Get Your Mind Right- Baseball Mentality

What is Mental Toughness?

In sports, mental toughness and results are often times confused. But when we really get down to it, does mental toughness have anything to do with results? As we know, sports present difficult and adverse situations.

How do we stay calm and confident when these situations arise? How we handle these situations not only defines our character, but it also displays what kind of mental toughness we possess. Not everything will go your way all the time. Things will go wrong. Unplanned obstacles will show their face. People will deliberately try to deter you. Are you mentally tough enough to stay focused at all costs?

Baseball is 90 percent mental, the other half is physical.
— Yogi Berra

Do I Need Talent?

Before you read too far, I want you to understand that you do not need talent to be mentally tough. But you do need to be mentally tough in order to be good; in order to fully achieve greatness. The first rule is confidence. When it comes to mental toughness, it will all start and end with confidence. Once you are confident in your ability, you can begin to tap into this mental strength that we speak of.

It’s the players minds and their ability to use them. That’s what makes the use of a bat, a ball, and a glove.
— Augie Garrido

Be Confident!

Everyone knows how important it is to be confident if you want to be good at something. I would argue that confidence may be the most important part of mental toughness. When you are playing with confidence, you are focused. You are calm. You execute. When something goes wrong, confidence can carry you through.

You have to be confident. If you’re not confident, you might as well go home.
— Derek Jeter

If you have ever played with low confidence (and I know it has happened to most of us at one point or another), you understand how the game can speed up on you. Focus is blurred. You begin to panic Next thing you know, you can’t execute. Which situation is easier to be mentally tough? The confident situation, right? But without doubt, the player with lacking confidence needs that mental toughness more than ever! To conquer these types of situations, something positive usually has to happen to give the player a boost. Next thing you know, a fire is lit, and they begin to drill down and focus mentally! Confidence is the driving force behind mental focus and mental toughness.


Focus on the Process

Baseball is a game of failure. You can do everything right, and often times you will still come up short. That’s just how it goes. So how do you stay mentally strong with a daunting reality like this one? How do you press on? You have to focus on the process!

Everyone wants to get the hit. Everyone wants to make the pitch. Everyone wants to win the game. Everyone wants to win the championship. But you don’t just snap your fingers and get what you want. There is a process. There is preparation involved. Those who embrace the process relieve much of the pressure that most people feel when focused on overall results.

If we focus on the process, we automatically put ourselves in a position to be mentally tough, knowing that nothing can steer us away from carrying out our process. This doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it will keep you pressing on!


Character

For the average person, mental toughness seems to exist when things are going well. And maybe this is true. But what is the challenge? Everything is going your way right? How do you take it when things are going bad? Your true character comes out most in two circumstances. One, when no one is looking. Two, when things are going bad. So how do you consciously make an effort to be tough when things are going bad?

Ability may take you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.
— John Wooden

Attitude

It would be overly optimistic for me to say that you are always going to be in a good mood. All humans go through mood swings. You may be tired, worn out, stressed, drained, hungry, or just plain cranky. But it takes a tough person to be able to put on a smile and say they are having a great day when everyone knows they are not. Be the attitude that people gravitate towards. That will do nothing but instill confidence in you and allow you to steer your focus on positive things.

Have the attitude: “No matter what happens...I can overcome!” Is this a realistic statement? Absolutely not. Can this way of thinking help you hone in your mental focus and drive to exceed expectations? Absolutely! If you don’t believe that you can get something done with all your heart and soul, you simply will not be able to do with with any consistency.

Be confident, focus on the process, breath, and have a good attitude.


THE MENTAL WORKOUT

This model for mental training is relatively simple and concrete.  This workout was designed by Dr. Jason Selk, a sport psychologist who worked with the World Champions St. Louis Cardinals in 2006.

Step 1: Centering Breath

Prepare for and control performance. The body's normal response to performance is to experience anxiety  resulting in spike in heart rate. Your mind may be filled with self doubt or negativity. Counter the negative effects of performance anxiety using controlled breathing by taking a deep breath in for 6 seconds, hold for 2, then exhale for 7 seconds.

Step 2: The Performance Statement:  

A specifically tailored self‐statement is useful for increasing training and competitive focus. This statement is a type of self talk designed to help athletes zoom in on one specific thought to enhance performance. It should be simple and concrete. Think about the one core thought that puts you in the best position to play at your peak when you focus on it.

Step 3: The Personal Highlight Reel:  

Visualize in the 1st person yourself achieving your goal. Focus on what it feels like (sounds like, etc.) to perform correctly.  Feel/experience this at real life game speed. It is important to pay attention to detail.

Step 4: Identity Statement:  

A concrete self‐statement proven to enhance self‐image  and performance confidence. This statement helps to control work ethic, outcome, and self‐image. Creating a two-part statement is encouraged. The first part indicates a strength you currently have or want to have. Example: “I am the hardest worker on the team.”


About the author

Dave Bartek

Dave is a graduate from Piedmont College with a degree in Accounting, where he was a member of the NCAA baseball team.Dave spent his first two years of college playing baseball in Columbus, OH at Capital University. Upon graduating from Piedmont, he has spent his time working as a coach and strength training specialist at the Collegiate and High School level.

Dave is currently working with the Ninth Inning baseball academy in Atlanta, Georgia coaching some of the nation's top high school athletes. Known for his superior work ethic on and off the field, Dave has devoted nearly a decade to coaching and researching the major aspects of baseball performance: hitting, throwing, and running. His main goal is to use his extensive knowledge and background in strength and baseball performance training to give his athletes a competitive edge in enhancing their on-field performance.

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