Don’t let the pursuit of perfection stand in the way of execution
There is a tendency among coaches (me included) to place a lot of emphasis on having rock-solid mechanics. We know what we want to see, we know what the best players in the world look like, and we try to get our players to match that image we have in our minds. Our most dedicated players often know what they’re trying to achieve and work toward meeting that ideal, whether it’s hitting, pitching, fielding, throwing or any other aspect of the game.
Overall, that’s good. But sometimes this relentless pursuit of perfection can get in the way of player growth. How can that be? Simple. All those skills we’re working on with such passion require dynamic and often ballistic movements. Yet it can be difficult to be dynamic or ballistic if your focus is on being extremely precise with what you’re doing. A hitter trying to get an exact bat path, or a pitcher trying to throw a pitch “just so,” may wind themselves up too tight to get the kind of impact they need. So while they would look great in slow motion video — everything is exactly where it should be when it should be there — the result is less than explosive.
I don’t think this is something coaches build into what they’re teaching. In fact, I think it’s often something that’s more hard-wired into certain players. They have such desire for perfection and achievement that they let it get in the way of just going for it. Put another way, they are so focused on their mechanics they become, well, mechanical.
Pursuing perfection is a worthy goal, but it has to be tempered with a ballplayer’s attitude. We’ve all seen kids with terrible swings or terrible throwing form that still hit or throw the heck out of the ball because they approach it with such intent to hit or throw hard. That is something we all need to be sure we’re instilling in our players.
I would rather see more intent and less perfection in a player or student, particularly at this time of the year (fall). Yes, I want them to improve their mechanics and approach that ideal, but not at the cost of putting every ounce of themselves they have into it. It’s important to remind them every now and then that the intent to perform an action is every bit as critical as the mechanics themselves. After all, you can fix mechanics and make them better. It’s a lot tougher to fix intent if it isn’t there.