This weekend I did something I don’t normally do. I was recovering from Covid, so I had the chance to watch 4 incredible football games.
Even though we could talk about the actual games I wanted to focus on a big Takeaway and how it can relate to baseball mental skills.
So…. my big Takeaway is…….
The poise and competitiveness each quarterback had this weekend.
There is so much pressure on each play.
The crowd is going nuts.
The players on the sidelines are jumping and waiving towels and yet…
….the QB’s don’t break their stoic facial expression while planning on how they are going to beat their opponent.
So how does this apply to BASEBALL MENTAL SKILLS?
If you want to be cool, calm and collected like an NFL quarterback, there’s 3 things to remember:
#1 – Wrong focus will kill your performance in a game
With all of the skills we are trying to develop so we can be a better player, we often forget about competing.
This is a HUGE reason why so many players do great in practice, but struggle in games.
Let me ask you this… do you think that elite is QB is focusing on his “throwing technique” during those high pressure moments?
Is he thinking about his elbow direction? Or his footwork?
No! Of course not.
He isn’t thinking about himself at all (internal focus)
Rather, he’s in the moment.
He’s looking at what’s going on around him (external focus). He’s thinking strategically about the situation.
As a baseball player, if you are at the plate…
…or on the mound
…or in the field
…thinking “OK, first hips, then shoulders;” or “Right, left step;” or getting to your perfect throwing position
then you’ve already lost the battle! ☠️🏳
#2 – Understand the role of preparation
An NFL quarterback doesn’t have to worry about his technique in games for one very important reason… he trusts the technique to be there because he trusts his preparation.
When I was young, Coach Bear Bryant’s famous quote made a real impact on me.
“It’s not the will to win that is important.
Everyone has that on game day.
It’s the “Will to prepare to win.” that is the separator.”
#3 – The missing ingredient to practice (the bridge between practice and your baseball games)
Now for big question…
OK, I get it, baseball players need to be mentally “in the moment”
But how do you help players learn to actually do it???
This is the thing that might be missing from your practices.
It’s the “bridge” between practice and game.
As a coach, when I see a player that is so focused on his mechanics, I will intentionally try to change a few drills later in the practice session to create a competitive atmosphere.
I want the player to work from an internal focus to an external focus.
And one of the best ways to go from a “good practice player” to a good game player is encouraging external focus through competitive practice settings that replicate game-like situations.
Feeling the rush of winning a competition…
…or being super frustrated when losing (and using that motivation to fuel ourselves)
and learning the small line that separates victory from a loss.
That’s how we become a complete player, as we learn to trust our skills and compete with whatever we have that day.
Keep the fire, keep the drive.
When you win – be humble and evaluate your preparation.
When you lose – look for ways to get better and don’t let a loss bring you down. A loss is just part of your preparation for the next test.
Now tell me… Do you have favorite way to “be in the moment” when you’re in a high pressure situation? If you have found something that works for you, I’d love to hear about it. Just comment below.
Good luck and keep competing.
Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, PIT Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. (You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier) Where is he now? After 16 years of playing professionally, Doug retired and took a position as a Major League scout with the Colorado Rockies for 2 years. Currently Doug is the Data and Game Planning Coordinator with the Colorado Rockies
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