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The Language We Use As Coaches

Jan 10, 2023
I remember walking up to the plate when I was in college, and one of my coaches told me to “make sure I get my front foot down early.” 

As I stepped into the box, trying to do the most challenging thing in sports, hit a ball, what do you think was on my mind?

My Approach

The Situation

Being on Time

No, it was making sure my front foot was down early. Let's say the AB didn't go the way I wanted it to. 

When I started coaching, I reflected on that instance and ensured I would never talk about mechanics to a player during a game. 

The more research that I did, I realized that you 'could' improve mechanics during a game, but it wasn't by focusing on mechanics. 

Let's talk about Cues and Analogies.

We will start with what an external cue means and why it’s better than an internal cue.

External focus of attention is described as “where the performer's attention is directed to the effect of the action,” while an internal focus of attention is described as “where attention is directed to the action itself” (Wulf 2007). 

I’ll give an example that will explain the difference.

Let’s say you're working with a player constantly hitting around the baseball and grounding out.

If you told him an internal cue, it might sound like, “Try not to let your wrists break until after contact.”

An external cue might be “Hit a line drive right at the 1st Baseman” Which one do you think is more likely to work during a game when a ball is coming at them?

I can promise you it’s the second one. 

However, my favorite way to get players to make a movement change is through analogies.

The brain works best through images. 

Creating an image or story in a hitter’s mind can get them to perform the movement that will help them during the game.

Here is an example of an analogy I’ve used before on a player who gets stuck on their backside. 

His bat path was getting cut off, and he couldn't be in the hitting zone for a long time.

“Imagine your right hip is about to be bitten by a lion right before you swing.”

That may sound pretty intense; however, painting that image in their mind prevents them from being stuck on their backside, which helps their bat path stay in the zone longer.

I think you can see that whatever movement issue your hitter has, you can utilize analogies to get them to fix the movement issue that they currently have. 

Feel free to get creative!

If it gets the hitter to improve, it works. 

Let's grow the game of Baseball!
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