As some of you know, I just finished coaching the local middle school baseball team which put me back on the diamond for the first time in 23 years. Well, except my first ever adventure at playing softball last fall, but that story is for another time. The team consisted of 10-13 year olds that didn’t really have the fundamentals down. Many had never played baseball before at all. It was a bit of a surprise to me since I started playing at 6, but you work with what you got. Back when I played, hitting was my thing. Not power, but consistency. I actually never hit a home run, but kept my average well over .400 for my entire high school career. Naturally, that is what I gravitated to while coaching. The boys needed a lot of work, and even the good hitters were not proficient enough to be comfortable at the plate.
While I was working with these boys, the other coaches as well as the physical and mental dynamics of this team; I reflected a lot on trading and investing. It was just what my psyche needed. One of the biggest things you learn in sports is that practice and repetition is what you need to make all of your skills second nature. Repetition creates consistency! I don’t need to remind most of you my opinion on working hard and doing your homework; you get it. But just like in trading, there is one more part of the equation you have to master. Mark Douglas in The Disciplined Trader and Trading in the Zone ( both MUST reads if you haven’t; if you have, read them again….and again.) called it being in the NOW moment, and that turned out to be the key to getting these boys hitting as well. About half way through the season (after countless hours of hitting drills and BP), It didn’t matter whether it was batting practice or the game, I realized the majority of them were Swinging at the last pitch. It seems I had discovered the key mental dynamic of batting. Just like in trading you can do all the excellent analysis you want, but if your mind is not in the NOW moment, you won’t see the pitch coming at you.
It is easy to do. You come up to the plate thinking that you are going to nail this one. You have the skill, now you just need to put it into action. The first pitch comes in low and outside. You swing and foul it off. Strike 1. You can’t believe you swung, but you were excited and you got a piece of it. You will get the next one, but only on a strike because you shouldn’t have swung at that last one. Then the second pitch is a fastball straight down the pipe. Amazingly you don’t swing! What! You just watched it go right by you. Why? You were swinging (or not swinging) at the last pitch. Now you are mad at yourself, disbelief and disgust. You have to concentrate harder, because you are not going to just sit there like a bump on a log. One strike left and you need this hit. The pitcher winds up and releases at terrible attempt at a curve ball and it sails in high and outside (a vulnerable spot for many batters). You are so ready…..you swing and miss! Strike 3, Yeerrrrrrr OUT! Are you kidding me? why did you swing at that pitch? Well, actually, you didn’t. The only pitch you really swung at in that whole sequence was the first one. The other two you were still stuck on the previous pitch. I don’t know if I really need to draw the direct parallels to trading. Again, I think you get it. We often spend too much time focusing on the last loser, and it keeps us from being in the zone and using the skills we have so diligently honed over time to extract the opportunities our edge provides.
The good thing about batting and trading is there is always another “at bat” just around the corner as long as you stay in the game. The more you play the more your chances to make those skills second nature. The ability to play the game from instinct grows each and every swing. That said, if get your mental capital tied up in a previous trade you will continue to swing at the pitch you want back. It doesn’t matter what stage of trader you are, staying in the NOW moment is something every trader should remain conscious of., mainly because life happens. We can’t control “life” but keeping our skills honed and knowing that next opportunity is just around the corner can help keep it in perspective.
Train hard and always Swing at the pitch that is coming….NOW!
Good Luck, it is there for the making!