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How Thinking Like a Fighter Pilot Can Help Your Approach at the Plate

Sometimes the best advice can come from an outside-the-box perspective.

That’s exactly what happened with the Pope High School softball team, who cut down their strikeouts thanks to a military mindset.

The team turned to one of the school’s parents, David Lowe, a fighter pilot in the Gulf War, for a game plan on the diamond.

“He told us about this OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide and Act) system for fighter pilots,” coach Chris Turco said. “We started using that theory to teach our hitters and it has paid huge dividends for both our baseball and softball teams.”

A productive conversation between Turco and Lowe set the foundation.

"Hey man you’re moving at like Mach 2. How does that guy not just blow you up? How do you react to the magnitude of what you’re doing?” Turco said. “Lowe said that the main thing is to prepare for every possible situation when you ever face it and be one move ahead. You need a pre-planned counter attack. In softball, you want to always put the pitcher on the defensive as opposed to having us on the defensive.”

One way of doing that is using a sample size of data.

“We took a look at past seasons; how other pitchers have tried to get us out. For instance, maybe a girl was trying to throw outside all the time. Maybe she was working inside a lot. Or maybe she was working off-speed,” Turco said. “We’ll plan different approaches and practice these changes based on the type of pitcher we might face.”

This immensely helps with the in-game adjustments.

“As the game goes on after the first or second inning, we’ll kind of take a look at what this pitcher is doing and how she’s attacking us,” Turco said. “We’ll tell the girls for example, ‘Hey, this pitcher is a Plan 3, so we need our Plan 3 approach.’ In our girls’ brains they already have a pre-planned attack for each pitcher.”

Being one step ahead of the competition has given the team a mental edge.

“When we actually know how that pitcher is attacking us and we have a plan for it, stick to it and not swing at bad pitches, we’re very effective. It’s a reason we don’t strike out a lot,” Turco said. “We know exactly the type of pitches that we’re looking for.”

While assertiveness is critical, so is having a keen eye.

“Depending on the count there’s certain strikes that are okay to take. If a girl throws at a spot or a speed that we’re not looking for, that’s okay to take,” Turco said. “The ultimate failure is fluke contact on zero strikes. So part of our hitting plan is identifying: what is the pitch that you hit the best, what speed and what location? And then we kind of build a plan around that.”

To reach your ultimate destination, the journey must be analyzed as intellectually as possible.

“As you get into the higher levels of the game, hitter discipline is a big-time difference maker. It all comes with getting a good pitch to hit. I always tell the girls that hitting is like going on a road trip,” Turco said. “If I want to go to Atlanta to Seattle, Washington, I’m going to need a road map or I’m going to get lost. It’s the same way with an at-bat. If I’m at the plate and I want to get a hit, what’s the road map for that? Knowing where you’re going is critical.”

From GameChanger and Rolando Rosa

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