New Castle News

Tim Kolodziej

May 24, 2012

Tim Kolodziej: Create a new habit and you’ll acquire a skill

NEW CASTLE — “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  — Aristotle

Josh Hamilton strikes out.

Derrick Jeter makes errors.

Justin Verlander gives up home runs.

And if you’re a young baseball player, my guess is you’ve done all three.

Fairly often, probably.

But there’s hope. As you boot ground balls, whiff with the bases loaded and walk in three runs from the mound, you are learning. You are growing. And you are repeating athletic skills that will benefit you greatly as you mature.

Even though the outcomes aren’t always what you desire, the process of doing them over and over is helping you become a better ball player.

So please don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged and quit. Don’t let a coach’s frustration cause you to stop playing a game you enjoy before your 12th birthday.

Instead, continue to focus on perfecting your skills and better results will follow. That doesn’t mean you won’t mess up from time to time. As mentioned earlier, even some of today’s greatest players fail now and again. It happens.

We are imperfect human beings who sometimes lose focus, who sometimes get tired, who sometimes get beat by an opponent who is on his game.

In simple terms, doing anything well depends on a series of habits. Let me repeat that: Doing anything well depends on a series of habits.

Both good and bad.

You don’t think Shaq practiced free throw after free throw? He did. But despite hours upon hours of work, he could never overcome his horrible form — poor habits, you might say — and he retired last year with only a 52 percent career success rate from the line.

How about you? Which poor habit are you having trouble shaking?

•Bailing out of the batter’s box because you’re afraid of the pitch?

•Keeping your hands together on the swing?

•Keeping your head on the ball?

•Following through on your pitching motion?

•Staying down on a ground ball?

All those skills are developed as habits. Learn the proper fundamentals, then try it once. Then do it again. And again. And again.

Do it enough times and you’ve acquired a skill.

But don’t get discouraged if you try it several times and continue to struggle. That’s normal.

The bad news: Research shows good habits take about three weeks to develop.

The good news: Once you develop a good habit, they are as hard to break as bad habits.

The key is, you’ve got to start. Somewhere.

And because you’re now in the heart of your seasons, that “somewhere” is likely in the middle of a game because of limited practice time. So that means you may have to develop your habits in a real batter’s box, on a real mound, in a real infield — against real competition.

That’s real tough, I know. But battling through real situations will only enhance your abilities.

But be warned: you’ll likely fall as often as you stand tall. You just you have to get up, dust off your uniform and try again.

And again. And again. And ...


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Tim Kolodziej