Zen and the Art of Baseball

One trait all great athletes share is an uncanny ability to focus 100 percent of their attention on the task at hand. We might call it different names: "mental toughness"..."in the zone"...etc.

The fact is, pin-pointed focus is a non-negotiable requirement for athletic success and the pathway to reach your sporting potential.

How to Focus

Thankfully, this laser-beam focus can be learned and improved upon; however, here's something that might be holding you back.

In the States, we proudly wave the flag of multi-tasking. There's an underlying agreement that the better we multi-task, the more effective and time efficient we'll become.

This may be well and true, especially if you happen to be a secretary. However, if you're an athlete you'd better pay attention and be aware. As athletes, we want the ability to shut out distractions and direct attention where we want.


If we spend the majority of our day splitting attention between multiple tasks, we're not enhancing our laser beam. In other words, if you're constantly doing two things at once (texting while driving, listening to music while doing homework, watching TV while eating) guess what your inclination is going to be when you're up to bat? That's right, you're mind is going to search for something else to focus on (other than just the ball) because you have no idea how to focus on just one thing at a time. You're a multi-tasker.

"Multi-taskers are suckers for irrelevancy" says Stanford professor Clifford Nass from this article. "Everything distracts them."

What the Pros Do

But you want to play in the big leagues, you say? I'll tell you right now, you've got no chance if you can't filter out "irrelevant" information from what's "relevant." It's simple: you've got to shut out the screaming fans, the ache in your elbow, the little man in your head and devote 100 percent attention on the pitch.

To that point, do yourself a favor and turn off the music when you do homework. Stop texting and watching TV simultaneously.

If you're really serious about getting that extra edge, you might consider taking up a practice that will strengthen your ability to focus on one thing at a time, like Yoga or Tai Chi. Lebron James does yoga, as do I, and it isn't just to improve flexibility. It's a great laser-beam builder and a great tool to help realize your athletic potential.

Till next time, good luck, have fun, and keep your eye on the ball...

Brent Mayne is a 15-year veteran of the Major Leagues. He ranks 75th in the history of baseball with 1,143 pro games caught, and his .993 career fielding percentage is 4th all-time. Brent is the author of the book "The Art of Catching"--a comprehensive guide to teaching and building defensive catching skills.

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