The Value or Detriment of Emotion

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By: Brent Cole – April 13, 2008

dp logo1The psychological status of an athlete has been explained and searched over and over in several metaphors and clichés. We hear about a player having their ‘game face’ on or ‘being in the zone’.

But what does all that mean as far as preparing a team or a player to get to that point? Does the amount of emotion a player shows on the field determine how hard he plays and, if so, who decides when a player is at that point or needs to be lit up a little bit?

A player displaying emotion on the field can be looked at as both a positive and a negative. You don’t want your players wearing everything on their sleeve throughout any type of game because that, depending on the maturity of the kid, could get embarrassing quick. I think this is particularly relevant to a pitch because, unless he is out their just pumping something special, he is going to have ups and downs every single inning. At the same time, if you have six guys going full tilt, showing you they want to win and the other three appear to just be going through the motions, you have to question their desire at that moment.

This type of thought process can get confusing because a lot of people, be it coaches, fans or players, all have a different idea of what type of emotion is necessary throughout the course of a baseball game. For me, I need to find a happy medium between a kid who cries when his teams loses and a kid who will break a bat rack every time he strikes out.

Neither behavior is acceptable throughout the course of a season.

Baseball is not for babies and childish behavior has to be replaced by a desire to make adjustments and not get beaten again. To make those adjustments, a player has to understand why he failed and that information is not going to come when helmets are flying.

I think to better understand what you want emotionally from a player, you need to have a better definition of what you’re talking about.

For this, I am going to replace the word emotion with intensity.

You want a player who has obvious intensity without being an emotional liability to your team. Your base runner hits the ground hard diving back into first after an attempted pick and, as soon as his hand hits the bag, he is bouncing back up still ready to steal a base. That is intensity that his teammates can feed off of. A pitcher who gives up a homerun and spits out expletives that make grandmother in the back row of the grandstands blush is intense too, but is an embarrassment to the team, his family and himself.

Don’t get me wrong, I want someone who is unhappy when they fail. You should never be satisfied when you get beat, even in baseball where you will fail at something each afternoon you decide to lace ‘em up. But a player who gets bent out of his frame every time something less than positive happens, will drag down a team and needs to be controlled no matter how talented he is.

Physical toughness is a quality you want in a player because he will usually be durable and have a general absence of fear. However, if that same guy is mentally weak, he may be marketable as a standout ballplayer, but useless to a team that is trying to win championships.

There is nothing more intimidating than teams that will have nine guys give everything they have and show no defeated reactions when they fail. If those teams have a pitching staff that can keep them in ballgames, then they can wear down teams that are not as strong-minded by simply acting like they can play with anyone.

About the author: Brent Cole played college baseball at Wingate and Greensboro College in North Carolina. He is now an assistant coach at Asheboro High School and will be an assistant this coming summer for the Coastal Plains League’s Asheboro Copperheads.