Are there really secrets to success?
One of the highlights of my MLB career was hitting a game-winning sacrifice fly for the Seattle Mariners in the 17th inning in a game in old Yankee Stadium. So, I feel like I have a few of the secrets to success. Of course, it has taken me many years since my playing days to figure out what they were.
When an out of town driver stopped and asked a New Yorker how to get to Yankee Stadium? The answer was “Practice.” Although a wise guy remark, a more accurate statement does not exist because, in one sense, there are no real secrets to success.
However, in either endeavor, playing ball or driving the New York streets, many twists, turns, and obstacles will appear on the route. But even before that, other things are necessary for achievement. Having the mental makeup to drive and practice is the critical start to finding one’s way and becoming a major league player or at least reaching one’s potential.
Along the same line as the above query, a superstar athlete said, “If they have to ask, it won’t happen” to the question “How one reaches the pinnacle of sports like them?” That answer also has some merit. It takes a unique mindset to reach the top, and no one can just give them that. That exceptional mentality has to be within them. But it does not mean that every athlete cannot learn the secrets to success and develop an approach that puts them on the road to advancement.
Of all the sports, no game requires the skill development like baseball does. Hitting, pitching, fielding and base running demands a skill set that takes years of dedication to perfect, or at the least, to improve. Developing the correct techniques require determination and work ethic that most ballplayers are not willing to give. But, as mentioned, all players can develop the qualities to reach their potential. The best coaches can teach many of the secrets to success so players develop the mental attributes that will help them with success in all life endeavors.
Following are the things the best ballplayers do, the quotes I often use and some coaching tips to help unlock the enviable but elusive secrets to success.
21 Secrets to Success
- Have simple goals. Many believe that the best have high goals that set them apart. But, their goals are more straightforward than people realize. Their primary goal is to get the most out of their abilities, and they do that with a daily work ethic.
“Don’t only be out to prove what you can do, be out to improve.”
Coaches should not push players to go beyond their comfort level but explain that success only comes with a daily focus on getting better. Coaches can coach a daily work ethic by keeping practice exiting with fun and drills that keep the monotony away. Boredom is an effort killer that prevents player development. When players find the desire to push themselves more, the coach has achieved their goal.
- Treat practice like a game. The best players embrace the importance of training and always work as if in a game. Their confident game attitude comes from having done it at game-speed many times before.
“The more and faster you do it in practice, the easier it is in games.”
Coaches must insist that players do things quicker in practice, not safer. I often tell players that if they are not messing up a play or two in practice, they are not working fast enough. Playing it safe is not the way to improve the skills and advance to higher levels of play.
- Develop a routine. A consistency of schedule and habits develop discipline, relaxation, and readiness. Establishing a comfortable process is always a work in progress, but essential for long-term growth.
“There is a reason we warm up the same way each practice; it prepares us.”
Coaches should help players understand the importance of correct repetition, consistent practice routines and the discipline it takes to do them.
- Love to compete. Successful baseball players may look like playing is as comfortable as a stroll in the park, but they relish the competition and are out to win more than others. Their love of the game shows with their enthusiasm, hustle, and sweat.
“Winning the game is one measure of success, but the best measure is surpassing your expectations.”
Youth sports focus should never be just about winning, but that does not mean playing to win is not one of the goals. Baseball is competition, and the definition of competing is a struggle with a winner and loser. Coaches should not let players think that losing is OK because winning is a measure of effort and preparation. It’s the win at all cost mentality that is not appropriate at any level.
- Accept and look forward to challenges. The average players want the easy way, but best look forward to being the one up in the tightest of game spots.
“I’m going to make it tougher for you because I know you are ready for it.”
Coaches must not neglect the better players by thinking they already know how to do it. They should challenge each player according to their abilities, so the best players improve too and do not leave for other sports.
- Show attention to detail. The best players are meticulous in their practice habits. They do not skip over the little things that make the difference between success and failure.
“Focus on the little things – the game comes down to who can catch, hit and throw the baseball.”
Coaches should not allow players to do things incorrectly just because they tire of telling them the same all the time. Coaches, who allow players to settle for mediocrity by doing the same, lose their coaching advantage.
- Have extraordinary focus skills. The peak players have a quiet mind, which slows the action as the game speeds up for others. The ability to keep the mind “in the zone” is the most significant asset of the top players.
“If you focus enough the ball and game slow down for you.”
Coaches, who maintain a comfortable learning and playing environment, help players develop focus.
- Trust in self. Elite athletes have a self-assurance and confidence that their hard work pays off in games.
“I have seen you do it before with your work hard, now go out and trust it.”
Coaches who believe in players foster composure in them. When players know the coaches are out for the players first, they have less fear of failure and trust their abilities.
- Be a team player. Many of the top players begin as what I call “I-I Me-Me” players, but they learn the importance of team. Players who are out for individual goals become less happy. Self-success is shallow compared to team success.
“The definition of a team is, Together Everyone Achieves More.”
Developing a team-first philosophy is one of the most vital goals of coaching. Having players learn to work and pull together helps players in their future careers in life.
- Learn from failure and make adjustments. The top players understand that failure, although hard to accept, is temporary. Average players fall into the same ruts. The best learn from failure, make adjustments and avoid the same mistakes the next time.
“Baseball is a game of failure.”
Coaches should allow players to play without making decisions for them. Players learn sooner from experience and post play coaching than during the action instructions.
- Know their physical capabilities. The top players have an understanding of what balls they can get to on defense and when to make throws. They know when they can take the extra base and what type hitter they should be.
“You cannot outrun the ball.”
Coaches should help players know their speed, power, arm strength and athleticism. Players, who do not have an understanding of their abilities, make wrong decisions because of their lack of self-knowledge.
- Have coachable The best players are willing to try things in search of a better way. They show respect for what others teach.
“Try it this way; I think you will notice a big difference.”
Good coaches suggest changes instead of demanding them. When players have options, they are much more agreeable to change.
- Understand patience is necessary. Impatient baseball players rarely last for long because of the difficulty of the game. Constant success ends at times for all, and without patience, the game beats down their desire. It’s essential to have a plan, stick to it and understand the end goal.
“It’s not how good you are now; it’s how good you can be.”
Coaches who display patience set an excellent example for players. Patient coaches buy players time until improvement arrives.
- Have an optimistic view. Confidence comes and goes for even the best ballplayers. But, the top ones maintain an upbeat attitude of believing they will prevail in the end.
“Believe me; your hard work will pay off, if not right away, soon.”
Coaches must act as part-time psychologists by never letting players get a defeatist attitude. That is not easy with many athletes who mope and become negative the second things do not go their way. Never allowing players to say “I can’t” is the sign of a good coach and the key to players reaching their goals.
- Are fearless. The top players are not afraid of the tensest moments, want to be in them and accept the failure that often goes with them.
“You should want to be the player up in that situation. You have little to lose and much to gain.”
Coaches must put players in tight situations in practice as often as possible. Players develop a “been there” attitude in that way when in games. The more prepared players feel the more fearless they are in games, and it helps when coaches display the proper perspective.
- Handle adversity better. Many players cringe and disappear when things do not go according to their wishes, but adversity spurs the best to work harder.
“This slump will make you tougher the next time hard times come your way.”
Coaches should use losing and sub-par play as teaching moments to help build resilient athletes and teams.
- Do not make excuses. This attitude is not always the case of top athletes, but the most respected ones hold themselves accountable for their play. They learn that blaming others is not the way to go.
“You will never be perfect, and do not expect others to be either.”
Coaches must develop the win and lose as a team philosophy, without accusing individuals of poor play as the reason for failing. Players pick up on the team philosophy in time and learn the value of taking responsibility for actions on and off the field.
- Self-evaluate often. The elite players always ask two questions of themselves. What areas of my game need improvement? And, how do I go about that?
“You are only as good as your last at-bat or game.”
Coaches should always give honest evaluations to players, but in a compassionate way. Giving false praise to failing athletes does not spur them to keep working. Coaches should assign home practice ideas, so the passionate players have ways of practicing and improving.
- Are not afraid to smile. The best players are not scared of showing their joy of playing.
“You will look back at these times as some of the best of your lives. Show it.”
Coaches should display their joy of coaching and explain to teams the privilege it is to play sports. Enthusiasm has a way of rubbing off on others, and it helps others develop a love of the game.
- Have abnormal willpower. The will to win, persevere, and never give up separates the greats from the rest. The time comes for all to hang up the cleats someday, but the best only do so when they are completely satisfied they have given their all.
“You can only achieve things you set out to achieve.”
Coaches should talk about the importance of having no regrets someday, and that only occurs from
- Know how to say “Thank You.” Learning humility and understanding one’s success is the product of so many others is necessary to reach one’s potential as a person.
“Nothing will open doors for you in life than a smile and a thank you.”
Coaches should encourage ballplayers to thank their parents and teachers at every opportunity for investing in them.
The best coaches understand that it is the daily process that helps athletes figure out the secrets of success. The result of that process is the development of pride, humbleness, and graciousness that makes coaches and players role models.
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 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” now $5 and “Raising an Athlete.” His third book “Creating a Season to Remember” is now available. Jack is a featured writer for Baseball the Magazine. You can also find Jack Perconte on YouTube with over 120 fun and innovative baseball instructional videos.