Monday, September 7, 2009

Minding Your Business

RT Staff Note: There's a book called Mind Gym, by Gary Mack that is a must read for every athlete that is interested in playing baseball at the next level. There's a lot of baseball references in this book, because baseball is one of the most mentally challenging sports on this planet. The foreword of this book is written by Alex Rodriguez. In addition to his phenomenal work habits and constant physical training, he is a big believer in mind training. This is what Alex has to say...

When I was nine years old growing up in Miami, I dreamed of being a major league baseball player someday. The dream was a little blurry back then, and it disappeared when I quit baseball and took up basketball. I wanted to become the next Magic Johnson or the next Larry Bird. Then one day I was talking with my mother and my older brother, and I realized that there aren't too many Dominicans playing in the NBA. So after a two-year layoff, I started playing baseball again, and that picture in my head, that dream, came back to me. That blurry image started taking focus.

I can tell you I wouldn't be where I am now, if I hadn't seen myself wearing a big league uniform long before it happened. I believe in the power of dreams.

I also believe mental preparation goes hand-in-hand with setting goals and hard work. The way I use my mind is the biggest reason I've been able to enjoy success and play at a high level in a game where you have to prove yourself everyday. In sports, as in life, talent will take you just so far. I try to attain goals mentally first. Let me give you an example. I don't want to sound cocky, but early in the 1996 season, I visualized winning the American League Most Valuable Player award and holding it above my head. I visioned winning the batting title and holding up that trophy too. I visioned a .380 batting average. In my mind I could see the number, flashing and blinking on exit signs....380....380....380.

That year I missed winning the MVP by three votes and won the batting title. Playing the game was the easy part. The real work was in the preparation. What I did in May paid off with rewards in November.

Just as I believe in dreams, I believe in the power of positive reinforcement and visualization. Some nights when I go to bed I will tell myself, maybe 150 times, "I hit the ball solid. I hit the ball solid. What do I do for a living? I hit the ball solid." I see the results from my minds eye out. I see myself from the fans perspective. From the managers view in the dugout. I picture myself on the field from different angles. I believe a champion wins in his mind first, then they play the game, not the other way around. It's powerful stuff.

My season is long, extending from spring training through 162 games and the playoffs. Every athlete in every sport experiences peaks and valleys. During tough times I don't worry. I don't judge my performance by results. Most important is my physical and mental preparation. The question I ask when I look in the mirror is "Am I ready to play?" If the answer is yes, I feel confident. Once the ball is thrown, or it's hit, the outcome is out of your control.

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