Understanding your Tools – Mondays with Matt

Greetings and welcome to this week’s edition of Mondays with Matt! This week, I would like to talk to you all about something that is actually a very basic concept. In fact, it is so basic that we often take it for granted and forget to pay attention to it, thus potentially hindering our ability to be the best that we are capable of becoming at our task. Today, we are going to talk about knowing and understanding your tools and taking care of your tools.

As someone who takes parts in activities throughout each and every day, you use tools to accomplish many of your tasks. A writer has pen/pencil and paper. A painter has brushes and a canvas. A pianist has a good piano. A student-athlete has many different tools and equipment that they use depending the sport. In order to be the best that you are capable of becoming and letting your internal skill better your team’s performance, you need to be able to perform. In order to do that, you need to have good equipment – tools that you take care of to make sure that they keep functioning well – and you need to understand their role. A writer not only needs to have a good imagination – they need to have a good pencil as well. A painter needs to have good brushes with the bristles just so. A pianist needs a steady bench and a well-tuned piano. If these things are not maintained and understood by the user, then the quality will suffer and that tool will not be as useful anymore. The same holds true for sports, as well.

Let’s talk about sports equipment for a few minutes. There are a few different components to take into consideration as we look at our tools in sports – our athletic equipment. As we play in our respective sports, we tend to not think about the act of using our tools very much. Typically, as we start, we tend to grab any stick or bat or glove. If it feels good to us, we keep on using it. Feel is certainly an important part of knowing what equipment is best for you.

Why does a certain piece of equipment feel good to us? Many different things factor into this, but it is important to understand a few things. Equipment is a tool. Tools enhance our ability. We each have a certain set of skills and characteristics that make us the player or performer that we are. An artist or writer won’t use a pencil that is too big for them. Why would an athlete use a bat or a stick that is too long for them? They wouldn’t. Or, they shouldn’t.

Let me use myself as an example here. Growing up, I was a typical kid. I liked to try to use big bats because my favorite player was Mo Vaughn – a first baseman and power hitter for the Boston Red Sox in the 1990’s. The problem was that I was not built for a big bat. In my current standing, I am a 5’8” (on a good day) man of medium build. I am not Mo Vaughn. What I eventually discovered was that lighter bats (with natural wood handles that I could feel the grains of) were what felt comfortable to me. I could swing and hit better. I needed a lighter bat. That’s what I mean when talking about understanding your tools and how they fit you. The same goes for any tool or piece of equipment. Understand it’s optimal use and where that level is for you.

The other piece of the equation that needs to be understood is taking care of your tools. Very often, we leave power tools around the yard. We drop a glove in a corner and wonder why it is flat and not great for catching a ball. We use and abuse our cleats and wonder why we can’t run in them very well. Well, we have to take care of our tools if we want them to last a long time. This is not just a lesson from our parents, this is a fact of life. It is not enough to understand your tools. You have to take care of them as well. They are a part of you as you compete and perform. You need to treat them like a part of you and make sure that they are ready to help you be the best that you are capable of becoming.

As we can see, taking care of your tools and maintaining your equipment is an important part of your internal strategy. Understanding the tools of your trade is critical to being able to best use them to add your value to yourself and your game. This is such a simple concept, yet one that we often overlook because it is so fundamentally basic. We can’t perform a task without these tools, so much so that we muscle memorize that mere act of using and selecting our tools. While it is good to be familiar with your tools in that regard, it can pose a danger when we forget why we are using the tool and how.

The next time you take part in a task or go to a sporting goods store to select a piece of athletic equipment, look at it. Observe it. Feel it. Does it work for you? How are you going to care for it? With an understanding of those few concepts, you will make yourself better at the task that you are performing.

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