S is for Strengths

        S is for Strengths.  This is a topic I know I've mentioned quite a bit, but it's one important enough to have its own post as well.  What makes you good?  It's essential for anyone, in any position, to be able to answer the question.  The question is simple enough, but you'd be amazed at how many people would struggle for an answer.  Maybe this is a product of a society that trains us not to talk about why we are good.  If you do, you're cocky.  While I agree you don't want to go around running your mouth about how you're good, I wonder sometimes if the result of the absence of a forum for athletes to discuss strengths is a lot of young athletes not knowing why they are good.  If they don't know what makes them good, then how will they play well as often as possible?  

        In the car the other day I heard an interview of Shawn Kelley.  Kelley has had success as a later inning reliever with three different teams and just signed a three year deal with the Nationals.  A later inning reliever, but not closer, getting a three year contract is a big deal so Kelley has certainly done well.  I didn't know much about him prior to listening to the interview but was quickly impressed.  Something Kelley said really helped him find more success when he was with the Yankees stood out in particular.  Kelley said pitching coach Larry Rothschild and bullpen coach Mike Harkey talked to him about simplifying his approach and pitching to his strengths.  Kelley talked about just throwing his stuff instead of getting so caught up in scouting reports on hitters.  After doing that he found more success.  I love this aggressor mentality and think being proactive instead of reactive with your approach, as an individual or team, is great.  It's using your strengths.

        Great coaches are able to adjust based on the strengths of the players they coach.  The team strategy stems from what puts the players in the best position to be successful.  Injuries, graduations, trades, etc all may be something that forces the adjustment.  Great players do the same.  They adjust based on what their strengths are on a given day or after a period of time.  A starting pitcher may throw a breaking pitch more in a particular start because it's working really well.  A position player may look to drive the ball more after adding significant strength in an offseason.  Sometimes though the consistent polishing of an already existent strength works too.  Think of Mariano Rivera and his continual mastering of the cutter.  

        The New Year brings with it a time for reflections and promises of ways we are going to improve and be different.  "New year, new me."  Well, I'd say not to forget about what has already made you successful in whatever you do.  Don't forget YOUR strengths.  If you are unsure what they are, challenge yourself to think about it until you do.  Otherwise, you are missing an opportunity to be purposeful in your development and performance.

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