The Heart of an Athlete (Installment #6)
Ethan Cohen, Baseball
Thanks so much for sitting down with us, Ethan!
It is a pleasure to hear what you've learned from your baseball career. And we hope that our readers will find this interview as helpful and insightful as we did!
Interview follows below!
Intro Q & A
Place of Birth and/or Nationality?
Type of Athlete and/or Specific Sport?
Why did you get started doing it and why do you continue doing it in a few sentences?
I started playing baseball when I was 5, it's just something I've always done. I enjoy the challenge of the game because there is something you can always do to be better mentally, physically, and emotionally. I continued to play baseball vs. all the other sports I chose growing up because, well, I was always the best at it! I also enjoyed being on a team and developing connections with other players vs. just being an individual athlete or competing in a sport where you are just there for yourself.
Athlete Q & A
What’s your biggest athletic accomplishment and what made it special?
Probably being 1st team All-American and getting a scholarship to play baseball in college. But, for me, it's never really the big things looking back but, rather, the small stuff. For example, like all the times I stole home, hit homeruns, made key hits in tough situations, and made really good catches. I will always remember the experiences that I gained as baseball player, both the good and the bad. And it's those experiences and opportunities I took to grow, overcome, and get better as a person and athlete are what I really consider my biggest accomplishments.
Most and least favorite thing about baseball and why?
There is a lot of downtime, both when you are playing (in between pitches) and not playing (all the travel). It's a slow game and a really long season; and injuries are very common. It wears you down physically and mentally and it's difficult to stay healthy and energized all the time. My most favorite thing was getting to know my teammates and seeing and playing all over the USA.
Any advice you'd give to your younger self, especially when it comes to maximizing athletic performance and potential?
Tough question, I would say don't do it if it hurts. Take a break and let the pain calm down before you do anymore damage. Focus more and more on correct form and good habits and don't over glorify the hard efforts and pushing the limits. It's okay to rest, there is no shame in that. I would also say to just take your time, take a deep breath, and make small changes and consistent progress vs. just trying to accomplish everything all at once. Finally, I would say think of yourself more of as warrior.
Your biggest challenge overcome?
Baseball can be a very frustrating game, especially as a hitter. You get out and fail, like, a lot. So, the biggest challenge was being able to accept that failure is normal for the game. But, at the same time, also still being able to distinguish what things you can do to improve. There is a fine line between not wanting to improve enough (being complacent) and wanting to improve too much (becoming overworked mentally and physically). Finding the balance between the two takes skill and time; but, when you do, the things you want to have happen just start to finally fall into place naturally.
How do you eat healthy on the road?
It's not easy, that's for sure. But you need to plan ahead and bring the things you need to take care of yourself. I travel with a lot of powders, that's for sure: protein powders, veggie/berry powders, recovery powders, etc. You cannot rely on some random place having what you need to take care of yourself nor can you rely on some random restaurant to have top quality food or healthy food. Avoid fast food like the devil and eat more simply when in doubt. Eggs and chicken are good sources of protein on the road you can usually find decent quality. Go to supermarkets for food. As for eating out, if I had to, I would go to Chinese food restaurants and order steamed veggies, rice, and meat. It's a clean simple meal no matter where you are.
Some top training tips?
Lifting heavy is good, but not everything. Don't overload weight to the point you lose form; prioritize form and muscle and movement patterns first. You can actually do well training bodyweight if you feel the burn. Sprint and run, too; plyometrics are highly underrated. Work on the small muscles, not just the big ones. Workout harder and shorter, 30 mins to 1hr max. Prioritize training your weakness in the gym as these are the things that will exposure you to risk of injury and poor performance more. For skills, it's also important to visualize and video your form from time to time; focus on making small changes at a time. Ask for help. Learn how to breathe correctly and develop a stretching/warmup routine tailored to your body, too.
Now you are done your career, looking back, what are the top three things you can share with other athletes?
One: focus more on your mental game and developing the best attitude towards competition. Be more positive, too. Two: do just more one more rep than you think you can. Three: think, develop, and analyze your craft/skills/sport a lot, but when it's time to compete you cannot think, you have to focus on the right feelings in your body and mind.
How should young baseball players approach the game?
Understand that baseball is a very repetitive game, so make sure to do the small "everyday" things right. Understand a lot of your results are left up to chance and split seconds of difference, so just go with the flow. It's important to watch the game and study it so you can develop a second sense. You cannot think and play at the same time; plan first then act. Be good at spotting pattens. Ask a lot of questions. Don't play "outside" of yourself, a focus on the external; play relaxed and focused from within. Do your best and have fun! Know how to get into the zone quickly and have a solid routine to get your mind ready to play.
Mystery Q & A
You’re leaving for space to populate a new planet, what three things are you definitely going to take with you?
YouTube, my dog Kobi, & my gym.
The best thing you’ve bought in the past year to help improve your health, fitness, and/or performance?
Blood Flow Resistance bands.
What’s your favorite piece of exercise equipment?
Top tips for running bases, hitting homers, and throwing super fast?
When running the bases, you have to cause chaos. When you force the defense to react and get uncomfortable they make mistakes and you can steal bases and get extra bases. If you want to hit homers, don't try to swing with your arms or upper body, focus on loose and quick wrists and where the sweet spot of the bat is going to be. Throwing hard is very common nowadays, but I suggesting lifting really heavy weights and doing tons of rotator cuff exercises.
Favorite Player Past or Present?
Ohhh, that's really hard. Probably Ichiro Suzuki.
Most interesting book you've read in the past 5 years?
Tao Te Ching, The Book Of The Way by Lao Tzu
Idea for a better life, in short?
Give love and you will receive love. Experience new things, never stop learning, and get outside of your comfort zone. Oh, and remember to breathe and smile!
Are you an athlete? Have an awesome story or accomplishment? Interested in just sharing your wisdom with the world?
Well, we'd love to have you (or someone you nominate) be featured on our next installment of The Heart of an Athlete.
Please contact us to be featured.