By Steve Shenbaum, President of game on and Head of Communication at Athletic & Personal Development program
"Ya gotta' throw strikes.â
Those were the instructions from my well-intentioned high school baseball coach after I walked four batters in a rowâ¦without throwing a single strike. After 16 consecutive bad pitches, he called time out, approached the mound and said to me, âDo you know what you need to do? Ya gotta' throw strikes.â And then he headed back to the dugout.
I remember thinking, âYou've got to be kidding me? That's your advice? That doesn't help me. Give me something to do! Fix my delivery. Change my wind-up. Pull me out of the game. But don't just tell me I've gotta' throw strikes, show me how!â
How often do we say things to one another such as âsmileâ, âjust relaxâ, âbe confidentâ, âknow your audienceâ and -- my favorite -- âbe yourself?â When we use statements like these in an attempt to help, we are not solving a problem, but pointing out a problem that needs to be solved. And if you say to someone, âBe Yourselfâ and that person is a total knucklehead, you have just given them encouragement to continue being that way.
With that said, an introductory game I like to play when I work with youth or professional athletes and teams is called âCoins.â Instead of telling athletes to smile, I challenge them to think of things (coins) that make them smile. For example, what things about themselves do they find really interesting? What makes them unique and special? Is there anything they've accomplished that they feel sets them apart from the rest?
And then there's a twist: If you are an athlete, you cannot use your sport or video games as a coin. As an adult, you cannot use what you do for a living. You will be amazed at how challenging it is to come up with a short list of coins when sports, video games and work are taken out of play. It's not that these things are unimportant, they're just too obvious. But once you start thinking about things outside of the obvious, you'll start to realize you have so much to offer. Examples of coins could be your pets, family, siblings, travel, cooking, music, languages you speak, ethnicity, art, school, fashion, reading, writing, etc. In other words, it can be whatever makes you smile and causes you to shine.
Coins can become your source of confidence. They can become conversation topics. Coins can even be the answer to âtell me about yourself." Just thinking about your coins should simply put a smile on your face.
So, I promise I will not tell you to âsmile more.â However, I will challenge you to think of and talk about things that make you smile in hopes that it will get you to start âthrowing strikes.â