Over the last couple months here at Champions QUEST we have spent a considerable amount of time and thought dissecting the tangible action steps for ball players to take control of their mental game. We have talked about what the “process” looks like, and how a ballplayer should only focus on those things that are within their control. Today, I would like to add one more piece of the puzzle which is equally important, and that is routines. Routines are an essential part of the “wiring” process that allow athletes to stay repeatable. Repeatability is crucial for athletic confidence, especially when it comes to baseball, a sport that is centered around accuracy related results.
In order to establish a routine, first the athlete must develop a plan. It is absolutely essential for the ballplayer to have a plan each and every time they step on the field. Baseball is a tricky game, because it requires a balance of strategy and instincts. For instance, if you step up to the plate as a hitter with the intention of “wingin’ it,” you are not giving yourself the best chance of success against an opponent that is trying to outmatch and outsmart you. Today we are going to talk about a sample mindset and approach for a hitter, which can be established through batting practice and game time experience.
- Step up to the batter’s box, and establish what you like to do to prepare before you enter. Once you realize what you tend to do (manicure the dirt, re-strap batting gloves, tap the bat on the plate, etc.), make it is detailed as possible. From there do the same exact thing every single time, for the same amount of time/ repetitions. As you do this enough, you will have to think about it less and less. This serves to tap into the same wired instincts that have made you the hitter you are today.
- Use a deep breath as your re-set button. There is scientific power in the deep breath, and how it impacts your body. Physiologically, it works to slow down your heart rate and reduce stress. For this reason, there is really no better cue for re-setting than a breath. From there, go back through your routine and back in to the batter’s box.
- Always sit fastball, and adjust off-speed. If you allow a fastball to beat you, you are setting yourself up to be dominated a number of different ways.
- Be ultra decisive. Either give a healthy hack or completely lay off. The better you get at reading spin out of the pitcher’s hand, the better you will get at deciding.
- One indication you are getting fooled may be your hands. If your hands are dropping as you step/ load, it likely means you are unsure of yourself or cautious. Force yourself to keep those hands up even on pitches you take!
- Be aggressive and hit the ball hard! PERIOD!
By following an approach, such as this, you can ensure you are achieving one main objective… That every pitch you “check in for” you are becoming a better hitter. By sticking to an approach, you have the ability to learn from mistakes, and constantly refine your craft. You will absolutely still make mistakes, and get beat at times, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make an adjustment next time. The premise of hitting comprises of a a few important factors which consist of being..
- An excellent decision maker
- A strong athlete
- Efficient at swinging a bat
- A superior competitor
Again, the whole justification of taking pride in an approach is to help the athlete self-evaluate, and ultimately gain the confidence that comes from repeatability. From there, it is up to them to make sure that their “big picture” approach is sound. This means that from at-bat to at bat, they are completely acting in the moment, with disregard to the results they may or may not have achieved in previous at bats. This all serves to simplify things for arguably one of the toughest objectives in all of sports, hitting a baseball. Try this out for yourself, and pay careful attention to your development. Give yourself credit, when credit is due! Stick to the process, and reward yourself according to how well you execute as an athlete, not the outcome.
Coach Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI
USC Baseball Alumni, BA Human Performance