Changing Bad Habits to Good

We talk in our clinics and instruction at Woodall Baseball Academy about the goal of changing bad habits to good.  Some of the best coaches in the world in any sport feel that their primary job responsibility is that of  ‘Behavior Modification”. More specifically, if you can modify your practice behavior to make changes (in mechanics, in strength and speed training, in mental approach), you are on the way to ongoing improvement.  Here is the formula.

Step 1…Identify the Bad Habit– Our first job is to identify the bad habit.  In working with your coach, or studying your swing on video, you may identify that you are casting your hands during your swing.  This is not a good habit to have.  Now we have to figure out how to get out of that habit into the good habit of keeping your hands inside the ball and making that good habit a normal part of your swing.  Merely thinking about it will not do the trick.  We have to change our practice strategy to fix it.

Step 2…Daily Drills–  Find a drill or two that helps you find the correct movement pattern.  The fence drill, close tee drill, or taking inside pitches to the opposite field in BP will work toward that goal.  Your purpose is to perform the correct movement of keeping hands inside the ball until it feels comfortable and natural in the swing.  Daily consistency is the key.  Remember, you are trying to change something that is a bad habit, something that you have probably done thousands of times.  It takes a consistent change of behavior, or approach to practice, that changes this habit.  Therefore, you must make these drills a part of a daily practice routine to change this bad habit to the correct movement pattern.

Step 3….Mental Queues Every Pitch– So many players will identify the bad habit, do some drill work, then getting into BP and hope that it is fixed.  Hope is not going to cut it.  In our baseball instruction, we talk about having that little guy on your shoulder giving you reminders or mental queues every pitch. Usually these are very short and repeatable, like “hands in”.  We do not have to remind ourselves to hit the ball, but we often need to remind ourselves one or 2 things to hit the ball better.  Our mental queues or reminders before our swing, EVERY SWING, will help develop the good habit and get out of bad habits.

If a player takes this approach and works to change his practice behavior, he can turn bad habits into good habits and more success on the field.

PS:  By the way, this formula works for just about every area of improvement in your life.  To instill change, we have to change our behavior by identifying the bad habits, then substituting those bad habits for good habits.  Examples of habit substitution: Watching TV for daily exercise, fast food burger for grilled chicken, fruits and veggies, or Facebook time to study time.

For more information on creating good habits, go to this article:  http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/power-good-habits.htm

Off-Season Training 5 Steps to Success

There are many differences between in season and off-season training.  During the season, it is difficult to make big changes in mechanics without compromising short-term performance. Off-season training is when you can really dig into mechanics and physical skills to take your game to the next level.   Many players fall short of their goals and expectations, as they do not take the correct approach to off-season training.  This is a time to turn bad habits into good.

  • Average players practice only when someone makes them.
  • Good players practice, but without much of a plan
  • Great players develop and implement a plan based upon an evaluation of their skills the previous season, and what they want to improve going into the next season.

Here are a few steps to take with our off-season training program that leads to success on the field next season.

1.  SET GOALS
Ask yourself what you would like to accomplish next season. Make these goals specific to performance, measurable, challenging yet attainable.  For example, a good goal would be to reduce walks as a pitcher from 4 to 2 per game (7 innings).

2.  WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO ACHIEVE THIS GOAL
Create a focused list of drills or practice strategies that support these goals. Use the funnel method to get your answers.  In our example of reducing walks, the initial answer is to throw more strikes.  It usually takes more consistent, repeatable mechanics.  Maybe simplifying mechanics for that purpose, or staying behind the ball and in line, or simplifying part of your windup to find more consistency.  Set a standard for bullpen sessions to throw 7 out of 10 strikes.  There are many examples but these are just a few basic ideas. 

3.  CREATE AN OFF-SEASON TRAINNG SCHEDULE
Set a weekly schedule that provides some structure to your goals.  Take a realistic approach that is achievable for the long off-season. An example would be Monday and Wednesday baseball workout, and Tuesday/Saturday strength and speed training.  Be specific to include start/end times, put it on your calendar and set a phone notification to make sure you do not forget.  Consistency is the key.

4.  DEDICATED PRACTICE
Focus on specific drills to improve your chosen skill or mechanical adjustment, and plug them into your practice plan.  If you would like to improve your hitting power to the opposite field, take at least one day per week and dig into drills and BP sessions that focus on that area of improvement. Improvement in fine motor skill baseball mechanics takes focused practice, consistent effort and tons of reps.

5.…AND STICK WITH IT
Following through with the plan is the key to success.  Make the commitment, develop the structure, and force yourself to work on specific aspects of your game to support your goals. Recruit a partner with which to practice so that you can provide support and make each other accountable for practice sessions.  There is no bigger motivator than the guilt of letting your team down.  Create a team to help achieve your goals.

One of our teaching philosophies at Woodall Baseball Academy is that if you are not working on something and getting better, your competition probably is.  If you are working smarter and more consistently than your competition, you giving yourself a chance for success next year.

Woodall Baseball Academy Off-Season Baseball Clinics:  woodallbaseball.com