In my last guest post The Mental Side of Baseball I wrote about mental awareness and how it affects your play.
If you don’t have awareness, you won’t be able to improve your mental game. It’s similar to making changes to your swing. You need to have the awareness of a flaw before you can do anything about it.
A great way to practice awareness is the freeze game I talked about. Stop at various times throughout a game or anytime during the day and check where you are at mentally. Are you frustrated, excited, happy, sad? How is this affecting your actions?
Once you have a firm grasp on mental awareness, you can move onto step two-practicing mental skills.
How to Practice Mental Skills for Baseball
Becoming a better player takes both physical and mental adjustments. Physical practice requires a location and some equipment, but mental practice can be performed just about anywhere. The best way I have found to practice is through breathing techniques, positive self talk and mental imagery.
Below are some tips that individual players can use. If you are a COACH, looking to incorporate game-like atmosphere into your practices (so that your players don’t get flustered in actual games) check out these 5 defensive practice plans for 9-15U. They were created by a long time pro player and coach who also works with many youth teams. I think you’ll find the plans and videos helpful.
OK, on to the tips for individual players…
Belly breathing is a technique utilized to calm down the mind and the body. For high energy players like myself, this can be the best mental tool available. Too much stress can result in poor performance on the field.
In the same manner, not enough stress can also result in decreased performance.
What you need to find is the amount of stress that suits you best. Belly breathing is performed by taking deep breaths in through your stomach and deep exhales.
Rather than your chest rising, you should notice your belly rising. This can reduce cortisol in the body, which is the primary stress hormone.
Positive self talk
Positive self talk is another way to practice your mental skills. This exercise is exactly what it sounds like. You can either speak positive words to yourself in your head or aloud. This typically works best on belly breathing exhales. I like to repeat the phrase, “I am relaxed, focused and confident.” You can pick your own phrase. The best words are powerful and meaningful to you.
The last step is visualization. If you are practicing all three steps together, this comes last. This is best performed without belly breaths, in an entirely relaxed state. Visualize everything in your story. This can include a certain baseball field, pitcher and situation.
Make a picture in your head, what do you see, smell and hear? How does the ball or bat feel in your hands? Visualization can be a very effective tool. See yourself hitting a line drive, effectively executing a pitch or making a play on defense. You can preface the situation with a bad call by an umpire or by envisioning a stressful situation. Keep the results as positive as you can, this can take some practice.
By using these three steps together or in succession, you can greatly increase your mental abilities on the field. Many college and professional teams practice these techniques. This may seem odd, but they are committed to being an elite team on the mental side, just as they are on the physical side.
The offseason is a great time to get a mental head start. There is more free time and opportunity to practice. Working on your mental skills for baseball is great first thing in the morning or right before you go to bed. Finding a few minutes each day can make a huge difference.
More Free Tips from the Pros:
- Tips for Hitting
- Tips for Base running and base stealing
- Fielding tips by position – 1st base | 2nd base | shortstop | 3rd base | outfield | catchers.
- Pro recommendations for best wood bats
- Top 5 Batting Tees
- Ebook – Baseball Hitting Drills for a Batting Tee