Came across a version of the headline of this post yesterday in another context this week and thought “How appropriate for fastpitch softball!”
Of course, it immediately brought to mind an image of a lush, beautiful landscape with flowers, and trees, and butterflies, and cute little animals romping around freely under a nearly cloudless sky on a warm day with a cool breeze. Surrounded on all sides by a desolate landscape.
We all love our comfort zones. By definition we’re comfortable there. Life is easy, there’s no stress, we can just go along our merry way without a worry in the world.
As nice as that sounds, however, the problem with the comfort zone is it’s locked in time and place. Sure it seems nice, and we believe nothing bad will happen there. But nothing great or new will happen there either.
And that’s the problem. As a player, or as a coach, you’re either moving forward or you’re moving backward. Because it’s not just about you – it’s about you relative to everyone else.
If you stay in your comfort zone while others are struggling to get better, those others will eventually pass you by. Think of a log stuck in a river.
The log stays where it is while the water goes rushing by. It’s not that the log went backward; it’s still exactly where it was. But the water kept moving, and now it’s further downstream than it was.
So it is with your softball skills/knowledge and ability to play/coach. You won’t grow as a player or a coach if you just decide to stay in your comfort zone. You’ll be stuck in time while everyone else moves ahead.
Think of the hitter who dominates when she is younger because she is bigger, or stronger, or better-coordinated than the other girls. She judges her ability based on outcomes, and since her outcomes are better than the others she doesn’t bother to work on getting better. She’s comfortable doing what she’s doing.
In the meantime, other players who may not have been as blessed with natural abilities take lessons, or study what great players do on their own, and start working to make the most of the abilities they have. They learn quality mechanics and how to apply them, and suddenly as the pitching gets better they’re hitting better than the “natural” who stayed in comfort zone.
They grew, and the “natural” didn’t. Suddenly the “natural” doesn’t have as much of an advantage anymore. Eventually the river of players passes her by and she’s left to wonder, “what happened?”
This is also true of coaches. There are so many coaches out there who view the fact they played baseball or softball in high school or college X years ago as giving them all the knowledge they need to coach today’s players.
They stay with what they did (or what they think they did, which isn’t always the same) and what worked for them rather than looking into whether there might be a better way. As a result, they put their players at a disadvantage versus those who are being coached by coaches who are willing to get out of their comfort zones and learn new things.
Great coaches, whether they played at a high level or not, are always looking for every advantage and piece of knowledge they can bring to their players. They’re not afraid to say, “I know I used to teach X, but I’m not teaching that anymore. Let’s do Y, because I believe it’s a better way to go.”
No less than former UCLA head coach and NFCA Hall of Famer Sue Enquist is one of those coaches. I heard a story a few years ago that she was making a presentation at a coach’s clinic about hitting when a member of the audience raised his hand and said that he had one of her hitting instruction videos and what she was saying completely contradicted what she said in the video.
Without blinking an eye she owned it and said, “Well, I know a lot more now than I did then.”
If someone at that level, with all her accomplishments and championships wasn’t afraid to get out of her comfort zone so she could grow, the rest of us shouldn’t be either.
Yes, the living is easy in the comfort zone. But that’s the problem. There’s no growth there – everything just stays as-is.
Steel is forged in fire. Diamonds are created under tremendous pressure.
If you want to grow as a player or coach, make the leap. Get out of your comfort zone and become the player or coach you were meant to be.