Step Forward, Not Up

Disclaimer: Read the entire blog post before you label me a mental coaching dreamer!

        "Step up right here!"  We all have heard it.  Many of us have probably said it.  Maybe it was in a situation where a big hit was needed or a team seems flat.  Maybe it was when a player was injured, and an opportunity was created for someone else.  I know I've said it before, but I also know I've become very careful about how and when I say it.  For me, the majority of times call for a step forward instead.

        Step it up implies that you need to do more than what you are already doing.  You have to step up your performance.  Here is the flaw in this.  What if I'm already giving my best effort?  If I am already giving everything I have and the results are not there, then that can create a very helpless situation already.  Then, I am being asked to step it up even more.  I envision someone on a flight of stairs being told to, "Step it up."  They reach for the next step on the staircase only to realize there isn't one.  What is the result?  They plummet to the ground.  The same can hold true for your performance.  If you reach for that step that isn't there, your performance can actually suffer tremendously.  This can be a hitter trying to swing too hard and flying off of the ball.  Maybe a pitcher overthrows, and their stuff flattens out as a result.  Another visual I thought of with one of the guys I coach with is the appearance of everything the player does being a little too quick.  It's the setting on your DVR remote that is somewhere in between "play" and "fast forward."  Think about one of those football recruiting videos that look just a little bit unnatural.  This is what someone who is looking to "step it up" looks like.

        So instead of a step up, I would like a step forward.  The step forward's implication is that the opportunity is presenting itself and looking for players to volunteer.  For all you secret The Bachelor fans, the opportunity is asking you if you would like to accept this rose.  If you choose to accept, then the step forward is just doing what you have always been capable of.  There is no need to change who you are to compensate for the situation at hand.  Down a couple of runs?  Well then step forward with your best at-bat.  You can't get them all back at once.  Instead, the comeback must happen one pitch at a time.  Control the box, and do what you do best.  Has there been an injury or a player departure of another kind?  Again, the worst thing you can do is try to replace that player.  You are not them, and you never will be.  At the same time, you are the best in the world at being yourself.  Be your best to help compensate for the loss by stepping forward.  The MLB Sirius station has been doing a lot of Spring Training interviews with players, managers, and front office members.  One of the topics that inevitably comes up is how to replace that trusted veteran who left as a free agent or the guy who will be out all year with an arm injury.  I really enjoy hearing the different responses.  If you are a fan of MLB Network's discussions, the radio version is like MLB Network on steroids.  There is something about it being radio instead of TV that makes the people interviewed much freer and candid in their responses.  The best I have heard all acknowledge that you can't replace a "James Shields" or a "Max Scherzer."  The next line usually goes to how them leaving presents an opportunity for a young guy to prove themselves.  I think of a guy like Joe Panic last year with the Giants.  After an injury to Marco Scutaro, the Giants tried several guys at second base.  Joe Panik was called up and eventually given his chance to win the job.  He did not try to be Marco Scutaro.  Instead, he played his game.  The result was a great rookie of year and culminated with some big hits and arguably the biggest defensive play of the postseason.  Panik, ironically, was incredibly calm during all of this.  There was a clear trust in who he was as a player, and he ultimately helped the Giants win the World Series.  This happened by stepping forward rather than up.

        One thing I would like to make clear is that I am not completely against the phrase "Step it up."  There are absolutely times where players or teams need to do so.  For me, it is more in the manner of stepping up effort or focus.  Coaches can tell when a team is flat or a player isn't giving his best effort for whatever reason.  If this is you, then definitely step it up.  If you are giving your best effort, then you need to be able to live with the results.  Keep stepping forward with that best effort, and the tide will eventually turn.  Thanks for reading, and be sure to "step forward" today!


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