My Thoughts on Adversity

        Adversity.  It can be described as misfortunes or difficulties.  Dr. Ken Ravizza describes it as when the _____ hits the fan.  Within the game of baseball adversity may take the form of a booted ground ball, giving up a bomb, or having a call go against you.  Outside of the game, maybe adversity is a position battle, a prolonged slump (either as an individual or as a team), or problems completely outside of the sports environment.  The point is adversity can take many different forms.  Likewise, there are many ways to deal with adversity.  Some are productive, and some aren't.  For me, the productive ways boil down to three principles.  Those principles are trust, being rational rather than emotional, and being a solution seeker.  In my opinion, all three are interrelated.  I will try to tackle each individually though.

1. Trust-  Trust is huge in sports.  Coaches spend a great deal of time talking about needing to be able to trust players.  Players want to be able to trust teammates.  They also need to be able to trust coaches.  The ultimate test of trust in performance is whether individuals can trust themselves.  In-game adversity tests this trust.  When you make a poor pitch, do you start to doubt all of the work you have put in?  Maybe you are late on a fastball and pop it up weakly.  Do you then completely change your stance or approach as a hitter for your next at-bat?  If so, you are probably struggling to trust yourself.  In doing so, you are cheapening the countless hours of conditioning, the skill work, and the experiences that have led to this moment.  The best players in baseball have a great ability to trust themselves and what works for them.  If they are struggling to get hits, they know that each poor at-bat just makes them one at-bat closer to turning things around.  Many factors go into the building of that trust, but ultimately it is a decision made by the individual.

2. Being rational rather than emotional- This is something I struggled with as a player at many points of time.  I'd get out, and thoughts like, "I suck!" or "How the f*** could you not hit that pitch?" would creep into (and sometimes out of) my head.  Before I knew it, one at-bat with a poor result would turn into three or four.  Three or four at-bats may turn into a bad weekend or bad couple of weeks.  This was being emotional about my performance.  It worked on the flip side too.  Getting hits would be because, "I'm the man right now!" instead of whatever actually produced the result.  Rene Descartes is known as the father of rationalism in philosophy.  The idea behind rationalism is that opinions and the resulting actions of those opinions should be based on reason instead of emotion.  The idea is easier to describe than to enact, but taking the emotion out of your performance is one of the greatest keys to being a consistent player.  Self-reflection, sometimes in short bursts during games and definitely after games, is important to understanding who you are.  That reflection needs to be based on reason rather than emotion.  So many of the bad at-bats I had were "because I sucked" or "something is wrong with my swing" when I did my emotional reflection.  Rationally, they were because I swung at a bad pitch, tried to do a little too much, or deviated from my plan.  The great games were because I saw the ball well, got into hitters counts, and reacted to the baseball.  Be rational in the face of adversity, and your chances will greatly improve.

3. Be a solution seeker- One of my favorite quotes comes from the timeless Harvey Dorfman.  Dorfman says, "Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle."  I've seen the quote attributed to multiple people including Ben Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.  The darkness is the problem you're facing.  It's the adversity.  Sure, you could decide to curse it.  If you do, chances are you will feel a lot worse.  You definitely won't change anything.  Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, lighting a candle is seeking the solution.  How much time do we spend wallowing in self-pity or complaining about a situation?  That is ultimately just time wasted that could have been used finding a solution.  One concept I love (from Jon Gordon I think?) is the idea that you should not complain about something unless you are willing to try to find a solution.  Adversity needs to work the same way.  Rather than feeling bad for yourself because of giving up a hit, having a bad game, or being in a slump, you should be seeking solutions to "light a candle."  In our search for solutions, we many times go on wild goose chases for some crazy idea when the answer we are looking for is most often within us already.  It's probably thinking rationally about what is going on.  This is where consistent self-reflection can help keep us from prolonged periods of inconsistency.

        As you can see, trust, being rational, and seeking solutions really are all intertwined with each other.  Trusting your ability and plan help us stay rational.  Staying rational helps us to find solutions.  "Swinging at better pitches" is a much easier solution than "not sucking."  Being able to find solutions is part of the work and preparation that builds on our trust.  I chose to write this blog with an emphasis on the individual, but all of the principles are easily applicable to a team concept as well.  Steps to handling the adversity would likewise be similar.  Although my principles are not by any means the only ways to deal with adversity, they are three I feel strongly about.  Do you have a time where you battled adversity either in a game or outside of it?  I'd love to hear about it.  Shoot me an email @ehrlichb1.gmail.com, or send me a tweet.  Thanks again for reading, and good skill with your spring seasons starting up!





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