Many practices and workouts are dedicated to physical training or position-specific skills. The ability to relax and perform at the highest level is directly related to an athlete's mental approach. So, how can baseball and softball players establish and maintain mental focus?
"When you bring your full attention to each moment, a day is a complete lifetime of living and learning." —Mark Divine, The Way of the SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed
In baseball and softball, mental focus is the key to success at all stages. The team that has the better focus and mental approach usually wins. Paraphrasing the Mark Divine quote above, "When you bring your full attention to each pitch, a game is a complete lifetime of living and learning."
Coaches must be able to teach players what should happen during each pitch or game situation. Players must know their specific role on every pitch in any situation. Being physically prepared and mentally focused is the key to winning at all levels. The ability to focus on each pitch comes from years of practice and learning.
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How can you be mentally prepared?
- Set daily goals (e.g., work on hitting off-speed pitches, psych out dirt-ball reads on the bases, improve your arm strength).
- Stay focused on the process (keep a journal of your daily goals and how you accomplish them).
- Maintain your focus each day.
- Establish a pre-game routine that allows you to be physically and mentally prepared to complete the day's objective.
Experience through practice and competition leads to knowledge, which gives you the confidence and power to be mentally ready for any situation.
What can batters do to get mentally prepared to hit?
- While in the dugout, look through the hole in the top of your batting helmet and focus on the opposing pitcher to pick up his or her release point, determine if he or she is tipping pitches, and gain all the information you can.
- Establish a routine before each at-bat that allows you to focus (e.g., breathing, focusing your eyes where you want to hit the ball, singing your favorite song, etc.)
- Have a plan based on the score, number of outs, the inning and any special situation.
- Visualize success.
Hank Aaron said he was able to consistently hit the baseball because of his visualization and focus. Aaron is a great example of how mental preparation and visualization can lead to powerful results.
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