Get comfortable NOT watching the ball.

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JoshuaPerich Bio-2

If I were to ask you we were going to have a 40yard sprint between Usain Bolt and... well, quite frankly, anyone else in the world... who would you think would win that race? Now... let me tell you the rules... Usain Bolt has to look at the sky over his left shoulder while he is running, and his competitor can look directly at where he is going. Are you still sure Mr. Bolt would win? The truth of the matter is, we are only capable of running at top speed when we can see where we are going. I bring this up because it comes in handy when trying to run down that 360 foot fly ball in the gap your pitcher is praying you will be able to catch.

I was an Outfielder... and I wasn’t particularly a good one... so I had to work very hard to learn everything that there was out there to help me. One of the most challenging initially was to simply get comfortable taking my eye off the ball and run toward the direction where I felt the ball was going. It is completely an unnatural feeling, and until I understood why “running to a spot” made such a difference, I was reluctant to even try it. You see... (in case you haven’t figured it out already) while you are staring up at the sky, you are not moving fast. You may feel like you are motoring, but the entire stadium of screaming fans are yelling for you to get that lead out of your tukhus.

As easy as it may seem to tell a player to “run to a spot,” it isn’t that easy to just start doing... It does become easy... but it takes work. I have found that the easiest way to get players to get comfortable to take their eyes off the ball is to hit (or throw) them easy pop flies and ask them to simply get comfortable knowing that they are already pretty good at judging how long the ball will be in the air.

Continually serve up easy fly balls, where the player may have to move a step or two, and ask him to watch it off the bat (or out of the hand) and then look down to the ground. Tell him to try to move the few steps that he may need to in order to get to the ball and then when he things the ball is going to be on it’s way down, pick the ball up again and catch it.

The first couple of times that he tries this he will look down and then immediately snap his head back to where he thinks the ball is. He will do this out of fear... as if the ball is going to just disappear if he stops looking at it. After a few repetitions, he will get better at trusting that the rules of physics still apply if he isn’t watching them happen, and he will start to get comfortable with taking his eye off the ball and moving toward where the ball is going to be.

After that, start to move the destination farther and farther away from where he is standing until he is flat out running for several steps without looking at the ball and then catching it. Remember even one or two steps your fielder takes without looking toward the sky will cover more distance than if he were looking, so encourage every one of them.

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