Blog 14.4

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. This book introduces athletes to the mental game, as well as provides workbook pages to directly apply the skills and tools to up your game right away! Our final blog will focus on incorporating a Heads Up mentality in practice.

Most athletes get excited and focused for competitions, but often don’t put the same energy into practice. While games are an opportunity to compete against an opponent, practice is the place where good habits are built, and the mental game is honed. Ravizza and Hanson state, “practice what you are going to do in a game.” If you go through the motions in practice or don’t give your full effort, you are going to end up performing the same way. Athletes also often believe how their practice goes is up to their coach. In reality, “the quality of your practices is your responsibility!” Coaches create the drills, situations, and scrimmages, but it is up to you to bring quality to each repetition!

Ravizza and Hanson discuss two specific ways that you can always bring quality to your practice, including having a purpose or mission and having a present moment focus. We discussed going on a mission in our first blog of this series, and the concept is incredibly important when it comes to practice. Your mission in practice is what you are trying to accomplish. Prior to each practice ask yourself, what do I want to get better at today? You can be even more specific depending on your position – for pitchers, what am I going to work on for my fast ball, curve ball, and slider? For a hitter, what am I going to work on offensively and what am I going to work on defensively? Asking yourself these questions prior to practice not only creates a mission for the practice, but also gives you more to reflect on after the practice. Did I accomplish my mission?

A present moment focus allows players to compete one pitch at a time, which we discussed in our second blog of this series. The present moment is the place where we can compete – free of past mistakes and future worries. During practice, work on one rep, one drill, one sprint at a time, and really give your full focus and effort on each. This level of focus is much more consistent with your game focus. An example here is focused stretching. It is easy to use the warm-up and stretch as a time to chat with friends and fool around. But focused stretching is a more deliberate way to check in with your body and your mind. How is your body feeling? What is sore or nagging? Incorporate some good deep breathing into your stretch to remind yourself of the deep breath and even get a bit deeper into your stretch. This is also a good time to reconnect with your mission so you are very clear on what you want to accomplish today.

Finally, it is important to be aware that not every practice will be perfect. Develop a plan to turn things around if you find you have lost focus or are going through the motions. Ravizza and Hanson recommend the “two minute drill”, where you see how well you can practice for just two minutes. Lock in your focus and quality and then check in after to see what specifically helped you to bring a higher level. Another suggestion from Ravizza and Hanson is to use a “release” or a way to let go of mistakes. Taking a deep breath or using a refocus word like “relax” or “lock in” can help you to regain control of your practice and get back on track!

UpsideDown Performance Quick Tip included with email subscription. Subscribe here!