12 Tips for Improved Athletic Performance, Part 2

David Justice

David Justice
AYC Health & Fitness
Certified Personal Trainer

Annnnnddd here’s Part 2 of last week’s blog post. Part 1 covered the physical aspects of training and included five tips for you. Today, you’ll learn more about how my background as a baseball player has shaped my overall philosophy towards the mental side of competitive athletics and how you can apply these concepts to improve your performance both on and off the field.


6. Set Goals

Have you ever noticed how you tend to be more successful when you have an idea of what it is you’re hoping to accomplish? This is likely because you set a goal, which allowed you to put together a mental roadmap to follow to help reach your goal. With that in mind, the best way to stay on track and not lose focus in your endeavors is to set SMART goals. SMART goals are:

  • Specific – very clearly defined
  • Measurable – you can quantify your progress along the way
  • Attainable – challenging, but not impossible
  • Realistic – it has to be doable one way or another
  • Timely – there is an end date by which you intend to accomplish said goal

Bad example: I want to be a better baseball player.

Good example: Next season, I want to hit .300 or aboove and lead my team in RBI’s. I will accomplish this by continuing to attend my weekly hitting lessons with my instructor, along with performing my offseason workout routine three days a week in order to continue improving my strength and hand-eye coordination.

7. Trust The Process

Your coach has his or her job for a reason. This applies to the coach of your school team, whoever you go to for private lessons, or your strength and conditioning coach. Chances are, they played your sport in high school (and maybe even college) – so they likely know what they’re talking about.

It’s easy to get caught up in the mindset that you (or your parents) know best all the time. But give your coach the benefit of the doubt. If they suggest slight mechanical adjustments or different ways of doing things, give it a shot. It’s in their best interest that you do well, so they won’t be doing anything to lead you astray. Or if you don’t understand why certain exercises are included in your routine, just ask. Your strength coach will gladly explain the reason behind every single component of your workouts and why they are included in order to help you accomplish your goals on the field.

8. Always Be On Time

If you asked my high school coach his philosophy on this topic, he’d likely tell you this: “If you’re five minutes early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.” He preached that message relentlessly during the three years I played for him, and it still rings true after all these years.

It doesn’t matter what I’m doing or where I’m going, I’m always early. And I’m proud of that too. Nothing bothers me more than people who can’t figure out how to be on time for anything. It’s disrespectful of other peoples’ time, and quite frankly it’s selfish. If you make a commitment to somebody, the least you can do is value their time enough to meet them when you said you would.

9. Practice Smarter

Practice isn’t always fun. In fact, that’s rarely the case. But as you get older and continue progressing to more advanced levels of competition, you begin to see that the best players are oftentimes the ones who make the most of their time during practice. The best part about this one is that you don’t have to be supremely talented to get an edge on the competition. All that really matters is that you pay attention to what your coaches are teaching on any given day and then go out and execute to perfection.

As Vince Lombardi famously said: “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

10. Be A Team Player

I talk about baseball a lot because that’s what I know best. I’m going to give you another example from a situation in my past that happened the summer before my senior year of high school on my summer traveling team.

Back in 2006, I was fortunate enough to play on the 18-U KC Sluggers team while I was still 17 because one of the catchers on that team quit at the last minute. While I was ecstatic about playing with teammates who were a year older than me, I had also just completed my first season on varsity and was in the midst of an abysmal slump at the plate. That slump continued throughout the summer and into that fall, and it wasn’t until late in the year that I got things turned around.

The moral of the story is this – I knew I wasn’t hitting well, but I couldn’t figure out why. So instead of dwelling on the negative, I made it my mission to help my team compete any way possible.

As a result, two major developments came out of that year. First, I improved my defensive skills as a catcher by a landslide. Second, I learned how to bunt with the best of them. While the former was more of a landmark accomplishment for my baseball career (and was a major reason why I was offered a scholarship to play at Northwest Missouri State), the latter was the one I cared more about at the time. You see, I had hit in the 3-hole my entire life dating back to Coach Pitch Softball in kindergarten. That was always what I did – I hit the ball really, really hard. But when I came face-to-face with a season long slump, I acquired a new skill (bunting), and took advantage of it early and often because that was the best way (at least offensively) that I could help my team win.

11. Be Resilient

While #10 is an example of being resilient, I’m going to use another story from my life’s experiences to help illustrate this one.

Back in the spring of 2005, I was a sophomore at Shawnee Mission East. Up to that point, baseball had always come fairly easy to me. Not only could I hit pretty well, I could also throw the ball pretty hard. Going into tryouts, I honestly believed that I would be the backup catcher on varsity that season.

Unfortunately, my coach had other plans. I spent the entire season on JV and was silently fuming for months about the fact that I had been left off the varsity roster for a team that ended up making a run at the state title. Now, I did end up having a very successful season on the field and was proud of my accomplishments. But I never did forget the perceived slight that I wasn’t good enough to at least sit on the bench during varsity games.

What did I do about it? Well, I’ll begin by telling you the JV season ended after a Saturday morning doubleheader against Olathe Northwest at CBAC (we lost both games). Monday morning, I told my dad I wanted to get serious about working out. He showed me a well-rounded routine that would help me get bigger and stronger, and the rest is history.

Over the course of the next nine months, I gained nearly 30lbs of muscle and completely revamped my body composition. While I knew that I would’ve been on varsity my junior season regardless of the circumstances, I wanted to put no doubt in my coach’s mind that I was physically ready to play at that level. After beginning the following season as the starting 1st baseman and backup catcher, I worked my way into the starting catcher role 4 or 5 games into the season and we ended up making a return trip to the state tournament.

Quite simply, if you want something bad enough, you have to go and get it. Bad things will happen. How you respond makes all the difference.

12. Think Less

You’ve spent countless hours practicing and preparing for game time – trust your instincts. Trust your muscle memory. Trust what you’ve learned.

One of my biggest issues with the season-long slump in 2006 was the fact that it wasn’t the ability of the pitchers on varsity that caused my problems. I was merely overthinking everything. I had started going to a new hitting instructor the winter before and he had made just enough adjustments that I was thinking instead of doing every single time I swung the bat. The resulting scenario was an embarrassing mess. It took me far too long to get back to the basics and remember that what I had been doing the previous 10-12 years had been working just fine and that there was no reason to change.

I finally snapped out of it, but I count that as the lost year of my baseball career. Try to learn from my mistakes so it doesn’t happen to you.

We’ve reached the end of part 2. While it was far less scientific and factually based than part 1, I hope you’ve found this information to be meaningful and relevant to both your life and whatever sport you play. As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to learn more about our Sports Performance Program for high school and middle school athletes.

I hope you learned something valuable from today’s post! Keep an eye out for part 2 in the days to come. If you have any further questions, feel free to reach out to me. Here’s more info on how I work with youth athletes.

Call me at 913.593.1708 or David@aycfit.com for more information.

If your son or daughter is committed to improving their skills, our Sports Performance Program may just be the perfect fit.

We utilize a Small Group Personal Training setting with no more than 4 athletes training together at a time. This allows us to provide plenty of individual attention along with customized workouts tailored to the goals of each individual.

These sessions take place 6 days per week and are ongoing so you can start at any time.

Here’s a schedule.