One of the things I often tell players on their development journey is that yesterday’s achievements eventually become today’s disappointments.
For example, when a player first comes for hitting lessons she may be striking out all the time. Which means her goal is to not strike out so often, i.e., hit the ball instead.
She works hard and starts hitting regularly. Then she has a streak where she hits the ball but right at someone and she’s out every time.
She is still achieving the original goal – not striking out – but the goalposts for her expectations have moved and now anything less than a hit is a disappointment.
Probably the easiest place to see it, however, is with speed measurements for pitchers. Everyone always wants to get faster. I’m sure Monica Abbott, who I believe still throws the hardest out of all female players, would still love to add an mph or two if she could.
So pitchers work hard to achieve a new personal record. Then another. Then another, etc.
After a while, though, that first personal record she got so excited about is now a disappointment and perhaps even feels like a step backwards.
That’s why it helps to keep some perspective on the longer journey instead of just the next step.
That idea came home to roost last night when I was giving a lesson to a student (Gianna) who hasn’t been to lessons in a couple of weeks due to a volleyball-related thumb injury. (Don’t even get me started on how volleyball injuries impact softball players!)
Now, as you know the thumb is pretty important for gripping things like softballs. In fact, the opposable thumb is one of the key advantages that separates humans and other primates from most of the rest of the animal kingdom.
Gianna’s thumb had swollen up pretty badly and for the last couple of weeks she’d had trouble gripping anything. The swelling had finally gone down, and with a tournament coming up and her team already short a couple of other pitchers due to volleyball injuries (grrrr) she wanted to do all she could to help them.
So with her thumb stabilized and a bandage that wrapped around her wrist she decided to give it a go to see if she could pitch this weekend.
The short answer was yes, she could. But her speed was a little down from where it normally is. That’s ok, though, she was able to do it without pain (so she said) and to throw all her pitches.
Later on when I thought about the speed being down I had an epiphany.
You see, a year ago Gianna was struggling with some mechanical issues that were preventing her from getting the type of whip and pronation that would bring her speed up. She was working very hard to correct them but once those bad mechanics have set in the habits they create can be tough to break.
(One more piece of evidence that saying “Start with hello elbow and you can change later” is bad, bad advice.)
As I thought about it I realized that had she been throwing the speed she was averaging last night at this time last year, she would have been very excited and gone home on cloud nine. Because it was about 3 mph higher (whereas now it was 2-3 mph slower).
And that’s the point. Sometimes in our quest to get to “the next level” we sometimes forget to take a minute and look at how far we’ve come.
Keeping that longer-term perspective can help you stay positive when you hit the inevitable plateau and keep you going until you reach your next achievement.