Striving for Excellence

By: Jill E. Wolforth


I’ve been thinking about this topic for several weeks and the final push to write it resulted from having just finished the book Legacy by James Kerr.


Legacy is a book about the ‘All Blacks’, the world’s premiere rugby team from New Zealand.  The book’s subtitle is “What The All Blacks Can Teach Us About The Business of Life.”  It’s an enjoyable and content rich book and I highly recommend it.


There is well known saying “Practice makes perfect”.   A separate takeoff on it is “Practice makes permanent.  Only perfect practice makes perfect.”  For many years I spouted this second mantra but have since changed my stance.


In my opinion, the flaw with this sentiment is that it insinuates our goal is for a perfect practice.  I believe the goal of our practice should be to challenge us beyond our current capabilities and to push us past our comfort zone.  In doing this, we certainly aren’t going to be perfect.


So rather then striving for perfection, I believe we should be striving for excellence.


Striving for excellence often makes people uncomfortable because it’s never ending and expectations are elevated.  The questions now become, “What’s next?   What should we do differently?  How can we make this better?”


In Legacy, the author shares a statement from legendary basketball coach, John Wooden.  Coach Wooden said, “Races are won by a fraction of a second.  National Championship games by a single point.  That fraction of a second or a single point is the result of relevant details performed along the way.”


When Barry Zito was training at The Ranch during his final off-season, I remember him sharing this comment, “Seek excellence and success will find you.”  I deeply believe this holds true in whatever the endeavor.


So where specifically can this be applied in baseball?  There are hundreds of ways, but as I focused on Coach Wooden’s comments, a couple thoughts came to mind on the skill of baserunning.


Many people don’t give a lot of thought or detailed attention to baserunning.  In fact, it’s usually quite casually done in practice or pregame; run from home to second, read a ball from second, tag on a fly from third, etc.  Yet, I can think of numerous games where I’ve seen less than excellent turns, specifically rounding third.  Usually, the scoring of the run is not affected, but I have seen a time or two where that less than excellent turn did indeed impact the play at the plate.  Baseball can be a game of inches and inches lost at third (or any base) can be the difference between safe and out and ultimately a run.


Here’s another often overlooked aspect.  When there is a play at the plate, where is the on-deck hitter?  In my 2017 game observations, less then 33% of the time have I seen the on deck hitter properly positioned behind the plate, locked in and helping his runner.  The other two thirds of the time, he’s being a fan.  In other words, he’s simply off to the side watching the play.  To anyone seeking excellence, that should be unacceptable.


I selected these two examples because I’m quite sure they wouldn’t be at the top of most people’s lists when compiling ways to be excellent on the baseball field.  Yet, I would suggest as Coach Wooden says, they are “relevant details” not to be overlooked.  The bonus is that these “skills” are not difficult to be excellent at performing.  It simply takes a higher expectation.


Will Durant, in summarizing thoughts from Aristotle, said it best, “We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.


We are constantly striving for excellence at The Texas Baseball Ranch®.   We have already sold out one of the summer Elite Pitcher’s Boot Camps. If you would like to join us this summer see if one of the other 5 dates will work for you! Information is available at and click on the Events tab.

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