“Hard work doesn’t guarantee success but no success is possible without hard work!”
In this blog post, we explore how you can improve your skills in sport through a mental skills training technique that we call the Keystone Element.
George Thomas “SHOTGUUUUNNN” Shuba. Have you ever heard of this 1950s Brooklyn Dodger? 3 trips to the world series, 1 world series ring, 1 keystone element, and a handshake that broke down the racial barrier in America’s Pastime. April 18th, 1946, Jackie Robinson made his debut in minor league baseball. In the third inning of that first game, he came up to the plate, confident, skilled, relaxed, and focused on the present moment. He took a deep breath, and dialed in on the pitcher. Jackie Robinson swings, connects, and belts a home run. After rounding the bases, Mr. Shotgun Shuba was there waiting for him at home plate, hand extended. A gesture that wasn’t about race at all, it was about being a good teammate and a good person. That’s just who Shotgun was: A good, hard working person. It was that hard work that got Shotgun his name.
When he signed his contract at the age of 17, it took him 2 years to get up to the majors. Those two years were vital to the improvement of his skills. When he finally got to the majors, he was known to have hit the hardest line drives: Absolute lazers, frozen ropes, balls hit with such velocity that it looked like, and sounded like, a shotgun going off. With a swing as “natural” as his, he was destined to be a great hitter.
The thing is, his swing wasn’t always “natural”. In an interview with Roger Kahn, (who later wrote the book, “The Boys of Summer”) Shotgun said that every day from the time he was 16, until he made it to the MLB, he swung a weighted bat, 600 times. He even hung a rope from the ceiling in his house and tied knots in it at different parts of the strike zone. 600 deliberate swings, to every part of the strike zone, every day. That is how he got his “natural” swing, and if you ask any professional athlete or anyone who built something from the ground up, they’ll tell you the same thing: You want to improve your skill in sport, discipline and hard work.
There’s a lot to be said about that sort of discipline and sticking to a decision. Shotgun found one thing that he could do every day to get him to where he wanted. He had hope. He knew that if he kept it up, if he continued to work at and refine his craft, he would accomplish his goal.
How to Improve Your Skills in Sport: The Key Stone Element:
With every goal we have, there is always a keystone element. A keystone is the central stone at the top of the arch. Without it, the arch would fall. It is a fundamental, it is process-oriented, and when done consistently, pushes you closer and closer to achieving your goal. There are outcome goals, process goals, and keystone process goals. Your keystone element is what is going to help improve your skills in sport.
For Shotgun Shuba, it was his 600 focused swings.
For Michael Jordan, it was practicing 3 hours a day.
For a professional skier, it could be visualization.
For a triathlete, it could be proper nutrition, fueling and hitting their macros.
For a hockey player, it could be taking 200 deliberate slap shots a day.
For a professional speaker, it could be making 20 new contacts a day.
For a salesman, it could be making 40 calls a day.
What is your goal? How will you improve your skills in sport? What do you think the keystone is and how will you consistently hammer that fundamental?