Get Psyched! How Mentally Tough Are You? (Part Three)

By Dr. Jim Taylor

Focus
The ability to stay focused is essential for you to perform your best consistently. Keywords in training and competitions can help keep you focused and avoid distractions. Come up with one or two key words that you need to focus on to perform well. For example, key words can remind you of proper technique (e.g., reach, straight body), staying relaxed (calm, breathe), good tactics (e.g., attack, patience), or staying motivated (e.g., be tough, hang in there). Key words are particularly useful when a competition gets difficult because they give you something you can grab onto and say to yourself, enabling you to remain focused when it really counts. Mental imagery—closing your eyes and seeing and feeling yourself performing the way you want—is another powerful focusing tool. You can use mental imagery before training sessions or competitions to block out distractions, focus on key aspects of your performance, and imagine yourself being successful.

Emotions
The emotions that you experience before competitions often determine how you perform. If you’re excited and happy, you will likely do well. If you’re fearful, frustrated, or feeling despair, you will probably not achieve your goals. There are no specific mental training techniques to improve emotions, but you can develop emotional mastery by learning to recognize what emotions you are feeling, what is causing the emotions, and then look for solutions to resolve the cause of the emotions. You should use opportunities in which you’re feeling bad to figure out how to change your emotions so they can feel good and perform better.

Pain
Perhaps the greatest obstacle you will face in achieving your athletic goals is the pain you experience in training and competition, particularly if you compete in endurance sports. Pain is your body’s message telling your mind that it is threatened and wants to stop. Pain has such a powerful influence because, not only does it hold your body back, but it also affects how you think and the emotions you experience. Unless the pain indicates an injury, if your mind listens to your body, you will ease up and you will not perform your best.

Research has shown that when you connect performance pain with negative thoughts (e.g., “I hate hurting this much!”) or negative emotions (e.g., frustration, anger, despair), you actually feel more pain. There are several mental techniques you can use to limit the pain you feel.

First, accept that pain is a normal part of sports training and competition—“no pain, no gain,” as the saying goes. The reality is that if sports weren’t difficult, they wouldn’t be very satisfying and you probably wouldn’t do them. Second, stay emotionally detached from the pain and use it as information to help you perform your best, for example, adjust your technique, pace, or body position. Third, realize that everyone else is probably hurting too, so if you’re the one who handles the pain best, you’re more likely to be successful.

Fourth, when you feel pain, your body braces to protect itself. Unfortunately, this actually causes more pain. You can counteract this tension by actively relaxing muscle groups and using deep breathing. Fifth, by connecting positive self-talk (e.g., “The pain means I’m working hard to reach my goals”) and emotions (e.g., pride, inspiration, excitement) with your pain, you’ll increase your motivation and confidence and trigger pain-killing endorphins so you’ll feel less pain. Finally, perhaps the greatest lesson I have learned as both a sport psychologist and an athlete is this: The physical pain you feel in training and competition in no way compares to the emotional pain you will feel if you don’t achieve your goals because you let the pain beat you.

Dr. Jim Taylor holds a Ph.D. in Psychology, is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco, and blogs on politics, education, technology, popular culture, and sports for huffingtonpost.com, psychologytoday.com, seattlepi.com, and on his own blog at drjimtaylor.com.

What Pitch Do You Like To Hit?

By Kevin Wilson

Watch good hitters hit and you will notice that they don’t miss their pitch very often.

And to take it a step further, they pretty much know when their pitch is coming and they are ready to attack it.

I ask many young hitters this question: “What type of pitch do you like to hit?” Most of them have to take a second to think about it. That’s NOT GOOD! You should know right away what you want to hit. It shouldn’t have to take a few seconds to register in your brain. This is part of being a good hitter.

Being aware of what you want to hit when you’re up there. You know you can hit multiple pitches, but you also know that you are the most successful hitting one type of pitch. Good hitters don’t get to higher levels without hitting this certain type of pitch. They don’t get a chance to fulfill their life-long dream of becoming a big league player without hitting this pitch.

What’s that pitch? A fastball.

Now this may not seem like rocket science. In fact, many of you reading this might have said, “Duh” when you saw the answer to my question.

But what I want to do is have you ask yourself this question: “Am I committed to hitting a certain pitch before two strikes?” If your answer is “yes” then you’re well on your way. If your answer is “no,” then I have some information for you that may help you be more consistent at the plate.

We talk about approaches and plans all the time. To each his own when it comes to this, but what all good hitters have in common is that they are hitting off the fastball.

I always tell hitters that no one is in the Hall of Fame for hitting a breaking ball.

Let me break it down to you this way. What’s the best pitch a pitcher can throw for a strike? A fastball.

As a hitter, what’s the easiest pitch to hit? A fastball.

So with this being said, what type of pitch should we be looking to hit the majority of the time when we go to the plate? Yes, a fastball.

I see a lot of guys go up and not have a solid plan, thus swinging at pretty much anything that comes near the plate. They end up getting themselves out because they aren’t committed to something specific. They walk back to the dugout saying they can’t hit anything. Of course you can’t. You aren’t giving yourself a chance to hit anything because you haven’t committed to hitting one thing.

Yes, there are times that we commit to other types of pitches with less than two strikes.That absolutely happens. But I’m trying to help you with committing to something that’s more manageable for you.

Let’s talk about getting into fastball counts. It doesn’t mean you’ll get a fastball every time but the likelihood of this happening is greater. I’ll take my chances on those counts because I’m not guessing, just simply playing the percentages and understanding how I can best get my fastball that I want to hit.

I love when guys go up there with a mindset to get a pitch they are looking for and working with that pitch and only that pitch until two strikes.The best hitters in the game are not afraid to get to two strikes. They are aggressive and ready to hit but know what pitch they will be more successful swinging at.

They also do not abandon ship when they see a pitch they’re not looking for go right down the middle for strike one. They are going to stick with the pitch they want to hit until they get two strikes. That takes courage and confidence in your plan.

How do you get to the big leagues? You hit the fastball.

How do you succeed at your level? You hit the fastball.

We are never not prepared to hit BP, right? Of course not! We are ready to hit the many fastballs we see each round. It’s just a matter of where they go.

Go hit the pitchers’ best pitch today. It happens to be your best pitch too.

Kevin Wilson is a professional hitting coach and founder of Kevin Wilson Baseball. Since 2001, Kevin has been working with hitters in MLB, MiLB, NCAA as well as elite high school players from across the country. In 2013, Kevin was the hitting coach for the USA Baseball 18U National Team who won gold in Taichung, Taiwan.You can find him on twitter @KWBaseball or check out his website www.KWBaseball.com

The PHIT Act is scored

Our partner, PHIT America.org has been “scored” by the United States Government, which is great news for American fitness. Not sure what that means? Read the article here.

Two CoachDeck clients vying for Montana State Championship

Congrats to Boulder Arrowhead Little League and Mount Sentinel Little League, both CoachDeck clients, and both winners of their respective Little League district championship. The two titans will square off beginning Saturday for a best-of-three series to see who will represent Montana in the regional tournament. Good luck to each team!

Another CoachDeck client wins state Little League Championship

Congratulations are due to West Salisbury Little League in Maryland for winning the MD state championship. Next stop, Mid-Atlantic tournament for the right to go to the Little League World Series!

Friday In the Bleachers

We thought this was cute. Enjoy your weekend. Courtesy of Steve Moore.

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Pearland does it again!

Our client Pearland East Little League has not only won their District Little League Championship but have also been crowned Section Champs. They will continue on their road to get back to where they were in 2010, the Little League World Series!

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