The Thomson High School baseball regular season came to and end last week with a record of 14-8. The Bulldogs played in a region playoff game to try and earn a spot in the state playoffs. How they do in the playoffs is anybody's guess, but it doesn't really matter right now. I personally witnessed all 22 regular season games and feel prepared to render my verdict on the state of THS baseball.
First of all, there is one thing that I am positively sure about: The luring of Terry Holder into the head coaching spot was a great hire. His past record didn't win a single game in 2006. What it did bring was a degree of credibility to the baseball program that hasn't been there in years.
The main thing that I think the players and their parents, as well as the casual fan like me, learned about Coach Holder is that he is not a recreation coach. He is in the game to win and is willing to do what it takes to develop that attitude within the squad. I don't mean just win regular season games, but to win playoff games and championships.
Only time will tell if the players and their parents totally buy into Holder's approach. I'm hoping that they will. Only time will tell if they will win playoff games and championships. Again, I'm hoping that they will.
There is no guarantee that accepting Coach Holder's approach for the long haul will automatically result in a championship program. Why not? Because the players have to perform. They have to perform not just to the best of their ability, but sometimes even beyond that. They have to perform both physically and mentally on a consistent basis.
The players' performance in 2006 was not consistent. Within the same game, they could look like a million bucks for a couple of innings and totally lost at other times. The team had only two seniors and has a chance to mature into a team of consistency. That maturation process can be enhanced by these kids developing greater mental toughness.
How does a team develop mental toughness? My only suggestion is to force themselves to block out the score of the game, the crowd, girlfriends and anything else that distracts them from focusing on what the coaches have taught. They have to make themselves, even will themselves, to totally bearing down while between those white lines. In other words, seize the moment by the throat, rather than letting the moment seize them.
Athletically, the players appear to have some decent baseball skills. My observation is that becoming physically stronger will help them more than anything. This too won't happen with just getting older. Keeping up the hard work imposed upon them by their coaches and getting involved in a strength training program will be keys to improvement.
The kids in the Thomson High School baseball program are some of McDuffie County's best. They come from supportive parents who want the best for their children. They must realize that they are at the high school level. Having fun is wonderful,but this is the highest level of competition most of these boys will ever play, and it is competitive. The score does count.
When everybody involved with Thomson baseball reaches the point that they want Coach Holder to get on to them instead of hoping that he does not, we'll start to see both consistency and mental toughness from the team. Much of what I'm speaking of is intangible. You can't always see it, but you'll know when it's there.