When people talk about baseball they usually mention the physical aspects of the sport such as, hitting, arm-strength, and power. The primary focus of athletes in the past has been to improve their physical game to compete at a higher level. The physical component of the game is so emphasized that a good handful of professional ball players began using illegal performance enhancement supplements to gain a competitive edge.
The physical component of baseball is important, but it’s also highly overrated, especially in higher levels of competition. I say this because all professional ball players have the physical tools and talents needed to perform at a high level. What sets the All-Stars apart from the average pro is a strong mental game. Baseball is a mental game so players need the mental tools to succeed.
You can have all the talent and physical ability in the world but if you lack confidence, focus, mental toughness and composure you will never be able to reach your highest level of performance.
Hall of Famer, Yogi Berra once said “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical,” and Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel states that, “succeeding in baseball is 90 percent mental.”
Ball players should develop mental strength and mental toughness to gain a competitive edge. Physical strength may help you hit a ball farther but it isn’t going to help you hit .330 or win a championship or perform in a clutch situation. Mental training is legal in baseball, and it helps athletes reach their peak level of performance. Mental training areas that help you perform to your potential include: confidence, composure, focus, trust, preparation, practice efficiency, and patience just to name a few.
In Major League Baseball mentally tough players rise to the top of the game. Chase Utley for example uses mental preparation techniques before games to help him get in the zone. “I go through my pre-game routines and make sure my mind is where it needs to be. This help me focus on what I need to do in order to achieve my performance objectives. The The difference between a good game and a bad game is your mental approach,” stated Utley during Spring Training, 2013.
Future MLB Hall of Fame hitter Derek Jeter also understand the importance of the mental game of baseball…“Once you step into the on deck circle you have to tap into a hitters mindset, states Jeter in a 2011 interview. Have a plan and focus on what you need to get done pitch by pitch.”
Mental Training is legal, inexpensive, effective and highly recommended by professional athletes. To improve your performance in baseball use mental training to supplement your performance needs, such as the tips listed below:
• Stay present focused. You must keep your mind in the present moment focusing on what’s important to play your best. This is easier said than done. It is easy to think about the last strike out you had or think ahead about the results of striking out. Know the task-specific cues you should focus on and be aware of when you are not on task. Stop and refocus your mind on the task or on what you should think about to execute well.
• Think one bat a time. Only think about one pitch at a time to help you stay focused on execution. Separate each pitch from the rest and don’t think about the consequences of getting a hit. You don’t want to be thinking about the last inning when you are at the plate in the middle of the game.
• Don’t think about results or outcomes. If you think about what you don’t want to do, you’ll tighten up and make a controlled swing. When you think about results, you’ll create tension and indecision. Focusing on execution will help you get good results. In an earlier article, I discussed how your at-bat routine should help you focus on specific cues to follow as you prepare for each at-bat. If you don’t have a routine, the mind is free to wander aimlessly as you prepare for each pitch.
• Cue yourself to concentrate. Sometimes it’s hard to refocus when the last at-bat was 30 minutes ago. Lock in your concentration once it is your turn to at the plate. To help you click in, try using a physical trigger to focus your mind, such as tightening the Velcro on your glove before start. You want to turn your attention to preparation and execution for the first pitch, and if anything else enters your mind, let it pass through your mind.
• Relax your focus while you wait. Not too many players can focus continuously for two to three hours. When you are up to bat it’s important to be ready, but you don’t want to over analyze the entire game. After each inning, relax your focus and save your concentration for the next time at-bat. This will help you be “fresher” for the end of the game.
• Rehearse while you wait. Rehearse your at-bat before you’re up to play if you have trouble focusing after a long delay. For example, while on deck, imagine that you are at the plate taking pitches. Time your swing with the pitcher and “see” yourself make solid contact. When it’s your turn, you will be prepared to click in the focus because you already rehearsed your at-bat routine.