Our summer series focusing on baseball and softball is underway with Heads Up Baseball: Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time by Ken Ravizza and Tom Hanson. The book provides an introduction to the mental game, as well as workbook pages to directly apply the skills and tools to become a more Heads Up player right away! Our next blog will focus on incorporating a Heads Up mentality into pitching, hitting and fielding.
Pitching is a specialized skill within the sports of baseball and softball, and in many ways is more individualized than the rest of the game. According to Ravizza and Hanson, the single most important aspect of pitching is having the confidence to trust your pitch. There will be days you feel great and have your A-game, but there are going to be more days you don’t feel great and have your B or C game. Trusting your pitch will help you to make the most out of what you’ve got! This is easier said than done. Ravizza and Hanson describe three mental mistakes that are common for pitchers. Prayer Pitching is when a player shifts from knowing what spot they want to hit to hoping their opponent doesn’t get a hit. The lack of confidence then leads to a breakdown in mechanics and decreased velocity. Primal pitching happens when a pitcher tries to get out of a jam by throwing harder. Throwing harder typically doesn’t work because the player is out of control and rushing, which creates tension and frustration and the loss of ball control and movement. Perfect pitching is where a player tries to pitch perfectly and narrows their own strike zone to an impossible size, which will in turn create a lot of misses and walks. Instead, the pitchers job is to “hit the mitt” by being confident and focused on what you do have, rather than what you don’t!
Hitting is a difficult task. Even the best hitters succeed only three times out of ten, which means that they fail seventy percent of the time! Recognizing that hitting is difficult helps players be more realistic, work harder, and be less frustrated when they don’t get a hit. Ravizza and Hanson suggest hitters focus on Quality At-Bats, rather than their stats. Quality At-Bats help a player focus on what they can control instead of all of the things (i.e., pitcher, fielders, situation, umpire’s calls, weather) they can’t. Creating a Quality At-Bat check-list allows players to have more opportunities for success, like moving the runner, a sacrifice bunt, seeing a lot of pitches, or even getting a piece of a good pitch. Debriefing your quality rather than statistics after the at-bat is a more effective process than beating yourself up for not getting your result.
Fielding and baserunning also have a major impact on the results of a game. The mentality needed for defense is “wanting the ball” versus hoping someone else gets the job done. A player that wants the ball is confident and aggressive, in comparison to the player that lacks focus and second guesses their positioning. Ravizza and Hanson discuss the enemy of fielders and baserunners to be boredom. If the player is not fully immersed in each pitch, they can miss a jump on a ball or get caught off base. The challenge is to be able to lock in for the pitch and then relax briefly in between pitches. Great defensive players know the situation and anticipate their reaction to the next play. And most importantly, they are able to let go of a mistake and refocus on the next play! Our module on Distraction Management can help you develop your own refocusing skills so you are ready for each pitch!
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