Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

Killer instinct: Time, Place, and Manner

April 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Make Up, Mental Side

One of the benefits of living in America is the high standard of living we enjoy compared to the rest of the world.  Most Americans don’t know what it is truly like to scrape, claw, and fight for what you need to survive.  With this high standard of living comes a civility where aggressiveness towards others is downplayed at home and at school.  There are obvious exceptions of course but as a country of over 300 million people, we generally get along pretty well.

As with anything, there is always another side to the coin.  As baseball coaches, we always deal with players who are, shall we say, a little too nice.  These are players that are great kids off the field.  They are polite, courteous boys who are a pleasure to know.  However, these same kids can drive us nuts because they take this same personality onto the field with them a bit too much.  On the other hand, we’ve all had players whose aggressive, “edgy” personality helps them compete in a game setting.  Often these are the type of players we want to go into battle with because they never back down and have that fight in them that all good players have.  The problem though is that these players often have this personality off the field as well which gets them in trouble in school and/or with the law.

The question becomes … how can we as coaches inspire that aggressive, killer instinct that is inside all of us to come out when the game starts but be put away once the game is over?  It’s not easy.  People tend to take the same personality with them everywhere they go.  Timid off the field ends up being timid on the field.  Aggressiveness on the field usually means aggressiveness off the field.  How do we get the best of both worlds for our players?

Below are a few things coaches can do or say:

Give them permission.  Everywhere they go in society our players are bombarded with anti-aggressiveness messages from parents and teachers.  That’s a good thing in the real world where civility and the importance of being social is paramount.  However, on the field, that personality will get them stomped on.  Let them know that they have permission to be aggressive.  It’s ok.  It’s not only ok, it’s mandatory if they want to keep playing the game at the higher levels.  The ultra-competitive nature of baseball at the high school, college, and professional levels will run right over a timid player no matter how talented they are.  Players have to compete and being able to tap into that aggressiveness when necessary is key.  (Obviously true in life as well!)

Teach them to compartmentalize.  Compartmentalizing allows players to choose which personality traits are best suited for each situation.  There is a time for being calm and passive.  There is also a time for aggressiveness.  A one size fits all personality doesn’t cut it for every situation.  To read a previous post about how players can compartmentalize, click HERE.

“Aggressive” and “mean” are not the same thing.  Too often, people get these two confused.  Mean is like a bully.  Aggressiveness is more like assertiveness or audacity.  It’s the mindset that might say or believe the following:

  • I am a good player and I’m going to prove it to everyone today.
  • I will never give up striving for what I deserve as a player.
  • Some players may have more talent but I will still beat them with the way I compete.

Aggressiveness can be quiet.  You don’t have to be a raging lunatic to be aggressive.  An aggressive mind is all you need.  Derek Jeter has it.  Matt Kemp has it.  Ichiro has it.  So does Roy Halladay.  All these top players have aggressiveness but are also even tempered.

Aggressiveness is not something you have to “get.”  We all have aggressiveness preinstalled already.  Have someone physically attack a timid person’s child and watch that timid person transform into an aggressive protector instantly.  The military brings this side out of new recruits in boot camp every day.  The key for baseball players is learn how to tap into that side of our nature when the time comes.  It might take some time to figure out how but it can be done.

Act as if.  I did a previous post on this HERE but in general it means that if a player has a tough time tapping into his own aggressive side, he can “act as if” he is aggressive.  He can mimic the behaviors, mannerisms, etc. of players he deems to be aggressive type players.  Talk like they do.  Walk like they do.  Stand on the mound or approach the plate like they do.  If he does this, often the player tricks his body and mind into being more confident and aggressive.

The point for coaches to understand is that there are things that we can all do to help players tap into the aggressive, competitive side.  It may not work for all players but it’s worth trying.

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