Improving Mental Game with Rituals
Brad Olson, B.S., Baseball Athlete Performance Coach
“Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical,” Yogi Berra.
Yogi Berra was known for his outrageous statements that never made complete sense. When Yogi made this statement, however, he made an extremely valid point. Baseball is more of a mental game than a physical game, and due to this, there is more down time that actual live action in the game. With this being the case it gives athletes’ of the sport much time to think about different situations and failures.
One way that helps baseball players get over some of the mental aspects of the game are to come up with some rituals. Such things as putting on the uniform a certain way, never stepping on the foul line, touching the plate in a certain order during an at bat, or writing something in the mound are all examples of different rituals that baseball players have had. While performing these it allows the athlete to think about their ritual and stay relaxed rather than thinking about a pressure situation that is happening in the game, or past failures that have happened in the game.
Playing baseball in multiple leagues since I was 5 years old and coaching baseball of athlete’s ages 6-22 has allowed me to be around numerous pressure situations, and be a part of almost every failure possible in baseball. Baseball has no shortage of failures. Going 3-10 at the plate or hitting .300 for the year gets you into the Hall of Fame. In no other sport does having a success rate of 30% get you as an athlete into the Hall of Fame.
Having these rituals helps in every aspect of the game. If someone strikes out, having a ritual for defensive drills between innings allows the athlete to clear their mind. Same concept applies if the athlete makes and error in the prior inning and is coming up to bat in their half of the offensive inning. Pitchers are no exception to rituals either. If they struggle pitching in an inning, or prior outing, having rituals allows them to relax and stay focused on getting hitters out. The final aspects of the game, coaches, have rituals too. Coaches make mistakes just like everyone else, but if they sit back and think about them they won’t be engaged in what is happening at the moment of the game.
Baseball is a game of superstitions, and these are also a great way to improve on the mental aspect of the game. Everyone has certain bats, gloves, and optional equipment that they all feel comfortable using, and feel out of place if they don’t use it. If at any time your regular equipment is altered or not available, baseball players spend time thinking about them instead of focusing on the game at hand. However, if they have success with the equipment that isn’t theirs, they will continue to use the other equipment in the future due to a good “vibe” or “luck” streak that they are on. These are also good as they once again allow the athlete to relax in the situation and not let any pressures get to them.
All-in-all, rituals and superstitions play a major role in baseball, and for good reason. They have been a part of the game since the 1800s, and will continue to play a major role in the future of baseball by allowing athletes’ to succeed and have fun in “America’s Game!”