By John Peter Pero
Learning to compete is yet another of the vital pieces to becoming a next-level player. Athletic ability alone gets very few to the top of the pyramid with the exception of names like Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, Andrew Jones, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez; guys just born with such amazing skill and size. Yet even they needed to learn to become great competitors.focused and prepared to do battle.
Even Derek Jeter, once viewed as the third best shortstop in the American League (and owner of 4 World Series rings as of this writing), talks about the countless hours of his teen years spent hacking with his SoloHitter Hitting Trainer. You watch how he approaches every at-bat and how hard he competes and you just know that this is how he is wired. it may have started from the head of his dinner table, or a coach, but those who know him say that this guy was always a tough out!
Watching Jeter play, you just have to appreciate how many of the best become their best!
So who & what is a great competitor?
In Practice - He's the guy who knows what he is supposed to do and does it correctly. and not just when coaches are watching. He understands the value of practicing hard & correctly and knows its importance to himself and his team. He practices how he plays! He challenges himself and is interested in becoming his best.not just better!
In Games - He is mentally prepared and has a plan for every at-bat and every situation. Because of his great practice habits, he can kick his game plan into gear with little concern for not being prepared. Coaches know they can count on him!
The Ultimate Competitor is the Ultimate Team Player!
He doesn't care who the hero is.
He's going to compete to help his team win!
He wants his teammates to do well!
Players come in all shapes, sizes & personalities.
but successful players all learn the importance of being a great competitor!
The Young Player
Teach & Learn The Love of The Game!
A competitive nature can start at a young age but first a player must learn to love the game. Without that love, he may never get to that point where the rest even matters. This is overwhelmingly more important.
My own observation is that few 10-year olds are equipped to understand this; maybe half of 11-year olds seem to and most 12-year olds who get the concept are emotionally equipped to do battle and understand the euphoria of winning and the agony of losing. and what it takes to get there.
This knowledge can come from the head of the dinner table, an older sibling, a teacher or coach, older or other teammates, opposing players.anywhere really. What's more important is that it becomes how a player goes about his business on the field.
It's Just Baseball
One 10-year old may love to play every day and will play 60+ games a year while another may be burned out by age 12 with that sort of schedule. Love the game first and the competitive juices will just kick in when they are supposed to.there is no schedule. Know your player(s) and you will know when to prod and when to back off and let them find it themselves. THEY'RE ALL DIFFERENT!
Some Examples of Great Competitors
The 4th best player on my best 14-year old team ever is now a 2nd year pro after a stellar college career and a trip to Omaha as a freshman. He made himself into a ballplayer. He wanted it more than anyone else on that team. and is still playing while those who were his superior are now out of the game or finishing their college careers as their last stop.
A leftie outfielder of mine was drafted in the 38th round out of high school, went to a JUCO (junior college) instead, redoubled his efforts to improve, and is now a 1st year pro. redrafted in the 4th round and, as of this writing, he is rated by Baseball America as having the best raw power in the Anaheim Angels organization!
The Chicago Cub infielder I played golf with recently was kidded by a member of our foursome with a reminder of the pressure putt he had.it was quite testy. I will paraphrase him as he shot back at the heckler. Are you kidding, I love this stuff. referring to that pressure. And believe me, this guy has made himself into one tough Big League competitor.he is a tough out and will battle you with all he has.even at a charity golf tournament!
My buddy Steve Springer played 14 years of pro ball with very little Big League time but he is content with his years in the game. He was 4 foot 11 inches tall and weighed 90 pounds as a freshman high school player. Can you imagine how many times older players tortured him?
He didn't even start his senior year in high school. yet he didn't quit! He grew late. but he grew into an All-Conference college shortstop. and that's how he got seen and ultimately drafted by the New York Mets!
As Spring says, "The great thing about this game is that you get judged every day. So be a great competitor. Be a tough out!"
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