Cubs Manager Dale Sveum Inspires Cubs Players to Higher Levels of Performance

In a casual conversation during lunch the other day, a former coach, a fitness expert, and I were discussing ways that coaches might be able to motivate athletes to reach beyond normal limitations―how to inspire them. We all tended to agree that a number of coaches, maybe most, seem to get so hung up on the X’s & O’s of their sport that they sometimes forget about the internal piece athletes need in order to want to push themselves higher up the performance ladder.

Simply put, they forget about their responsibility of trying to create an environment that breeds desire, taking for granted that desire is something athletes automatically possess. From my perspective, this is a very common misconception.

Personally, I believe it to be such an important factor in an athlete’s ability to reach their full athletic potential that it is a center of focus in the inspirational speaking presentation I give to athletes, coaches and parents. In addition, I dedicate a full chapter to the concept of desire in my forthcoming book Becoming a True Champion (Roman & Littlefield, 2012), as well as weave various components of its meaning throughout many areas of the book.

One piece in that chapter on desire talks about the use of an important aspect found in all athletes, at least to one degree or another.  No matter what sport or what level, it is a fact that athletes are intrinsically competitive―it is simply a part of their nature.

That brings me to the training strategy Cubs manager Dale Sveum seems to be implementing at this year’s spring training camp.  Highlighted on WGN Radio Tuesday morning, and on their website, Sveum instituted a bunting “NCAA-styled tournament” where ballplayers compete against each other.

The key word in that last sentence (at least for athletes) is compete; again, something athletes just love to do. It is these types of challenges that not only get the competitive juices flowing but also help to bring much more “focus” and “intensity” to whatever the task is at hand.

Additional benefits of creating competitive situations like this to help improve one’s skill set include:

  1. Bringing more game-type pressure into practice. It’s always an advantage to make practice as similar to game situations as possible, and
  2. (specifically with this drill), higher levels of concentration on the “fundamentals” of the game, something that many athletes tend to “go through the motions” with.

And here is a key statement, a part of a sentence within that above linked article at, that supports the “buy-in” by athletes with competitions like this, “…30 teammates…stuck around to watch after practice.”

Ok, better read that quoted piece again. Yep, professional athletes sticking around after practice is over just to watch what happens. Hmm, got to wonder about that, right?

Heck, if it were up to me, I would add a lot more competitive drills to the mix, expanding them throughout the gamut of a ball players skill set. In fact, if it were possible (I am not sure this can be done at the professional level), I would try to create a situation where these ballplayers had to start earning their position and playingtime based on how they performed in these competitive drills, no matter where they were on the “pay-scale,” or “fame-scale” for that matter.

You want to really separate the men from the boys, the selfish from the true team player, the “entitled” from the dedicated, and the athletes who only watch championships from those who bring them home, this is one piece of the puzzle that very well just might do that.

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