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06
17
2011

The Fallacy of Hard Work

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I get it a lot from potential clients:

  • “I’m interested in working hard to play college baseball.”
  • “I definitely have the desire to play pro ball.”
  • “I will do what it takes to make it at the next level.”

Except that the majority of people who say this have no idea what it will take to reach these goals. Most are content to come in to the gym 3-4 times per week, lift, take batting practice, and study their hitting and pitching mechanics before going to team practices and games. Certainly these athletes will improve rapidly and become pretty good, as many clients who come through my facility have.

But what it takes to play at the top levels of baseball – be it premier college baseball or professional baseball – takes a kind of dedication that few people have. Most athletes are content to put in what they think is “hard work,” which is basically what I outlined above. I would call that a good starting point and nothing more than that. The moment you classify your efforts as “hard work” is exactly when you stop getting better at your craft.

Consider this excellent article on 2010 1st round draft pick Josh Sale.

It is 6:15 a.m., and Josh Sale is hunting.

While several bleary-eyed teenagers amble into RIPS Baseball Training Complex, the Bishop Blanchet senior is wide awake, ready to work. He walks in with two bats — one metal, one wood — and walks past a row of cages.

Off to one side, large sheets of lined yellow paper are stapled to a green wall. There is a list of times on each sheet, and Sale’s name is written between 6 and 6:30 a.m. five days a week.

He stretches and slips on batting gloves. He steps under the netting of Cage 4 and picks up a T-ball bat. He takes one-handed cuts off a tee. Then he grabs a wooden bat and practices a walk-up approach off the tee.

One step. Two steps. Thwack. Swoosh. The ball explodes into the netting.

Then Aaron Horrocks, Sale’s personal hitting coach, lobs him some underhand pitches. After that, he takes live batting practice.

Josh terrorized amateur pitchers in the Seattle area for years. He was big, imposing, a huge physical specimen with scary bat speed and a picky eye. One of the pitchers here at our facility loves to talk about nearly getting Sale out on a dropped foul ball – only to let up a 400+ foot mammoth home run on a cutter he left over the plate. (Alright, maybe we tease him about it and he doesn’t actually enjoy hearing about it.)

Josh Sale

Most thought Sale was a physical freak. But in truth, what made Sale an elite hitter was his dedication – his drive. He took batting practice every morning before classes, religiously followed a strength training program, ate plenty of calories to get big, and sought the toughest competition he possibly could to improve.

Taking batting practice in the morning and working out after school (and then taking more batting practice in the evening) is fun. For about two weeks. But to become the best athlete you can be, you need to repeat that effort for years – week in and week out. It sucks. You’ll hate it at times, because there’s no way you can love deliberate practice all the time.

But if you don’t put forth that kind of effort, you won’t succeed. And if you dare to call it “hard work,” well, you might as well write yourself off. There’s always something more you can do, and there’s always someone outworking you, vying for the same roster spot you want.

You have to let that drive you. You have to be driven to want to beat that guy. Maybe he has better genetics, maybe he was born with more innate talent – that’s not something you can control. If he beats you because of that, so be it. But if he beats you because you got complacent, because he outworked you – you shouldn’t be able to live with that, if you want to call yourself a competitor.

Those are the people we want in our gym. We’ll open the cages at 6 AM before school or 10 PM when you get out of work. I’ll throw you batting practice, catch your bullpens, and you can come in on your own to get your heavy lifting done or to take batting practice off our machines. But it has to come from you. I’m not your dad. I’m not your motivator. You need to want it more than anyone else in the area for your own reasons.

If that’s you, we have all the tools you need to develop into an elite athlete. All that’s missing is you and your work ethic.

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