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How to Keep Winning… After Winning Everything: An Interview With SF Giants Derin McMains

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I am excited to share with you a conversation I recently had with the San Francisco Giants’ Mental Strength Specialist, Derin McMains. It was a timely discussion as the Giants just won the World Series and we talked about how to stay resilient after a success. I hope you have time to listen to the podcast and read the summary notes below. Derin has some sharp points to help any coach lead their athletes.

 

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Here are a few notes from our discussion…

What does winning do to a team? Mentally, what does that do to a club?

The biggest and most exciting thing is the confidence it builds and the credibility it brings. There’s a ripple effect it can have through a staff, organization and a city, as well as the positive attitude that comes from that.

However, if you come from a program of success, we are tempted to use taglines as a form of persuasion instead of remembering that trust starts at zero with any new player or staff member. People trust people; they don’t trust accomplishments. So it’s important to continue building strong relationships.

You just reminded me of a statement I use when I teach Rivers and Floods: Both success and failure can be enemies of focus. Success can be an enemy because if you do one thing well, people tend to pile more on you. Failure can be an enemy because you may start to question everything. In your experience, do past successes cause players to let their guard down?

When you win, everyone’s expectations go up. Our brains change the goalpost for success. So with every success, we need to elevate our intentions, not our expectations. I tell our players to make sure we elevate our intentions with every success.

I think we’ve all heard the phrase: The greatest enemy of tomorrow’s success is today’s success. At the same time, I’ve heard you say baseball is a game of failure, so I would think you have a lot of guys playing baseball that struggle with that negativity. How can coaches help players guard against the pitfalls of success and failure?

I think that understanding the power of words is huge. I always share with my players that failure is a learning experience. Mastery is not attainable, but excellence is. What’s more, there’s so much you can’t control in baseball – but two things you can control are your attitude and your preparation, and if you remain coachable, you can continue to grow.

What kinds of things do you do to equip athletes mentally when it comes to continued improvement? Things that a high school or college coach could do as well?

In sustaining resilience after you’ve had success, I think one thing we forget to do is celebrate the success. This can really help to keep athletes from burning out. When you share joy, it doubles, and when you share grief, you cut it in half.

I have one more question for you. As we’ve mentioned, baseball is a game of failure, but other sports aren’t necessarily like that. There can be young, gifted athletes who have always been the best. What do you say and do to help your gifted athletes have perspective? What is the mental key?

One thing that’s hit home for some of the football and baseball players that I’ve worked with in the past is to draw a diagram and ask the player how long they want to live. I then break up that time into increments of ten years, depending on the sport, and I show them how long they are going to get to play that sport. The realization is that they are going to be a non-player a lot longer than they are going to be a player. This gives them a big picture perspective and helps them to make the most of every opportunity. What’s more, they begin to understand that what they do as a player will affect them as a non-player.

 

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How to Keep Winning... After Winning Everything: An Interview With SF Giants Derin McMains