The Spiders put an emphasis on process over results. If you consistently repeat the proper process, the results will also come more consistently. It doesn’t mean that you will always get good results, but that those good results are more likely to come.
Unfortunately, most players are conditioned to care only about results. This can create an environment that is difficult for growth as players may try to fix something that doesn’t need fixing — or players may not see a problem because the results were good.
Let’s take a closer look at process vs. results in youth baseball and why it matters…
Process consists of preparation, approach, mechanics, execution, and intent. There’s some overlap among them, but let’s walk this through…
1. Preparation means that you have prepared yourself, mentally and physically, for this situation. You know what you are supposed to do. You’ve taken the reps and trained your body to execute in this situation.
2. Approach is understanding how to attack the current situation. At the plate, it could be executing the proper aggressiveness or selectivity given the situation. It’s relaxing the body and mind. It’s focus. Getting into an athletic position. Having an effective stance in the box.
3. Mechanics covers all of the mechanical details of a throw, swing, or fielding of the ball, for example. You can have the proper preparation and approach, but bad mechanics can lead to poor results. Mechanics focuses on how you move your body to execute a baseball action.
4. Execution covers doing 1 through 3 properly. You were properly prepared, took the right approach, and used the necessary mechanics to lead to good results. This led to the execution of a line drive up the middle, fielding of a ball with good footwork, pitch of a ball to the right location, and throw of a ball to a teammate.
5. Intent covers the things that you intend to do. You may have done 1 through 4 correctly, but were you trying to do the right thing in the first place? You meant to swing at that ball on a 3-0 pitch, but should you have taken it instead?
Results can be separated into two buckets, physical and statistical.
1. Physical Results are those that you see. You can see a line drive hit to right or a pitch on the outside corner. You can see a cleanly fielded ball at shortstop and a strong throw made to first. These results don’t always appear positively in the box score.
2. Statistical Results are how observers ultimately judge you. A batter had three at bats and one hit. A pitcher threw two innings and allowed three runs. A fielder made one error. These statistical results are often misleading because they are not always in line with process and positive or negative physical results.
Bad Process, Good Results
A player who has bad process won’t always get bad statistical results. They won’t even necessarily get bad physical results.
A batter swings at a bad pitch, but he hits a double to right. Another batter swings when he gets a take sign and hits a pop-up that falls in for a single. A third baseman uses bad mechanics to field a ball, but does so cleanly and throws out the runner.
This happens often. The player — and often his parents and even coaches — see these good results and provide positive reinforcement.
Good Process, Bad Results
The player does everything right, all the way down to a good physical result. The batter uses good process to hit a line drive to center field. The defensive player makes a catch. In the box score, that batter failed.
The instinct of the player is to be disappointed. The result is not what they wanted.
Good Process, Good Results
This is the ideal situation. The player did everything they should have done, and they are rewarded for it in the box score. But the truth is that this is often not what happens.
Baseball is a game of failure. On a play by play and pitch by pitch basis, good process won’t always yield positive results — particularly good statistical results. As coaches and parents, we need to recognize that and be able to separate them.
Little Jimmy went 3-for-3 today. Great game, Jimmy! Jimmy is rewarded in the box score and the reactions of his coaches and parents will reinforce that he did the right thing.
Little Teddy went 0-for-3 today. Tough game, Teddy. Teddy is conditioned to believe that he had a bad game. But did he?
Maybe Jimmy had terrible process and ended up with three hits anyway. This will happen.
Maybe Teddy had great process and didn’t manage a hit. He slugged line drives at fielders. The opposition also contributes to your results.
Sample size is key. Over the course of a season, a player who consistently executes good process will yield positive results — both physical and in the box score. A player who consistently executes bad process will yield negative results.
It will even out. And it’s possible that a player can get away with bad process at lower levels for multiple seasons. But, if not corrected, it will eventually catch up to him.
Know the Difference
I’m not suggesting that parents and coaches need to shout “Bad approach, you got lucky!” when bad approach yields good results. But at some point, it needs to be made clear to the player that repeating these bad habits will rarely lead to the good feeling he had this time.
Pull him aside in between innings or after the game. Talk about what he did and what he should have done instead. Help him understand that, despite the positive results, a different process is beneficial for the long haul.
Positive reinforcement when good process leads to bad statistical results is critical. Baseball is results oriented. Despite doing everything right, he thinks he made a mistake. He may be inclined to believe that he should do something different next time.
This can especially be the case in small sample sizes where a player faces a string of bad luck. Recognize the good approach. Remind the player that if he continues executing the way he is, the results will come eventually.
As a coach, it can be as simple as recognizing a player after the game who may not have ended up with three hits, but who hit the ball hard every time. Or a defensive player who made great stops, but didn’t get the runners or batters out.
How do you recognize and reward process vs. results?
Let me know in the comments below!