Thursday, April 3, 2008


RT Staff Note: The following is from Jim Giles of Jims web site has a lot of inspirational thoughts about the game of baseball and how to be a better player. He also helps out with the SGV Arsenal, one of the premier, low cost travel teams, located in southern California. Enjoy!

Through every failure, whether it is athletically or in our lives in general, there is an opportunity to grow. In fact, it can often be said that the only true failure in life is your failure to learn from a past event or your failure to move forward from it.

It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to truly succeed at something without first experiencing some form of failure along the way. I truly believe that if you do not fail at some point, you are not trying hard enough. The key in this endeavor is developing the attitude of not focusing on the fact that you have failed in the task, but rather focusing on what you do AFTER the failure. This is a key step and a determining factor in your ability to truly succeed.

Another key element to experience success is continual growth. We need to find a way to continually grow as an athlete, and as a person, each and every day. True growth can only be found by “stressing” our current state and pushing ourselves further than we have on the previous day. This continual stressing and pushing may cause momentary failure along the way. In fact, if we are appropriately challenging ourselves, we will fail along the way numerous times as we are trying to push further away from our comfort zone and those activities which we know we can attain. By failing, we are given the opportunity to evaluate the process by which we have failed and use this in our next effort to rise above this. Critical to this process is applying the theory of only worrying about what YOU can control. The main thing that you CAN control is how you react to any given failure.

Drawing on another key aspect from Pete Carroll’s ideology is his emphasis on maintaining a positive attitude and approaching all challenges and triumphs as an opportunity to grow and get better. “Eliminate all negatives,” Carroll says. In an interview he was quoted as saying “I learned from (Former North Carolina State Basketball coach) Jim Valvano that you should never allow for negatives. It doesn’t matter what the issue is or what the obstacle is, there are no negatives. And through that, you can look at everything as a special opportunity to improve, reflect on or just sit back and enjoy.”

As an athlete, especially in a sport like baseball, failure will occur more often than perceived success. A hitter will “fail” in at bats more frequently than he will succeed and be considered a great hitter. During the course of a game, a Pitcher will make many pitches in his endeavor to win the game. Some of those pitches may be failures, producing results that they did not intend. But it is the continual learning from those failed at bats, or failed pitches, that provide a player with the opportunity to succeed at a higher level in the next attempt.

For those attempting to move on to the next level of sports, the scouts evaluating you LOVE to see you fail. In fact, they deep down inside probably are wishing that you will fail at some point. The few moments after that failure, can quite often tell these scouts more about what lies within you than hundreds of successful events. How someone reacts to failure will ultimately tell you what you can not easily see. That is character, motivation, drive, etc. which cumulatively determine your “Mental Make Up”. For a baseball player, this is the 6th Tool. This is often the most difficult attribute to evaluate. At the next level, this is one of the key attributes that separates players. Each level you step up, the competition is tougher, the players are stronger, the demands are greater, so only those that have the right “Mental Make Up” will succeed. Dealing with failure is critical to this process.

I recently watched a baseball game between two very talented teams. The Pitcher from one of the teams was one of the most highly regarded players in the country. His team was expected by some to win every game because of the talented players they had. Well on this given day, they were facing players who were experiencing success against them. In the first inning, things didn’t quite go as planned. The other team took advantage of some opportunities and suddenly had jumped out to a pretty big lead. Now the team could have folded and focused on their failure to stop their opponent. This player, who had not experienced much failure over the last year, was in unfamiliar ground. The team was in a position they possibly had not intended to be in, given “their guy” on the hill. If they focused on the failure of the first inning, the game would be over. If they focused on the opportunity that would present itself over the next several innings, the opportunity would be there to in the end succeed. Well as many of the scouts decided to leave to other games, they missed out on a great game which revealed great character. The pitcher found that inner strength and held the other team the rest of the way. His teammates found their ability to focus on the opportunity and came back scoring more runs than their opponent the balance of the game. Ultimately they came up one run short. But did they fail? I’d like to think they didn’t. While they failed to score more runs than their opponent that day, they didn’t fail in growing from the opportunity and hopefully will be able to use this learning experience in games ahead. They chose to make that Failure an Opportunity to Grow.

Jim Giles

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