You Never Know Who Is Watching, But Should You Care?

With many of the country's rising seniors flocking to Atlanta this week for what most consider the biggest tournament of the year for colleges to watch high school talent, it got me thinking about the tremendous power that we have as athletes and coaches.  We have the power to choose how to react to events and situations.  No matter what good, bad, or ugly come our way, we can choose how to react.

The message is relevant to this week for me because the players who react the best to playing in front of more scouts than they have played in front of their entire life will be the ones who fare the best this week.  That is the situation, and it is real.  How different players and coaches react to the situation will vary.

In my opinion, there are really two ways to approach the topic of playing in front of scouts.  For the first, I'd like to make reference to the outstanding Derek Jeter tribute by Fox Sports 1(Short Clip Here).  He was at spring training as a young guy with Don Mattingly, and Donnie Baseball was working with Jeter on a back field.  Nobody else was around, but afterwards they started towards the locker room.  Mattingly turned to Jeter and said, "Hey, we better run.  You never know who's watching." Mattingly was at the tail end of a great career, but he still had that attitude.  When you play like you never know who's watching, you are really giving power to the influence that people who are watching have.  This may be taking the quote from its original context, but I think it is a major concern of many young players today.  Elite athletes like Jeter and Mattingly are able to channel that and make it work for them, but youth players allow who is watching to take away from their focus.

The second approach to playing in front of scouts is to not worry about who is watching you.  For me, this is the ideal attitude.  Any focus you give to the scouts and college coaches who are watching just takes away from the focus you have on what you are trying to accomplish during that pitch or that at-bat.  This is certainly a different attitude, but do you play the game for those who are watching?  Do you play to get scholarships and draft attention, or do you play because you love baseball and competition?  If the answer is the former, please go ahead and play like you never know who is watching.  That may help you.  If you play because you love baseball, I challenge you to play this week like nobody's watching.  Play like you are that little kid in a pickup game in the neighborhood (Those still exist somewhere, right?).  Enjoy baseball and the chance to play it.  You will improve your chances of playing up to your ability level, and you will enjoy the games more.  Coaches, instead of making sure you state the obvious to your players about the scouts being there, challenge yourself to focus on the same things you always stress to your players.  I feel fairly certain most of you stress things like playing the game the right way and getting better.  Not many coaches say to their teams in pre-game, "Alright guys.  Let's go out there and win some scholarships."  Nor should they.  Challenge yourself to not even use "the S word" all week.  Remember why you coach and they play.

You have a tremendous power today, this week, and every day.  How do you choose to use it?

Side Note: This really applies so much to everything we encounter in life.  In the world of teaching, for example, there are always people complaining about so many things.  If  people stopped to think about how little what they are complaining about should influence them, they would feel a little ridiculous about giving that much power to something that should not have any.  I know that I have been guilty!  Concerning yourself only with what should have influence over you is a freeing feeling, however, and one that makes your day to day much more enjoyable.

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