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” – because it relates not only to the mind but also to the body’s state of balance.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 that state of balance is possible for all players through experience, along with the help of coaches.
My definition of poise attests to that state of balance, “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” – another good definition of poise.
Poise comes with knowing oneself. Athletes that have a good perception of what they are capable of do not overextend in difficult 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, good things usually follow.
Personal Experience of Poise
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. What made the play so momentous for me was the circumstances. The Houston Astros had the bases loaded, 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. What was so cool about it, was how nervous I felt up until that play. I was not scared of having the ball hit to me, but I didn’t want it coming my way either. Suddenly, 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.
As mentioned earlier coaches can help players develop poise in a number of ways.
How coaches can help players develop that state of balance
Coaches help players with the following:
- Skill development through repetition and experience. So much of sport goes back to the ability to repeat one’s mechanics in games, and especially under intense game situations. This idea attests to the necessity of having physical balance, a necessity for having poise. Repetition is the name of the game in sports. 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 give players the correct ways of doing things, so they can repeat them in games. Doing something right and almost right is the difference between accomplishment and malfunction. Correct fundamentals are the first stage of having poise. Incorrect mechanics shows up in games and players rarely get away with them.
- Strengths and weaknesses. Coaches must 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.
- Concentration. Coaches must aid players with staying in the moment and in the mental zone. Teaching players to forget past failures and visualize good plays and games is crucial. A ground ball in practice is the same as in games, just without the pressure. Players who understand that, no matter the circumstances, are on the road to developing the mental state of balance.
- Confidence – Coaches should pump players up with confidence building words as, “Nobody else I would rather have up now,” and “Right player, right time.” Coaches who believe in their players and give them affirmation help develop the positive sense of self, which is mandatory for the definition of poise.
- Conviction. 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 is another key to poise.
- Breathing. Coaches must explain to players the importance of breathing the same in tight game situations, as in normal ones. A consistent breathing pattern helps players slow the game down, which helps them maintain the state of balance.
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 in order to concentrate on their tasks. Some positions require even greater amounts of composure. For example in:
Football – Perhaps no position 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. To do that with the game on the line takes a great amount of composure.
Hockey and Soccer – Of course, goalies have to be able to keep their cool the whole game, but with the one on one shootout they must really be able to zone in.
Basketball – Game winning shots take guts, but the basic free throw with the opposing fans screaming and waving things in front of them requires great concentration.
All players develop at different rates, but coaches must believe that composure is possible for most athletes. The best coaches help them learn what poise is and ways to accomplish it.
Author of Article – 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 in the works. 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.