The Genisis Program

From November 12th to November 18th, 2017 we hosted 6 Cleveland Indians minor league players in the North Carolina Game Lands, which is located just South of the US Army Special Forces Training Facility at Fort Bragg. The goal of this week-long project was twofold: (1) to work closely with each player, allowing him to consider who he is, how he learns, what he does when he comes up against mental and physical obstacles, and (2) to provide challenging situations in which each player could experience, develop, and practice some mental performance skills for working through a set of obstacles.

We had an amazing staff on site: Chris Crider and Jon Wagner joining us from Virginia, and Mike Lerario ( from the Fort Bragg area, served as our Military/Land Navigation Instructors. We were also fortunate to have some Cleveland Indians coaches, Jake Legan and Mark Allen, join us and to bring their professional coaching backgrounds to our project. And Brian Miles and Ceci Clark ran the mental performance component of the program.


Each day started with a deliberate mental preparation (DMP) and focus for the day. This focus led into the tactical training of the day and each day culminated with an AAR (After Action Review or debrief) to help the players connect the relationships between their preparation and focus for that day, the learning objectives of the training, and how they all relate to life in general and baseball more specifically.

Day 1—Keystone Habits: Players arrived the night before and found their way from Raleigh Durham Airport to CaroKen Farm and to the cabin provided. On their bed they found a map, compass, protractor, orange hat and vest, a whistle and an emergency signal pad.

The morning conversation for the first day (DMP) focused on Keystone Habits and Behaviors. Players were asked to explore what their defining behaviors and habits were, both as a man and as a ballplayer.

Our military instructors then started familiarizing the players with the tools needed to carry out land navigation in the woods. Each player learned about maps and how to use a compass and protractor. They learned about 4,6, and 8-digit grids and their pace count (how to know when they had moved 100 meters). At the end of the day, instructors and players all ate dinner together and talked about how sometimes there are key habits and behaviors that a man knows he should have, or that he wants to have, but that may be different from what he actually exhibits or what he has learned to utilize. The next 4 days in the woods provided a great time for each player to explore these identified behaviors and habits.

Day 2—High Quality Confidence: Using the equipment provided and some common sense, the players packed their backpacks for a day of land navigation in the woods – an event that was intentionally foreign and novel for them.

The DMP focused on confidence and what it really is. Perhaps the world of sports has made a mistake by thinking “all confidence is created equal” and that more confidence is always better.

The DMP led into our first day out in the woods. The players worked in two groups, with Chris and Jon leading them through the woods and helping them to see how their map, compass, and protractor work when they were navigating. By the end of the day the players were leading themselves. As we closed out the day, we talked about where the players’ confidence levels were, knowing the next day they would navigate alone. The players noted that figuring out what they understood and what they were struggling with helped them feel more prepared and confident.

Day 3—Survival and Pragmatic Acceptance: When we face an obstacle, the natural human reaction is to push against that obstacle…HARD! However, if that obstacle is formidable, directly pushing against it may not be an option for success.

The morning of day three, the players focused on Acceptance. We talked about how you must be able to fully accept an obstacle or challenge to work through it. It’s hard to be able to accurately see an obstacle if one resists the idea that it exists or worse, refuses to accept it. When dealing with an obstacle we sometimes must look for the small spaces that allow us to fully consider what our obstacle is, clearly see it and develop a strategy that may work around, over, or under it.

Heading into the woods, we knew that players were going to experience some obstacles and possibly get lost a bit on their first day going “solo” (each player was carrying a GPS tracking device that allowed us to “see” exactly where they were at all times). The players completed individual land navigation, finding five different points and moving approximate distances of 1200 meters between points.

Day 4- Focus: “There is always a countermove, always an escape or a way through, so there is no reason to get worked up. No one said it would be easy and, of course, the stakes are high, but the path is there for those ready to take it” – from The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Day four DMP we expanded on the concept of acceptance, and started the day talking about how acceptance can help one to slow a situation down, and to fully understand what the challenge in front of him is. Our pitchers talked about how after someone has scored some runs on them, they will sometimes try to push through that moment versus accepting it and devising the best route forward to compete at their optimal level; this dialogue confirmed their understanding of the concept of acceptance. This form of acceptance can help players find their breaks in a situation, which are often overlooked when they are feeling pressured and speeding up. Once an obstacle is understood the next step is how to move forward; this is where Focus comes into play.

The players were now ready for longer distances in the woods, and moved more than 1600 meters during each movement. Players needed to be more accurate in their measurements and decisions with their protractor and compass. Any small deviation in measurement would make a player arrive over 200 meters away from his intended location, meaning that in thick woods, the player was essentially lost. This created some added obstacles for the players to work through and they were able to highlight more examples of their own experiences with acceptance, and then practice refocusing.

Day 5—Character Traits: Three days in the woods down; two completely on their own. Our players had lived in a cabin where they started their own fire each morning and night for heat. They cooked for themselves and now on Day 5, could even drive to our training grounds on their own. They now packed for each day with no oversight needed and were able to manage what was needed in terms of tools, food, and water considering the weather. They were learning and growing and taking this serious—we heard that bedtime was around 9pm each night due to the length of time and amount of energy spent in the woods each day.

So now that you have had a week full of new skills, obstacles, challenges, and no one responsible for your success or failure but yourself…who are you really?

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