Mental Training for Baseball
Mental training is crucial for baseball players. So much of the game is mental, that if you aren't training your mindset, you are missing out on a key piece of your success.
In this article, you will learn why mental training is important for baseball players and four tips to help you get started with mental training.
Why Mental Training is Important for Baseball Players
While there's no denying the importance of building high level physical skills, if you do not have strong mental skills to accompany them, you will likely not perform up to your potential.
This is why a lot of athletes find themselves performing well in practice, but not in games.
You may be killing it in the cage, but can't buy a hit to save your life during games. Or maybe you are filling up the strike zone during your bullpen sessions, but blow it every time you're on the mound.
You are showing physical talent during practice, yet you can't seem to translate that into games...why?
Because of your mental game.
And so you want to be sure you are using mental training as a way to take the skills you've worked hard to develop and translate them into games.
This happens as a byproduct of the many benefits mental training will have on you and your performance, including...
- Increased Confidence: this is one of the first benefits worth mentioning because it has such a huge impact on your success on the field. If you trust in your skills more, you will have a higher chance of performing well.
- Positive Self-Talk: as a baseball player, you know failure. And when you fail, it's easy to get down on yourself. With mental training, you will develop a stronger and more positive voice in your head to be able to handle these setbacks and challenges.
- Improved Focus: baseball is a slow but fast game. When there's action, it happens quickly. Which is why you need to be able to zero in and control your focus during games. Mental training will help you build stronger focus.
- Improved Resilience: with there being so much failure within the game of baseball, it's important to know how to handle this. Mental training will teach you strategies you can use to turn failure into learning opportunities so it does not become something you fear.
- A Calmer Mind: a calm mind is a focused mind. Much of baseball involves waiting. When you're waiting, you want to have a calm mind. If you are standing in the batter's box and your mind is full of racing thoughts, it will only distract you and cause you to not be fully focused on the pitch. With mental training, you will develop the skill of performing with a calmer mind.
- Increased Motivation: with all the setbacks you will inevitably face as a baseball player, it can be easy to lose motivation. By training your mind, you will uncover what truly motivates you and learn how to focus on that to increase your motivation, even when you are faced with adversity.
“While there's no denying the importance of building high level physical skills, if you do not have strong mental skills to accompany them, you will likely not perform up to your potential.”
Mental Training Tips for Baseball
If there's one thing baseball players understand, it's repetition. You didn't learn how to hit simply by going to the batting cage once. Likewise, you didn't learn how to field or pitch by spending one afternoon on it.
To get to where you are, you've put hours and countless numbers of repetitions into training your skills. You need to take a similar approach to mental training.
The tips I'm going to go over will help you begin to strengthen your mindset...but only if you use the tools consistently.
If you do, then you can expect all the benefits listed above and watch as your production on the field increases.
Tip #1: Train Your Self-Talk
There is a lot of downtime in baseball. Whether it's in the dugout waiting to go up to bat, in the field waiting for the next pitch, or on the mound getting ready to start your delivery, there are plenty of moments to yourself.
Which means there are plenty of moments for negative thoughts.
Negative and unhelpful thoughts are a leading cause of sports performance anxiety and fear of failure. But put even more simply, they lower your confidence and tend to lower your performances.
So, it's important to take control of the thoughts in your head during a game. The best way to do so is by training this through a self-talk routine.
There are many ways you can use self-talk in baseball, but the best involves using it to increase your confidence.
What you can do is make a list of all the negative and unhelpful thoughts you have during a game. A good way you can do this is by keeping a running list throughout the week. Then, whenever you notice some negative thoughts, right them down.
With your list complete, it's time to come up with more positive and productive alternatives. Make sure these are aimed at increasing your confidence (think what you would say to a teammate to boost their confidence).
Now what you do is repeat the new list to yourself each day. This works to reprogram your natural thought patterns and make it easier to think positively and in a way that increases confidence during games.
“There are many ways you can use self-talk in baseball, but the best involves using it to increase your confidence.”
Tip #2: Use Visualization
Another great mental training tool you can use as a baseball player is visualization.
This involves seeing yourself perform in your mind. It's a fantastic tool because your mind responds to the visualization in a similar way as to a real life event.
That means you can use this to increase confidence and actually improve mastery in your skills.
You can visualize yourself hitting, you can visualize yourself pitching, and you can visualize yourself fielding. Pretty much you can visualize anything you want within your game.
One of the cool things about using visualization is that you can put yourself in specific situations.
Let's say you're a pitcher and you've been struggling with throwing a strike in a 3-2 count. You can imagine yourself in that situation and visualize throwing a strike. Do this over and over again and your confidence in that situation will grow.
The same goes for hitting. You can visualize yourself hitting to the opposite field, facing a lefty or righty pitcher, or hitting a curveball.
When you use visualization, there are two key elements you want to keep in mind:
Go into detail to make the scene real, and feel emotion while you visualize.
“You can visualize yourself hitting, you can visualize yourself pitching, and you can visualize yourself fielding. Pretty much you can visualize anything you want within your game.”
Tip #3: Set Process Goals & Evaluate Well
Another mental training tool you can use as a baseball player is setting process goals, also known as performance objectives.
Outcomes are everywhere within baseball, but you don't want to focus on them because that can drive anxiety and fear. This causes you to play timidly and hold yourself back.
This is especially true when it comes to hitting. If you go up to bat worried about getting out, that's a recipe for disaster!
Instead, you want to focus on the process. When you set performance objectives, this helps keep your focus centered on the process. These goals will be parts of your game you have complete control over and will vary slightly between practices and games.
In practice, your objectives should be aimed at improving your skills. For example, you may set an objective to work on hitting the ball up the middle or to work on your slider during your bullpen.
When it comes to games, your objectives should be focused on putting you in the best position to succeed.
For example, you may set an objective to stay balanced at the plate, pick up the catcher's mitt before every pitch, or watch the ball into your glove.
They are simple objectives that keep you centered on the process and your mind in the present moment. The more present you are, the better you will perform.
Then what you want to do is evaluate yourself after each practice and game. This helps to make sure you are building your confidence each day, as well as taking things you can use to improve.
With your evaluation, what you want to do is first focus on what you did well. This builds your confidence over time.
Then you want to focus on what you can improve. You can take what you've identified as things to improve and turn them into objectives for your next practice or game.
“Outcomes are everywhere within baseball, but you don't want to focus on them because that can drive anxiety and fear. This causes you to play timidly and hold yourself back.”
Tip #4: Focus on Your Breathing
During a game you can use your breath to calm yourself down or to help focus.
Whenever you get nervous, what tends to happen is your breath becomes shallow. So imagine you're getting ready to hit and you're feeling nervous. At that moment, you're likely taking very quick, short breaths.
Instead, you want to take deep breaths. This will help calm you down. But what it also does is help increase your focus.
By taking a deep breath, you bring your attention into the present moment. That's a great state to be in as you get ready to hit or if you're pitching.
Taking deep breaths is also a great way to keep yourself calm and focused when you're in the field.
Another way you can use your breathing to train your mind is by practicing mindfulness meditation.
This is where you sit for 5-10 minutes each day and focus on your breath. This trains your attention along with training the ability for you to calm yourself down and control your mind.
"During a game you can use your breath to calm yourself down or to help focus."
Mental Coaching for Baseball
It's important that you begin making use of mental training as a baseball player. It will increase your confidence, improve your ability to manage failure, and all in all, increase your performance.
The four tips listed above will help you get started. But if you're interested in a more in-depth and personalized approach, then you need one-on-one mental coaching.
As a former college and professional baseball player myself, I am well aware of how hard baseball is on the mind. But I also know how powerful mental training can be on your performance.
With my experience as a baseball player and a sport psychology consultant, I will help you uncover any mental game challenges that are holding you back, and teach you the mental skills you need to succeed.
If you're interested in learning more about mental coaching for baseball, please fill out the form below.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
Contact Success Starts Within Today
Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.
Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.eli's story
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