Human beings are interesting creatures. We desire to be accepted, to be liked, to fit in. We make decisions everyday based on how we think others will perceive our choices and whether they will approve of our actions. As a society, we try to avoid conflict and would rather please than take a course of action that will upset others. We don’t want to go against the grain, usually out of fear for what others might think or say about us. For the most part, we do these things innately—it has simply become second nature to us. This is unfortunate. Such behavior stymies greatness.

This aspect of our society extends into the realm of sports. Most athletes don’t want to create too many waves. They want to be “coachable,” a good teammate, and like I mentioned before, they don’t want to stand out too much (unless it is having a great game). The same thing can often be said for coaches too. Everybody is concerned with how others perceive them. This type of attitude is why we still have pitcher’s running poles (and other long distances), why we continue to have baseball players bench pressing as the primary method of increasing upper body strength, and why we still have pitchers “pausing at the top” in order to reach a “balance point.” All of these things have been shown to be ineffective—even detrimental—at achieving baseball success. But for some inexplicable reason, the majority of baseball coaches incorporate such things into their practices/workouts, and the majority of baseball players perform such exercises/drills.

I have asked coaches that I know why they continue to use such antiquated methods of training baseball athletes and I often hear the reply, “Well, that’s the way I did it.” What persuasive reasoning. Or I ask a player why he is running poles when he knows it is detrimental and he responds, “My coach told me to” or “I don’t want people to think I’m not a team player.” The real reason is because both the coach and the athlete don’t want to rock the boat.

I would remind these players and coaches of the following quote, “If you do what everybody else does you are going to get what everybody else gets.” That quote is very closely linked with the description of INSANITY: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The bottom line is that people seem to believe that if they do the same old routine as everybody else they will somehow become great. That simply doesn’t happen. What does the average baseball player accomplish? I would venture to say he makes his high school team but doesn’t play college baseball. The average college player never makes it to professional baseball. The average minor leaguer never makes it to the Major Leagues. You get the point.

To succeed at anything you must be willing to be extraordinary. You can’t worry about what others think or say about you. You must do what others are unwilling to do. And along the way, there will be those that try to knock you back down so that you fall in line with the rest of the crowd. You can’t listen to those individuals. I remember when I was playing in high school and college I had teammates who would tell others to “chill out” or to stop trying so hard because they were making the rest of them look bad. That is exactly what we should be trying to do. We should be trying to make everybody else look bad! It’s a good thing to stand out! People who say things like that are LOSERS. You don’t want to be like them and you certainly shouldn’t want/seek their approval.

I even had this problem when I was playing professional baseball. I had a pitching coach in the Seattle Mariners’ organization who would literally make fun of me for the type of warm up activities I did prior to throwing. He especially liked to make comments about my use of the ShoulderTube. He had all sorts of funny nicknames for it and would make these comments in front of all my peers. Did it bother me? To a degree yes, but then again I knew what was important. I had made it to professional baseball while all my teammates in college and high school were no longer playing because I was willing to do what was necessary, not “cool” or “normal” according to the rest of baseball society.

It boils down to this: whether in sports or in life you will inevitably face individuals that try to influence what you do and how you do it. Critically evaluate these people’s suggestions and ask them to explain the “why” behind what they ask of you. Don’t simply do things because that is the “way things have always been done.” Always have your interests and goals in mind and don’t be afraid to reject the status quo. If you find something that works for you then stick with it despite what others say or think. In the end, results are all that matters.

I was recently introduced to a phenomenal quote: “Successful men are influenced by desire for pleasing results. Failures are influenced by desire for pleasing methods.” Who cares if your methods are pleasing to everybody? You are after a specific result and if you are willing to do things that the masses are not then you are more likely to accomplish those results than everybody else. Your coach may not agree with your training methods. This is probably because he does not understand them. But one thing he will understand is a 90+ mph fastball. Or a line drive that sails 400+ feet. Results are what matters.

If you are going against the grain—doing something different than everybody else—you are probably doing something right.

Until next time,

Brian Oates