Before the last Super Bowl, mental trainer Jean-François Ménard offered his advice to Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, then this summer, he was to accompany many athletes to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Instead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the postponement of the Games, he put his skills to work for a minor baseball team in Laval, achieving unexpected results.
“Whether we are addressing young people aged 6-7 or Olympic athletes, they are a bit the same techniques, but they must be explained differently”, summarizes Ménard, visibly proud of the course achieved with the Red Sox de Laval-Est, with which his son Niko notably evolved.
Even though they were pitted against older players, the Red Sox came through the summer season without suffering a single setback. Record of 13 victories, no losses and a draw in the regular season, then four more victories in the regional finals to be crowned Atom B champions. However, we are talking about players who, at the start, had to play in the “tee-ball” category. .
“It has really been a dream season,” Ménard described, paying tribute first and foremost to the young players. When you take an athlete, you have to direct your thoughts towards success and immediately they become much more confident. ”
The Laval-Est Red Sox
Visualize without knowing it
Sharing the credit with the other coaches on the team, the mental coach has tons of examples to illustrate the techniques he has used during the recent Red Sox season.
“We had a hitter who often slammed arrows on shortstop or third base. Before a batting appearance, I asked him where he wanted to hit the ball. He answered me first from the other side of the fence. A suggestion was made to identify a more realistic goal and he said “over the shortstop”. I suggested that he imagine the hit in his head. The kid had no idea then that I was asking him to do visualization, but he came up to bat and he hit hard directly over the shortstop. ”
The little story goes that the young player would have had time to make a home run on the streak. However, he was so amazed by what had just happened that he stopped momentarily at the first cushion, looking at Ménard before continuing to second base to settle for a double.
The mental trainer, also author of the book The Olympian at the office published in 2019, laughs heartily.
The art of narrow focus
Ménard comes to share another concept that he previously applied to the Duvernay-Tardif, Mikaël Kingsbury (freestyle skiing), Antoine Valois-Fortier (judo), Marie-Ève Dicaire (boxing) and other clients.
“If I take the example of Laurent and the Super Bowl, there were a lot of distractions around this event. Instead of looking too wide, athletes are suggested to have narrow focus. In Laurent's case, the goal was to focus only on the guy in front of him and where he was going to put his hand to block his opponent. This summer, in minor baseball, I suggested to the kids, instead of saying “look at the ball”, which is a bit wide, to aim for a particular seam on the ball. And it worked! ”
Give and take
Most recently, Ménard sat down with the other coaches to take stock of a summer that will be forever etched in their memories.
“Our observation is that we also learned a lot from these 'kids',” noted the mental trainer. We had established rules at the beginning so that they become better players, but especially better human beings. You had to arrive on time, have a good attitude, be respectful towards others and encourage your teammates. ”
It is undoubtedly by observing these same rules themselves that Ménard and the other coaches gave the youngsters of the Laval-Est Red Sox an unforgettable season.