many of you have been in a position to win the game in your final at-
bat? You know, 2 outs
your team losing by one
run in the last inning. The other team changes pitchers as you step up
to the plate. The Big Kid moves from first base, saunters
up to the pitchers mound and starts throwing fastballs that look
like BBs streaking to the plate. How would you handle this situation?
Most kids will look at this situation with Fear: Fear of failure,
fear of striking out, fear of being hit by the pitch, fear of letting
his teammates, coach and parents down. There is nothing to fear. The game
has not changed, it is still see the ball, hit the ball. The
fear is created in the mind, it is a choice the player makes. He can choose
to fear the situation or relish in the opportunity to win the game for
his team. A conscious choice is made based on what he perceives the situation
The poor player will look at this situation as a no win position;
That pitcher is a horse, look how fast he is throwing that ball.
There is no way I can hit that. Man, this stinks
why did they have
to put him in when I was coming up to bat? All of that negative
self talk does nothing more than perpetuate the likeliness of failure
for the player. He is preparing himself to fail and justifying that failure
in his mind. This is the wrong mental approach to hitting in any situation,
let alone one like this.
So, what is the right mental approach? Positive self-talk is one of the
most important ingredients to success in any sport, or life itself for
that matter. If you believe
you can achieve! Dont just say;
I can do this. Believe you can! Take a moment to stand in
the on-deck circle and study the pitcher, visualize hitting sharp line
drives to the outfield every time he throws a warm-up pitch. Say things
like: Cool, Im going to win this game! See your teammates
jumping up and down with joy. Joyful anticipation is the proper mental
approach in these situations. You get to go up to bat and
win the game. That is cool. Winners want to be in this position. Winners
dont fear failure
they anticipate success!
Armed with the proper mental approach, what about physical symptoms that
can impair your performance? In the above situation the poor player with
the improper mental approach actually initiates physical responses in
his body that virtually put him against greater odds to succeed. His fearful
and negative thoughts can create slower reaction of his muscles. He has
created a tension level so high that his movements and reactions are stiff.
This is the choking referred to by sports announcers on many
occasions. The pressure felt by the poor player results in indecisiveness,
impaired eyesight, jumbled thoughts (mostly negative), hyper breathing.
None of these symptoms is helpful to the player.
By contrast, the good player looks at this situation in a totally different
light. He is excited about the challenge to win the game. He anticipates
success and practices the proper thought process to guarantee him the
best opportunity to succeed. He creates an inner environment that puts
him at ease. Everyone has the choice to do the same, they can choose to
fear the situation or accept it as a challenge. The winning player has
that inner control of his thoughts and emotions.
The winning player may step up to the plate in the above situation and
immediately fall behind in the count, 0-2. By stepping out of the box
and gathering himself mentally, he still believes he can succeed. A deep
breath, positive thought and self statement; focus on the ball,
hit it hard somewhere, can go a long way toward success.
A good practice to get into for a hitter is to find a safe zone
to focus on, when the challenge gets greater. This safe zone
should be something that will always be there, your bat for instance.
Nomar Garciaparra uses his batting gloves. He loosens and tightens them
repeatedly as he gathers himself mentally. Most hitters step out of the
box, take a deep breath and focus on the barrel of the bat as they regroup
their positive thoughts. Whatever the action, the purpose is the same;
to reinforce the belief that they will be successful.
In conclusion, remember that you create your own tension by choosing to
place pressure on yourself. Fear of failure is the number one reason for
this pressure. You make the choice to fear. You can just as
easily choose to enjoy the challenge of the same situation. Practice the
proper breathing and positive self-talk, develop a safe zone
to focus on and you will be well on your way to the winning player that
wins the game more often than not.