If things are not going to plan, many people have been taught that an appropriate response is to “try harder.” For example, when a career situation is not working out, try harder. If school is a challenge, try harder. If a relationship is on the skids, try harder. If the diet and exercise plan has not been effective, just try harder.
But in baseball, “trying harder” is not always the best solution to a challenging situation. Think of a pitcher. He may start the game clearly in his mental zone – relaxed, laser-focused, hitting his spots, striking batters out almost effortlessly. But the minute he starts to “try harder” to do something – to entice a batter to chase an outside pitch, or to throw as hard as possible – he gets into trouble. It is almost always evident in his body language. Shifting his cap. Deliberately taking then exhaling a deep breath.
The same applies to a hitter. In the first few at-bats, he may stride up to the plate, relaxed and confident with a strong, fluid, free-flowing swing. He’ll appear comfortable making the split-second decision whether to swing or to back off. But once the pressure is on – the game is getting close and there are runners on base – he may start to “want” something. He may swing too hard, causing him to lose balance and pull off the ball. He may start to chase pitches outside that he would normally let go. Even in fielding, the fielder must “try” to go after the ball as aggressively as possible, yet not “try too hard” lest he misses the catch or over-throws.
In youth baseball, it is very common to see a big hitter “want” it too much, especially right after he has just hit a home run. Of course he wants another one right away. Who would’t?
One of my son’s (great) coaches was particularly adept at managing the mental game of baseball. The kids, therefore, played loose and confident, never “trying too hard” to get a strikeout, to get a hit, to make a play or even to win the game (which they did – a lot). I can hear him now calling out to the pitcher: “That’s OK. Remember EVERY PITCH IS A NEW PITCH. Don’t try to make anything happen.”
Just like in baseball, where every pitch is a new pitch, every at-bat is a new at-bat, every inning is a new inning, every game is a new game, and every season is a new season, so it is in life – where every moment is a new moment, every day is a new day, every season is a new season. Just like in baseball, it seems like the more we “try harder” to get something, the more it eludes us.
So, maybe the answer is to stop trying and just start enjoying the game.