By Coach Rich
As a High Performance Coach, I am always intrigued with what sets certain athletes apart from others and how they are able to perform on their sports biggest stage. Recently we had an epic Major League Baseball World Series. This one was particular interesting because it pitted two teams who were dominate not only throughout the regular season, but also the postseason. In fact, for the first time in 47 years the World Series featured two teams that each won at least 100 games.
Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros have waited a long time to call themselves World Series Champions with the Dodgers waiting almost 30 years and the Astros having never won since their inaugural season in 1962. What I found particularly interesting in this series as well as baseball as a whole is how the athletes respond to failure. Baseball is a game unlike any other in the sense that it is a game of failure. In no other sport will you fail 70% of the time and be considered a Hall of Famer. In no other sport do they put a giant “E” on the scoreboard for everyone to see in order to signify when you made an error, and yet you see athletes overcome this failure on a regular and sometimes daily basis to succeed.
This matter of overcoming failure and obstacles is often called “Resiliency”. Much of the current research on “resiliency” has suggested that it is a skill that can be improved upon when practiced. Some of this same research also suggests that “resilient” people are those that believe they can have some control over what is going on in their life as opposed to an individual that believes there is nothing they can do to change their situation. So let’s put this in the context of the World Series.
George Springer. Springer is an interesting player not only because of what he has overcome in his personal life, but also because of what he brings to the field. In his younger years he struggled with stuttering which often resulted in him being bullied in school. Now fast forward several years and he is a crucial member of a World Series championship team. In Game 1 of the World Series, Springer was 0-4 with 4 strikeouts. Offensively you really can’t do much worse than that. However, after that first game he went 11 for 25 which equates to a .440 batting average. On top of this he ended with 5 homeruns in 7 games or 6 if you consider the fact that he was non-existent on the offensively in the first game. He had 7 RBI’s and 8 runs scored. All of these numbers resulted in him becoming the World Series MVP.
Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw is known as one of the best pitchers in the game. However, the one knock against him is that his performances in the postseason up to this point had always been unspectacular. So naturally, the pressure was on in Game 1 when it was his turn to pitch and a chance to prove all of his critics wrong, as if the World Series itself was not enough pressure. This game Kershaw was able to silence the doubters. He pitched 7 innings gave up only 3 hits and 11 strikeouts, a truly dominate performance. However, in his second start of the World Series, Game 5, the voices of his doubters became louder. In this game, he pitched less than 5 innings. He gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 6 runs, not a start that you would expect from one of the best pitchers in the game. At this point he had a very up and down series, but not one that you want from your best pitcher. However, he would get another chance, this time only 3 days later. Starting pitchers generally pitch once every 5 days in order to rest their arms. Often when a starting pitcher attempts to throw sooner than that they may have some arm fatigue or perhaps even a mental block knowing that they likely won’t be at their best. So here comes Kershaw in Game 7, on 3 days rest, after a poor performance in his last game. Once again he was able to silence the doubters pitching 4 innings in relief giving up no runs and 4 strikeouts.
Now that I have bored you with statistics, what do these two great athletes have in common? That’s right, you guessed it… Resiliency. This is what great athletes do. They have an unshakable confidence in themselves, knowing that despite the score, despite the circumstances, and despite their past performances, they have the potential to overcome. George Springer was able to put aside his miserable Game 1 performance to become the MVP because he knew what he was capable of despite what others or his past performance said. Clayton Kershaw was able to put aside his Game 5 performance and come back against all odds (pitching on 3 days rest) to give his team a chance to win Game 7. These two athletes, along with many others, have an unshakable belief in themselves and what they are capable of. Circumstances, odds, barriers, and past performances don’t mean anything to them because tomorrow is a new day and a new day means a new opportunity for greatness.
Confucius once said “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”. This quote is a perfect example of what great athletes do. They are resilient and they always keep performing even when they fall.
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