Well, do you know? Let’s take a little test and find out which side of the brain you use the most. After the test I’ll explain why it’s important to know.
Read the following list of words. Say the color of the word instead of the word itself.
For example, if you see this: RED say “blue” which is the color of the word NOT what the word reads – “red”. See how fast you can go through the whole list!
RED GREEN YELLOW BLACK BLUE RED BLACK
GREEN RED PURPLE GREEN BLUE YELLOW
BLACK PURPLE RED GREEN BLUE YELLOW
PURPLE YELLOW GREEN BLACK RED BLUE
What you just experienced was left-brain / right-brain conflict. Your right brain saw the color but your left brain insisted that you say the word. The conflict made this activity cumbersome, slow and often frustrating. You have been forced to be this way because it is how you learned how to read. You have read this way for many years and it is ingrained in you. Your left brain first wanted to say the word, but then it analyzed the color. Meanwhile, your right brain knew all along the color, but was dominated the whole time by the left brain trying to do a simple right brain job.
How does this apply to baseball? First, let’s look at common right / left brain traits. The right side of the brain is where many subconscious functions are. Right brain functions and traits include imagination, circular motion, creative thoughts, flowing thoughts and actions, and rhythmic movement. The left side rationalizes and analyzes. It is linear, dogmatic, practical, and logical. Things like counting and verbalizing are left brain activities. Things like focusing on images and movements are right brain activities.
A baseball player wants to be a right brain player as much as possible. The problem is that our left side makes easy jobs hard. How can we develop a system to put the left side at bay? How can we keep the left side quiet long enough to get the right side to carry out the baseball task? As baseball players we need balance. We still need the left brain to stage the event (the pitch, the fielding play or the swing) but then we need to “turn it off” just long enough to carry the event out – a right brain activity.
Baseball is the most “on” then “off” again sport. Left brain, right brain, left, right…etc. The problem comes when the left side won’t shut up. It can be distracting – just like the colored word samples above. You can practice the words above over and over and train your left side to tone it down and let your right side get to work. You still need your left side to verbalize (even if just in your own head) the color at the end. True (learned) balance will eventually occur.
The same is true with baseball. We practice and practice until we get to a point where the right side is flowing and the left side keeps track of the things it needs to. Then comes all the variables in a game that takes us out of the flow. In exchange, we get the slower left sides dominating attempt to play the game. The left side can’t just sit idle and allow the situation to self correct. It starts chattering (self talk) and slows everything down to the point where the at bat or the pitch is lost (thrown away). Yogi Berra’s, “You can’t think and hit at the same time” quote is actually very profound.
What the player needs is to develop a system that will put him in the right mindset where he can let his natural ability play the game undistracted when it needs to. The players that develop such systems and that also have the physical ability continue to advance to higher and higher levels of baseball. Even those advancing faster than others can use some help in the development of this part of their game. Such development is beyond the scope of this introduction to right-left baseball. The “how to” will be discussed in future articles.