What initially makes a “coachable” player - mentally?


The following goes beyond physical talent and examines the mental and persuasive capacity of an athlete’s approach to the game. These explanations are not all inclusive, nor are they designed to fit neatly between the pages of a notebook entitled - rhymes and reasons.

However, for the rookie who has an interest in pursing the competitive side of the game, or even the professional life, this is a good start to put on the thinking cap. Again, this is just a basic approach for discussion.

So, here we go........

There are people that can reason things out to the bare essentials and build whatever foundation supports their purpose. Call it instinct, gut-feelings, natural inquisitiveness, or whatever - they’ve got it. In fact, this quality continues with… what to do next, and why.

These people are not afraid to experiment, mixing and matching, gathering all kinds of knowledge, but, without muddying the waters and adding confusing to the process. In addition, a learning curve develops with positive experiences, thus providing a template for all other methods of research and fact-finding. Thus, there are “points” along the learning curve that are successes, very basic and topical. These “points” themselves can branch out and support related subjects that go deeper with definition and detail.

As time goes on, these learning curves become more technical, complex - yet very personal to the athlete himself. Yet, not so overwhelming as to retard his skills or performance.

Other athletes are not so gifted with intuition, on the one hand, but just as capable of comprehending the same topics, but with a slightly different approach. In other words, initially, these athletes require a little help, from the get-go, to focus on certain building blocks that are their foundation. And as would be expected, their learning curve is very rudimentary at the start, but, hopefully with dedication and hard work, this experience would include the same dynamic subjects experienced by their fellow competitors.

Take for example the experience of hyperventilation. What is that, you ask? The following is from the Wikipedia encyclopedia:
In normal breathing, both the depth and frequency of breaths are varied by the neural (or, nervous) system, primarily in order to maintain normal amounts of carbon dioxide but also to supply appropriate levels of oxygen to the body’s tissues. This is mainly achieved by measuring the carbon dioxide content of the blood; normally, a high carbon dioxide concentration signals a low oxygen concentration, as we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide at the same time, and the body’s cells use oxygen to burn fuel molecules, making carbon dioxide as a by-product.
If carbon dioxide levels are high, the body assumes that oxygen levels are low, and accordingly, the brain’s blood vessels dilate to assure sufficient blood flow and supply of oxygen. Conversely, low carbon dioxide levels cause the brain’s blood vessels to constrict, resulting in reduced blood flow to the brain and lightheadedness.

The athlete that has the instinctive intuition to recognize and research this experience, with respect to “ how come and why”, will use that information later on to his benefit. As a result, he usually goes to the head of the class on other things supporting his athletic prowess. To make a long story short - this athlete has just realized how fast his body can react to something so immediate, yet, so environmentally persuasive as air! For example, this athlete can take this experience one step further and rationalize why this doesn’t happen to him while he’s jogging or running at a quick pace. Why, for example, is his breathing just as rapid, but he doesn’t experience the same hyperventilation as when he was in a static state?

Other athletes just don’t have the initial reasoning powers to start thinks in those terms. However, they are no less adaptable, if given the chance, by the coaching process, to get started.

Now if we could divide the population of athletes right down the middle, and say these people have an instinctive intuition, and these people don’t, the sport’s world would be so much easier to deal with - but it ain’t. So, on the scene are those with a little of this and a little of that. Some athletes come onto the field with loads of instinctive talent, while others require a bit more nurturing. And all athletes have a wall that seems to crop up that acts like a barrier to future progress with some subjects, but not all. And if this wasn’t enough, personalities, mood swings, prejudices, politics, injuries, age, and whatever … complicates the athlete’s experience and the job of coaching said same, even more.

Coach B.


Good points, Coach B.
What it all boils down to is the willingness to learn. You get the ones who have the basics but who want to know more and who are willing to work at it. You get the ones with whom you pretty much have to start from scratch—but who are willing to learn from that ground up. The problem is when you get the ones who think they know it all and refuse to listen or even accept a suggestion because they think they know it all, and these are the ones who will have the coach or manager tearing his hair out by the roots, assuming he has hair.
For this last I think of a Cincinnati pitcher named Jay Hook who, one day, was pitching against the Pirates and was being eaten up, with all his pitches being turned into line-drive extra-base hits. When finally taken out of the game he returned to the dugout and sat there bewailing the loss of his fast ball; he wouldn’t listen to anything Jim Brosnan was trying to tell him and just kept moaning, over and over and over, “Without my fast ball I can’t pitch.” Well, he didn’t last much longer in the majors after that, and before long he dropped out of baseball. And I also think of the pitchers who keep getting beat with their third best pitch, rather than their best one. The ones who have electric stuff but can’t find the plate to save themselves…and so on.
Now contrast this with someone like Whitey Ford, who was getting shellacked one day and then realized that he might be telegraphing his pitches. He listened to what Ed Lopat told him, learned how to correct this problem, and from then on was one of the Yankees’ top pitchers—maybe he was a cocky kid, but he recognized he didn’t know it all, and he was willing to learn. Yes, it takes all kinds, and what a coach needs to do is sort them out.