Acceptance

One of the most difficult things as a hitter is to accept when things aren’t going our way. Unfortunately for us that is usually most of the time. As you’ve probably learned by now hitting is difficult to say the least. If you fail 70% of the time you’re considered one of the game’s elite. So how do we stay mentally focused on the present moment and put ourselves in the best position to succeed to that we don’t waste pitches or at-bats?  

One of the most powerful things we can train ourselves to do is to completely accept the situation we’re in with out resisting it in any way. What does that mean??? Let me give you an example… Let’s say you’re up to bat and the count is 1-1. The pitcher delivers the pitch and the umpire makes a terrible call. Now you’re down 1-2. Most hitters get upset, they feel robbed of an opportunity where they would be in a more advantageous count. Their mind begins spiraling out of control, they become frustrated, maybe even angry over the blown call by the umpire. Does any of this sound familiar?

But Ryan, the guy made a terrible call. Don’t I have reason to be upset? Maybe. But that’s not the point. The point is that your job is not to be upset or frustrated but have the ability to mentally put yourself in the best position possible to succeed on the next pitch. Let me ask you a question… In your entire career has getting upset over a blown call, bad weather, mistake by a teammate, position in the batting order, playing time, ever changed the situation? Have you ever gotten upset with an umpire and then after voicing your displeasure had him look at you and say, “You raise a good point. Ok I’ll change my call.” I’m going to go out on a limb and that’s probably never happened. Yet time and time again we allow the situation to dictate our mental state.

So why is this so important? Let’s look at what happens when we’re in a state of resistance and how that impacts your ability to perform. First of all when I say “resistance” what I mean is the mental resistance you have toward the situation. It’s the negative self-talk and subsequent feelings that go along with your frustration over things not going the way you want them to. When we’re in this resistant state our mind taps into our body’s primal fight or flight response.

What? Yes, when you don’t fully accept the present situation you are in a state of fear. Fear of failure, fear of letting your team down, fear of not being as good as think you are, whatever. Anytime we experience those negative, performance inhibiting thoughts and emotions you activate the fight or flight response. This response can cloud our thinking, shallow our breathing, increase our heart rate, increase muscular tension, and decrease fine motor movements. It’s these fine motor movements that allow us to execute our mechanics correctly. It’s these fine motor movements that make the difference between a ball that’s popped up in the infield or a ball that’s smoked in the gap. So essentially your job is to effectively manage your fight or flight response placing yourself in the best position to succeed.

So how do we do this?

Daily mindfulness/meditation practice

You can’t play in the moment, play “one pitch at a time”, or have your mind completely focused on the here and now without practicing being in the moment. Setting aside time each day to sit in quiet meditation is crucial to your mental development both in the batter’s box and in life. It develops within you the ability to stay focused on the present moment regardless of what your external situation might be.

Make acceptance a conscious decision

Before each practice or game it’s important to consciously remind yourself to completely accept whatever situation you may find yourself in. If the count is 1-2 then your job in that moment is to execute a quality swing on that 1-2 pitch if it’s in the hitting zone. Being frustrated or upset over the fact that the count is 1-2 is counter productive. Whatever the moment brings you then in that moment that is your job. You don’t have to like it but you do have to accept it.

Breathe

Nothing brings us back to the present like our breath. If you find your mind focusing on past or future simply slow your breathing and listen to yourself breathe. By listening to our breathing we break the habit of allowing the situation to dictate our reality. Over time your mind will develop the ability to stay present and accept whatever situation may arise. But until then use your breath as a tool to return you to the here and now.

I’m not going to lie. Acceptance is much easier said than done. In any competitive environment it’s easy to let our ego get involved. It’s easy to become fixated on who’s to blame for our failures instead of accepting what’s happening and staying focused on what we can control in that moment. However, developing this ability to not judge or resist whatever the present moment brings will not only help you perform to your highest capacity in the batter’s box but also in any other aspect of life you choose to apply it to.

 

4 thoughts on “Acceptance

  1. Great post Ryan! I like the mindfullness suggestion. Have you heard of an app called “Headspace”? Hopefully we will see you soon. Billy is just starting to work out again and his symptoms have reduced significantly. Hope all is well with you! Bill

    • Hey Bill! Great to hear from you! Yes I have that app and it’s very good. Glad to hear Billy is starting to workout again. Unfortunately we moved to Portland, Oregon last month so I won’t be around for lessons. I’ll let you know when I’m coming down to visit and maybe we can get together then. talk soon!

      • WOW! Never thought anything could peel you away from SoCal! I’m sure that is a great move for you and your family! Val’s family is in Oregon, correct? There’s a lot of good baseball up there between U of O and the Oregon State…As well as a few minor league clubs…My sister’s house is just up the hill from the old Eugene Emeralds park…(they play at the University now) Are you still teaching? What is the HS baseball scene like up there?

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