Hello, confused reader. Don’t understand the title of this article? You’re probably not alone.
Get Your Mind Right.
Have you heard this before? If you’ve read any of my musings on mental training, you’ve probably heard me expound on the topic. “Get your mind right” is a common phrase used by coaches referring to placing oneself in the optimal mindset to perform a certain task.
In sports, it means getting ready to do your job as an athlete – becoming free of distractions and solely focused on your task, be it a pitcher, lineman, outside hitter, sprinter, whatever.
But, when life gets in the way and distracts, is it really a distraction? I think it depends.
Two Types: Thinkers and Meatheads
I’m a thinker. It’s been my downfall in many ways, and my saving grace in many others. Thinkers tend to overanalyze and ruin the fluidity of their athletic performance by involving their brains. They try to tell their bodies to move, rather than instinctually moving (which is the goal). When you practice enough, your body will perform the movements automatically. Overthinking ruins this automatic response.
Meatheads, however, just play their sport. They don’t think – they just DO. It’s a great way to be, and these people tend to thrive, naturally, under pressure because they don’t dwell on it. Meathead has a negative connotation, but I really don’t mean it that way. Rather, they just act, and don’t think too much. This is a gift.
How Distractions Affect Each
There are tons of distractions that can affect athletic performance, but I’m going to list on emotional and stress-related ones. These can include family problems, sickness or death of loved ones, relationships, stress at work or school, and more. You meet a pretty girl, you get distracted. A pretty girl breaks up with you, you get distracted. Illness befalls a loved one; your family has to move; you’re failing in school – you’re distracted and performance can suffer.
But – these events affect the thinker and the meathead different. Here’s my take on the two, using myself (and some others I’ve known) as examples:
The Distracted Meathead
The Meathead’s parent’s are going through a divorce. He previously never thought much during his football games. Now, his brain is clouded with the problems at home. He can’t react as quickly and his performance suffers. The more his performance slips, the more frustrated he gets, and it spirals out of control.
The Meathead didn’t use to think. Now, because of a personal stressor, he IS thinking, and he doesn’t know how to play like this. His performance suffers.
The Distracted Thinker
The thinker thinks all the time on the mound. He overanalyzes situations and is totally engrossed in the strategy of baseball. When things go awry, he assesses the situation over and over until he can barely move and reactions are no longer instinctual.
But, the thinker just met a pretty girl. And this girl likes him enough to be in the stands. Now, he’s thinking of her instead of running doomsday scenarios in his head. He pitches better than he used to because he’s unchained his body from his possessive mind.
Distractions Can Be Good Or Bad
The two examples are just examples and aren’t absolutes. But, the goal for any athlete is to have the optimum amount of cerebral activity – the amount that allows him to make good situational choices but not cloud his movement with thought.
This past month was a good example for me. I was worried that I would be so engrossed by completing our new gym that I would fall out of the right mindset to go out to spring training and pitch. As a thinker, I ran the doomsday scenario. It couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
Lucas and I work 8am-11pm nearly every day. I fit bullpens and throwing in where I needed to, but I didn’t have time for much else. I figured I’d be so distracted by the gym goings ons that I’d throw like crap and be unproductive. Quite the opposite.
Rather, my brain was so exhausted by the 15 hours of manual labor and training that bullpens were more fun than usual, and my brain was so tired that I just flowed through bullpens. And, it was fun:
Hey! This throwing a baseball thing is way more fun than scraping a concrete floor clean with a putty knife!
The 20 minutes allotted for throwing was my fun for the day, and I had sharp control of everything because I didnt have the energy to cloud my delivery with more thinking. My pitching amid this trying time was some of my best all winter. I was somewhat confused, until I realized…
….my brain has already spent all of it’s “thinking allowance” on the gym. There was none left by time I got to throw. So, I just flowed through my pitching instinctually. And, I didn’t spend any time in anxiety in that 3-week “the season is getting close” period. As a thinker, my major distraction distracted me from my brain, the very thing that usually distracts me. Make sense? Didnt think so.
For overthinkers, distractions may clear the brain and increase performance.
For underthinkers (meatheads) distractions because bona fide distractions that decrease performance.