Your imaginary opponent
If you are a player who has average to below-average ability then deciding who your opponent is is fairly easy. It’s the guy playing ahead of you or that good pitcher on the other team you are about to play. Every time you take a rep in practice or in your own backyard you clearly know how good you have to become in order to be
better than they are. You have an image in your mind as to how that kid plays and your job is to work hard to be better than that image.
But how exactly does that work when you are the best kid on the team, in the league, in the district, in the state, etc.?
This is a problem for your best players because they often will get a false sense of how good they are in comparison to everyone else. Everyone they play is less talented then they are so what incentive do they have to “bust it” in team practices or when they practice on their own?
The answer is … they must create an imaginary opponent in their mind that is better than they are. Every time they have the desire to slack off or give less than full effort they need to bring that faceless opponent to the front of their mind as a reminder that there is someone out there who is better who will eventually take their job if they don’t hop to it.
I had a friend and teammate in high school who used to get annoyed with me after games where I went 1-3 or 2-5 at the plate and complained about my swings and overall performance. He thought I was just a complainer and believed I should be happy with my current high average. However, from my point of view, I knew the success I had in high school wouldn’t automatically translate to college and beyond. The two hits I got in the high school game probably would have been outs if a college defense was out there. As a shortstop, I also knew there were many shortstops around the country (and especially on some Caribbean islands!) that were my real competition. That drove me to always get better regardless of my current stats.
It’s not always easy to do but having that imaginary opponent in your head can sometimes work wonders for your motivation and attention to detail.
Tomorrow’s post: The most annoying thing about private lessons