After a 3-year hiatus due to Covid and staff turnover, the Miami University Middletown baseball program returned this fall and defied all expectations. How did the youngest college baseball team in the country, led by a coach with no prior experience coaching college baseball, achieve a 12-5 record – the best winning-percentage in program history and first winning-season since 2000? Focus.
With such a young roster, comprised of 20 freshmen and 1 sophomore, Coach Adams recognized the importance of taking stress off his players. The key tool he used to do so was the Focus app, which he co-founded with Lighthouse Technologies CEO and President Jeff Van Fleet. By using the app to measure hustle stats – actions that require concentration and effort, not talent – the team cultivated a culture of controllable improvement and success. Robby Adams, a freshman on the team shared:
“Focus simplifies the game for the players. In baseball, you can really get in your head a lot. But with Focus, it’s about the things you can control.”
For example, the team used the app to measure contact-swing percentages rather than batting averages. In fact, Coach Adams said he didn’t know the batting average of a single player on the team. Contact-swing percentage is simply measured by whether a player swings and makes contact (even if it’s a foul ball). This simplifies the game for batters by allowing them to break down every at-bat by pitch. Rather than worrying too much about getting a hit, they just have to think: “make contact, drive the ball, hit hard.”
The team also benefited from the Focus app’s visual graphs. At the beginning of the season, Robby’s contact swing-percentage was consistently 75-80% until he saw his individual-player graph on the app drop down to the 50’s. This visual representation of his contact-swing percentage allowed him to quickly identify and address what he was struggling with. He soon realized he had become too focused on hitting far rather than simply making contact, and unknowingly adjusted his technique accordingly. After refocusing on contact-swing percentage, his overall batting performance improved as a direct result. “That’s what Focus has really helped me with,” he said, “It shows me: I’m struggling, and here’s why.”
In addition to contact-swing percentage, the team measured “sprint through 1st-base”. This ensured their batters sprinted through 1st-base EVERY TIME they hit a ball in play. It also put pressure on the opposing fielders because they knew if they bobbled the ball or were off target with a throw, the ThunderHawks would be safe. The opposing teams knew they needed to be perfect or they would pay a price, whereas the ThunderHawks knew they simply just needed to focus on sprinting.
Coach Adams also used Focus to take pressure off his pitchers by measuring first-pitch strike percentages – which they threw 70% of this Fall season. Since Coach Adams challenges his pitchers to throw first-pitch strikes, he removes additional pressure from them by taking responsibility for any homeruns they give up. Rather than worrying about how many strikeouts they get, their pitchers can focus on getting ahead of the opposing hitter, challenging them to hit the ball and trusting their defense to make the play if needed. Coach Adams emphasized:
“We don’t sit back and hope something happens – We make something happen. The Focus app helps us focus on what we need to do to make things happen.”
Another key benefit of using Focus for Coach Adams is its ability to measure attitude. If their pitcher gives up a homerun or a batter strikes out, do they show negative emotion? Robby noted how opponents can sense weakness as a result of reacting negatively to frustrating situations: “If our opponent is bickering in the dugout, then we know we’ve won. Likewise, if one of our players slips up and throws their helmet, it will spiral, and the other team will know they have won.”
That’s why Coach Adams measures attitude and enforces a “No Negativity Policy”. He has learned that measuring attitude not only holds players accountable for their actions but creates an environment and culture where positivity and fun can thrive. This proved to be a huge advantage for the ThunderHawks. As a young and inexperienced team, their opponents often went into games expecting little competition. When the opposite proved to be true, their competitors often became frustrated and choked from the unexpected pressure. Since Coach Adams relieved pressure from his team by measuring hustle, allowing them to just play for fun, this positive attitude worked in their favor every time.
Not only did Focus give the ThunderHawks a competitive advantage on the field, but also during recruitment. The app proved to be a unique and valuable tool that resonated with prospective players and differentiated them from other teams. A year ago, the Miami Middletown baseball program had nothing: no team, no field, no baseballs, no uniforms. Now, they have a team who has overcome all odds and defied all expectations. Coach Adams believes this is a result of his team believing in each other and believing in Focus.
If you are reading this, you are likely already on a team, whether it’s an athletic team, a software development team, or a business team, etc. If you want to build a stronger team culture and beat your competition, visit The Coach and The Geek to learn more about Focus!