Former TCU Baseball assistant coach Heath Autrey is the head coach of the Dallas Banditos #1 Ranked 13U baseball team and is also the head baseball coach at Corsicana High School in Corsicana, TX. Autrey is an Inner Circle member and has coached numerous Major League players including Clayton Kershaw and Chris Davis, among other MLB All-Stars. Autrey has also served as the head baseball coach in the Lancaster Independent School District and as an associate scout for the New York Yankees. In addition, he has been an assistant baseball coach at Navarro College and coordinated baseball camps at The University of Texas under the direction of Augie Garrido, the NCAA’s all-time leader in wins as a coach.
You can connect with Heath on Twitter @hautrey11.
Cain: Hey how are you doing? Brian Cain with the Peak Performance Podcast here. We are recording live in a duck blind in Corsicana, Texas, with Corsicana high school baseball coach, Heath Autry, who has coached some of the biggest names in baseball and has been a subscriber to the Peak Performance system now for many years, a member of the Inner Circle. Heath, I appreciate you taking time out of this duck blind here to talk with us about the mental game my man.
Autry: Oh I love it. I’m glad to. Glad you’re here.
Cain: For the listeners if there are some ducks that are in sight we will keep this recording live and pull the trigger, hopefully, in an attempt to get my first duck. But, Heath, if you would could you give our listeners kind of the background in your baseball coaching experience and how you got to where you are today.
Autry: I started off coaching at the University of Texas-Pan American and came to Navarro College with Skip Johnson. I have been around a lot and coached a lot of select teams in the summer – the Dallas Tigers, Texas Collegiate League – I’ve kind of been all over the place. I’ve been blessed to coach some really good players – Paul Goldschmidt, Brandon Belt, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber – so I’ve been blessed through baseball to meet some really good kids.
Cain: You’ve had a chance to coach a lot of Major League Baseball All-Stars and you’ve coached at the college level, coached at the high school level, at the select level. What is your favorite level of coaching athletes and why, Heath?
Autry: Junior college baseball is my favorite just because they don’t have the rules and limitations that they do in NCAA. Junior college baseball and coaching youth baseball is a lot of fun. The youth are eager to learn and soak everything in and you can influence them in a positive way. Junior college kids are hungry to move on to Division 1 schools or get drafted so they are ready to work and they are eager to learn also.
Cain: You have been coaching the mental game for a long time. How did you get turned on to the mental game?
Autry: I read The Mental Game of Baseball when I was a kid and eight years ago I ran into you somewhere and I’ve been applying it in high school for eight years. It has not only changed my players and the culture in our programs but it has changed me as a coach for the better.
Cain: In what ways has that had a positive effect on your program or on you as a coach?
Autry: It helped me as a coach adapt to the modern players and relate to them and get through to them. It has helped the culture of our program by focusing on the process – the daily process of getting things done and not just focused on winning ball games. And influencing young men in a positive way and doing our best to change their lives. We want them to be productive adults and good husbands and good teammates and just good people. The Pride Program and all the Peak Performance stuff has really changed the culture of our program and it gives the kids something to share in common. And with the power statements and mission statements it’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun to see the kids take it and learn from it.
Cain: You know, Heath, one of the parts of the mental game now that I try to teach is I take everything from the Pride Program or the eight traits of greatness and things we’ve talked about in the past and try and bring them into what I would call the 12 Pillars of Peak Performance with Pillar #1 being Training an Elite Mindset. What are the things that you do as a high school baseball coach to try and train an elite mindset in your players?
Autry: First of all it’s something that you have to do daily. I believe that the mental side of the game can be trained so we do things daily. We have “Wooden Wednesday” where we talk about John Wooden’s stuff and then we apply a lot of the Peak Performance stuff. We read articles. We post signs of success everywhere. I have the kids read chapters of some of the books and the present it to the team. We meet in the dugout before practice for a couple of minutes and discuss how we are going to go about our business before practice. In the games we try to focus on playing a game against our self and not against our opponent.
Cain: I went to see the movie Creed last night. I think it’s the sixth Rocky movie (it might be the seventh, I don’t know.) One of the things that Sylvester Stallone – Rocky – says to Adonis Creed – the son of Apollo Creed – is he says “it’s one step, one punch, one round, you’ve got to fight your fight,” and I think that is what you are talking about about playing against the game. Talk a little bit more about playing against the game and fighting your fight against yourself or the game to be your best and not playing the opponent.
Autry: Like you say you have to be in control of yourself before you can be in control of your performance. I think the biggest thing with the Peak Performance stuff that I have learned from you is the kids actually learn their red lights, they learn their yellow lights, they learn how to make adjustments pitch to pitch and change their thoughts when they get distracted and get back into the present moment and really focus on the pitch. Focus on breathing instead of focusing on the score or the opponent or everything you can’t control that is out of your control.
So it’s really neat to see the kids step out of the box, go through their routines that they’ve learned (because we work on them in batting practice) and to see the pitchers step off and get locked back in and get back on the rubber and be ready. Those are the things that are priceless when you are a coach, when you see the kids actually applying it and doing it themselves without you having to talk about it.
Cain: You are the head coach of the Dallas Banditos who are ranked number one in the country by Perfect Game, 13 and under. Talk about kind of the age at which you would start to coach the mental game. I know you have got children of your own and have coached all ages. What do you think is the ideal age to start coaching the mental game?
Autry: I don’t think you can start early enough as far as just talking about it. My 12 year olds this year we talk about it all the time; the process and focusing on what it takes to be the number one team in the country which is not only do they have to be talented (obviously) but their work ethic every day, how they think, how they think when they’re off the field and how they prepare.
Not only that but it has really helped our parents. I send weekly emails to our parents with article for them to read and just keywords like our signs of success, like “compared to what” and so forth. I’ll send it to the parents so that if the parents are talking about it at home then that is going to help the kid. I think in youth baseball 97% of the problem is parents putting too much pressure and expectations on these kids. We have a really good group of kids and we’ve been working on it since they were 10 years old. I don’t really think you can start too early but you just don’t want to go in too in depth. We’ve been doing it for 3 years now and it has paid off. It has really paid off.
Cain: Heath, if you would give us a quick little duck call. I just saw one emerge. Let’s see if we can get that guy over here real quick because I’d love to get a gunshot on camera. There he goes. We’ll see if we get any action. No, that is actually just a bird. Fantastic.
Heath, the second Pillar of Peak Performance is to establish and enhance a championship culture. We talked a little bit earlier about training that culture. What is the culture that you guys have got going right now at your current place where you’re a high school baseball coach at Corsicana. What are the core values of your program?
Autry: I think it’s funny you say that because we have been focusing on culture this whole off season; being good students, being good people in the community, and being leaders in the school, and then being a good athlete and training your mind first and your body second. Some of our core covenants would be mindset, selfless. There are several of them. I think we have 4-5 of them right now. Attitude. Intensity. Effort. We talk about one word a week.
We’re actually in the process of developing our 2016 mission statement at this time. We’ll have it done by the end of January. I’ll let the kids do it. They come up with it and then we put it together then I bounce it by you and then we’ll print it up on big signs and hang it everywhere in the locker room. Our culture is we want to be a good person first and athletes second. The kids have really bought into it and it’s really neat.
Cain: Heath, if you would, talk about some of the books that you read or that you’ve read that you think have had the biggest impact in your development as a coach.
Autry: I think number one is The Mental Game of Baseball. I read it when I was a player. My parents read it which really helped. Heads Up Baseball, an unbelievable book. I’ve read all John Wooden’s books. Obviously everybody knows who he is. American Sniper, I think relentlessness and passion and caring for other people. Lone Survivor, all those books. I like reading those types of books. Those are some of the main books that I’ve read. I’d say Heads Up Baseball and The Mental Game of Baseball are probably the two biggest ones as far as the baseball side of it.
Cain: I would like to be an American sniper on a duck right here if we can get one to come flying. We’ll have to post a couple pictures here with this podcast of where we’re standing right here because it’s a little slice of heaven somewhere here in Texas.
Heath, of all the aspects of the mental game that you now implement in your program if you could go back and speak to Heath Autry the young first year coach who is just getting started in coaching the mental game, what would you tell that guy?
Autry: I would say to be able to adapt. It doesn’t have to be “your way.” You have to find whatever it takes to connect with your players, and for your players to buy into understanding that 90% of baseball is mental and 10% is physical. We don’t want prospects that can’t play because they can’t handle things. We would rather have guys that are mentally tough that throw 85 miles an hour instead of guys that aren’t and throw 95 [MPH] and they can’t throw strikes. I would say just be able to adapt, have enthusiasm, and make sure your players know that you care about them as a person first, not just as a player.
Cain: Let’s talk about you now from a personal standpoint and some of the things that you feel like you do as part of your routine that make you the success that you are.
Autry: I think you have to have mentors. You have to have people that are smarter than you, that are wise. I’ve been blessed with guys like you, Skip Johnson, Tim Tadlock, Jim Schlossnagle, Todd Whitting, Frank Anderson, Ty Harrington at Texas State; Matt Deggs at Sam Houston State is one of my huge mentors on the offensive side. Just being able to build relationships and learn from guys that have been around and are proven winners, I think that is one of the biggest things with me.
Cain: Heath, (as the rest of our duck hunting crew comes in with two of the larger ducks I’ve ever seen – congratulations gentlemen), as we go to break this down here what is the best way for people to stay in touch with you here through the podcast? Is there a Twitter handle they can follow you at?
Autry: They can follow me @hautrey11 on Twitter, or @HeathAutrey on Instagram, and @CorsicanaBaseball on Twitter. They can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, that’s about it. I’m not too tech savvy but you are changing me year to year.
Cain: It’s a growth process. We are going to do a little ad libbing here. Matt Morse, a member of the Brian Cain Peak Performance Inner Circle, you just shot your first duck.
Morse: I did.
Cain: What is going through your mind right now? How was it?
Morse: I was just really trying to stay present, be in the moment, breathe. After that first shot you’ve got to keep coming though. Sometimes one doesn’t get it done. You’ve got to move on quickly and keep competing.
Cain: So you had to make a decision, right? We know that in life sometimes people see what they do as sacrifices and it’s not sacrifices, it’s decisions. You made a decision to hike about 500 yards over that ravine right there and it obviously paid off.
Morse: For sure it did. I saw the opportunity and I felt like I could go make it happen if I took the journey with my friend Tim over there. We just went out there and we crossed over the hill and saw three sitting ducks so we took care of all three.
Cain: I love it. We are actually here with a fourth member of our hunting crew here. Tim, you had a little stint in the NFL as a punter at Arizona State. Tell us about the mental aspect of punting. What is the most important aspect of the mental game as a punter?
Tim: For the mental game I would have to say focus. It’s all about being focused. Prep. There is a lot of preparation. A lot of people think special teams are just a couple of wild guys going out there and kicking or punting and it’s not like that at all. It is tremendously challenging. You’ve got to consider the drop. You’ve got to consider the weather conditions. You’ve got to consider the snap. It didn’t start with you but it ends with you. The prep mentally is to stay focused.
(Look at those geese! Look at that!)
Cain: Okay. This is the end but we are going to keep recording live here. Can we get those over here? This is about to get real. We are going to leave this going on. Here we go.