Rethinking Success – Building a Process Oriented Athlete

Goal setting is incredibly important for athletes who strive to get the best out of their abilities. It’s a way to push the limits of what you can do, monitor progress, and receive satisfaction when you achieve things you set out to do. Regardless of how big or small these goals are, we’re going to focus on two types of goals today: process and outcome oriented goals.


Outcome oriented goals are goals that deal with end results you wish to achieve. On the baseball diamond, some outcome based goals could be getting a base hit, hitting .350 on the season, winning a local tournament, or earning a college scholarship to play baseball. Outside the baseball diamond, some goals could be to lose 10 pounds, earn a 4.0 GPA, or find a new job in a field of interest.


On the other hand, process oriented goals are goals that focus on how you take steps to achieve outcome based goals. If your goal is to hit .350 on the season, some process goals would be attacking your weaknesses in training, learning how to take a quality deep breath, and developing a consistent preparation routine. If your goal is to earn a college scholarship to play baseball, some of your process based goals could be lifting weights three times per week, putting together film of yourself, and reaching out to college coaches of schools you’re interested in.


If losing 10 pounds is your outcome based goal, your process goals could be sweating every day, cleaning up your diet, and keeping track of your calorie consumption. If you want a 4.0 GPA some process goals could be studying each class every night for a period of time, being involved in class discussions, and asking teachers questions about learning material. If you’re in the middle of a job search, some process goals could be building a resume, reaching out to different companies, and honing your craft daily to make yourself a more attractive option.


The big overarching difference between process and outcome oriented goals is the control you have over each. Process goals are things that you have complete control over. There are no barriers to doing things like showing up, working on your weaknesses, and asking for help. The only one stopping you is you. We can influence outcome based goals and tip them in our favor, but we can never have complete control over them. You can completely crush your process goals and put yourself in the best possible position to achieve your outcome based goals, but it doesn’t guarantee you success.


There are always going to be things outside of our control. We can do everything right and hit four baseballs right on the screws, but all we’ll have to show for it is an 0-4 day if we hit all of them right at the center fielder. If we are constantly worried about our outcome based goals without a process behind them, our confidence will slowly erode until there is nothing left (see Syndergaard).


This is why creating process goals is so huge as a player: They gives us confidence by knowing we’ve done everything we can to prepare for what’s to come. When our confidence grows, our skills improve, we trust the work we’ve put in, and we start to see the results on the field. Whether we have our A, B, or C game, we know we’ll always have our process. If we show up everyday and commit to it, our outcome based goals will start to take care of themselves – not the other way around.


Building your process


Alan Jaeger of Jaeger Sports is a huge advocate for the importance of athletes to build an in-game process through process oriented goals. In his work with athletes, he recommends players pick 3-4 simple, attainable process goals to focus on when competing. The idea is not to do a lot of things fairly well – it’s to do a few things really well.


Below are some ideas on what athletes can choose from to develop their own personal process. While some ideas are individualized, others are things we strongly recommend for all athletes (ex: breathing).




  1. Take a quality deep breath.
    1. Everything starts with the breath. Release the past pitch, slow your heart rate, get yourself under control. See our post “Just Breathe” for more information on what the breath can do for you.
    2. Watch MLB hitters between pitches – they are great examples for how to take a quality deep breath.
  2. See ball, hit ball.
    1. Keep it simple – the less you think, the better you perform.
  3. Visualize yourself hitting hard line drives
    1. Building positive images in your mind is a powerful tool. See our last post for more information about this.
  4. Recite a mantra
    1. Keep it short, sweet, and supportive (hit it hard, see it up, next pitch)
  5. Mechanical cue
    1. Small action to remind you about a helpful mechanical cue (feeling the back elbow slot, front shoulder down, front knee brace)
  6. Physical release
    1. Letting go of the last pitch through a physical cue (Picking a handful of dirt, wiping away the rubber (watch Justin Verlander pitch), taking your hat off)




  1. Take a quality deep breath
    1. For the reasons above – we’re at our best when we’re calm, confident, and in control.
    2. See Kevin Abel’s breathing routine from when he threw in the 2018 College World Series championship game. You can also read up about his process here.
    3. David Price from the 2018 World Series
    4. Justin Verlander bullpen
  2. Pick out a specific target
    1. Aim small, miss small (pocket of the catcher’s glove)
  3. Visualize the intended pitch
    1. See exactly what that pitch looks like, how it’s going to finish. See the last 15 feet of flight.
    2. Jake Arrietta, Orel Hershiser.   
  4. Recite a mantra
    1. Commit to this pitch, next pitch (see Stephen Strasburg), you’re in control, through the mitt
  5. Commit through your target
    1. There can’t be any doubt you’re going to throw it through your visual with 100%  conviction (see Kershaw, Bumgarner, Rivera, Harvey).
  6. Physical release
    1. Take your glove off and rub the ball, step behind the rubber, take your hat off




  1. Take a quality deep breath
    1. See a theme?
  2. See the field, scoreboard
    1. Know the situation
  3. Visualize the play unfold
    1. Anticipate the ball coming to you, making a play
  4. Recite a mantra
    1. Give me the ball, next pitch, out front, through the mitt
  5. Step into the circle
    1. Everyone in the field needs some sort of pre-pitch movement


When you’ve chosen a process that makes sense for yourself, write it down on paper. Place it in a spot where you can see it all the time. Remind yourself of it on a daily basis. Talk to your coach about it so you’re both on the same page.


Whenever you train, go through your process. Grade yourself on how well you executed your process. If you three 25 pitches, how many of them were you fully committed to your process? Out of all your swings, how many of them did you take not committed? How did we react after a few bad outcomes in a row? Did we get frustrated and let the game speed up or did we go back to our process? If we want to be able to slow the game down and build confidence in our abilities, we must learn how to crush our process every time we touch a bat or a ball.

As always, feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns. Keep learning, growing, and crushing your process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *