We got such great feedback from our blog on Heads Up Baseball: Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time by Ken Ravizza and Tom Hanson, we wanted to add to these skills by reviewing the authors’ second book, Heads-Up Baseball 2.0: Five Skills for Competing One Pitch at a Time. Our third blog focuses on practice and ways to implement mental skills. Stay tuned for our interview with Ken Ravizza!
Our blog series on the first Heads-Up book stressed the importance of practicing mental skills, and we can’t emphasize enough how important this is. You would never practice a new skill or drill a few times and expect yourself to execute it well during a competition. Your mental skills are just like your physical skills – they need structure and attention if you want them to grow. Ravizza and Hanson emphasize the vocabulary that you use to address your mental game should be woven throughout your entire program. Mental skills aren’t something we just think about once, they are what we do all day, every day. The authors state “Baseball practice is baseball practice. Don’t think there’s regular practice and then mental practice as if they’re separate things.”
One key strategy to implement mental training into practice is segmenting your practice into moments of focus and moments of rest. This process will grow your focus muscle as you gain awareness of what your “focus battery” needs to be charged at when it’s most necessary. Our module on distraction management includes additional specific tips on how to develop your focus.
Working mental skills into practice clearly emphasizes the importance of learning these skills regardless of how you are performing. Unfortunately, may athletes don’t consider their mental game plan until they aren’t performing well. Ravizza and Hanson offer several tools to consider when you aren’t performing well and are seeking to learn the cause. First, your thinking might be causing a mechanical breakdown. Often, athletes are thinking they need to do “more” in that specific moment and what looks like a mechanical breakdown is actually a mindset breakdown of not focusing on the task at hand. Or, you may have learned mental skills training at Level 1 or 2, but haven’t pushed yourself to get to Level 3 where you have actually practiced and designed a specific mental game plan for yourself.
Ravizza and Hanson state the most common mental game error is going too “internal” when you need to be focused on the external task at hand. We are stressing the importance of awareness, which takes self-reflection, but you must get back to an external focus to avoid “thinking too much.” Yes, you can use your mental skills too much if you aren’t deliberate about how you are implementing them. As you are determining the root of your performance breakdown, the authors say it is critical that you view it as an investigation, not get caught up a shame cycle and reliving it to the point of affecting your confidence.
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