How to Get Out of a Hitting Slump
There are few things baseball and softball players fear more than a hitting slump. That dreadful place where you can't buy a hit to save your life. And every time up to the plate feels like you're just digging the hole deeper and deeper.
As your batting average drops, so does your confidence. Making it even more difficult to get yourself out of your slump, because you now start to second guess your swing every time you're in the box.
So what can you do if right now you're in a hitting slump?
As a mental performance coach, I've worked with baseball and softball players who found themselves in similar situations. Where they felt like they were desperately trying to get just one hit.
To help, we approached getting them out of their slump from a mental standpoint. By using specific sports psychology tools and techniques. That's what I'm going to show you how to do in this article.
But first, while it's typically not the problem, we do need to examine your mechanics.
Is Your Swing to Blame?
As a hitter, the first place you probably looked when you found yourself struggling at the plate were your mechanics. You may have analyzed your swing or decided that additional hours in the cage would do the trick.
And sometimes it does. But not if there's an underlying mental block holding you back during games, as we'll talk about later on.
Now, I'm a huge advocate for putting in as many training hours as you can. The more prepared you are, the better you'll likely perform. However, you want to be careful you aren't overthinking your swing when there's nothing wrong with it in the first place.
That's why we're going to go ahead and analyze it first.
To decide if your swing is to blame for your slump, all you need to do is answer one question: are you hitting well in practice?
If the answer is yes, then your swing isn't to blame. You are showing that you have a strong swing that is capable of getting hits in games. And so, your main challenge is mental. There is a block getting in the way during games.
If the answer is no, then you have some work to do on your actual mechanics. I would recommend taking some video, talking with your coach, and really getting to work on fine-tuning your mechanics.
Now, if you fall into the former category, and you are hitting well in practice, then you need to do something that is very scary for a lot of hitters...you need to stop worrying about your mechanics.
Let go and trust your swing! Don't try to change where you're holding your hands, your load, or any of that. You have shown that you have a good swing in practice, now what you need is a good mindset to match.
Mental game Strategy to Get Out of a Hitting Slump
When you are in a slump, you can start to carry previous at bats into the next one. Instead of taking it one at bat a time, you've got a big 0-20, for example, hanging on your back. What does this cause?
It causes you to put a ton of pressure on yourself, press, try to force a hit, and hit with fear and anxiety. None of that is a recipe for good at bats.
The truth is, hitting is hard. Whether it's in softball or baseball, it's not an easy thing to do. So you don't want to take something that's already incredibly difficult and make it even harder by placing additional pressure on yourself.
The more you try to get the hit that will break you out of your slump, the less likely you are to get out of your slump.
Honestly, the best way to free yourself from a slump is to not feel like you're in a slump at all. To not be thinking about any of your previous at bats, and to focus solely on each pitch; having full confidence in each swing.
But that's a lot easier said than done!
Which is why there are tools and techniques you can use to increase your confidence, reduce the pressure you're placing on yourself, and be more present for each pitch. By applying these tools, that's what gives you the best chance of breaking out of your hitting slump.
This strategy is composed of a few different parts. The first part includes exercises you can begin using on a daily basis to increase your confidence at the plate.
The second part is a way for you to begin setting objectives for each at bat that will help with reducing the pressure you feel. In addition, this step will also involve a way for you to evaluate each at bat.
The third part is a pre at bat routine you can use to help relax, increase your confidence, and be more present during each at bat.
Part 1: Mental Training Tools
The first part of the strategy involves three different mental training tools you can use. We will also be using these tools, along with others, for your pre at bat routine.
The three tools are mental rehearsal, self-talk, and mindfulness meditation.
One of the biggest challenges as a hitter when you're in a slump is seeing yourself as successful. Because recently you haven't exactly been successful.
So, what kind of image of yourself as a hitter do you think you're taking with you up to the plate each time? More than likely the image of you getting out.
You want to change that! And mental rehearsal is the tool you can use to do so.
Mental rehearsal involves imagining yourself hitting. What you can do is go through at bats, facing different pitches and pitchers, and see yourself getting hits. This works to increase your confidence and change the image you have of yourself in your mind in relation to hitting.
Here's how to use mental rehearsal as a hitter:
- Choose a time each day when you will perform your mental rehearsal.
- Get into a comfortable seated position and close your eyes.
- Take about a minute and take some nice deep breaths.
- Now, see yourself hitting. Go into as much detail as you can.
- See yourself get a hit, and then feel successful as you imagine yourself standing on base.
There are two key elements of mental rehearsal: detail and emotion. You want to go into as much detail as you can to make the scene real. And you want to bring emotion into it. Feel confident as you see yourself hitting and happy and successful after you get the hit.
I recommend performing this visualization at least once a day.
If you're in a slump, how do you speak to yourself? What kind of thoughts do you have going up to the plate? Do they look something like this...
- I hope I get a hit.
- I can't get out again.
- If I don't get a hit, coach is going to bench me.
- I suck.
- I can't buy a hit.
- I'll never get a hit.
- I can't strike out.
How helpful do you think those are? Not at all! In fact, they are only lowering your confidence and making the pressure you feel even worse.
Instead, you want to change the way you think and how you speak to yourself.
Self-talk has a huge impact on your confidence as a hitter. You want to be sure that what you think is helping you and increasing your confidence.
What you can do is use something known as a self-talk routine.
Here's how you can create your own self-talk routine:
- Write out all the negative thoughts you currently have about hitting.
- Come up with a positive/productive alternative for each one.
- Repeat the new list to yourself at least once a day.
By repeating these new self-talk statements, you rewire your brain and change how you naturally think. This will lead to more confident thoughts surrounding your hitting and as you go up to bat.
The third tool you can use to break out of a hitting slump is mindfulness meditation. This helps you relax when you go up to the plate and calm your mind.
Mindfulness is the state of having your awareness completely centered in the present moment.
Now, if you're in a slump, how much of your attention is honestly in the present moment when you're going up to bat? Or, are you thinking about your past bad at bats and how much you want to get a hit?
At that moment, the only thing you can control is the current at bat. So, you want to be totally focused in the present moment. Mindfulness meditation can help you do that.
Here's how to practice mindfulness meditation:
- Get into a comfortable seated position.
- Set your time.
- Close your eyes and start taking nice deep breaths.
- Focus your awareness on your breath.
- When you begin to think about something else, notice the thought, and then return your attention onto your breath.
I recommend performing mindfulness for at least 5 minutes a day. This will help you gain more control of your thoughts and help calm yourself down when you go up to bat.
Part 2: Setting Objectives & Evaluating Well
The second part of the strategy involves a way for you to approach at bats differently. And how to evaluate them in a different way to increase your confidence and reduce any additional pressure you place on yourself.
One of the main reasons pressure and fear increase during your at bats is because you are focused on something you can't control...the outcome. As much as you wish you could, you can't control whether or not you get a hit. You can influence it, but you can't control it.
So of course there will be fear, anxiety, pressure, and all sorts of other unhelpful feelings when you go up to bat if you are trying to control an uncontrollable. Instead, you want to focus on what you can control.
Your aim as a hitter should be to put yourself in the best position to get a hit. That means focusing on what you can control. And to focus on what you can control, you want to set objectives for yourself.
Objectives keep your attention focused on the process and take it off the outcome. That's the goal, to go up to bat focused on controllable targets instead of an uncontrollable outcome.
Now, what are some good objectives you can set as a hitter?
- Stay balanced throughout my swing.
- Let the ball travel.
- Stay relaxed at the plate.
- Pick the ball up early out of the pitcher's hand.
- Use my pre at bat routine.
- Focus on my breathing.
Those are just a few examples. The point is, your objective should be a cue that puts you in the best position to perform your best.
Now of course, if you could go up there with a blank mind, completely present and not thinking about anything, that would be the best case scenario.
But the truth is, you're not. So, if you're going to be thinking about something, you want to make sure what you're thinking about is helping you rather than hurting you.
Following each at bat, you want to implement an evaluation process. This consists of two questions:
- What did I do well?
- Where can I improve?
Keep them simple. The aim of these questions is to ensure you don't get too upset if you get out. But also, it forces you to focus on what you can control. Because that is what your answers should be focused on.
Even if your answer to what I could improve is, I could have gotten a hit. Okay, by doing what? Should you let the ball travel more next time? Do you need to be more selective?
You want to get more specific and focus on what you can control.
But also, you want to be sure you answer the first question first. Because right now, your main aim is to increase the confidence you have at the plate. By focusing on what you did well, you give yourself the opportunity each at bat to see yourself as successful.
Part 3: Creating a Pre at Bat Routine
The third part of the strategy involves creating your own pre at bat routine.
When you're in a slump, you want to do your best to take it one at bat at a time. You want to be sure you approach each pitch with as much confidence as you can, as focused as you can, and as relaxed as you can.
That gives you the best chance of getting a hit.
Creating your pre at bat routine will be a bit of a culmination of the previous two parts. We are going to use the tools we discussed in part one, and then you will also apply your objectives to your routine as well.
What I'm going to do is outline a sample pre at bat routine you can use. What I suggest you do is use this routine if you like it, or tweak it to make it more personalized to yourself.
- Step 1: Use mental imagery when you're in the hole. Close your eyes and imagine yourself getting a hit.
- Step 2: Remember past successes while on deck. As you time up the pitcher, you want to think about all the times you've succeeded in the past.
- Step 3: Begin repeating your self-talk statements while on deck. Once you've thought of a few past successes, begin repeating your self-talk statements.
- Step 4: Remind yourself of your objective as you walk up to the plate.
- Step 5: Take a nice deep breath after you get your sign, before stepping into the box.
- Step 6: Say, "I've got this. Just hit," as you step into the box.
- Step 7: Answer your two questions after you get back into the dugout (no matter if you got a hit or not).
A pre at bat routine is important if you're in a hitting slump because it helps to reduce the pressure you're taking to the plate.
All that matters is this at bat. You don't want to be thinking about what you did last at bat or last game. Simply focus on this next pitch. A pre at bat routine helps you do just that.
Mental Coaching for Baseball & Softball Players
It sucks to find yourself in a slump. But the good news is, there are tools you can use to get yourself out of your hitting slump.
Once you've determined that your mechanics aren't to blame, it's time to turn your attention onto your mindset. What mental blocks are causing the slump? What kind of mindset do you need to break out of your slump?
By following the strategy outlined above, you can break out of your hitting slump and go up to bat full of confidence.
Now, if you're interested in a more personalized approach to breaking out of your hitting slump, then you need one-on-one mental coaching.
Mental performance coaching will help you identify your current mental blocks and help you build the mindset you need to succeed as a hitter.
To learn more about one-on-one coaching, please fill out the form below.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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