Friday, February 15, 2013

Sports Psychology And Baseball: How To Be A Mentally Tough Pitcher


This year's baseball playoffs and the World Series are approaching rapidly. As always, pitching will play a key role in determining which teams will do well in post season play.

Pitchers who can perform well at this crucial time of the year require a special kind of physical toughness and mental toughness.

Where physical toughness is concerned, pitchers who play well at the end of the year need to have energy and strength to continue to pitch well after spring training and after a one hundred and sixty two game regular season schedule.

Where mental toughness is concerned, the best pitchers know how to remain relaxed, confident and focused when the pitch in these tense, post season games. They benefit from having control over their range of pitches. They also benefit from being able to get ahead of hitters and from knowing hitters strengths and weaknesses. Previous playoff experience also seems to help pitchers to adjust to the special kind of pressure that is a part of championship baseball.

But, how do pitchers develop mental toughness?

Some pitchers use traditional sport psychology techniques like relaxation training, meditation, self-hypnosis, visualization, guided imagery and pre-pitch routines in order to perform to their fullest potential on the mound. I teach these kinds of techniques to pitchers all the time.

A recent study by my colleague, Anthony Cinelli at Boston University, sheds some interesting insight into how pitchers develop mental toughness.

Mr. Cinelli, who pitched in college and who has studied the psychology of pitching, approached me several months ago because he wanted to collaborate with me on some research about mental toughness, choking and staying in the zone.

We decided to interview pitchers about these issues.

Interestingly, ten of the nineteen college pitchers who were interviewed, stated that their father played an essential role in their development of mental toughness. That is,
fifty two percent of these pitchers attributed the early learning of mental toughness to contact with and coaching from their dads.

Many young baseball players are first introduced to this sport by their fathers. So, their dad t is often their first coach. Therefore, fathers often play a crucial role in how an a pitcher develops physically and mentally.

Some of the pitchers interviewed also attributed the learning of mental toughness was function of watching their fathers behavior in their careers and in their businesses.

Apparently, the young pitchers started to model some of the behaviors, attitudes and actions that were demonstrated by their fathers in the world of work. In short, they took what they observed their dad's doing in their lives and brought some of these attitudes and behaviors to the baseball field.
Others pitchers stated that fathers taught them valuable lessons about being accountable, taking responsibility and learning to accept good and bad performances.

While this study has a small sample, it does seem to reinforce the importance that early learning, relationships between parents and kids and early coaching can have on the development of mental toughness among pitchers.
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist and the founder of Dr. Granat has appeared in major media outlets including Good Morning America, The New York, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The BBC, The CBC, Sports Illustrated, Tennis View Magazine, ESPN and The Chicago Tribune, Golf Digest named him one of America's Top Mental Gurus. He has created many self help programs for athletes, parents of athletes and coaches including 101 Ways To Break A Hitting Slump, How To Get Mentally Tough, Avoid Choking And Stay In The Zone, How To Get Into The Zone With Sport Psychology And Self-Hypnois and Bedtime Stories For Young Athletes. He can be reached at 888 580-Zone or at
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