BC128: Ken Ravizza | Why Is the Mental Game Important?

In one of the BEST podcasts of the year, Brian takes you back to an interview with his mentor, Dr. Ken Ravizza, on the importance of the mental game…

Learn about:

  • Ken’s answer to why the mental game is so important.
  • An important question to ask your players about their mental state.
  • How to maintain confidence when you aren’t seeing results.
  • The importance of teaching the why.

                                                   

PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION

Augie would come to my office and we’d sit down.  I’d talk sports psych, he would take baseball, and we just exchanged ideas.  I remember when he said to me one time, “The opponent in baseball is not the team you’re playing against; the opponent in baseball is the game and the game presents two major obstacles – boredom and frustration.”

Cain:  If you’ve been with me for any time here on the podcast, you know that my mentor, the #1 guy who put me on the path to the mental game and changed my life, Dr. Ken Ravizza, professor of sports psychology at Cal State Fullerton.  I remember clear as day.  It was the summer of the year 2000.  I picked up the book Heads-Up Baseball, read it cover to cover on July 4 at a Barnes & Noble in Boston and actually bought it that day.  It was the first book I had ever bought.

I got back to Vermont where I was working in summer school.  I sent Dr. Ravizza an e-mail that said: “Hey, man, I love what you’re writing about in Heads-Up Baseball.  I want to be a college baseball coach and get a Masters Degree.  Can I get involved in your sports psychology program at Cal State Fullerton and oh, by the way, volunteer with the Titan baseball program?” which was one of the best in the country at the time (and still is).  That e-mail and that book and that experience on July 4, 2000, changed my life.

In this podcast we go all the way back 10 years ago to 2006 where we sit down and interview Dr. Ken Ravizza about why is the mental game important?  You know why the mental game is important.  Look at the Chicago Cubs.  They just won a World Series.  Who was in the dugout with them?  Dr. Ken Ravizza. That happened in 2016.  Well, we’re going back 10 years to 2006 to hear why the mental game was important back then.  This is one podcast you are going to want to listen to multiple times.  You’re going to want to take notes because this is the best in the world.  Let’s join Dr. Ken Ravizza about why the mental game is important.

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This is Brian Cain.  I am here with Dr. Ken Ravizza, an instructor of sports psychology at Cal State Fullerton, the coauthor of the great book Heads-Up Baseball, one of the top mental game coaches in the world.  Dr. Ravizza has worked with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Anaheim Angels and has also worked with many of the top college baseball programs in the country and was a consultant to USA Olympic baseball.  Dr. Ravizza, how are you doing today?

Ravizza:  Doing great, Brian.  Great to be here with you.

Cain:  Glad you could sit down and talk with us and kind of share your knowledge of the mental game with the coaches and the people that will be listening to this interview.  My first question for you is why is the mental game so important?

Ravizza:  Well, Brian, I think this is the most important question that coaches have to come to terms with, especially when you talk with your team.  You look at most high school players, young college players – they’ve done it totally on talent, and one of the things they have to be aware of is it’s more than just talent as you move towards the higher levels.  As a coach, you have to let your players know why you’re addressing the mental game and why it is important.

I remember, Brian, a fascinating example for me – my daughter had me come in and talk to her high school softball team.  I’ll tell you I was a nervous wreck about that talk.  My daughter’s team.  You want to make a good impression.  I remember I went in that day.  I had about a 45-minute talk to the softball team and I wowed them.  I did a great job.  I felt I was on, I was delivering, everything went great, and after I was done the players went off to practice and I came home and I was waiting for my daughter to come home.  When Monica came in the door, I asked, “Monica, what did the girls think?”  And she looked at me and she said, “Dad, the girls did not know what you were talking about.”

That really hit me, Brian, because a lot of times coming and being very interested in the mental game, being very interested in sports psychology, I forget that a lot of the athletes have done it their own way without this mental game stuff.  One of the first things as a coach that you’ve got to address and you’ve got to talk about is this question of why it’s important.

Cain:  It’s interesting that you talk about talking to a high school softball team.  Do you find that as you get higher and higher in level of competition that the mental game becomes more important?  Maybe in that big game, or as you’re talking about Major League Baseball which you’ve worked with or the Division 1 National Championship scene in Omaha, that the mental game is more important there than it might be for a high school softball team or a high school baseball team?

Ravizza:  I think the mental game is different.  I think you could take a 12-year-old playing in a league championship – there is pressure that he or she is feeling.  It’s there.  But at the same time… I think of my 16 years with the Angels.  I remember in spring training we’d be in a room with all our minor league players.  We’d have 150 guys.  I remember the general manager coming up to me before one of the meetings and saying, “Ken, you do know out of these 160 guys 10 are going to play in the big leagues.”

So what we’re talking about there is – and I would say that to the players.  I’d explain to them the numbers – “10 of you are going to make it to the big leagues” and the average major league career is three years or less, so you’re talking about it’s very difficult.  I would say to the guys, “Hey, you’ve got to look around the room and figure out who the other nine are.”  That’s important because at the higher levels, whether it’s professional, Olympic, the physical talent is equal.  Now the six inches between the years becomes important.

From the coaching perspective, for the coaches out there, think of when you play in the big game how much of it is physical talent and how much of it is the ability to handle mistakes, handle distractions, keep your focus and concentration up.  They tell me all the time big games are mostly mental because the physical talent balances out.

Cain:  I’ve heard Coach Horton and Coach Serrano and you talk about that baseball is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s so easy to get caught up in going through the motions on a day-to-day basis and getting away from the quality.  I think one of the things I really took away from working with you is that the mental game, although it’s going to help you in the big game, it really helps you get better every day and handle that adversity that is built into baseball.

Ravizza:  Right.  And I think that is a key point that you are bringing up – the duration of the season. Baseball is a long season.  It’s a grind.  If you look at professional baseball, you’ve got the dog days of August where it becomes a grind.  That duration is tough.  Even at whatever level there are a lot of games compared to football where you may have 12 games.  Hey, you are having a problem getting up for the game once a week?  I mean really.  Baseball is day after day, more games per week that come into play.  So this idea, that duration of the season, is important.

I think the other thing that you’re mentioning is also critical.  On a day-to-day basis you’re choosing to take a step forward towards your dream, remain the same, or take a step back.  Each day you’re making that decision.  A step forward doesn’t always mean success.  You could fail miserably.  But you get a lot of positive feedback from that.  That is a step forward.

Cain:  Absolutely.

Ravizza:  That is on a day-to-day basis that you’re doing it.  That is another reason why the mental game is important – I’ve got to set goals.  When I step onto that practice field, what am I working on today? When I go into that bullpen, what am I working on today?  When I’m taking a round of batting practice or I’m out working on the tee or I’m in the cage, what am I working on?  That is a big question.

For the coaches, think about that question.  Ask the athlete what is he working on today?  By asking that question you get to find out what the athlete is thinking about.  For example, a pitcher may say, “I don’t want to hang as many curveballs.”  Well, that is a rather negative orientation and you need to realize where that person is coming from.

Cain:  Absolutely.  I think the things you’re talking about that really stick out to me why the mental game is important is that quality practice and are you taking a step closer towards your dream or a step further away, and also setting those goals of what are you working on today in practice.

One of the CDs that is in the set is going to be on quality practice and tips from you and your experience that coaches and athletes can do to make sure they’re getting that quality practice and get the most out of their ability.

What I want to go to now is a thing that you talk about a lot – being comfortable with being uncomfortable.  In baseball it is such a game of adversity.  The athletes that can handle that adversity and be comfortable with being uncomfortable are the ones that are largely going to be successful.

Ravizza:  Right.  That is one of the classic things, is the issue of handling the adversity.  In baseball you’re unsuccessful 7 out of 10 times.  How do you handle those 7 out of 10 times?  This is where, when I started with my baseball with Coach Augie Garrido at Cal State Fullerton in 1979 (I think we started, Brian) and I remember we used to meet every other Wednesday.  Augie would come to my office and we’d sit down.  I’d talk sports psych, he would take baseball, and we just exchanged ideas.  I remember when he said to me one time, “The opponent in baseball is not the team you’re playing against; the opponent in baseball is the game and the game presents two major obstacles – boredom and frustration.”  You’re going to be frustrated in the game.  Embrace the frustration.  Be ready for it.  Have something to go to when it hits.

But also boring.  Boring in terms of there is time to think.  You go out as a pitcher, you blow away the other team 1 2 3, you’ve got to sit on the bench for 20 minutes.  As a hitter, you’re seeing the ball big, you’re getting the barrel on it, and you only get to hit once every half hour.  That is the boredom factor. So adversity is a key thing and the player is not always going to feel comfortable.

I think early in my career, Brian, I spent a lot of time working with athletes trying to get them into the zone, into the zone, and the issue is yeah, you want to try and feel as comfortable as you can but at a certain time you compete.  That becomes critical.

Cain:  One of the things I always took away from what you were talking about is you get these athletes and they may feel 75%, but do they focus on the 25% they don’t have or the 75% that they do have, and do they go to battle with that 75%?

Ravizza:  I think that is the key and it’s something Coach Wooden always said, is focus on what you can do and not what you can’t do.  I think that is one of the major things we’re trying to do.  What I do is I tell the players at times, “Hey, are you that bad you need your A game to perform well?”  I mean I question them with that because sometimes these hitters before a game are like Peter Pan looking for his shadow.  They’re just going crazy trying to find it.  The key thing is you do everything you can to feel as good as you can and then you go to battle.

In terms of that, I think as a coach you’ve got to, when you talk to your athletes, ask them this question: Have you ever had great pregame batting practice or great pregame bullpen and went out and performed well?  Some are going to say yes, some are going to say no.  Have you ever had a great BP, great bullpen, and gone out and performed terribly?  Yeah.  Have you ever had poor BP and gone out and hit well?  At times you’ve got to remember that.  That’s critical to the puzzle.

I think the other thing here that is really important when you ask why the mental game is important is it goes to something that one of the great managers in the history of Major League Baseball, Casey Stengel, manager of the New York Yankees, said:  “More games are lost than won.”  What that basically means is you beat yourself.  I have really found that losing in my work – losing is painful.  I don’t care. Losing is painful.  But when you beat yourself, that is when you stare at the ceiling all night.  When the opponent beats you, you can sleep at night.  This is another place where the mental game is important.  I ask coaches, “How many of your losses last year did you beat yourself, and what if by getting into the mental game you could cut that number in half?”

One thing, Brian, I’m a realist in this work.  There is no magic in the mental game.  I don’t promise magic. You have to work the mental game just like you work the physical game.  You have good days with it, you have bad days with it, but if we could cut some of that in half, ask your hitters this question:  When you look at their number of ABs, how many did they give away?  How did they give them away, by they were on the last pitch, they were upset at the umpire, they were too focused internally?  How many did they just beat themselves?  They weren’t there.  They weren’t committed to what they were trying to do. If we could cut that number in half.

But that has also got to be something, Brian, that you brought up earlier.  That has got to be practiced on a day-to-day basis.  That has got to be practiced.  When you have five rounds during BP and you have a bad round, how do you turn the next round around?  Not make it great but make it a little better.  Make it just a little better and build on that improvement.  You’re not going to necessarily have it be great.

Another thing I think that is very important here and most people are surprised when I say this.  I’ve had the privilege now of being involved in seven Olympic Games – some directly on site, some working with athletes that participated in those games and working with them from a distance.  One thing I’ve learned is confidence is fragile.  There isn’t anyone that has their stuff all together all the time.  We are human beings.  We’re not going to be perfect and we’re going to have to deal with adversity.

I still talk with athletes about the Ken Ravizza bathtub test for perfection, which basically means before your game what you do is you fill your bathtub up with two inches of water and what you do is you step on the surface of that water.  If you’re able to stand on the surface, you’re expected to be perfect.  If you touch porcelain, hey, peak performance is about compensating and adjusting.  Be ready.

So what I’m saying here is this point, that be ready for the adversity and that confidence is not something that you always have.  It sort of comes and it goes.  In baseball when you’re seeing the ball big and it’s looking like a balloon, you’re pretty confident.  But how do you do with maintaining your confidence when the ball is the size of a pea and how do you keep the energy going up?

Cain:  Let me ask you this.  I know in Heads-Up Baseball you mentioned that the confidence is 80%-90% if you talk to college or pro guys.  Let me ask you this.  A lot of athletes that I talk to, if I said “tell me three things that you need to work on to get better,” they can tell you right away.  But if I said “tell me three things that you do really well,” they have a hard time coming up with that.  I think a lot of that is because as coaches we spend so much time getting our athletes to work on what they need to do to get better and we don’t focus on what they do well.  I think when we spend more time focusing on what the athlete does well, it helps them build confidence.  But where does confidence come from?  To you in your experience where does confidence come from?  Why do some athletes have it and some don’t all the time?

Ravizza:  Well, I think confidence is a big part of why the mental game is important.  Confidence, where does it come from?  One of the classic discussions is what comes first, confidence or success?  You can argue that endlessly.  The key thing becomes how do you maintain confidence when you’re not getting success, when you’re not getting results?  Okay, well, a couple places it comes from.

One place it comes from is perspiration and preparation.  You’ve got to put your hay in the barn.  You’ve got to do the work.  You’ve got to be doing the quality practice.  That’s why for me this has become such an important part of the mental game, my day-to-day grind, my day-to-day going out to the field with a mission, what am I working on to get better?  Quality preparation.  Practice with intensity.  Practicing with purpose, intensity, intention.  Purpose – what am I doing today to get better?  If you’re working on that and doing that with your preparation, it’s going to feed the confidence.

I remember probably one of the great athletes that I worked with – Lisa Fernandez with USA Softball – Lisa, most of the time I talked to her she was on an exercise bike or on the treadmill.  She always said she didn’t want any cracks in her armor.  Look at a lot of the great athletes, the preparation, the hay is in the barn, they do the work.

Another place where confidence comes from, besides the preparation and perspiration, is it comes from your prior experience.  If you can reflect back to a time that you got that bunt down, if you can reflect back to the time where you had a poor bullpen and pitched well, that can instill it.  Another place where the confidence comes from is it comes from what other coaches, other players, say about you.

I remember when I was with the Angels working with a guy named Jim Abbott.  Jim Abbott had a cut fastball that was darn good.  At one point he was going through tough times and I remember another pro player who played for the Angels, a guy named Bobby Grich, just came by the locker room and Jimmy and I were talking about this stuff and Bobby Grich turned to him and he said, “Abby, that cut fastball of yours is nasty.”  Hearing that from Bobby Grich who played 15 years in the big leagues really meant something.  As coaches, what you say to your athletes is very important.  If you can catch them doing things right, that’s huge.

Cain:  Awesome.  Another thing I hear you talk a lot about is how baseball is kind of a crazy game.  It’s the only game I know of where the defense has possession of the ball.  If you hit the ball on the foul line, it’s a fair ball.  It’s kind of an individual sport within a team sport.  Talk to me a little bit about that.

Ravizza:  I think that is another reason why the mental game is so important.  One of the beauties of the game is it is an individual sport within a team sport.  Each player has to stand naked before the gods, fully exposed, where they’re out there and people see them.  Compare that with soccer or rugby where you’re in the mass of humanity and most people don’t know unless you’re really into the game.  But in baseball you strike out and anyone watching it can see that.

Branch Rickey said something that always stood out to me when I read it.  He was talking about the fear that players experience as hitters.  He said:  “The hitter is afraid of three things.  First and foremost, the hitter is afraid of letting down his team.  Second, the hitter is afraid of letting down himself.  The third fear (a distant fear) is fear of getting hit by the ball.”  These other things are more important at the higher level, and I have really experienced that because once again it’s an individual sport within a team sport and you don’t want to let down your mates.

Cain:  Great.  Another thing I really took away from my experience at Fullerton working with you and working with Coach Horton and the Titans was talking about how the respect for the game and that the game knows.  Talk to me about what does the respect for the game mean to you from a mental game standpoint?

Ravizza:  I think this whole thing, when you talk about Coach Horton and you talk about the program at Fullerton, you’ve got to also talk about Dave Snow at Long Beach State and Mike Weathers and what ties all these people together is a coach named Wally Kincaid, who coached at Cerritos College for years. Wally was their coach, their mentor, and a heck of a man.  He taught them this respect of the game and keeping the game simple.  I think what Wally always used to say, if I remember correctly, was “play catch, throw strikes, and put the ball in play.”  That is the basics of respecting the game.

All of these coaches and these programs and this tradition has come out of the work of this man, Wally Kincaid, and I’m sure he had his mentors before but I don’t know that background.  When we talk about respecting the game, we’re talking about respecting the little things.  There are no little things.  You’ve got to do the little things.  It’s like the right fielder.  When the pitcher throws to first, are you standing there with your hands on your knees or are you taking five steps to back up that bad throw at first base so you can be over there to pick the ball up and nail the runner when he’s trying to get to third?  It’s those types of little things.  It’s types of things that when I’m at a game with the team I’m validating the right fielder when he does that little thing.  People may not see it but that becomes a big thing.

A little thing, respecting the game.  Things like taking a two-step lead, faking a steal, really putting intensity into it and putting purpose into it.  That is a little thing.  Giving an at-bat away.  An AB is a precious thing.  You’ve got to respect the game because if you don’t respect the game, the game will catch up with you.  It’s doing those little things like getting the good first step, keeping the attention going out, keeping the communication going out.  The amazing thing with the game is that baseball has a device in it that finds the airhead.  If you’re not present, you’re not focused, that ball will seek you out.  If there is a time you don’t want it hit to you, get ready, it’s coming.

Cain:  I know you talk a lot about how there is a lot of time in baseball and you’ve mentioned how Garrido talks about the challenges or boredom and frustration and the airhead finder and the ball is going to come to the person who is not in the present moment.  Talk to me about the difference just between baseball (and you touched on this earlier) with a sport like rugby or a sport like basketball where it’s “go go” all the time.  There is not that waiting around with other sports like there is in baseball.

Ravizza:  Yeah.  The only game I think that is more mental than baseball is the game of golf.  You play 18 holes, it takes 4 ½ hours roughly and you’re executing a skill for five minutes.  That gives you 4 hours and 25 minutes to get into your head.  It’s a mental game.  Also, with golf the courses are designed to drive you crazy.  I think people need to keep that in perspective.  I know this isn’t a golf tape but it’s funny to look at it.  I personally have enough problems in my life I don’t need to be playing golf.  But I respect golfers and what they deal with.

In baseball you’ve got more time to think (we touched on this) where if you go well you’ve got to sit down, you’ve got to keep your head in the game.  How do you maintain that over time, over the duration?  Important.

Cain:  I think the last question on this CD here that I have for you is the importance of the mental game in speeding up the learning process.  I know you turned me on to Orel Hershiser’s book Between the Lines and he talks about “I wanted to take the information that was given to me and use it so that it would speed up my learning process so that I would get better quicker.”  For me in my experience in coaching, the two years I spent with you in graduate school learning the mental game – if I had never come out here, I have no idea what I would be doing or what my perception and philosophy on coaching would be. The inexpensive experience that I’ve gained from you in being able to be a part of some of the programs I’ve been involved with has really sped up my learning process.  Talk to me about that importance from the mental game aspect.

Ravizza:  I think that is once again why it is so important.  Because if I’m aware and I’m conscious and I’m taking responsibility and I’m a little more accountable for what I’m doing and aware, it can only help me improve my performance and get better.

I remember when I started with the Angels.  In 1985 I started with them.  I remember talking with some of the older people that had been around the game and I really respected them.  One of the things they said is they had this thing that a minor league player – a player had to play in the minors for so long so they could learn.  They said something, I think it was 1000 at-bats.  I’m not sure of the number.  The question I asked them was, “Does it matter whether they’re quality at-bats?”  They said, “That is a good question, Ken.”  I said, “Because what I think the mental game can help us do is increase the number of quality at-bats” meaning the player is present, meaning the player is focused, meaning the player is in control of himself, meaning the player has a plan when he steps in that box and he is working on something.  That, to me, is one of the biggest reasons why the mental game is so important.

Cain:  Awesome.  Any parting shots you want to finish with, Ken, on why the mental game is important?

Ravizza:  I think just for the coaches, make sure you tell your players why you’re doing this.  We’re going to talk more about this later, but the athlete today has to know why.  I mean, it gets back to the very first thing I said about my daughter’s softball team – and guys are no different than the gals.  They didn’t know what I was talking about.  I just went right into my little thing.  That was five years ago, Brian, and now every time I talk to the team, “Why am I up here talking to you?”  I think that is very important.  As coaches you need to talk about that.

The other thing that I just want to throw out here for the coaches is these things that we’re talking about now – you’re already doing a lot of these things.  This isn’t rocket science.  This isn’t something new. You’re already doing some of this.  The key becomes if you can start becoming more aware of it.  One of the things I get, and I’ve been doing this now for 32 years, and I have coaches come up to me and they go, “Ken, I heard you talk; I got a lot of confirmation for what I do, but the major thing I got out of your talk is I got a structure and a framework of how this fits together.”  As coaches you’re already doing a lot of good stuff and you’re touching a lot of kids’ lives.

Cain:  It provides the structure and then also I think one of the things I heard you talk about a lot is it provides a language so that they can communicate the mental game.

Ravizza:  Exactly.  This is one thing – a guy I’ve worked with for years, Dave Snow – Dave Snow always said, “What your program has done, and as we integrate it, is it provides a vocabulary.”  It provides a language so we can talk about “Hey, let it go, release, regroup, get big.”  There is terminology.  There is a vocabulary which helps pull the team together and keep the team on the same page and sometimes the same sentence and sometimes even the same word.

Cain:  So the next part, Ken, and the last part of this – takeaway tips.  What are some things that you can give the coaches that they can take and they can feel and they can show their players and they can use, kind of like you use the toilet (which we are going to get into later), because the coaches need to have that repetition and the more they hear us use the language, the more they are going to understand the language.  Talk to me about are you that bad?  When an umpire makes a bad call, what is something that a coach can do right away to make that a great situation?

Ravizza:  I think the issue is what we talked about.  It’s exactly that I don’t have to have everything go my way because I’m prepared to handle adversity.  I’m not surprised by it.  I have contingency plans.  I have something to go to when the adversity hits.  And to not be startled by it.  I mean it’s something that I always say when I talk with Division 1 athletes.  You’re playing D1, why are you playing D1?  Because you’re a darn good ball player.  You were recruited.  Your coaches didn’t go there and say “Who is the worst base runner?  Let’s get him.  Who is the worst pitcher?  Let’s bring him to our university or our team.”  No.  You’re on this team because you’re damn good.  Don’t forget it.

Remind the kids of that.  They’re going to take their blows and they’ve got to be ready.  It’s the issue of bring on the adversity – bad calls, weather conditions, rain delays, I don’t have my swing.  So what?  Deal with it.  And you’ve got stuff to deal with it.  That’s important to recommend to the kids.

Another thing I think that ties into it is this issue of reminding them when they go into those big games at the end of the year, what reasons do you have to be confident going into this?  The confidence comes from the work they’ve done, the preparation, their teammates, their coaching, the way they’ve worked the basic fundamentals, and the way they’ve worked the mental games.

Cain:  Some of the things that I’ll add to what you’re talking about is – to jump back to handling the adversity – is as a coach, when the umpire makes a bad call, do you see your players respond to the umpire or do you as the coach respond to the umpire or do you say to the team as the coach, “Hey, guys, are we that bad that we need every call?”  So what?  The umpire made a bad call.  That’s going to happen. Overcome it.  Immediately you’ve taken that what could be a controversial situation and used it to your advantage, that your team is “we don’t need that call.”

Ravizza:  Right.  I think also you said something that is very important and that is when you’re the coach, the players are watching your behavior.  The way you handle those situations is sending a message to your team.  One thing I know from my years of doing this is anxiety is contagious.  But also being present is contagious, presence is contagious.  Being mentally tough is contagious.  As a coach, you’ve got to manifest that in terms of your behavior.  That is what I see from the great coaches.

Cain:  I would agree with you 100%.  As an athletic director, I have the opportunity to oversee all those teams out of high school and I see that across the board, no matter what sport it is.  I think it’s a coaching thing.

Ravizza:  I think another thing in terms of for the coach that is important is, hey, if the opponent beat you, when you’re debriefing your game with your team – I mean they took it to you – tip your hat at a certain point.  “Hey, guys, we did everything we could.  We focused on what we had control of, we executed, we didn’t get our result.  That happens.”  When you’re debriefing the game, don’t just debrief the game on the final outcome.  Debrief the game on how the players worked the process.

I remember with USA Baseball 1996 Olympics with Skip Bertman, the great coach from LSU – Skip, very dear friend, a good man.  Skip would always tell the guys, “Hey, at the end of the game you ask yourself this question – did you give yourself the best opportunity for success?”  That is the key question.

Cain:  I think the focus – another thing that a coach can do there – is when they have their schedule, a lot of coaches will hang that schedule in the dugout.  They can take where if we’re playing Central High School or we’re playing University of Miami or whatever the opponent is, cross off the opponent’s name and write your school’s name or write “the game.”  You have your 56 games scheduled and every one the opponent is “the game” or the opponent is “our school” because you really do play the game in your school.  It doesn’t matter who is in the other dugout.  If you let the other dugout determine how you play, that is when you’re going to find those peaks and valleys.

Ravizza:  That is where you’re going to drive yourself crazy in terms of it.  The final thing I would say for the coaches is this idea that we talked about with respecting the game.  If you’re going to talk about there are no little things and little things are important because little things become big things, but if little things are important, then you’ve got to catch your players doing little things – like getting a good first step, like communicating, like laying off that high fastball, like getting his foot off the rubber when he’s not ready to make the pitch.  Catch them doing those little things right.  You can’t just talk about big things.

Cain:  When you mention catching them doing it right, I think it’s Anson Dorrance, the coach of North Carolina Soccer, maybe where he has the book that is titled Catch Them Being Good and he talks about where you can take an athlete who maybe loses a game or had a bad performance but what is the one thing they did well and catch them doing that well.

I know you shared a story with me – this was probably 3-4 years ago – of Augie Garrido.  There was a hitter.  I want to say maybe – you know the story I’m talking about, where he struck out but he worked the process?  Share that story.

Ravizza:  This is a case where the kid in the game where it was early in the season – January.  I remember Coach Garrido.  The kid would get very emotional.  He’d get in arguments with umpires.  He started arguing with the umpire and got thrown out of the game.  Augie sat down with the kid and the kid said for his goal for this game, one of his goals was he was going to be in control of himself the whole game.

During the game at the end, of course, it ends up bases loaded, two outs, we’re down and running, you know who is coming up, and the first pitch is a questionable called strike and this player steps out of the box.  You could see him go right after the umpire thinking about it, but he steps out, squeezes his bat, takes a breath, gets back in there.  The next pitch he fouls off.  The next pitch he swings and misses. Game is over.  We lost.

Coach Garrido is coming out of the third base dugout down to the hitter going, “Johnny, did you guys see this?  Look at his card.  His goal today was to be in control of himself.  Johnny did the job being in control of himself.  Good show, man!”  Validated him for that little thing.  Now I’m not sure Coach Garrido would have acted the same way if it was a June game, but early in the season, yeah.

Cain:  And he caught him doing something good.  Even though the result wasn’t good, the process was there.

Ravizza:  And that is what the mental game is all about, is working the process and why it’s so important. If you stay with the process, that’s what you’ve got control of.  The end result is uncontrollable.  You don’t have control of that.

Cain:  It ties right back into what you’re talking about as a coach – when you debrief the game, don’t only debrief result.  Debrief the game and how you played the game and worked the process and gave yourself that best chance for success.  If you do that, the end result is more than likely going to take care of itself.

Ravizza:  You got it, man!  Definitely.

Cain:  Awesome.  Thanks, Ken.