As I’m jogging toward home after a walk-off homerun in the fifth inning of a mercy rule high school softball game, I notice from a distance that my bat looks a little unusual. I cross the plate and reach down to pick up my all-time favorite, purple DeMarini to see a huge indention in the sweet spot where I just connected with the ball. Needless to say, I was fairly effective and powerful as a hitter in my playing days, as I don’t know too many others to put a dent in a metal bat. However, I could also be impatient and lose focus at the plate, as big hits and homeruns were consistent goals of mine. Any pitcher that knew my game knew that if I was deep in the count they could throw me a changeup and catch me lunging at the ball for a strikeout. My habitual focus was getting big hits, hitting homeruns; not on maintaining my technique during my weakest pitch so those preferred hits could come regardless of the pitch thrown.
I met with a pitcher this past week and shared this story with him, as his consistency on the mound has recently been a concern. He explained his velocity has decreased and will walk people from the start, which only seems to continue through the game. I asked him what his focus was while on the mound and he simply replied, “strikes.” I nodded my head and said, “okay, after you walk one or two guys, then what is your focus?” Again, he answered, “strikes.” I told him I appreciated the consistency in his focus, although, it was too outcome-based. There is a lot contingent on a strike being called. We discussed what facilitates a good throw for him, or a strike rather. He expressed that keeping his back straight enables him to throw well. Therefore, his new focus on the mound, whether at practice, a pitching lesson, or a game is to keep his back straight. The small, fundamental entity that can allow him to achieve his desired outcome; to throw strikes.
Sometimes a lion doesn’t eat for days, but he hunts every day. Lions demonstrate perfectly the process-focused model. They go out each day and do exactly what they are supposed to do to reach their craved outcome, to eat. Though each day is not successful, they continue to come back because they know that honoring the process will lead to a reward. When speaking with another pitcher who is on the collegiate level playing at the University of Illinois Springfield, he reflected on the lion analogy and what it means to “hunt.” Cody Pazik said, “You might be struggling to get to your goal but nothing is given. The lion doesn’t just get food freely, it has to struggle every day towards its goal and finally it will achieve it.” Pazik further expressed the need for the lion’s path of struggle and process in attaining ultimate victory. Success is earned, never awarded. As the lions reveal, a focus on the outcome rarely leads to the outcome, but a focus on the process does.