Baseball is a game of inches and the outcome is often determined by factors well outside the player’s—and coach’s—control. Take for example a close playoff game my high school team played in the spring: Down by one run in the seventh inning with nobody out and the leadoff man aboard, I elected to let the batter swing away, rather than bunt to get the tying run in scoring position.
A bit of a gamble probably, especially considering the fact that the on-deck hitter had been swinging a really hot bat, but I just went with my gut instinct. The kid ended up hitting a ground ball base hit through the right side, making me look like a genius coach.
However, the truth of the matter is if that ground ball was hit a few feet to the left, it would have been a routine double-play ball, we lose the game, and my coaching decision would have been severely questioned.
So much in baseball is left to chance—an umpire’s call on a close pitch or play at the bases, a bad hop in the infield, a seeing eye single with the game on the line. Knowing this reality, it is critical for amateur coaches to focus on the process, rather than the outcome.
Just as a team can play well and win, a team can also play well and lose, or, just as easily, play poorly and win. Focusing on how the team played the game rather than the score enables players to focus on aspects within their immediate control. This philosophy is consistent with what we focus on at DNA Sports—playing the game the right way.
Instead of telling your players the importance of winning today in your pre-game speech, stress the importance of making the routine play, throwing strikes, making the fundamental throw, being smart on the bases, putting the ball in play, and hustling on every play. These aspects of the game are well within your players’ control.
Do this for seven innings and your team is almost guaranteed to be competitive, which, as a coach, is all you can ask for.