Sunday, December 11, 2011

Keep your head quiet

Writer Eric Liu learns how to throw a change-up from Bryan Price, former pitching coach for the Seattle Mariners. One key suggestion about pitching is to "keep your head quiet."

The timing of this lesson, it turns out, was rather apt. All my life, I've been the equivalent of a fastball pitcher—trying to use blazing speed and brute force to wow the people I face. Lately I've been realizing that it would help if I knew how to change speeds from time to time, to be less predictable.

We got to work. My first few attempts at a change-up were wobbly. I had no control, no feel for the pitch in my fingertips. Worse, I began to think about how I had no feel. I began to think how ridiculous I must look, a clueless amateur. Bryan could see a dozen things wrong with my delivery: arm slot too low, hips not turned enough, follow-through too unbalanced, and on and on. But he chose to home in on one thing only: "Keep your head quiet," he said.

This meant making sure I held my head steady and square as I pitched, so my eyes would remain fixed on the target. It also meant not overloading my brain with anxiety and data. A quiet head in the psychological sense is hard to achieve. Bryan got me there by emphasizing a quiet head in the physical sense. By worrying only about keeping my gaze steady and my skull centered, I stopped overthinking.

source:How I Learned to Pitch by Eric Liu
Slate.com - Jan 13, 2005

Liu, author of Guiding Lights, a book about mentoring, has traveled the nation seeking out mentors in a number of widely different fields.

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