Friday, May 14, 2010

Mental Training Tips to Improve Baseball Performance

By Luke Woodard

If you or your kid have played baseball long enough, I'm sure you have heard the phrase "mental toughness". In fact, you probably have heard those words used plenty of times in other sports and even outside of sports. But what exactly is it and how can you improve your mental toughness? We've all witnessed the guys who strike out, throw their helmet, and are obviously angry for the rest of the game. In the field, they make an error on an easy ground ball. Then, next time their up, with a chance to win the game, they swing at bad pitches and hit fly out to end the game.

Compared that to someone who is considered "mentally tough". Yes, he strikes out the first and he appears angry for a while, although he doesn't throw his helmet. As soon as he steps on the field to play defense, it appears that he has washed it away and he has. He makes a good play on the same ground ball, and when it comes time for him to hit again with a chance to win the game, he hits a line drive base hit up the middle.

So what is so different about these two example? It wasn't the amount of time they worked on their swing, the work they put into their fielding, or that one was better than the other physically. The difference was that the second example was better mentally. So if the mental aspect plays such a large role, how can you improve it? Here are some simple tips to getting better mentally.

1 - Clear the mind

Yogi Berra also said "I can't think and hit at the same time". While he may not have been the brightest fellow around, he was definitely on to the mental aspect of the game. When you step on the field, whether pitching, hitting, fielding or running, you have to totally clear you mind. I found that repeating to myself "ball, ball, ball, ball.." helps me focus. A game is NOT the time to think about mechanics. Tell yourself your mechanics are perfect and think only about the ball.

2 - Flush it

We've all seen it happen and probably it's happened to you. A player makes an error in the field, which leads to a second error because their mind was still on the last play. They then come up to bat and strike out. What where they thinking about? They were still thinking on the previous inning and the errors they made. When something doesn't go the way you want it too, take a second to think through what happened and how to fix it so you can work on it later and "flush it down the toilet". Re-focus on the task at hand with a clear mind.

3 - Think Positive

Especially if you're in a slump, or not having success on the mound, it is so easy to go to "Don't strike out this time" or "Whatever you do, don't walk this guy." Guess what, you're probably going to do what you are telling yourself not to do. Instead walk up to the plate saying to yourself "my mechanics are perfect, I know I WILL hit this guy hard" or on the mound "I have all my stuff today, this guy has no shot, and I am in control."

4 - Relax

You have to remember that you are playing baseball here and that failure is going to happen. We are all humans and any human will make tons of mistakes. The key is not to worry about mistake or anything else. To relax when you are feeling stressed, breath deep, and don't be afraid to take a mental "vacation". For me, I find that whistling any random tune helps me relax tremendously. Also, take deep breaths pushing your stomach out helps relaxation as well. This also provides your body with more oxygen, which is essential in anything athletic.

5 - Visualize

Take time everyday to visualize yourself succeeding on the baseball field. Visualize yourself with the perfect mechanics just absolutely drilling that curve ball the other way or yourself on the mound throwing your dirty change-up for strike three. Visualization can happen a number of ways. You can see yourself from the outside or see things through your eyes. You can do it pretty much anywhere, and you'll be amazed out how much this can help you prepare for when you are actually playing. Just remember to see yourself doing the right thing, just like you practice your swing the right way.

I hope this helps. The mental side of baseball is often overlooked and is such an important part of success on the field.

If you found this helpful, here is an awesome program that goes much deeper than this article:
Mental training for baseball

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