If you know that a scout was watching you play, would you do anything differently?
It can be a challenge to inspire players to do little things that are so often neglected but are so consistently the difference between winning and losing. That’s why I’ve taken a different approach with my team lately: Play like a scout is watching.
It doesn’t need to be a scout, particularly for the younger ages and lower levels. Maybe it’s a close friend or relative. Or simply someone you would want to impress.
If someone comes to your game to watch you play, they are focused on you. They don’t only see you hit, field, and run the bases but everything in between.
Granted, parents are doing this. But, unfortunately, that’s just a given now. We know that Mom and Dad are watching. It’s part of the game.
If, though, you knew that a scout was there to see you play, how would it affect your performance? Would you do anything differently?
A scout, for example, will certainly care about how hard you hit or throw the ball. They will care, to a point, about results. But they will also watch other details very closely.
In a perfect world, you’ll do everything the way you always have. You don’t need inspiration to play hard, hustle, be aware, be positive, and be a team player. But this exercise may help the typical player.
This isn’t intended to put more pressure on players to perform. Instead, it’s to help them value the little things that are often ignored.
A scout — or any person who is at a game just to watch you — will be paying attention to the following things…
1. Do You Always Hustle?
I realize that I’m a broken record on the topic of hustle, but it’s such an easy thing to do for any kid — regardless of talent. Yet, very few players hustle at 100% ALL THE TIME.
As a coach, this is frustrating. There’s really no excuse for it. So it may take a reminder to play like a scout is watching.
When should you hustle?
- Onto the field
- Off the field
- After you get out
- To any base
- To the baseball
- To your backup position
Hustling isn’t jogging. It’s not just running. It’s running as fast as you can, without hesitation. Especially when doing so or not will result in runs, bases, or outs.
There is something special about a player who always hustles. He stands out.
2. How Do You React to Failure?
What happens when you strike out? Do you look back at the umpire and throw your hands in the air? Do you mope back to the dugout? When you get there, do you throw your bat or helmet? Do you sit down with your head in your hands while the rest of your teammates are standing?
What happens when you don’t get a strike call while on the mound? Or you make an error in the field? What is your body language like?
A scout would be watching these things. He’d want to see that you take responsibility for and learn from your mistakes. He’d want to see that you have a short memory and that you bounce back quickly.
If you know that someone is watching these things closely, would you act differently?
3. How Do You Treat Teammates?
A true team player is someone who cares about his teammates, rather than focusing only on his own results. What do you do when a teammate is struggling? When he’s down? When the pressure’s on and he’s emotional?
All coaches want team players. They’re special because they can help lift their teammates in difficult times.
Me-first players will do the complete opposite. They will complain and react and ridicule a struggling teammate. The result is often that things get worse.
If a scout attends your game, how you treat your teammates will be important.
4. Is Your Mind In the Game?
Do you goof off in the dugout? Do you lose focus? Are you talking to friends in the stands in between pitches?
It’s good to be loose, but there’s a fine line. A lack of focus that takes your mind out of the game can lead to bad results for you and your team.
A scout will take notice.
5. How Do You Prepare Before the Game Starts?
Those who practice with a purpose realize there’s a reason for their warmups. They aren’t just going through the motions. They are repeating good process so that they can execute these same movements in the game.
Do you warmup your arm without any intent, throwing lazily off of your heels and chatting with your friends? Do you use good mechanics when fielding ground balls, or are you attempting trick plays you’d never try in a game?
The same goes for in between innings. Outfielders toss the ball back and forth to one another. Are you doing it to replicate the type of ball you’ll field in a game? Are you approaching that ball the way you will when it’s hit to you? Are you fielding ground balls properly, or are you just wasting time?
A scout would be watching. Would his notes embarrass you?
6. Do You Respect Umpires and Opponents?
The respect that you show to others will be important to a scout or potential coach. Do you argue with and disrespect umpires? Such behavior could be a sign that you’re selfish.
Do you treat your opponents respectfully? Do you congratulate them on a good hit? How do you behave after a game? Do you run away to the dugout, or do you look your opponents in the eye to tell them “good game?”
Are you screaming to distract the pitcher? Do you yell “got it!” when the opposing first baseman attempts a catch at your dugout? Do you laugh at your opponent’s misfortune?
Or are you steady? Level-headed? A scout wants to see that you are focused on your game and respectful of your opponents. Your behavior and body language should change very little, regardless of the score.
As I often tell my own players, no one should ever be able to look into the dugout and guess the score.
7. Do You Respond to Coaching?
Do you ignore signs? Do you run through a stop sign from the third base coach? What happens when a coach comes over to talk about your at bat following a strikeout? Do you accept his instruction, or do you put your head down and ignore him?
Your coachability is an important characteristic. If you resist coaching, it suggests that you are unwilling to change, adapt, and improve.
A scout would notice these things.
You can use a similar exercise for your own team. It doesn’t need to be a scout. It could be something more fun like a girlfriend or celebrity. If you know that someone is watching everything you do, you’ll want to make sure to present your best self.
Any other strategies that you use to encourage your players to do the little things in games?
Let me know in the comments below!