By STEVE KRAH
Coaches and athletes talk all the time about overcoming failure — sometimes referred to as adversity.
Dan Thurston has been studying these concepts for years and how to achieve mental toughness. He is now sharing his knowledge with the baseball community.
Thurston, president and general manager at Long Toss Indiana, LLC and Indiana Rawlings Tigers, LLC which have 19 travel teams and a 9,100-square foot training facility in Clarksville, just launched his Mental Toughness Training website at confidenceinbaseball.com. The Twitter handle is @MentallyTuffBB.
Thurston talks about the genesis of his mental toughness training program, which is designed to help players of all ages and abilities.
“Coaches have always known when we have a mentally-tough kid and a mentally-weak kid,” says Thurston. “They struggle getting weak kid off his island. A lot of people were in my corner saying it should be able to be taught.
“That’s what drove my passion.”
Thurston learned that some people are naturally strong and can overcome adversity and setbacks. He wanted to help people who struggle.
Knowing that high school baseball coaches are occupied with skill development and strategy and had little or no time to devote to the mental game, that’s where Thurston found his niche.
Thurston began taking clients in January. While he does most of his work one-on-one with individuals, he does mental toughness training with a few high school teams, including East Central and Silver Creek.
He starts each athlete off with an initial assessment.
“To get to Point B, we have to know where we are now at Point A,” says Thurston.
This also helps gauge progress.
Techniques he uses include guided visualization for those who are visual learners and mental practice (thinking in words) for those who are not a visually-inclined.
With Thurston’s assistance, players explore their fear of failure or lack of confidence and why they are putting internal pressure on themselves and develop a plan of action.
“I’m not going to teach you how not to fail,” says Thurston. “They’re still going to make an error, strike out and get thrown out on bases. It’s about teaching them to overcome that quickly and move on to the next pitch or play.
“Baseball is the closest sport out there that replicates life itself. Not every day is going to be our best. It will also carry on through life.”
Like stones in the passway of life, mental obstacles can block the ballplayer’s desired result.
“The word I use with my players is interference,” says Thurston. “The equation is P = P — I (Performance equals Potential minus Interference).”
If not dealt with, this interference will keep players from reaching their ultimate potential.
Thurston says he is driven by a goal of daily improvement.
“I want to be a better coach today than I was yesterday,” says Thurston. “I’m always trying to learn something. There’s not one technique that I use on players that I don’t use on myself.
“If I’m facing a stressful situation myself, I use the techniques I use with my clients. I have the potential to leave a great mark on the game and help a lot of kids, but it’s helped me as well.”
When teaching the mechanics of pitching, Thurston wants his players to feel the movement then blend it into their delivery.
“The key is being able to put it all back together so it becomes a natural movement pattern for that kid,” says Thurston. “The blending competent is key. It’s the same thing with the mental game. You feel like you have no confidence. In your subconscious mind, you are afraid to fail. Your mind now effects how your body performs.”
Thurston says it is the subconscious mind which controls the body.
“We try to change the programming that’s gone on there for several years,” says Thurston. “We then have to put it all back together again.”
Pitchers at Long Toss Indiana begin with a physical analysis, video analysis and go through a boot camp to help them “build a bigger motor” and add “speed, strength, flexibility, mobility and power to key areas of the body to increase velocity and strength in the pitcher to make him more powerful and athletic.”
As the pitcher’s body develops, LTI “will tweak the program as necessary.”
Then comes the mental training, which is modeled after the program developed by Alan Jaeger.
Dan Thurston is the president and general manager at Long Toss Indiana, LLC and Indiana Rawlings Tigers, LLC. He is the former head baseball coach at Madison Consolidated High School.