The game of baseball demands a unique mental attitude separate from other team sports. The pace of the game fools individuals into thinking that the game is laid back and slow. This could not be further from the truth. The speed and reaction time in baseball is second to none.
The ability to turn on physical tools in a split second starts with the mental outlook of the player. Many peaks and valleys take place in one baseball game, let alone an entire season. The player must learn to have an iron will and never get too high or too low, as the game of baseball will always give a chance at redemption.
What is Mental Toughness?
When I speak about mental toughness in baseball, it is a little different from other team sports. My idea of a mentally tough athlete is one who is calm and has a focused sense of self-worth and belief. As a hitter, you go up to the plate knowing you are going to make solid contact, not hoping to. As a fielder, you attack the ball, you don't let the ball attack you. Pitchers with mental toughness believe in every pitch they throw. They throw a 3-2 back-door slider with the game on the line and everyone, including the hitter, expecting the fastball.
Players that lack self-confidence and mental toughness are exposed very quickly. Just as players who truly believe in themselves and know, not hope, that they will get the job done succeed at a much greater rate than those who don't.
You must use visualization techniques before, during and after games and practices. When you do something good, such as making solid contact and feeling good at the plate, you must capture that feeling like you took a mental picture. Keep as much detail as possible stored in your mind. After the game or practice is over re-live that moment. This will force your body to reproduce great performances because it will be programmed to do so.
Also, you must visualize what you are going to do before you do it. You will achieve much greater success this way. For example, I always pictured exactly what I was going to do at-bat before I got there. I already knew what was going to happen before I did it. Whether I had to move a guy to third, drive a ball to the outfield or just get my pitch and drive it, I would visualize this happening both in the on-deck circle as well as immediately before I stepped into the batter's box. Surprisingly to many, this simple, yet underused technique worked more often than not.
Using these techniques is not easy at first. You must work at it. However, when you get the hang of it, the techniques take a split second and then you are locked in for success. This may sound kind of quirky, but I promise you it works. The key is getting as much detail as you can during your visualization.
The Power of Visualization
I have seen players at the high school and college level blossom quickly, often seemingly overnight. They went from average player to integral part of the team in one off-season. What was their secret? Hard-work and believing in themselves. The old saying goes, "Where there's a will, there's a way." It could not hold any truer than in the game of baseball.
So the question remains, how does a player that lacks mental toughness and questions himself gain the iron-clad belief that they will be successful? I believe these values are learned through experiences, most importantly actual game play and off-field training. The mental toughness, physical ability and self-confidence can be developed.
There is nothing quite like being excited to get up to bat because you know that you are going to get a big hit and then actually doing it. Will it be easy? Of course not. However, I can promise you the glory of winning and growing as a person will far outshine any tough moment you endured during training.
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Jon Doyle MA, CSCS is considered the world's foremost authority on baseball training. His training techniques have been used by over 500 MLB players, 28 MLB teams, 400 NCAA programs and tens of thousands of High School and youth players to gain a significant advantage of their competition. His website, www.BaseballTrainingSecrets.com , is the most visited site of its kind in the world. He is currently offering a FREE subscription to his "Baseball Training Newsletter".