Feb. 22, 2013
Yogi Berra once said that "baseball is 99 percent mental and the other half is physical."
Basic arithmetic aside, his point is a valid one. For baseball players, the mental side of the game is often more important to success than having all of the physical abilities.
With that in mind, Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano brought a specialist in this fall and spring to help his youthful and inexperienced squad begin the process of mental conditioning. That specialist was best-selling author and longtime friend to various Serrano programs, Brian Cain.
In addition to his work with Serrano at both Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine, Cain has also helped a wide variety of collegiate teams in sports ranging from lacrosse to ice hockey to women's tennis and beyond win countless conference and NCAA championships over the past decade.
Typically very careful with which teams he has Cain work with in order to make sure they are fully prepared to buy into his system, Serrano had no hesitation bringing him in to work with his second group of Volunteers.
"I don't think there is any better year to bring someone in to work with our team on the mental game than this year because we have so many new faces that are hitting the Division I trail right away, right out of the gate," Serrano said. "He continues to reiterate the mental toughness and things we have to do when the game starts going fast on us. We have to start using those skills when the game does start going fast, because it does go fast for all of us, just like life. Life speeds up on us and sometimes we just have to pull back, take a deep breath, gather our thoughts and continue to plug forward."
Cain, who spent nearly two weeks with the Vols, has helped this year's team gain a better understanding of the process for accomplishing that. In order to slow the game down, you have to first train yourself to be more comfortable in situations when it is going too fast.
"One of the main concepts of mental conditioning is being comfortable being uncomfortable," Cain said. "When you play in the SEC and you are in front of crowds of 12-13,000 people and they are saying things to you that if you said in public you would probably get in a street fight with them, you have to learn to be uncomfortable and you have to learn to do things on a whim that are uncomfortable and just get comfortable in that environment."
Cain has some rather unique techniques that he uses to preach that mantra.
"We have them eat fire, and eating fire is about the fundamentals of confidence," Cain said. "Acting big and carrying yourself with that confidence and swagger, breathing big to make sure that you are in the present moment and committing big to what it is so there is no second-guessing your actions. You are totally into and committed to that action.
"We have also gone through breathing exercises to get them to train their mind to stay in the present moment just like you play one pitch at a time. We have done team-building exercises where we get guys to come up with Level-10 energy in front of their teammates and kind of get in their face, come unglued and get outside their comfort zone to be able to take that energy to the next level because if you are going to play championship baseball, you have to be able to kick it up to a certain notch every time."
In order to simplify all of the concepts above into a single, easy-to-remember saying, Cain and the Vols came up with a maxim that UT fans will undoubtedly hear throughout the entire 2013 campaign: WEUT.
"WEUT is something that came from the players and from the staff when I was here in the fall," Cain said. "We had them all write down three to four words that described what it meant to be a Tennessee baseball player and who they needed to become to give themselves the best chance for the spring. When you wrote those down, we took all these words and put them together and you could see which words were used the most often and the words that were used most often were competitive, confident, toughness, commitment, effort, character, pride, discipline, doing the little things, we, being together, and they came up with WEUT.
"We are the University of Tennessee, WEUT. It has kind of taken a life of its own as their battle cry, where they have the orange train is coming. That means they are going to come out there to play and they are going to play with a relentless effort, attention to detail, they are going to play with that discipline and energy that often a Dave Serrano program is known for."
Although the 2013 campaign is only just beginning, this year's crop of Volunteers is determined to be the one that sets the ship right for Tennessee baseball, guided by the principles they have learned from Cain.
"This group of guys that is going through this battle together, there has never been a Team 104 at Tennessee and there is never going to be another Team 104," Cain said. "So we talked about what is the legacy that this team, Team 104, is going to leave behind. They want to leave behind a legacy of `We,' a legacy of togetherness, a legacy of a culture of people that did everything together and came together because that is what they thought was going to make them the best team in the country."
W E U T
We play with confidence,
toughness and a relentless effort
to win this pitch.
We are disciplined,
and take pride in
doing the little things right.
We fight together,
We die together
And We WIN together
We are committed to our family,
Tennessee and TEAM 104
W E U T