Learning Art Of Focus Vital For Ball Players

Editor/Collegiate Baseball
(First Of A 2-Part Series)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — How are elite athletes able to focus with precision time after time as they perform at a consistently high level?

It is a question that every baseball coach has tried to answer so their players perform at their peak levels game after game.

Unfortunately, it is maddeningly elusive.

In this special 2-part series, Collegiate Baseball will answer the question of focus and how it can be achieved.

Years ago, Riverside Community College Hall of Fame Head Coach Dennis Rogers discovered the perfect person to emulate for his baseball players.

That was Alex Honnold, the greatest free solo climber in the world who talked to his team about the mental mine field he endures each time he tries to scale the face of a mountain.

Free solo climbing is without question the most dangerous sport in the world and involves scaling massive rock walls virtually straight up without any ropes or protective gear.

Only a few brave people in the world even attempt it.

The remarkable ascent of a free solo climber involves a person with no fear as he utilizes his shoes, fingertips and tremendous mental focus searching out small cracks to grab along the way.

This extreme form of climbing appears to be a suicide mission in waiting.

The rock walls he scales throughout the world are incredibly intimidating.

With this treacherous type of climbing, one slip, one heavy wind gust, one lapse of concentration, and you are history as you fall thousands of feet to a horrible death.

With free soloing, you have no partner, no safety net…nothing.

At the age of 23, the 5-foot-11 Honnold pulled off an amazing feat by scaling the towering northwest face of Half Dome in September of 2008.

This nearly 2,000-foot granite wall towers above Yosemite National Park. And before Honnold free soloed this wall, nobody had ever contemplated doing it before because of the danger.

To give you a perspective, the height of Half Dome is almost the same as the Empire State Building in New York City at 102 stories.

And Half Dome is such an imposing vertical climb that attempting to reverse his climb downward was out of the question if he got into trouble. There was only one direction he could go…up.

At one stage of the climb, he actually froze because of the difficulty. But after gaining his composure, he focused intently and climbed his way out of trouble and to the top as he made history.

Rogers became obsessed with tracking Honnold down to ask him how he is mentally able to focus with no lapses for long periods of time.

What Rogers found was an engaging personality who mastered climbing in a precision manner.

While baseball players today at a young age don’t practice nearly enough to master skills and instead play game after game on the youth level and on club teams, Honnold trained to climb indoors for about six years before he ever ventured outside to climb on rock walls.

At the age of five, his mother Dierdre Wolownick took him to a climbing gym in Davis, Calif. where he started scaled a wall immediately. At the age of 10, his father Charles Honnold began taking Alex to a climbing gym in Sacramento.

“In talking to Alex, he got mesmerized by learning everything he could about climbing,” said Rogers.

“He wanted to master the inside gym before he ever went outside. Let’s relate this to baseball and how our youth programs work. The way we do things on this level is play game after game without practicing and honing the skills necessary to be better. What Alex did makes perfect sense.

“Let’s teach young kids how to throw, how to field a ball and swing a bat. Let these kids grow and curtail the games until we can master those concepts. That was the big point I took out of Alex Honnold.

“He mastered what his body was supposed to do. This was over the six year period with body growth, hormone changes and other dynamics before he went and played a ‘game’ on the big mountain.

“You could take a thousand things from Alex and how he learned to climb. You can also relate what he does in life. The problem I have with athletes today is that they are pushed too fast at a young age. So many people believe that greatness must come quick because it’s there.

“But 99.9 percent of people don’t have this greatness quality. You have to slow down and do things correctly so there is a mastery of what we are doing.”

To read more of this article, purchase the May 3, 2019 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. It delves deeply into the subject of focus in baseball games by players and how it can be achieved.