Q is for Questions

       Q is for Quick.   In order to be successful in baseball, you need to be able to make quick, decisive decisions and movements.  You have likely heard it before.  A 90 MPH fastball leaves hitters with somewhere in the neighborhood of four tenths of a second to react to whether they will swing or not and to physically perform the action of the swing.  At the AASP Conference in October I had the great privilege of listening to Dr. Charlie Brown speak about the brain.  Dr. Brown is a sport psychologist in Charlotte, North Carolina and is very well respected in the field.  He also is a great speaker.  The topic Dr. Brown addressed was brain function.  Neurology in general can be a very intimidating topic.  So much goes on in the brain, and there are all sorts of names of parts of the brain, what it produces, and what it does in general.  There is also great mystery in what the brain does.  Dr. Brown did an excellent job of making a sometimes intimidating topic a little more inviting, and I hope I can do that for you today as well.

       The specific topic Dr. Brown talked about was the idea that you have a top or front brain and bottom brain.  The front portion of the brain, he said, is where we learn and reflect.  When you are working on the tee on making a specific mechanical adjustment, you are likely using the front part of the brain.  You need time to process what you are doing.  This is what can make a physical change to the swing so frustrating.  The expectation for the quick fix is there for the hitter, but he is unable to think through the movement and react to a pitch in the requisite amount of time.  That is why hitting takes time and dedication to master.  The bottom part of the brain is where we are rapid and appear automatic in our movements.  Habit and routine create the automaticity of the movements.  After a certain magic number of swings, individualized to each hitter and situation, the change the hitter is making becomes automatic.  Then, they can dig in the box and react to the 90 MPH heater.  What is fascinating about baseball is its incorporation of both the top and bottom parts of the brain. The flow of the game lends itself favorably to time for learning and reflection on everything going on.  At the same time, each pitch is a time for the bottom brain to take over and just react.  It's when the magic happens.  "How did you do that?" we ask players.  "I just did," is what we sometimes don't like to hear because we want to understand, but it's really such a beautiful answer.  "I just did" is the answer we want to hear more often because of the preparation already done for that particular moment.  Understand the moment's preparation must be earned.

        Challenge yourself to think through some of what you do during the day.  What do you have to really work through, and what happens on autopilot?  Those are the different sections of the brain at work.  If we lived entirely in the front part of our brain, life would be a maddening experience.  Take time to reflect using it and to be thankful for the bottom part that "just does it."

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