Sometimes It`s Okay To Be Stupid



Sometimes It`s Okay To Be Stupid
Sometimes It’s Okay To Be Stupid
his title probably sounds pretty odd, but as we explore
what it means I think you’ll see that it makes good sense
in many occasions. My first exposure to this idea came
in a discussion with Jack Stallings, for whom I served as an
assistant baseball coach from 1971-1974 at Florida State. By
the time he retired, Jack was in the top five in total career wins
among active coaches at that time. He also was a very important
mentor in my career and has always been highly respected for
his deep insight, his ability to make a complex issue understandable, and his ability to teach so that all of us Get Better Every
Jack Stallings was part of the coaching staff for the USA
baseball team that participated in the 1984 Olympics as an exhibition sport. One day, on the bus ride to the Houston Astrodome
for an exhibition game, the players started debating the issue of
whether it was good to think at the plate. Some argued that you
needed to think and others argued that you couldn’t think and hit
at the same time. After much debate, future major league star
Will Clark summed it up brilliantly, saying, “You think, and then
you don’t think.” In other words, there is a time for thinking and a
time to just be stupid and execute what you have thought about.
When Craig Montvidas was coaching the Dutch National Team
in preparation for the 2000 Olympics, he asked me to assist
him at several times, especially in working with hitters. On one
occasion, he invited the Australian National Team to Holland
for about a week of practice games. We all
knew that the Australian pitching was stronger
than our hitting, so we had to work smart and
hard to produce runs. At the time we had a
very young and athletic player named Sandra
Gouvenour, who later became one of the top
players in a strong program that qualified for
the 2008 Olympics.
We spent quite a bit of time with hitters discussing pitch selection. We explored strengths
and weaknesses and how to increase the
odds of success by getting a good pitch to hit.
However, during our short period together, we
did not have enough time to get the right kind
of understanding of that principle or enough
time to practice it under game conditions. This
created the situation in which hitters could not
always properly modify it based on the ability
of certain Australian pitchers. In an effort to
“get her pitch,” Sandra often dug a hole from
which it was extremely difficult to be successful. In waiting for her pitch, she often passed
up some pretty good pitches when she had
one strike and then had to take her chances
with a really tough pitch when she ended up
with two strikes. Needless to say, the tough
Australian pitchers were eating her Dutch
lunch, and she was paying for it at the plate.
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Sometimes It’s Okay To Be Stupid
After seeing this happen far too often, I finally simplified my advice to Sandra.
Whenever she got one strike on her, I would yell at her from the dugout to “get
stupid!” This meant to quit thinking and start attacking. In the match-up with
dominant pitchers, I did not want her to be “too smart” and get left with just one
swing at the pitcher’s choice of locations. I wanted her to double her odds and get
at least two swings on her trip to the plate. Being stupid was the smartest way to
attack the dominant pitcher.
A few years later, I heard former New York Met Ron Swoboda speak at the
NFCA convention in New Orleans. It was a split session and most coaches went
to hear another speaker discuss pitching, but a handful of us stayed in the room
to hear Swoboda, who at the time was a local radio sports announcer. He was
fabulous and offered a lot of common sense and out-of-the-box ideas about
playing and coaching.
I make my living in softball, but I realize that other sports, business, and a
multitude of categories can offer us very valuable material to help us with softball
instruction. Certainly baseball and softball are very similar, much more so than
most coaches of either game believe. Anyway, Ron Swoboda had some real
jewels for helping softball coaches. I know that I benefited, as did the coach of
the Dutch National Softball team (Craig Montvidas) and one member of the USA
national staff (Jay Miller).
One of the questions that Swoboda rhetorically asked was, “How do you teach
ignorance?” That fired up my interest and I listened intently as he elaborated.
He said, “The stupider I was, the better I hit.” He said that when he let his mind
get too cluttered with information, he had more problems at the plate than when
he went up dumb. He even joked that every major league team should have an
“ignorance coach” on their staff.
Swoboda had a very understandable way of expressing a concept that many
sports psychologists suggest. I have often heard Ken Ravizza, who worked
with several major league baseball teams as well as Olympic teams in baseball,
softball, and water polo, advise players to “train it, then trust it.” The concept
involves training the body and mind and then at a certain point going on automatic
pilot and just letting things happen. It involves a
moment in the hitting process where we should quit
thinking and get stupid.
Swoboda was saying we need to learn how to teach
players at a certain moment to get stupid, to become
ignorant, and simply trust. It was really a brilliant way
to express that concept and I am thankful I was there
in New Orleans that day. I continue working on my
methods for helping people get stupid and, according
to some who know me, I should do well since I have
experience in the area of stupidity. I wish you much
success and joy as you “dumb down” and climb
upward to higher ground.
YOU can find what YOU need with HIGHER
GROUND! Contact us about camps, clinics, team
building, speaking engagements, and more elite opportunities. Higher Ground has conducted activities
in approximately 40 states, plus Argentina, Austria,
Azores, Canada, China, Cuba, Czech Republic,
England, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Philippines, Puerto Rico,
Scotland, Slovakia, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Zambia. [email protected] 229-386-9770/229-392-4048
Softball Magazine
Issue 4 • 2014
Page 117

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