How Losing the Vision in My Right Eye Helped Me See the Power of Self-Coaching

Today's edition is a guest post by Tony Amezcua.

My good friend and co-author of Take Charge of You, Jason Goldsmith, tells his clients, “There’s no such thing as failure, only experience.” As a performance coach Jason often works with clients who are experiencing setbacks in their careers, teaching them powerful self-coaching techniques they can use in every facet of their lives. This week’s guest contributor, Tony Amezcua, was one of Jason’s clients. A former pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, Tony now pitches professionally in the Mexican Baseball League, despite losing vision in his right eye mid-career, due to a detached retina. Tony is an inspiring example of perseverance and of the profound impact self-coaching can have on your performance, both on and off the field.

By Tony Amezcua:

Good coaches know how to talk. Great coaches know how to listen. That’s been my experience, starting with my dad, who would come home after 12-hour days working construction in the hot Texas sun and throw me grounders in the backyard or catch while I hit off the tee for hours. I was just a kid, but that’s not how he coached and listened to me. When I talked to my dad, I felt heard. He took me seriously as a person and a player, and as a result, so did I.

When I was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds at 18, it was my first time being away from my home and family. Again, I was just a kid. Professionalism—and all the responsibility that goes with it—was new to me. If stretching started at 2 pm, we were expected to be on the field at 1:45. Early was on time. And I—somewhat complainingly—wanted to know why. Our coach, Tony Fossas, could easily have said, “because I’m the coach, and I said so, you punk.” But he didn’t. He listened to the question. Respected it. And in respecting the question, he showed he respected me. He said, the way you treat the little things is everything, because those little things add up over time. We can’t accomplish anything big without mastering the little things. Showing up early was a little thing that meant we could be fully present when stretching was scheduled to start.

When I lost the vision in my right eye, I thought my baseball career was over. What team would want a one-eyed pitcher? That’s where Jason Goldsmith came in, with coaching techniques that were literally game-changing. He said, “Why just assume you won’t be able to pitch as well as you did before? Why not try first, and see what happens?” We got back on the mound. But my depth perception was profoundly off. I could see the pitch in my mind’s eye—but I couldn’t make it happen. The ball wouldn’t go where I wanted it to. And the frustration became overwhelming. I’d throw a bad pitch, and negative thoughts and emotions would crash over me like a wave, knocking me off my game. Seeing how I would get swept away, Jason taught me how to quiet my mind and return to a neutral state, so I could do what the best coaches do—and listen. To myself.

Being able to put myself in a neutral state has been key to my success—not just as a pitcher, but in life. It allows me to quiet all the voices—the frustrated voice, the angry voice, the voice that says “you can’t do it”—and focus only on the pitch. I start with conscious breathing. Just focusing on my breath—in and out—nothing else. Jason and I started with just one minute of this. Eventually I worked my way up to lengthier meditation, which is part of my daily practice today.

I learned full body awareness. Where are my feet? Where are my hands? Where is my center of gravity? When I’m aware of my body, my mind is free to visualize where my body has to go, and I’m not distracted. The negative feelings attached to the previous pitch dissipate when I focus on my body and my breath. And when I hear a negative thought creep in, I see it for what it is—just a thought—and return to my breathing.

 Jason taught me the power of journaling, which is another way of coaching and listening to yourself. He’d have me rate the effectiveness of each day’s workout, on a scale of one to ten. If I rated it a four, he’d ask me to reflect on what would make it a five. I’d imagine it. I’d write it down. The next workout would be better.

Pitch by pitch, I built back my belief in myself. And game by game, I showed my club that I could still win. I will be forever grateful to Jason for giving me the roadmap to coach myself back to success.

 The results I saw from self-coaching were so inspiring, I felt compelled to share what I’d learned. So, in the off season, I started coaching kids as young as 8, arming them with the same tools. We start each lesson with a breathing exercise. We end each practice with a journal entry and quiet reflection about what will make tomorrow better than today. Like any good coach, I observe and listen to each kid to understand where—and how—I can help them improve their game. Every kid needs something a little bit different, but I have yet to find a kid who doesn’t benefit from the basics of self-coaching.

 Coaching has been a full- circle moment for me. I learned from a coach how to coach myself, and now I coach kids to do the same. I have no doubt, when I look at these kids, the self-coaching cycle will continue.

David and Jason talk about the value of having your own “personal highlights reel” to keep the positive experiences in your life top of mind. Sharing my story of self-coaching has been one of those highlights, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to put these tools into practice for myself and others every day.

How will you use the tools?

It’s such a thrill to see how many ways the self-coaching tools in Take Charge of You are being put into practice out in the world. Like Tony, other amazing athletes like Alex Rodriguez, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas have shared how they are enjoying the book and applying the self-coaching tools within. What aspects of Tony’s story resonated with you? Have you had success putting yourself in a neutral state—or do you still have trouble quieting your mind to focus on the task at hand? 

April 19, 2022