Mental skills in baseball are often overlooked and very undertrained. Today, we’ll cover four tips that can help any baseball player improve on-field performance and handle pressure situations like a champ.
#1: Start a Simple Meditation Practice
The word meditation sounds weird and scary, right? Many players think that only monks, hippies or yoga enthusiasts take time out of their days to meditate. But meditation doesn’t have to be a big scary thing. Rather, athletes should just think of it as quiet time to sit, reflect, and let their minds get a break from everyday life.
Here’s how easy a meditation practice can be:
Step 1: Find a quiet place where you can sit where you won’t feel self-conscious or nervous. A place out of the public eye is ideal.
Step 2: Find a comfortable cushion to sit on or lay flat on your back. Propping up the back by sitting against a wall can be good, but I don’t lay down in a bed or another place where falling asleep is likely.
Step 3: Set a timer for 10, 15 or 20 minutes. Start shorter—10 minutes is a good starting place where you can get your feet wet.
Step 4: Sit still, relax, close your eyes, and let your mind wander wherever it wants to go.
Step 5: Breathe in and out through the belly—pushing it out and in—and consider counting each breath. Counting belly breaths helps keep your mind present, where you’ll feel less distracted by things from the past and future that you’re concerned about
That’s it! Keeping it simple will help you get started, and the quiet meditation time will help reduce the anxiety and stress we athletes feel in pressure situations on the mound.
For a deeper explanation of meditation, as well as the other three tips outlined in this article, check out the video below:
#2. Visualize Yourself Succeeding
Visualizing success is an important part of an athlete’s mental skills routine. If we don’t deeply believe that we can accomplish goals, become who we dream of, or execute on a very specific task…we never will. The self-fulfilling prophecy is a concept in which when we believe something will happen, it becomes more likely to actually happen. Thus, if we believe we’re destined to fail or choke under pressure, we increase the likelihood that we’re correct.
Expect and visualize yourself succeeding—the positivity will carry you through hard times and tough situations. Visualize the good swing you’ll put on the ball, the flight of the pitch you’re about to make and yourself competing in the Major Leagues in front of thousands of fans. If you do that, it becomes more likely that it will actually happen.
#3. Have Confidence and Create a Fight Mentality
When under pressure, it’s easy to want to pull back and be passive, hoping you can get the outcome you want. Rather, we have to get even more aggressive when we get nervous in games, reminding ourselves that we CAN do it, and that we’re going to pull through no matter what.
As athletes, we need to truly believe we can succeed. By both imagining it and reminding ourselves that we’re capable of anything we put our minds to, we can maximize our chance at success.
A lot of times in a game, it comes down to the fight or flight dilemma: when we’re scared of giving up the game-losing hit or we’re nervous about not getting the game-winning hit as a hitter, we pull back and play the game scared. Athletes play their best when confident and aggressive—trying to take the fight to the other team, forcing them to play scared. When times get tough, show those teeth like a wolf and fight for yourself and your team.
#4. Use Positive Comparison
Find players in the Major Leagues who you look up to, who possess similar qualities or characteristics. How would your heroes respond if placed in the situation you’re in? Would they come through and get out of a bases-loaded jam? Would they have a good at-bat when the team needs a big hit? Would they feel nervous or afraid?
Find a player or players who share similar qualities and ask yourself if he wouldn’t be afraid, why should I? If so-and-so would confidently walk to the plate with the game on the line and have a great at-bat, why can’t I? If he could beat this team, I can too because I’m a lot like him.
Use positive comparison as a tool to remind yourself of the special skills you do have, that you might forget when you’re nervous or lacking confidence.
Use These Mental Skills Tips as Part of Your Routine
Nothing happens overnight, so get started today with building new, positive mental habits. Mental skills training is very overlooked despite the fact that most players will report that they feel themselves struggle with doubt, anxiety and low confidence on the field. Make a change today and start seeing how good you could be if you played with confidence and a clear mind every single day on the diamond.
Need Help Building a Mental Training Practice for Yourself or Your Team?
I have a step-by-step mental skills video course called The Resolute Athlete. It’s 40+ videos of instruction and stories, along with seven worksheets designed to help you learn the high-level mental skills possessed by the game’s best players. It’s perfect for teams and individuals.
And for more free baseball and mental training videos, subscribe to Dan’s YouTube Channel here.