Confidence in baseball. You just got cut. Now what?

The head coach at the high school has just posted the final cuts for the baseball team and …

CRUD!!! … you didn’t make it.  CRUD!!!  CRUD!!!  CRUDDDDDDD!!!

You place (drop is a better description) your chin onto your chest (Crash!!! Thud!!!), pull your cap over your eyes or  slide your sunglasses on  (“lack of recognition” among your friends  … at least for the moment … is probably a good thing) and slink off somewhere (dark) to lick your wounds.

First on your “to do” list may be a quick trip to the pharmacy for some Pepto-Bismol for that upset stomach you’re experiencing and then more than likely … (a – a whole lot of “self talk” covering a complete rainbow and veritable treasure trove of emotions which will include anger, frustration, disappointment, bewilderment, and confusion and then (b – even more talk … this time with parents, friends, etc.

Okay … go ahead; indulge yourself.  Allow yourself to go through that whole process and then, when you are finished and all the drama is past, let’s take a deep breath … Breathe slow in … slow(er) out. 

Exhale.

Good!  Now let’s put (as my friend Alan Jaeger (the JBand guy) the “drama” aside and get down to business.

Getting cut is no different from any other aspect of baseball (or life).  You need to make an intelligent “adjustment”.  Start with a simple fact … “There is no failure.  There is just information … and adjustments.”

On to bigger better … and perhaps even different things.

Here is a simple “check”  or … “to do” … list” that should help.

1.  Realize that … “life is not fair”.  We don’t have to like it or agree with it  but we DO have to …  deal with it and by the way, how we “deal” with things is largely how we (and the world) judge ourselves so let’s begin with  …

 2. … get your emotions under control

 Your emotions DO NOT and WILL NOT serve you; especially the negative ones you’re feeling at the moment; frustration, disappointment, anger, etc.  It’s okay to FEEL those things but how we ACT and RESPOND is another story; one which should be shaped by intelligence and reason so let’s start with …

3.  … an objective “evalutation” of the situation.

Depending upon your “level” in high school this may be an appropriate time to decide what you want to do in baseball.

If you did not make the freshman team, there is certainly time to change and develop … time to make  yourself “better”.

If, however, you are a junior in high school who failed to make the jv team, you may need to take a harder look at your place in the game and what it has to offer you.  What are your goals realistically paired against  your opportunities?  What is the commitment levels you will need to make in trying to reach those goals and, even with that commitment level and work load, can you succeed?

High school baseball is probably not on the horizon for you.  That is not always an accurate portrayal of who you are as a player, where you can go and what you can achieve (more on that later in this blog) but it is, unfortunately, the “reality”  … at least of the MOMENT. 

Don’t despair, there are some considerations and options:

 4.  Take up another sport

Sorry but I am serious here.  Sports of all kinds are phenomenal.  They are fun, filled with great life lessons, and they keep you off the couch and away from the soda and chips.  Good stuff. 

Atlanta Braves outfielder David Justice really wanted to play basketball but felt he simply was not good enough so pursued baseball instead and ended up winning “rookie of the year” and was a three time MLB All Star. 

Larry Walker spent his youth pursuing the dream of being an NHL goaltender.  Those dreams never materialized so he played baseball; spent five years in the minor leagues before being it to the major leagues where he won an MVP and three batting titles.

Sometimes you don’t need to quit.  You just need to re-direct your passion.

Do NOT deny yourself all the rewards that sports and athletic competition has to offer just because you did not make the high school baseball team.

Opportunity … and a lot of fun … all await in a variety of activities. 

Check them out.  And enjoy!!!

 5.  Acknowledge (certainly at least to yourself) that baseball is hard; “hard” as in really really really hard. 

I played three sports at the college level.  Baseball, in my opinion is the hardest “skill” sport on the planet and even harder mentally.  Great hitters “fail seven out of ten times”.  You must be very very tough mentally to succeed in baseball.

A lot of young student athletes have transitioned to lacrosse for example; or track or tennis with great success.  (b – Aim for less competitive recreational baseball; youth rec leagues.  Many colleges have “club” sports which are highly highly competitive.  Aim for that.  Do NOT give up on sports … or the game itself. 

6. –   Stay with baseball.

Baseball is an extremely difficult “hand – eye coordination” game which requires (and rewards) persistent “development”.  The truth is that you may in fact have the skill to succeed but (a – that skill is not fully developed or  (b – you may not be up to other players in size and strength and speed.

Everybody who loves baseball knows and loves Dustin Pedroia; 5’9”; rookie of the year; four time all star; and MVP and Jose Altuve; 5’6”; 2017 MVP.

Altuve, in case you don’t know, went to a tryout when he was 16 and was turned away because the club thought he was too small and had lied about his age.  The next day, with encouragement from his father, he produced his birth certificate, impressed the scouts and well … you know the story from there.

Want a fun read?  Pick up my friend Steve Springer’s book; “SPRING TIME: My Amazing Journey from High School Benchwarmer to the Big Leagues to Mentor of Major League All Stars  detailing how he entered high school as a freshman at 4’11” and ended up playing and coaching in the major leagues.”

7.  Get some professional help.

Find an honest baseball professional.  (You’ll have to look.  They are sometimes hard to find).  Find someone that you will indeed pay for an OBJECTIVE evaluation/consultation but is not necessarily motivated to get you into his expensive lesson program or travel team.  Look for a reputable and honest professional and start with a request for a simple evaluation

 8.  Make sure that the professional not only evaluates (a – where your “game” is at now but (b – what your “projections” are and (c – what it will take for you to realize those projections; i.e. “how to get there”; a roadmap to your goals.

Keep in mind that factors which include size, strength, and speed are involved in this evaluation as well so you may need to obtain evaluations not just from a “baseball professional” but from a respected strength, speed, and conditioning trainer as well.

 9.  Talk to the high schoolcoach.

A couple of  things to remember and keep in mind (a – These guys are not gods.  They are  just high school coaches and (b – they are actually supposed to be part of your school/interscholastic experience; i.e. “teachers/educators”.  Just like if you had a problem with math and your parents scheduled an appointment with your math teacher, you should be entitled to know “why” you did not make the team.  Any decent coach should be impressed with a player who is concerned enough to make a request for a conference.  Remember … no emotion.  This is not a “sob” or “anger management” or”venting” session.  This is question and answer deal.  “ Why … ?”

10 –   Question the “why”, analyze the coach’s response and consider the “situation” and “environment”. 

What is the coach looking for in a player?  (Don’t forget to ask)  Maybe you’re not it.  Yet.  Can you become … “it” … perhaps by the following year.

 What is the program’s “agenda”?  High school coaches have a very limited “window” to evaluate talent that is appropriate for their individual programs.  Think about it for a second.  Most high schools play somewhere in the range of 20 – 24 games.  For a position player, that represents somewhere between 60 and 80 at bats.  Watch the big league game.  Big league hitters have “streaks” oftentimes of 30 to even 40 at bats without decent statistics; i.e. “hits”.  (I heard one the other day; 2 – 40.  Holy mackerel.  A high school coach would tell the player to take up lacrosse … or checkers). 

Unfortunately (see above) a lot of high school coaches simply do not have the time or resources (and sometimes sadly the knowledge) to  properly evaluate or  teach the game.  An hour and a half is really not enough to reach … and teach 15 – 18 players individually.

Even tryouts are difficult.  The attendance at some of the larger high schools is enormous; literally unmanageable.  Sometimes players; especially those who are smaller or slower; are simply “not seen” by the coaches.

Going in to speak to the coach is your opportunity to at least be “heard”.  If nothing else it is an indication of your character.  You have passion and integrity. 

Ask and finish by asking for his advice as to a “next step” for you and your ambition to play.

11 – Perhaps “where” is the answer to the problem.

Success in life is often dictated by the old axiom of “being in the right place at the right time” and perhaps where you are at is simply not the right place.

There are high schools with three and four thousand students; high schools with over one hundred players trying out for the baseball team. 

I have to tell you that I WANT everyone who tries out to be successful but it is literally IMPOSSIBLE to judge (and harder to compare) that many players.  I would go cross-eyed. 

Be fair.  Yes, there are “political” agendas that shape opinions, etc. but also that environment is perhaps too big to manage for the coaching staff; let alone be successful as a player.

As a consultant to players who are working to go from high school to college baseball what we are ALWAYS looking for is a proper “fit” for the player; an environment where the player will get an opportunity to compete and develop

Unfortunately do to “geography”; i.e. locations and districting for public schools this is sometimes impossible to navigate or change at the high school level. Unless you can switch out to a private school which oftentimes means a LOT of additional expense; you are pretty much “stuck” where you are at on the map. 

I currently have a client who did NOT make the freshman team at a very expensive private prep school and yet, by his junior year he had six scholarship offers.

How is that possible?  How is it possible for a player that good to NOT make the freshman team?  How is it possible for him to PERSIST and make himself into a scholarship player?

It’s all possible.

12 – (Above all else): KEEP PLAYING!!!

Why are you playing the game anyway?  Isn’t it because you love and are passionate about the game?  It better be … because ultimately that is going to dictate your success … at whatever level you compete at. 

Find a local “rec” league.  Go to the park with your buddies.  Hit off the batting tee.  Go to the gym.  Get stronger; faster.  Learn to enjoy the “process” not only of baseball but more importantly of getting better.

At anything and everything you do.

The Japanese have a word: “Kaizen”; it means “continuous improvement”.

Great word; a “fun” word; maybe … once you understand it … the MOST fun word on the planet.The process works when you work the process.

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