Historically there has been some stigma around mental training and mental toughness. For the bulk of baseball history it’s been thought that mental toughness is something that you either have or you don’t. It can be embarrassing to admit that you need help with your mental game and for that reason players can feel alone, like they’re the only one’s who are struggling. Yet when questioned as to what percentage of their teammates struggle with the mental side players routinely answer 90% or more. This tells us that needing help developing the mental aspects of performance is more the norm. Player’s that seem to just “have it” are the outliers and not the other way around.
Mechanics, mechanics, mechanics. It’s all anyone wants to talk about. It makes total sense. I mean, it’s the thing we see. The swing is front and center and the most enjoyable aspect of hitting to work on. For a far back as I can remember the bulk of hitting has always had a focus on the swing. With all the latest technology we’ve only gone deeper down the rabbit hole. Unfortunately, just like the proverbial iceberg the swing is just the tip. The bulk of what drives performance in hitting lies beneath the surface.
If you’re like most of the people across the globe right now you’re spending a lot of time at home. Quarantine life has certainly thrown a wrinkle in our day to day routine and many hitters are feeling like their development is in a holding pattern. Like most things in life however this is merely a matter of perspective. Sure, you probably can’t get in the batting cage as often as you used to, unless of course you’re one of the lucky ones with a cage in the backyard. You might not even have access to a tee and a net. Yet this doesn’t mean you can’t still be developing and improving. In fact, this could be the very opportunity you need to focus on some of the more detailed, and frankly more important aspects of hitting that maybe you’ve been neglecting.
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 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.