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Written on August 7, 2012 at 11:55 am, by Eric Cressey
As I type this, I’m out at the Area Code Games in Long Beach, CA with New Balance Baseball. For those who aren’t familiar with Area Codes, it’s a yearly event that brings the top high school players in the country together to showcase their skills in game play and batting practice in front of loads of professional scouts and college coaches. In all, about 230 of the top players in the country take part in the event, and they compete a representatives of their geographic regions. I’ve been doing arm care education and taking teams through pre-game warm-ups on the field.
It’s been interesting for me to interact with kids from not only a variety of different parts of the country and get a feel for the coaching style to which they each respond. And, you can definitely tell who has been exposed to some quality strength and conditioning thus far, as well as who has had formal baseball-specific education to assist in their development. Along those lines, one of the the more prominent observations I’ve made in high level players at Cressey Performance has also proven to be present here:
Attention to detail makes a huge difference.
I often cite CP athlete and Royals pitcher Tim Collins as a great example of this. Tim is a gym rat in the off-season; he hangs out in the office and cracks jokes with our athletes all the time. However, the second he picks up a baseball or gets to lifting, he flips a switch and tunes the world out. This is true regardless of whether he’s long tossing, deadlifting, or warming up. There is no joking around with buddies when he’s trying to learn a new skill or repeat his mechanics.
Steve Cishek is the same way. He might coordinate the CP NHL League on X-Box, but the second he picks up a ball, he’s all business. As a sidearm guy who used to throw from a higher arm slot, repeating his somewhat new delivery is super important, as it is easy to develop bad habits when you’re inattentive.
With that in mind, there isn’t a high school kid alive who repeats his mechanics at a big league level, yet most high school guys you encounter have no problem chatting and goofing around when they’re playing catch. Kids would be much better off paying close attention to what they’re doing on every throw, correcting as they go and using it as an opportunity to improve, not just warm-up.
The same goes for pre-game dynamic flexibility warm-ups. When you chat with buddies the whole time, it’s easy to do fewer reps, hold positions for less time, or just forget to do drills altogether. And these are just a few of many examples; it’s easy to get into bad habits and cut corners.
Maybe it’s just the added scouting presence out here, but a lot of these highly ranked prospects really “get it” more than most of the other up-and-coming players I encounter. Most are the best players in the history of their towns, yet they still want to improve. When they pick up a ball, they throw with intent. When you coach them, they are more likely to look you in the eye to make sure they’re doing things correctly. While there are examples of guys being successful in spite of what they do and not because of what they do, for the most part, you can learn a lot by watching what accomplished players do to be successful.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: small hinges swing big doors.
Pay attention to warm-ups. Focus when you’re long tossing. Look coaches in the eyes. Get in that one lift at the end of a long day when other players are tapping out. Eat healthy when your teammates are just crushing pizza. Seek out expertise instead of waiting for it to fall into your lap. There are so many ways to improve – and do so today – that it’s only your own fault if you aren’t getting better.
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