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At the end of the day, information is useless without communication.
And whenever you’re attempting to teach movements, feel is the brain’s native language. The brain is a poor translator. It communicates to the body via feel. In return, the body communicates to the brain via feel. If you think it’s difficult to put mechanics into words, try being in their shoes and turning words into mechanics.
FEELing of Empowerment
It’s sad to say, but I think more players are un-made than developed.
The entire model baseball today is built to empower coaches, and science. It revolves around tangible evidence, proof. Anything which can’t be measured, doesn’t matter. We too often mistake information as communication. We fail to realize information is only as powerful as the interpretation. We never consider the mechanics we analyze on video are created by the mental models we communicate to their mind.
Today’s game coaches players as if they’re headless horsemen. It’s if the mind doesn’t matter. The emphasis of development is on the body, not the brain. We train pitchers to over-think and then blame them for over-thinking. We fail to realize the body is a puppet to the brain. Those thoughts affect actions. Actions affect performance and performance affects thoughts which affect actions. It’s all interconnected and integrated. What appears as output from the body is the result of input from the brain. However, that doesn’t matter because it can’t be measured.
At the end of the day, successful pitchers are measured by their ability to get hitters out. This game is played on dirt, not in a training facility. It’s a team sport, not an individual sport. Your ability as a coach or parent is measured by your ability to connect and communicate with the individual, not analyze on a video screen or read out in an excel spreadsheet.
Let’s face it . We don’t play this game because we are good at it. We don’t coach this game because we are good at it. Baseball is a fabric of our lives because it makes us feel good about ourselves. If it didn’t, we would be here. Think back to your favorite teacher or a coach, it wasn’t what they did to help you which you remember. It’s how they made you feel about yourself.
In reality, the only element in development we really control is the most important. It’s empowering our players with the tools to become their own coaches. To get players to buy in requires belief in. Ultimately, potential is measured by the player’s individual belief in themselves. If you don’t believe me, you can’t be it. Because as you climb the ladder to the higher levels, you’re going to fail more often.
What most fail to realize is this..
Thoughts, emotions and movement are highly integrated and interconnected. You can’t have an emotion without a feeling or movement associated. Each one affects all three and all three affect each one.
Emotion or Feelings: This is numero uno. So much of what you do and how well you do it is dependent upon how it makes you FEEL about yourself. Without question, one’s need to FEEL good about himself trumps Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Whenever there is a strong FEELing attached to an activity, the chemical connections hardwire the pattern.
Expression of Movement
What makes him FEEL good about himself? What pitches does he have an emotional attachment to? Take the 12/6 curveball. Pitchers who learn this pitch early in development typically experience a tremendous amount of success will form an emotional attachment. Because they’ve had success they believe they can throw it any pitch, any time. Because they believe it’s their best pitch, it’s the pitch they practice the most. Because they practice it the most, it becomes the pattern.
Form follows function. Function follows Purpose. Because the purpose, to throw a 12/6 requires the arm path which allows a 12/6. The characteristics of the spin require a high slot. Because a high slot requires a vertical shin, you’ll find most of these guys with stable feet their purpose is to spin the baseball 12/6, naturally their arm slot is higher.
Essentially, the 12/6 has become a powerful expression of movement. It has become part of his identity. And if you try to change this pattern without knowing, you better believe it’s going to emotionally damage them because you’ve stripped their identity.
Trying to smash shit is a FEELing of accomplishment. There’s a dopamine release. A strong emotional rush that hardwires the pattern. The multisensory rich environment provides immediate feedback with a strong neural response. Sound also plays a critical role in pitch development. More on that later.
Kids are more than wiling to step outside their comfort zone, it’s being criticized for failing that keeps most in the circle. With that said, many of the pitchers who struggle with stuff and velocity early in the game is due to a history or a negative experience. Because their belief is constrained to the first inning, they’re all good once it’s over.
Labrum or shoulder injuries is another way I’ve seen emotional FEElings influence patterns. The FEAR of pain marks the spot on the neural map. The somatic marker is in place to never forget something which caused damage or illicited a negative emotion.
Feel is so much more than just a physical sensation. Feel is the integration of feelings, emotions, sensations, associations and experiences. Each highly interconnected and integrated with the other, and impossible to express in words. Here’s a few examples of the various contexts in which feel could be applied.
Physical sensation. “What’s a hot stove feel like?” You wouldn’t know, unless you’d touched one, right? You could only guess. However, once you touch a burning hot stove and it blisters your finger, you’d know. The same would apply to anyone else who touched the stove. Basically, the physical sensation, or feel, would be universal to all. Whenever we’re discussing the various contexts, physical sensation will not be one. Physical sensations are set on auto-pilot by the brain. In this sense, the physical sensation of ‘feel” appears in touch, pressure, pokes, vibrations, etc… Feel in this sense serves as a bridge to connect your brain/body to the outside world.
Perception: “What’s the water feel like, today?” If you and another person jumped in a pool of water, you might say, “This water feels warm.” While the other person replies, “This water feels cold.” Although the water temperature is the same for both of you, your perception of what’s warm and what’s cold, is unique to each of you. The same applies to a particular pitch, or execution of a movement, it’s going to be different for everyone.
Learned Association: “He’s got a good feel for the curveball.” Feel in this context is referring to a learned association. The pitcher’s able to fine-tune and adjust the pitch based on the information he receives. Curveballs thrown low feel totally different then curveballs thrown high. Essentially, association for the desired result is the ultimate goal of teaching by FEEL. By acquiring an association, empowers pitchers with the ability to make adjustments on their own. Over the next few chapters, I’m going to be sharing my 4-step FEEL system. For now, we’ll leave with this.
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