By Nate Barnett
The assumption here is that you have either found the title of this article amusing to some extent, or you are looking for information on how to become more mentally tough as an athlete. Maybe both, which would be a bonus for you. Now, a little group participation... I want you to stop reading for a minute after you read the following question. Don't read past until you have an answer.
The Question: What did you do differently this season (compared to last) to prepare yourself for a successful experience in baseball?
If your answer is nothing, many athletes have since passed you and have consequently helped improve their chances of getting to the next level, whatever that may be for them. However, if you have added something else to your game, then the opposite is true.
In order to become a mentally strong athlete, players must develop two types of skills.
A. Physical skills: those that help you throw, run, pitch, hit, and field more effectively.
B. Mental skills: those that help you in dealing with failure, build confidence, get you in "the zone", keep you out of slumps, etc.
The problem is that there is consistently more importance placed on physical development over mental. There are a few reasons physical skills are taught far more than mental skills.
1. Physical skills are more easily taught through the ease of information access in videos, books, and private baseball instruction.
2. The fixation on massive home runs and big power numbers fuel athletes' desire to improve and learn the skill of hitting a baseball 400ft like the guys in the Bigs.
3. The results can often be noticed by everyone right away. Therefore, there is more of an immediate feeling of improvement with physical skill work through baseball drills, etc.
The mental side of baseball is taught far less for a multitude of reasons. Some include:
1. There are simply fewer resources available on the topic of sports psychology and mental training.
2. Many sports psychology and mental training information is written in a complex fashion making it difficult for a reader to comprehend the information.
3. Practice time is limited for many teams. Therefore, fewer coaches can afford to carve out the time to work on the mental game (assuming they know how to teach it).
So how do you begin to work on the mental game? You're doing it now. Read, listen, and search for pieces of information on the topic. Post-game interviews from professional athletes are a good source. Countless players like Derek Jeter and Cal Ripken have devoted time to writing some of their thoughts on the subject. Buy their books or find them at a library.
Why should you develop you mental baseball skills? The answer to this question is lengthy and is a topic for another article at another time. But the simple answer is that you will be noticed by more college and professional scouts because they look for indicators of a strong mental game. And secondly, it will help to cut out slumps that linger and take away from consistent performance.
Nate Barnett is owner of BMI Baseball designed to improve the mental game of baseball in athletes. Learn how to help your game by improving your baseball psychology.
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