Each of us is motivated in a variety of ways. Love, fear, hunger, thirst, curiosity, reproduction, social pressures are all elements of motivation. So what motivates a hitter to take extra swings in the batting cage?
What motivates an outfielder sacrifice all sane thought and dive for a ball into a wall?
What motivates a pitcher to perform, knowing that the next day will be filled with arm pain?
Most people would respond with "it's a love of the game," and I would agree. But is this the same love that you have for your mother or you child? Is it the same love you have for your wife or your grandfather? No.
While I am not a psychologist, I am around some of the best players who exercise passion for their skill. Each of them would say that the love they have for their mother or their child is far different than their love of the game.
So why do some people perform a skill like pitching, playing the cello or painting world class masterpieces... and some don't? What is the divider?
I believe it truly is in the saying "for love of the game." But it isn't part of the game, or just the days you have success... it is the whole game! No athlete will tell you it is "for love of when I perform well." The reason is that you cannot sustain high achievement for a long time on just moments of success. You have to truly love every aspect of the skill you perform and you have to be willing to do it just as much when you fail, as when you succeed.
This is the reason that Derek Jeter takes hundreds of "routine" groundballs a week, Yo-Yo Ma practices his scales before any performance and Jerry Rice would repeat routes he'd been running for more than 20 years.
High achievers all value and cherish the opportunity to practice the simplest aspects of their skill because this is what keeps them performing at the highest level. This is also what they come back to when they are struggling and fail to perform at the highest level because they know coming back to the basics will bring them back to succeeding at a high level.
Each day pitchers will meet at the pitching mounds and prepare for focused practice but what will baffle most is they don't have a baseball. There is no catcher; they have not "warmed up" their arms to pitch. They are there solely to practice the simplest part of their game... their pitching mechanics.
This is the same thing a hitter does before he steps into the batter's box, a shooter does before stepping to the free-throw line or a musician does before he walks on stage.
Ask a parent "when do you show your love the most?" It isn't on game day when you cheer or at graduation when your child walks across the stage, it is at midnight when you are still up doing their laundry or a 5 AM when you get up for work early so you can be home in time to help with their homework. Game day and award assemblies are easy, it is the long nights, early mornings and the selfless moments that are true love.
This is the same passion a high achiever has for the skill they love to perform. When you are in a slump or you have a bad pitching performance, that is when you find out which player truly love the game and which just enjoy the success.
Find your "for love of the game" in everyday life and you will find lifelong happiness.
"Fires can't be made with dead embers, nor can enthusiasm be stirred by spiritless men. Enthusiasm in our daily work lightens effort and turns even labor into pleasant tasks."
-- James Baldwin
Mike McCarthy is a fotmer CSUB baseball player who is pitching in the Red Sox organization. He can be reached on Twitter @mmccarthy35.