Swinging for the Fences

Swinging for the Fences

Posted by Matt Little on 8th Nov 2023

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” - John Wooden

There is a fantasy, made popular in movies and television, that on game day we can somehow rise above our level of training and succeed through character and grit rather than skill and ability. It’s tempting to think so, and I have been guilty of that more times than I can count, but it is a fantasy. Performance doesn’t work that way. It’s the opposite actually. The harder you try at a skill that should be performed subconsciously, like practical shooting, the worse you do.

I’ve often been guilty of a training habit that reinforces this fantasy. I have a tendency to swing for the fences in my practice sessions, to push so far that I can only hook it up a few times out of many attempts. There is value in doing that as a portion of your training, but too much of it and you’ll quickly damage the mental side of your shooting.

Think of this sort of training as an intensity technique, like forced reps in weight training. The right amount can help you level up, but too much will cause you to overtrain and lose strength. I’ve come to believe that the appropriate amount of push in training is when you have about a 70% success rate on a particular drill. Any more, done habitually, will hinder your performance under stress. You’ll swing for the fences, but odds are you’ll fall short.

The other danger lies in not pushing enough. Once again, this has its place in training in the appropriate amounts, but too much and your skill will stagnate or even regress. The time to “just shoot” without conscious thought is in the match or real world event. Where this should be done in training though is in your combination work. The push there is in the complexity and performance on demand, not in your speed or accuracy. In training though, this is still a push, just one of a different kind.

When it’s not training; when it’s a test, a match, or a real world event; then it is absolutely essential that you don’t push at all. Any amount of conscious pushing or trying will lead to mistakes. Now is the time where swinging for the fences will invariably lead to failure. When it matters, you have to just shoot. If you allow it to happen rather than trying to force an outcome you will always get better results.

Understanding when and how much to push is essential. Don’t just swing for the fences.