Baseball is one of the most psychologically demanding sports there is. Each small battle within every game comes with either a mental edge gained over or allowed to the opponent. Beyond each individual battle between competitors, the game is riddled with challenges that test mental toughness within players themselves. I see a lot of athletes get down on themselves when they make an error, strikeout, get yelled at by coaches, or have a bad call made against them. Learning to tune the pressure of each of these instances out is where baseball players begin to separate themselves from their competitors and win the mental game.
What is the mental game of baseball?
Baseball is a game of failure. Players must learn how to get over errors quickly and to learn from them so that they don’t repeat their mistakes. I’ve seen a lot of good players be their own worst enemy, and it is the toughest aspect of coaching to help them overcome that. It is ok to be hard on yourself, but only to an extent. There were many times when I was a player that I got lit up on the mound and I thought about quitting. It wasn’t until I identified that the failure I experienced was due primarily to my mental game that I was able to learn from it. Once I could comprehend the difficulty of the mental side of baseball, I was able to take my failures from the game and work on them at practice.
By keeping frustration under control when you fail, you can use it to go after the next play and make up for your previous mistakes. The more you let the mental game waiver your confidence, the greater the chances are of you commit the same errors again. This is a compounding detriment of the mental side of baseball, and only you, the player, can overcome that challenge.
How can a baseball coach help players improve their mental game?
When your players commit errors in games, try not to respond negatively. Take notes of what you’re going to work on with that player next practice, and approach the situation in a professional manner. Help that player work on drills that will improve the physical side of their game; remain encouraging to them and build up their mental game as well. When you rip into players during games they tend to tense up and become scared of the baseball. You want them, instead, to feel confident in attacking the next play to redeem themselves. Pro athletes make errors, and they’ve trained longer than most youth athletes have been alive. Failure will eventually happen to everyone, so show your players how to learn from it and lead them to improving their mental game.
Dillon Mulholland is a gold level baseball coach in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Check out his CoachUp profile here!
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