Early in my coaching career I too fell trap to teaching those same words when teaching kids to hit the ball on the outer half of the plate. It wasn’t until my 10-year-old son asked a question, a trait that seems lost with the older players, in much the same way we believe younger players do not have the ability to stay focused. Now Psychology Today describes this inability to ask questions as adolescence and is tied to the their strive for independence and self-identity. Or is it what psychologists call the illusion of truth effect; created by repeating something over and over again.
A technique Used in Commercials, politicians, and, yes, by baseball coaches!
The more we say or hear something, the more familiar we become with it, then, what psychologist call cognitive fluency, happens. We here it over and over and over again, so therefore we mentally force ourselves to believe it must be true. To hit a baseball on the outer half of the plate you need to let it get in on you, wait longer, then take it the other way.
A coaching flaw my 10-year-old son opened my eyes too just by asking a simple question. He asked, “How long do I wait?”
Half hearing his question I repeated verbatim what I had told him the first time. Pitches on the outer half of the plate, “let it get in on you, wait longer, then take it the other way!” Fighting this so-called cognitive fluency I was attempting to impose on my son, he asked again, “Dad, how long do I wait?”
As if he was waking me up from a deep sleep I realized it was me who had fallen trap to cognitive fluency. I was repeating something; something I had heard over-and-over again; something that truly was a fallacy; yet is something every coach is likely to blurt out at every practice and/or game as if it was factual. So therefore it must be true!
My son’s question made me realize, especially before I share knowledge with others, I needed to truly understand what in the heck I talking about. What I was spreading, what I was teaching, was nothing more than an opinion, and as Plato said, an “Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.”
Now I know ignorance is a tough pill to swallow as a coach and worse for a player who just accepts opinions while attempting to be successful at the simple game of baseball. So, if I may, the simple fix is to ASK QUESTIONS! Make sure you understand every aspect of why the instructor is sharing this knowledge with you and why it makes you a better player. If they can’t answer your question, be respectful, and then move on. You have gained as much knowledge as you can from them.
Remember your goal, especially if you want to go far in the game of baseball, is to become YOUR OWN COACH! That can only occur with knowledge and understanding.
I am pleased to admit the answer to my son’s question resulted in a book; Hitting is Simple…Have You Figured it Out Yet? You can find it for the iPad, Kindle or if you prefer, you can download an Audio Version from my website. CLICK HERE.
Until next blog, learn to “Ask Why!”