when it comes to good players.
Giving very small (non-threatening) tips about hitting and mechanics build up your credibility as a knowledgeable hitting guy. After building up these small jabs of instruction over time, the good player usually will be much more receptive to larger suggestions – notice I said “suggestions” and not “commands” – in the future. Even better, if you have built up this “jab credibility” then the player might even seek you out in the future if they have questions or want to make a change.
No matter what their ability level is, forcing change on players usually doesn’t end well. The results can be even worse when dealing with good players. If you are faced with that situation, the Jab Jab Hook method may be your best bet.