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A Positive Attitude Toward Performance
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A Positive Attitude Toward Performance

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Things were not looking good. We were down 7 to 1 in the fifth inning.

Our opponents, Hillside Team #9, were the bullies of the league. Their lineup was stacked. They had won ten straight games by the 10 run rule. They didn’t play to win; they played for blood. They had won their last eleven games by the ten run rule. In our last game with them, we, too, had suffered the ignominy of the mercy rule.

And, Murphy was pitching. He didn’t really pitch. He threw fire. Most of our players only heard the slap of the ball in the catcher’s mitt and the ump’s “steerike” call before they were even ready. Rumor had it that no one had put the ball in play off of him since the second game of the season.

But, we had managed to put one run on the board. Against Team #9, it was a moral victory. But, in the home half of the last inning, we were down to our last two outs.

My son came up to bat and Murphy, effortlessly, ran the count to 0-2. There is a certain value to positive thinking and this was something that I had preached to the kids since the first practice. The kids were always positive and came to the plate thinking that they would get a hit. Murphy’s third pitch was some low heat. My son made contact right on the button and drove the ball to the shortstop. The ball caromed off the heel of the shortstop’s glove and fell about six feet in front of him. My son scampered to first, safe on an error.

Murphy was incensed. He turned to the shortstop and berated him. His language, vile and unseemly, made most of the parents blush. A hush came over the crowd. The shortstop hung his head in dejection having been dressed down by the team’s best player. Our dugout erupted in enthusiasm.

Donovan, our next batter, hit a grounder to the second baseman. A double play ball. The second baseman, though, missed the play. We had runners on first and second. Murphy was beside himself with rage. He laid into the second baseman. His tirade seemed to last for minutes. It was only seconds, but the damage was done.

I had never seen a negative attitude travel faster than I did on that day. To a person, every player on Hillside Team #9 hung his head abjectly. Their body language screamed negativity.

I could recount the drama for you; however, you didn’t join Dojo U to learn how David beat Goliath on that memorable day. Suffice it to say that through a combination of walks and hits, we scored seven runs to win the game 8 to 1.

Baseball, like the great Highland bagpipe, is not kind to those who play. The most successful hitters, at the professional level, get a hit three times out of ten. Failure is so ingrained into the baseball fabric that there is a special place on the scoreboard that documents when a defensive player makes a faux pas; the scoreboard records runs, hits, and errors.

As competitors, we need to stand up in front of a judge and play for two or three minutes, or more if we are playing in a band. If we make a mistake, the judge, pen in hand, reaches for the score sheet. Even a few mistakes can keep an otherwise perfect performer off the podium.

Baseball players often talk about having short-term memory. After a strike out or an error, they put it out of their minds and move on. If players dwell on a mistake, it can affect their performance on the field or during their next at bat. A negative attitude can, as it did for Hillside Team #9, spread like wildfire and have a negative affect on everyone’s performance.

We are like baseball players in that regard. We need to cultivate a positive attitude that is balanced by a certain amount of criticism from ourselves as well as others. If we make a mistake during a competition, we need to put it out of our minds and move on. We don’t have the luxury of walking back to the dugout after an error. We need to let the mistake go, immediately. Don't berate yourself or beat yourself up. There will be time to learn from the mistake later. In the time being, we can get the movement right on the repeat. We need to have a very short-term memory and not let a negative attitude overtake us during a performance. If you focus on the mistake, you are not focusing on getting the tune right; more mistakes can creep in. Finish the tune or the set in style.

And, if you are one of the stars in your band, don’t be like Murphy. Quite frankly, this applies to everyone in the band. Berating a teammate in front of the entire team rarely, if ever, achieves the intended result. If you are one of the better players in your unit, your band mates look up to you. They admire you for the skills that you have developed and respect the suggestions that you offer for improvement. Keep a positive attitude when you offer criticism, lace it with suggestions on how to correct the mistake. Work with individuals and help them to improve rather than dressing them down. You will be a better person for it; your band will be a better band for it.

Take Action

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Mark Olson Mark Olson is a software engineer in Omaha, NE. Over the years, he has played numerous musical instruments including the bagpipes, guitar, piano, flute, and saxophone. As a young man, Mark competed as a solo piper. Due to the demands of raising a family, Mark had to forgo his musical pursuits. While he regrets the fact he gave up the bagpipes, he is proud of the fact that both of his sons have grown to be fine young men. With the nest now empty, he has picked up the pipes once again. If he gets his chops, and his groove, back, he plans to compete again as a solo piper.

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