Process vs. Outcome
I wanted to write a little on process vs. outcome, because it seems that in sports, and especially in baseball, players get so hung up on outcomes. In a game where failing 70 percent of the time means you are one of the best, it is imperative to trust the process (if you are wondering what the “process” is I will hit on that later). Baseball is a sport where it takes years and years to become a more consistent player, and even the best in the world struggle with consistency throughout the course of a season. The key to becoming a great baseball player is to be good on a daily basis. I have learned some steps that helped me throughout my career, and I use them to to this day.
Being in high school and trying to make a travel team can make college or professional baseball seem almost impossible to reach. But don’t lose faith – I was cut from two teams when I was 16, and was still able to reach both levels. When I was 17 years old, I was playing for the Ontario Blue Jays, a high school travel ball team. I was told by my coaches that I could leave after grade 12 to maybe a Junior College or Division II university, or that I could stay back for my 5th year of high school to get stronger, better, and catch up with my American class. The reason I was able to stay back for the year was that the American school system separates the school year from January 1 to August 31, while the Canadian system is January 1 to December 31. During the additional year, I was introduced to the “process” by a guest speaker the Ontario Blue Jays brought in – it was long time big leaguer David Collins. This opened my eyes to a whole new part of the game that everyone talks about being the most important – the mental game.
I can’t tell you how many times throughout my career I have heard baseball is 90% mental and 10% physical. Well, if this is the case, then why do we only practice the physical part? This is where the process comes into play. The process is setting obtainable goals to get yourself better each time you practice, play, watch or think baseball. By setting goals for yourself, you create an excellent foundation for your mental game.
Setting goals is extremely important, but setting the rights goals is even more important. You want to set goals that are attainable and within your own control. When setting my goals, I like to think of a triangle, with the ultimate goals on the outside and on top of the triangle.
The reason the ultimate goal is on the outside is that most end goals are out of our control. Everything in the triangle are mini goals that are within my control.
As an example, I will use getting a scholarship as the ultimate goal. It will go on the outside of our trianglem because we don’t decide whether or not we get scholarships, college coaches do. The only thing we can do is make ourselves the best player possible; the best players are the ones that are most consistent at hitting, fielding and throwing. So how are we going to set goals in becoming more consistent? We take three actions and break it down, these goals are within the triangle.
Goals before a game
Hitting- an attainable goal would be to hit four balls hard (vs. trying to get four hits)
Fielding- an attainable goal would be I want every ball hit to me (vs. I am going to make every play)
Throwing- an attainable goal would be throw each ball with conviction (vs. I am going to hit him in the chest every time)
Now we break down goals for practice
Hitting- an attainable goal would be 50 swings with my back elbow down (vs. 500 swings with no purpose)
Fielding- an attainable goal would be 10 fly balls I turn the right way (vs. catching 50 lazy fly balls)
Throwing- an attainable goal would be 10 throws from 120 feet with convictions (vs. getting loose to throw)
These goals are just examples and can change on a daily basis. I typically change my goals when I feel 100% confident at what I am trying to accomplish, or when I feel like I have got better. That could be in one day or in two months, there is no timeline – that is why it is a process. The point is to have a purpose in everything you do every time you step on the field. When you begin to trust the process, you will become a better more consistent baseball player; if you stick to your daily goals, your ultimate goal is much more likely to happen. In this example the scholarship goal is more likely to happen because ultimately you will become a better player because of the daily goals you set.
When you really feel like you have trusted the process and stuck with your goals, the game becomes a lot less stressful and a lot more fun. The reason this happens is that it eliminates outside factors that enter a baseball players thoughts. It also takes the outcome out of the picture. Remember when I said it sets a great foundation for your mental game – suddenly when you make an error or don’t get a hit, it’s not the end of the world because you know you have done everything you can to prepare and that play or At Bat didn’t work out. That’s why you set your goals to be attainable, because even players like Josh Donaldson strike out sometimes.
Coaches and scouts did not think I had a chance when I was sixteen and the truth is I didn’t. It wasn’t until I change my mind-set and elevated myself on the process – I focused on how hard I worked instead the outcomes and other people. When this happened I started to become a ball player. I got drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays two years later, received a scholarship to a Divisoin I school, then got drafted again by the Jays. Now I am in the minor leagues, and I am using this material to get to the next level.