BC147. Brett Basham -The Mental Game and Leadership Training

Brian sits down with former Ole Miss Rebel Brett Basham who is a top leadership consultant, author, and speaker. Brett shares the essential aspects of an elite mental game and leadership development.


You will learn…

  • The essentials one must master to have an elite mental game.
  • Brett’s experience transforming leaders on and off the field.
  • How to maximize your impact and influence as a leader.


Follow Brett on Twitter @bashleadership




And this is where you may lose student-athletes.  A lot of people will just pound content and pound content but there is no application.  So they’ve heard all this leadership content but they don’t know how to apply it.

Cain:  Hey, how are you doing?  Brian Cain, your Peak Performance coach, here with the Peak Performance Podcast.  Today our guest is a good friend of mine.  He is actually my former roommate with the 2013 Team USA Collegiate Baseball National team.  His name?  Brett Basham.

Bash (as we will refer to him as) is a highly sought-after leadership consultant, author, speaker, and master of the mental game.  He played four years of college baseball at Ole Miss while earning all SEC defensive honors as a catcher in 2008.  Drafted by the White Sox in 2008, Brett opted to come back to Oxford to help lead the Rebels to an SEC championship in 2009.

After finishing a stint in the minor leagues, Bash went on to serve as an assistant coach at LSU Eunice and was an assistant with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team in 2013.  He is now currently a coordinator for a career in leadership development within the athletic department at the University of Alabama – Roll Tide.

Bash is also the author of two tremendous books, Leadership VIP and The Leadership Clock.  Please welcome to the Peak Performance Podcast Brett Basham.  Bash, thanks for being with us.

Basham:  Cain, it is an absolute pleasure to be with you today.

Cain:  Bash, you know I appreciate you being with us.  It’s been long overdue since I got the chance to hear your beautiful voice.  If you would, could you give our listeners kind of your background.  Maybe go back to where we met at Ole Miss and kind of your experience first with the mental game, and then we’ll kind of parlay this into what you’re doing now with leadership at the highest level in college athletics because I think for the listeners to this, both the coaches and athletes, I want them to understand that you’re the go-to guy if someone is looking for mental game and leadership.  But let’s start with the mental game, Bash, for you as a former top SEC baseball player.

Basham:  Will do.  I don’t know if I deserve that introduction but really the mental game started with me in, I guess, this time right around this time in 2009.  We were getting ready to start that season and I had no previous mental game type of training.  My first three years at Ole Miss were basically me just trying to be a lot tougher than the situation or be a lot tougher than anything.  I was the person who tried to control everything, from the weather to the umpires to just everything.  So I think when you started to work with us in 2009, that’s when my world kind of opened up to a different side of things, a different way of thinking.

I know that just from the core covenants we develop as a team to just the energy within a team to just the way we carried ourselves and the way we thought, the way we talked and interacted with each other, probably one of the most tight-knit teams that I’ve ever been around really.  You think like in 2008 we had 10 or 11 guys drafted and we barely made the SEC tournament, and then in 2009 we probably didn’t have as much talent but we’re knocking on the door of making the College World Series.  I think that alone – just that introduction – then obviously the more that it became a part of our conversation, the more that we began to own the language and things of that nature, the more success we had as a team.  I think we were all on board in that 2009 season.  So that’s where my introduction to the mental game really came.

I’ve noticed, especially from an Ole Miss perspective – I think that that language is still a part of their program and they’ve been one of the most consistent programs for the past 8-10 years or so.

Cain:  Bash, if you would go back to 2009.  It’s January.  Coach Bianco says, “Hey, we’ve got this mental game of baseball guy, Brian Cain, coming in.”  Were you excited?  Were you like, “Why the hell are we doing this?”  Were you open-minded to it?  Kind of where were you at and where was the team at with that experience?  I’ve never had the chance to ask you that question.

Basham:  Well, I’ll be completely candid with you.  I was on the fence.  I think a lot of our guys were like, “What is going on?  What is this?”  A lot were just kind of unsure why we were doing this.  “I don’t think we need it; we’ve been pretty successful.”  For me personally I think a lot of our teammates looked at me and said, “Oh well, he definitely needs it – he’s a head case” or whatever, but I looked at it as an opportunity to improve our team in the different calls and different activities and concentration grids and different things that we were doing leading up to the January meeting.  I could definitely see without even working with you how this was going to be beneficial for us, how it would be a lot more locked into team meetings and people would pay a lot more attention; they had to get a lot out of it.

We used to meet on Friday nights.  18-22-year-olds meeting at 7:30-8:00 at night is probably not the best time to get our attention, but the more that we incorporated these concentration grids, I think we got a lot more out of these meetings in a shorter amount of time.  So I can really start to see us implement that and I was excited about it.  A little nervous, a little anxious – I didn’t really know what to think, but excited about it.  So we got through it.  It was a very engaging time where you came in and you just really kind of – I feel like the whole time you were talking to me directly.  So it’s just really eye-opening.

I think once we got into the session my teammates and even our coaching staff, I think their eyes were really opened to say, ”Hey, this is going to be very beneficial for us.”  I can see us starting to gel together as a team because we were all on the same page.  We all wanted to get better.  And throughout the course of this like 8-hour session I could see guys really buying into it.  Then we just kind of took it from there and just really ran with it.

So just kind of the things that we talked about kind of became a part of our daily acumens.  It would become part of our language (as I mentioned earlier).  Just the energy in the dugout and in game.  All of our guys on the bench were engaged in the game.  Great dugout energy.  It even got our coaching staff, who were very hard-nosed, very serious when it comes to in-game type operations – you could see them even loving the energy and loving the attitude that we would bring, I think just because everybody was in the game and everybody was locked in.  I think that’s kind of how I started in 2009, to how the Brian Cain system kind of infused our team and kind of got us going down the right path.

Cain:  So Bash, you then go from Ole Miss, you go on and you play professional baseball.  When you were in professional baseball, did you have exposure to the mental game and was the mental game something that was as big a part of pro baseball as it was in college?

Basham:  It was not.  I had a short stint.  I mean, I played 2½ years.  So it wasn’t.  I think it was more readily available to the big league guys than it was for us at the minor league level.  I carried around the big binder of notes that I had from that 2009 season.  I carried those around.  I carried around the journals and made notes in that.

Obviously, in professional baseball you’re by yourself.  It becomes more of an individualized sport with rosters changing daily and everybody just trying to make it to the big leagues at all costs – that sort of thing.  So it could get lonely at times if you – but I just tried to allow myself to take all of it in, really enjoy the experience, but also kind of grow from each day.

I think the journal that you provided us allowed me to do that.  Just taking notes, especially on different pitchers, what each day was like, what was my attitude that day, what could have I adjusted, what could have I done better, that sort of thing.  But also you have a ton of downtime during spring training and things like that to where you could really get to take advantage of some mental game type opportunities.  So I really tried to do that on round trips and in hotels when I was waiting for the game that night.  It was just a great way for me to get in a positive frame of mind because in the minor leagues 120-140 games is a grind, to say the least.

But I think if you’re – and I know this is probably cliché, especially where I am at now, but just the process of every day and being able to do your job to the best of your ability that day.  I think by taking notes and trying to strive to get a little bit better I always had something to work on, something to achieve the next day – no matter how small or insignificant it seemed to another person, it was always very beneficial for me and so that was how I tried to get better every day.

Cain:  Well, Bash, you mentioned the process and doing your job, and as cliché as that is – or actually how real that is and how simple it is and yet so hard to do to stick to the process and to do your job.  I think one of the hardest “jobs” that there is in college athletics is to be a leader on an athletic team where you’ve got a lot of people that are successful, a lot of people that have a lot of pride, a lot of ego, that probably struggle with followership.  It’s probably easier for them to try to lead than to follow but we know you can’t have all chiefs and no Indians.  You can’t have all chiefs and no followers.

Bash, you’re in a unique role now as a coordinator for career and leadership development within the University of Alabama athletic department.  Could you talk a little bit about your role there and some of the things that you help bring to the athletes and their programs at Alabama from maybe a mental game and leadership standpoint?

Basham:  Yeah, absolutely.  So the title of it is somewhat self-explanatory.  The career side is more career development and helping our student-athletes.  All of our 550+ student-athletes over 17 sports have a plan for life after sports.  We all know – and I’m a perfect example.  I thought it was going to go on forever.  I thought I was going to play baseball forever.  I was quickly humbled and kind of thrown back into the real world (if you will).  So we try to help our student-athletes come up with a plan for life after sports.

But also on the leadership side is kind of where I have the most fun, is developing our leadership and our leadership groups.  We have representatives from every team.  Depending on the size of the team we’ll have 2-5 or so in their actual leaders.  We consult with the coaching staff to come up with these leaders.  The good thing is our coaches trust us with the ability to – they trust our experiences.  They trust our ability to gauge the situation and be able to develop their leaders with some applicable information, some mentorship, some relationship-type building, some role-playing type scenarios where we put them in different situations and consult with a group on how they would handle different situations.

We go through monthly group meetings that we really try to dive deep into not only their role as leaders but also some applicable content that we take from any great leadership outlet out there, whether it’s John Maxwell or Jon Gordon or some of your stuff, Cain, or whether it’s from The Leadership Clock or some of the stuff I’ve put together like The Leadership Clock and Leadership VIP.  Really, wherever the best content is for a particular situation, we try to find it and we try to not only get that content across but we also try to make it applicable.  So not necessarily just – and this is where you may lose student-athletes.  A lot of people will just pound content and pound content but there is no application.  So they’ve heard all this leadership content but they don’t know how to apply it.

So I think we spend a lot of our time letting them know and teaching them and educating them on how to apply this information, and then maybe 10-20% of it is mentorship and how this has worked in my life, how it could work in their lives either as a student-athlete moving forward as an adult either in the professional world or if they happen to play their sport at the next level.  So it’s kind of all-encompassing.  We try to hit a lot of different angles, but developing leadership skill sets by developing the leader first, and then once they have a good concept of who they are as a leader then influencing their peers both within their team and then within the department.

So it’s fun.  It’s a lot of fun.  Every day is – I really look forward to coming to work (if you can call it that) because I’m working with student-athletes and helping them effect positive change both within their teams and in their own lives.

Cain:  Bash, you made reference to two of I think the greatest leadership resources that are available today, and they are two that you created.  One of them I had the privilege of working with you on, and I’ll be the first one to say that you did the majority of the heavy lifting with – it is The Leadership Clock, and the other one is Leadership VIP.

Leadership Clock is your research, your experience in athletics and coaching, and how that kind of system translates to student-athlete leadership.  Then with Leadership VIP you took a little bit of a different route where you were more of the researcher, and you interviewed I think close to 20 people who were viewed as experts and people in the leadership field that were involved in athletics.  Could you speak about both of those books and those projects and maybe share a couple of the key points from each with our listeners?

Basham:  Yeah.  I guess I’ll go chronologically here in the order in which they came out.  So The Leadership Clock was an idea that I think we – if I remember correctly, it’s something that we just kind of were talking about and we were somewhere in Japan.

Cain:  I think we were in Hiroshima, Japan, with USA Baseball.

Basham:  Yeah.  One of those.  One of those stops.  And we were at a different place every day.  But I think we were just sitting in the hotel room on kind of a day off or kind of waiting around before the game and we were just kicking some ideas around.  We were with 3-4 of the best college baseball coaches in the country and we just got to talking.  We’re like, “What makes them so great?”  Obviously there are a ton of Division 1 college baseball coaches, all of them successful in their own right, but what makes these four guys so great?

We started just kicking around different characteristics and how they run the program and their organization to how they treat the players to their just fundamental – or their ability to understand their game and everything like that.  So we just kind of got an idea, just started taking some notes.

And so we left that summer and I just thought about my journey through athletics and the different coaches that I’ve played with and ones that have made the biggest impact on my life.  I just started jotting down some notes and here’s what made this person effective; here is another thing that they did that maybe I think kind of took away from their success.  So I think about the different coaches and the different places that I’ve been and just started to think what about these coaches made them so successful.  I interviewed some different people in leadership type positions – from athletic administrators to school administrators and different coaches both from a high school level to collegiate level – and just found out that a lot of these successful people in leadership positions were all talking about the same things.

So really what I did was kind of organize those thoughts and I came up with like 10-12 different topics or different themes, and I think you – I was having trouble coming up with a title because I really wanted to do this and put it together but I didn’t know what to call it.  So you were like “I had this idea” and it was something that you had taken notes on and it was called The Leadership Clock.  So it just worked so perfectly together because you have 12 hours on the clock or 12 different spots on the clock and then the 12 characteristics.  It just made so much sense.

So the more we consulted together about it – I was fortunate that you kind of trusted me to do a majority of the heavy lifting and I just did a ton of research.  I did a ton of just thinking and organizing.  It’s the first time in my life where I’ve actually had to organize my thoughts that much because I was all over the place, because there was so much good content out there.  So I was able to organize those into 12 chapters.  Easy to read.  Very self-explanatory.  Some personal examples.  Some references to some leadership experts and what they view on each topic.  It gives you an ability to (as I mentioned earlier) lead yourself first so you can lead others more effectively.  I think that starts with you.

It’s just an easy way to – I feel like it’s just an easy way to go step by step and break down an attribute at a time to where we’re not trying to throw a bunch of leadership at you but you can break down and work on this one concept at a time.  Then it kind of gives you some insight into how to establish a culture and infuse these different characteristics within that culture.

So it was a fun process.  It’s something I never thought I would do.  It’s been great.  The response has been great from young people, young student-athletes who are trying to figure out what this leadership thing is all about.  I just put it in a way to where they can really understand it, and from coaches and people in different leadership positions how easy it is and just some of the takeaways, the summaries at the end of the chapter, just easy to follow along with.  So that was The Leadership Clock.

Cain:  So, Bash, you talk about all the research you did for The Leadership Clock and you organized it into a great framework where there are 12 months in a year, maybe 12 weeks in your season, 12 principles on the leadership clock.  You can attack one of them per week or per month – however the coach decides to break it up.  My question for you is talk about the difference between that and Leadership VIP.  Now Leadership VIP you interviewed, I think, 20 people about the mental game or about leadership.  Would you talk a little bit about that process and what you learned going through that?

Basham:  Yeah.  I think the difference between the two is The Leadership Clock was more our thoughts.  But I wanted to get the thoughts of other leaders out there, in a sense that I wanted to compare and contrast some different philosophies and different strategies that some of the best coaches and administrators/leadership experts out there were teaching, sort of as a one-stop shop for all aspiring leaders to reference.  So myself and Matt Morse, we were just thinking of who can we get as diverse as possible – different sports, male, female; just to large team, small team, business world; to the athletic realm; to get just a wide variety of different strategies, different philosophies.  We came up with these 20 names.  All were very willing to do the interview.

But it was just awesome as we were conducting these interviews.  We asked them the same type of questions, posed them with the same type of information, and it was just great to see how a Jon Gordon responds and how he does things within his organization and with the people that he speaks to, as opposed to what a Tim Elmore or a Joshua Medcalf and what they believe and what I guess the strategies that they teach.  They’re not right.  They’re not wrong.  They’re just what these individuals believe.  So it really was really cool to see how they (the 20 experts that we talked to) started to reference each other.

I think that was pretty cool when you had Joshua Medcalf reference Jon Gordon and then you had Stephanie White – who was the head coach of the Indiana Fever in the WNBA, who has since now taken over at Vanderbilt University as their head basketball coach – how she referenced both of those guys.  How Jeff Janssen was referenced by a guy like Rod Olson.  It was just really cool to see how everyone respected each other and their philosophies but Hey, I think I’m just going to do it a little bit differently because this is how it works with my personality or with my organization or with my program due to the dynamics of our situation.  Here is how we’re going to choose to lead.  It was pretty cool to see that.

Cain:  Awesome.  Well, Bash, I mean, you’ve given us some great strategy and kind of a great direction for the coaches and athletes listening to this about the mental game and also about leadership.  If people are wanting to contact you and have you come in and work with their team or speak at their coaches’ clinic or just wanted to call and pick your brain on leadership and mental game, what is the best way for people to get ahold of you?  Is it through Twitter @BrettBasham?  Is there an e-mail?  What is the best way for people to get ahold of you?

Basham:  Yeah, Twitter.  I try to be engaged through Twitter.  Obviously that is the communication that we’re in now.  I’m actually going to go @BashLeadership.  That’s probably the best Twitter account, @BashLeadership.  E-mail [email protected]  I’m open to engaging everybody.  It’s a lot of fun to engage with folks and yeah, I enjoy it.

Cain:  Awesome.  Well, Bash, thanks for being on the Peak Performance Podcast.  I appreciate you making time.

Basham:  Absolutely.  Any time.

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