The A, B, C's of Becoming a Better Cornhole Player Backed By Science
Updated: Dec 15, 2019
And Practical Ways To Do It
"A Handshake for the Century"
On the afternoon of April 18, 1946, George Shuba made history by congratulating Jackie Robinson on his home run.
The moment will be commemorated forever by a 7 ft statue being erected in Youngstown, Ohio. It memorializes the first interracial handshake in a professional baseball game.
George Shuba was not only a civil rights badass, but he also was a record setting professional baseball player, and what was his secret?
He played major league baseball for 7 years, went to the world series 3 times, and won the World Series Championship in 1955. His line drives were famous for their accuracy and he was the first National league player to pinch hit home run in a World Series game.
A reporter asked him how his swing was so "natural". Not answering, Shuba took him downstairs to his dark basement. He started swinging his bat, each time with a focus on a different type of pitch. After every 60 swings he would mark an X on the wall. The reporter turned on the lights and noticed that all the walls of the basement were covered in X's.
Shuba remarked that there was nothing natural about his swing.
Showing up and playing is the obvious first step to mastery, but his real secret? Deliberate practice.
While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, "Deliberate Practice" requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance.
Here is a science-backed list of strategies and tactics to become a jedi master-level cornhole player. Join the A, B, C Cornhole Journey.
A = Attitude
Distracted and mindless cornhole practice is like trying to get fit slogging away on the elliptical while watching Oprah.
Stillness according to Ryan Holiday is "to be steady while the world spins around you. The stillness that we all seek is the path to ... excellence" and mastery at cornhole.
Mindless activity is automatic. Mindful activity is the opposite - - it's active learning that is engaged, focused, and aware. When was the last time you actually got "better" at tying your shoes?
If it's an automatic action, you're not getting any better at the action, you simply are reinforcing the status quo.
Finding stillness is simple, but not easy. Try the "SLLS" exercise to get out of your head, get focused, and into the game. S: Stop. L: Look L: Listen S: Smell. Just for a moment.
Play a bigger game by limiting distraction, exist in the present moment, and be aware of your experience in order to improve it.
Methodically break down the game into chunks and master each section. Examine slight variations in your throwing style, equipment, stance and get really really curious about it with mini-experiments.
Getting mad at yourself wastes energy and sends you into physiologic flight or flight mode (heightened stress response). Muscles get tight, pupils constrict, blood pressure goes up, etc., which is not ideal for accuracy sports performance.
Excessive physical or mental stress pulls you out of the stillness you've worked hard to create and limits your capacity to grow into someone who regularly throws 4 baggers.
Plan and practice more like a surgeon than a drunk tosser. Pick a focus for each session of training and stick to it.
The main difference between Deliberate Practice vs practice is feedback. Feedback is required to create new better cornhole throwing brain circuits and objective measurement is the main component.
Like our baseball playing civil rights hero Shuba, measure your performance in your "Cornhole Log".
Memory is overrated. Experiment with throwing 60 bags in a row with a specific focus and write down what happened to your performance in your "Cornhole Log."
The navy calls a warship's journal a "log" and so should you! Why?
A "Cornhole Log" sounds gross enough for you to crinkle your nose and make a face of disgust, or giggle a little, right? When things are this visceral we tend to remember them better according to science.
Example: You wont ever forget this magazine cover with a Naval Academy midshipmen getting felt up by both his mother and his girlfriend simultaneously. Gross is hard to forget.
Other strategies include counting points, creating diagrams where bags land with different techniques/equipment, and any other creatives strategies. If you have some awesome ideas please share below in the comments section.
6. The ULTIMATE Feedback Tool: Coaching.
All of the above is hard work, but a coach can help.
Humans aren't known for their objectivity about themselves. #duh.
Good coaches can track your progress, find small ways to improve, and hold you accountable to delivering your best effort each day.
B = Behaviour Change
Now you know all about the science of the mind and deliberate practice and how it can level up your game. All done. Go forth and airmail. But wait...
Knowledge is power, right?
Massive Government Education Failure
Remember those Wacky tabbacky commercials in the 90s intended to inform people about the dangers of drugs? A billion dollars later, the "Anti-Drug" media campaign by the government only ended up in Colorado real estate prices skyrocketing.
Massive Medical Education Failure
Back pain is awful for the person experiencing pain and costs in the billions of dollars for healthcare, so it's one of the most studied health care conditions. In a review of 30 studies and almost 10,000 participants, educational interventions, books, media, and advice were analysed. Did it help? Absolutely not, only exercise (a.k.a. practice) tends to made a difference in people's back pain.
Massive School Education Failure
According to the Council for Economic Education, 19 states now require the study of financial literacy as a condition for graduating from high school, up from 13 in 2011. Unforunately, it's not that easy and savings rates, credit card debt, and other markers of financial health continue to decline.
Knowledge is power, uh, maybe not.
Knowledge is half the battle, perhaps.
So how do you actually get yourself to do the thousands of repetitions it takes to get really really good at cornhole? And practice in a way that is deliberate and maybe not so fun?
Introducing the world of behavioural economics, a.k.a. the science of how people make decisions and behave.
Willpower is out.
Systems connected to values are in.
Turns out humans are social-emotional creatures not often acting in their own best interest, but always seeking meaning and continually self sabotaging their goals.
So how to combat this?
A holistic system called: The 3 Bs.
Whether it's getting back to an active life with back pain, financial independence, or kicking a drug habit, the 3 Bs are practical and effective at leading yourself where you want to go.
1. Don't try to change your Behaviour without first identifying your values and Connect to your Why.
2. Identify and eliminate Barriers to practice ahead of time.
3. Recognise the Benefits and treat yourself when you do practice.
Start with your values and then backwards toward behaviour change.
We are always trying to willpower ourselves into losing weight, quitting smoking, practicing more cornhole, etc. But if it's not a values-driven decision, Resistance will creep in and self sabotage prevails.
Connect to Your Why.
You should be specific here. If you want to be better at cornhole, what do you want to do to get there? What kind of equipment will you use? How will you accomplish this?
Example: Be like Marcus Aurelius and perform thought downloads for 2 minutes each day on your phone or a paper journal. Write down "why" you really want to be better. And not just really why, but really, really why.
Reduce friction and make practicing something super easy to do.
Example: having equipment on hot standby and not have to dig it out and lug it around. Or establish an indoor practice area where you have to meet someone there that will open up the space. The barrier here is asssholism if you don't show up to the appointment time and place. Just like the gym, the hardest part is stepping inside one. Once you are there, you'll workout or practice cornhole.
Increase rewards and make practicing cornhole enticing.
Example: Have a cooler full of cold beer or Rose and make a rule of thumb that you are not allowed to open it until after you have tossed (and recorded) 600 bags for Sunday funday practice.
Better Example: Write down in your journal all of the amazing people you've met over a friendly (or serious) game of cornhole and what value they bring to your life. Think of how willing cornhole friends are to host you if you are travelling, the connections, and the stories they've shared with you.
If you are in cornhole for the money, you might want to reconsider.
Not so secret secret: Habits are overrated. One time actions that set you up for success when it comes to decision making time work better for behaviour change. Systems work better than willpower.
The Three Bs is a system you can use to positively change your behaviour and structure your training sessions with specific goals in mind and be compliant with the time you spend throwing bags, or really anything else in your life.
You are the average of the 5 people you hang out with the most. So purposefully hang out with people who also want to level up their game and the contagion will spread.
Entering the funnel of transformation from the top at Culture is met with less Resistance.
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Let’s Throw Some Bags!
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Author profile: Morgan Fielder is an evangelist for play and defense department civilian physical therapist living near Ramstein AFB raising two gorgeous girls, wife of a rebel, serial expat, and is actively involved in the German community through several organizations. Visit her blog at beyondexercises to learn more.