Something that’s rarely discussed in hitting circles is how the effort with which we swing impacts our overall level of performance. Recently, I’ve heard a lot of hitting “gurus” tell hitters that they need to be swinging with full intent or they’ll say things like “try to drop a tank!” But is this the best approach? Does this approach lead to consistent performance? Does swinging with 100% effort allow a hitter to maximize their power production? The simple answer would be yes. Our conditioning tells us that the harder we try the more success we’ll experience. However, when we dig a little deeper we recognize that peak performance occurs when a hitter is more effortless than effortful.
During this time of year you begin to read more and more on social medial about people looking back on the year and reflecting on what has transpired that they are grateful for. Taking time each day to cultivate a sense of gratitude has been proven to help people reduce stress, be happier, and gain more of a sense of fulfillment in their lives. But does it have the power to increase performance at the plate?
I’m often asked, “What can I do to develop my mental skills?” Like a lot of things we are looking for some complex sort of drills. Some step by step manual about how to develop the skills that lead to peak performance. While there certainly are a number of great exercises out there that can be used to develop the mind my personal favorite is relatively simple. I like to use the events that transpire in everyday life to help me develop the skills necessary to perform at a higher level.
If you’re as old as I am then you remember the cartoons from the ’80’s and ’90’s. The ones where one of the characters would be visited by two alter-egos that sat on each shoulder. One would always represent what was good, kind, and right and was portrayed wearing angel wings and sporting a halo. While the other represented something negative, usually anger, hate, or revenge. This character was depicted as the devil, probably colored red with a pointy tail and horns. Ultimately, it was the decision of the character in question as to which voice he listened to.
If we really want to maximize every opportunity as a hitter it’s important to keep things simple. We need to have a process that’s going to allow us to be present, repeat our mechanics, and learn from the results we produce. Regardless if we’re practicing on our own, in team practice, or competing in a game there are 4 simple steps that you can perform to get the most out of each practice session or maximize your performance in a game.
One of the most difficult things as a hitter is to accept when things aren’t going our way. 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.
Every hitter wants more confidence right? It’s probably the most common thing I hear as a Hitting and Mental Conditioning Coach. The problem is that while being confident is a much better mental state then being unconfident it still falls short of peak performance. Why? Glad you asked…
Probably one of the most powerful tools I discovered didn’t occur to me until the very end of my playing career. Not really having mentors, so to speak, my career was very trial and error. It was me spending time alone trying to figure out how I was going to maximize my abilities as an athlete. As such many of the Aha moments that I had didn’t come until the very end of my career or in many cases came years after my career ended. What I didn’t realize was how the work I was putting in was going to have such a profound influence on my daily life.
Every coach I’ve ever talked to wants athletes who are mentally tough. I hear it all the time, “My players just aren’t mentally tough!” “How do I develop mental toughness in my athletes?” The problem is that “mental toughness” is somewhat of an abstract idea. Most coaches and athletes have an idea of the qualities of mental toughness but they fall short on what mental toughness really is. Even more troubling is how to develop that toughness in their athletes.