Take a look at any list of what champions are supposed to do (like that one) and somewhere there you will see something about how they do things that other people are not willing to do. What these lists don't tell you, however, is that a lot of the things they refer to fall under the category of "grinding."
This is not the flashy thing. They don't spend hours on the Hit Trax machine, playing more games, attending fancy clinics, etc.
Instead, they work over and over again to fix even the smallest flaws, perfect their mechanics, and learn how to get everything out of their way.
If that sounds boring, that's because it is. That's why most players don't, especially if they're already successful.
A player who is the best hitter on her team, or maybe even her league or conference, may hear that she needs to work on improving her sequencing. But she also wonders why bother since she is already leading in most offensive categories.
Of course, there's always this story that it won't work on the "next level". But there's no guarantee that's true, so until she hits a chess, she may decide it's just the softball version of the Krampus - a myth created to scare people into doing what you want.
True champions, however, don't get it right because they're afraid of failing the proverbial "next level." They do them because they want to be the best they can be, how well everything else will take care of itself.
Here is an example. A typical pitcher will watch his speed figures, and as long as they're where they need to be, they're happy. However, a person keen on grinding will actually allow their speed to slip a bit to improve their drive mechanics or arm circle. That way, when it has internalized the change, it will be even faster and more precise.
For a field player, that might be learning how to pitch better by learning a better pitch pattern.
For a hitter, this could mean reworking the structure of his arms to prevent his back elbow from going in front of his arms. It's not sexy, and it's definitely nothing most people would notice if they weren't watching high speed video.
But the champion knows she will hit the ball a little harder, and with greater consistency, if she makes the switch and therefore spends the time doing so. Unlike the average player who tries it a few times, gets bored with it and starts trying to hit bombs off the tee again.
And there is the main difference. Squeaking mechanics can be terribly boring. It can be incredibly different too, especially as the things you are working on become more nuanced.
It can also seem risky, as there is a good chance that you will deteriorate before you improve, especially if what you change is a fundamental process. If you are in the middle of your season, that's a huge risk to take (if you're already having success; if you're failing, not so much).
This is what makes the months between the fall ball and the new year the perfect time to make a grinding effort.
At the start of the learning process, you're probably looking to make some big changes that will have a profound effect on your success in a game. It's a little easier to stick with that when it happens.
In other words, if you're used to hitting weak ground balls and pop-ups between strikeouts, you've got a lot of incentive to work on upgrades. When you start hitting online orders to the outfield consistently, it can be downright inspiring.
But if you already do line workouts to the outfield and now try to hit more, it doesn't feel as rewarding. Going from 0.110 to 0.330 is much more visible than going from 0.400 to 0.440. Going from zero doubles in three tournaments to four in a tournament is much more remarkable than going from four to six in a tournament.
However, this is what those who are ready to grind do, because their reward is internal rather than external. For many, their goal is to be perfect. They want an extra base stroke at every bat, or a shutout for every game they pitch.
They know this goal is unrealistic, but they do it anyway because they are determined to contribute as much as they can to the team and deliver the best results they are capable of.
The funny thing is, it's an individual decision. There are 100 ways to pretend or make it look like you're grinding when you really aren't.
But for those who want to be the best they can be, there's no substitute for the grind. They make the effort to make the smallest and even seemingly insignificant improvements, because if they can gain an edge that will help them perform better and win more ball games, they will take it.
It's really up to you. With a lot of teams shutting down right now, either on purpose to give their players time or as a result of state orders, now is a great time to tackle something that will make you better.
Find something and make the effort. You never know where it will take you.
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