My Definition of Poise
The definition of poise is no different on the playing fields as it is in other aspects of life. The dictionary definition of poise says it well – “a state of balance.” With athletes, I believe this relates not only to the mind but also to the body’s state of balance.
Of course, if you dig deeper into poise, you will find words like viscosity, the viscosity of air, velocity and tangential force. I could explain those further, especially as they apply to sports, but I will save those descriptions for another time. Of course, if you wait for those, I also will tell you about some land that you may be interested in another galaxy far from here.
Back to reality. Poise is one of those things that many people recognize when they see it but often cannot define it. Another easier-to-understand definition of poise is “composure.” It often seems like some athletes have it and others do not. That is true to a certain extent. The good news is that acquiring an improved state of balance is possible for all players through good coaching, a determined athlete, and experience.
My definition of poise attests to all of the above descriptions, “A positive sense that one realizes they are in the right place, at the right time.” Some athletes shy away from the spotlight in certain situations and games, whereas others feel as though “the moment is right for them.”
Personal Experience – When poise showed at the nick of time
The greatest baseball play I ever made in my life was the result of poise showing up. The play was very routine. Playing second base, I roamed about fifteen feet to my left, got in front of the ball, caught it and made the thirty-foot toss to first base to record the out. Of course, the circumstances were what made the play so momentous for me. The Houston Astros had runners on the corners with two outs, ninth inning and my team the Los Angeles Dodgers were up by one run. Not only that, the game was nationally televised and we had to win to get within one game of the division lead with just one game remaining after it.
As a ballplayer who rarely had self-confidence, especially at the highest level of professional baseball, I didn’t want the ball coming my way. Suddenly though, my mind seemed to relax, my focus was intense and in the moment. When the ball came my way, there was no hesitation, and it was like any other ground ball in my life. Poise gives one the ability to slow things down in the heat of the action, and it came for me in the nick of time.
For athletes, poise begins with the ability to clear out any negative thoughts, especially a detrimental outcome that results from messing up something. Playing with poise allows one to have a good perception of what they are capable of and of not overextending under challenging situations. In baseball, pitchers do not overthrow when the game is on the line, and batters do not try to hit home runs and overswing. Composed players realize if they stay within themselves, focus and maintain the stability of body and mind, good things usually follow.
The best coaches help players develop poise with the enhancement of skills, optimism, and experience.
How coaches can help players develop poise – “The state of balance.”
Coaches should define poise with the following:
- Skill development. This coaching is a given, of course, but realizing that physical stability is the beginning of mental equilibrium is crucial. The more under control one’s body is, the more relaxed and confident they can be. There is no substitute for doing things the right way. Coaches must commit to the fundamentals the whole season long. Advancing players’ talents is a tedious but obligatory task, but the result is the ability to repeat one’s mechanics in games, and especially under intense game situations.
Physical balance is a necessity for having poise. Repetition is the name of the game in sports, and the more players practice in game-like situations, the more experience they gain to develop the sense of having been there before in real game action. Coaches must drill players in the correct ways of doing things so that they can repeat them in games. Doing something right and almost right is the difference between accomplishment and malfunction. Performing the fundamentals is the first stage of having poise. Incorrect mechanics show up in games where players rarely get away with them.
- The value of preparation. As a follow up to the above point, athletes must learn that there is no substitute for hard work. Putting in the appropriate effort not only leads to the belief that they geared up in the right way, but also that they can expect good results due to the amount of energy Having expectations of success is better than having hope it will come. Proper training helps athletes believe things work out for the best more often than not because of their preparation.
- Confidence through affirmation. Statements like, “Right player, right time” encourage kids, and develops a sense of comfort that allows them to believe in themselves. Coaches who believe in their players and give them affirmation help strengthen the positive sense of self, which is mandatory for the definition of poise. At the opposite end, coaches who fail to encourage, are cynical and have bad body language destroy kids confidence and composure has no chance of developing.
4. Self-awareness. Poise comes with knowing oneself. Athletes who have a good perception of their strengths and weaknesses do not overextend in tense situations. Composed players realize if they stay within themselves, good things will follow. The ability to stay in the moment during tight situations blocks out pessimistic thoughts, allowing for focused play. Coaches can help players learn their areas of strength and weakness. That knowledge usually prevents them from trying to do things they are not capable of doing.
- The effects of facial expressions and body language. The capacity to look composed even when the hearts are pounding comes with experience. Players who look like they are under control often gain a mental edge over the opposition. Upset players kick the dirt, throw things, swear, glare, pout, and fail to listen. Those players often lose concentration when it is most needed. Coaches can help players cut anger and disappointment displays.
6. Breathing patterns. The key to the ability to look composed under pressure is the ability to have consistent breathing patterns. Keeping a steady pace aids players’ ability to observe things with a clear mind. Just teaching players to take a deep breath before the action helps them to re-focus. A consistent breathing pattern allows players to slow the game down, which is a concept often heard about the best athletes in the world.
7. Visualization skills. Perhaps nothing helps players develop poise more than the ability to see success before it happens. Teaching players to mentally rehearse seeing themselves perform plays before the action is crucial.
8. Concentration. Coaches must aid players with staying in the moment and mentally “in the zone.” Helping players to forget past failures along with the realization that every play and game outcome is independent of previous results is necessary coaching. Players who learn to understand that no matter the circumstances they can succeed are on the road to developing the highest mental state of balance.
9. Relaxation. All of the above lead to the ability to relax, which is essential for reacting in the heat of the moment. Coaches can help players believe that all their hard work is for the tensest moments and games and that they should trust that their hard work will pay off at those times. The more players believe that they have prepared to the fullest, the more relaxed they feel. Relaxation helps poise come to the fore.
The Poise Positions
At the highest level of sports, a certain amount of poise is necessary for every player. It is especially essential for road games when the opposing fans are not only loud but often verbally abusive towards the visiting teams. Players must learn to tune out the distractions to concentrate on their tasks. I could argue that some positions require more composure than others. For example in:
Football – Perhaps no spot in sport requires the ability to tune everything out around them and think of what needs to be done, especially with 300-pound linemen out to rip their heads off, more than the quarterback position.
Baseball – The baseball pitcher must repeat their mechanics, pitch after pitch, knowing they are the key to everything that follows. To do that with the game on the line takes even a more considerable amount of composure.
Hockey and Soccer – Of course, goalies have to be able to keep their cool the whole game, especially in a one on one shootout where they must be able to zone in.
Basketball – Game winning shots take guts knowing the whole game comes down to that. Even a free throw with the opposing fans screaming and waving things in front of them requires high concentration.
The reality of poise development
All players develop at different rates, but coaches must believe that composure is possible for all athletes. The best coaches help with the necessary physical and mental stability that leads to accomplishment. The most important realization is that poise and confidence have the best chance of showing up with patient, adult guidance. Coaches who stay “cooler” than the opposing team’s coach and insist that team parents do the same, give players the time to develop into mature, poised adults. Players appreciate playing for the “under control” coach and not the wild one on the other side. Calm coaches bring poise to athletes more than the excitable coaches do. Impatient adults develop the opposite – tense and out of control players. The best news is that players who act under control are a model for stressed teammates, who are trying to figure things out.
Everything else there is to know about the definition of poise
According to the dictionary, dynamic viscosity is defined as the tangential force per unit area required to move one horizontal plane with respect to the other at unit velocity when maintained a unit distance apart by the fluid. In everyday terms (and for fluids only), viscosity is thickness or thinness or internal friction. Thus, we call oil “thick”, that is, having a higher viscosity while we call water “thin” that is, having a lower viscosity.
So, there you go. Any questions?
#defintionofpoise #stateofbalance #definepoise
Jack Perconte has dedicated his post-major league baseball career to helping youth. He has taught baseball and softball for the past 27 years. His playing, coaching and parenting stories help create better experiences for athletes and parents. Jack has written over a thousand articles on coaching baseball and youth sports. Jack is the author of “The Making of a Hitter” and “Raising an Athlete.” His third book “Creating a Season to Remember” is now out. Jack is a featured writer for Baseball the Magazine. You can also find Jack Perconte at YouTube with over 80 fun and innovative baseball instructional videos.