As kids we are taught very young how to think like an athlete. This means something different in every sport. If you try to play football like a baseball player you may not have the most success. Each sport has different immediate and long-term goals with a variety of physical and mental obstacles standing in the way. Although each sport is different, many coaches like to tell us that their sport, be it football, basketball, soccer, baseball, you name it, is a metaphor for life, particularly in the working world. This may be an overstatement but there are certainly things to be learned about life from each sport you play.
The Baseball Mindset
Many kids start playing baseball or T-ball at the age of 6, so how to think like a player was ingrained early on. The main tenants of a baseball mindset are focus, control, and leaving the past behind you. Because baseball is a game of waiting; waiting for the ball to be thrown, waiting for your at-bat, you need to be present in your mind so you’re not distracted when the ball is hit to you or you need to swing the bat.
Control is important in every sport but especially in baseball. Everything happens quickly: a pitch, a hit, a ground ball. Your actions and reactions need to be under control in order to throw a strike or make contact with a pitch. Control comes from training your instincts and from muscle memory and also from focus.
In order to remain focused and therefore in control, you have to leave your mistakes in the past. The error you just committed or your last strikeout has to be pushed aside for you to field the next grounder or get a hit.
The Football Mindset
The football mindset, although completely different from the baseball one, can also be a metaphor for life. Whereas baseball requires concentration and control, football is more about exertion and intensity. Of course there is a great amount of technique involved in making a block or running a route but there is a fury present as well.
As kids in Pop Warner, we are taught to summon up all our anger to put into every hit. Everything that makes you mad is supposed to be channeled through your shoulder pads and helmet into the player poised across the line of scrimmage. Football is not a sport you can’t put your all into. Anyone who has tried to go half speed during a game knows that that ends with lying on the ground. You have to think your opponent might come at you with everything he has, so you have to bring your all as well. Not sometimes, or every other play, but every single time the ball is snapped. Without this intensity you risk being pummeled if not injured.
Few things in life require this much intensity and very few require this level of physical violence. But any kid who has learned and mastered the art of corralling all of his energy into a single hit knows something about himself that’s hard to learn through other endeavors: there’s nothing more rewarding than giving all of yourself to the task at hand.
The lessons we learn through sports do not have to be carried into our everyday lives. But it’s not uncommon for kids to take things they learned on the baseball or football field to heart. So if you’re guiding kids through their daily drills, makes sure they’re doing it with the right attitude. And if you’re a kid at practice yourself, ask yourself what you’re really doing there and what you’re getting out of it.