Mound Management (Part 1)

“Be great at Committing to your Process — everything else is secondary”

Being “Process Oriented” (as opposed to Result Oriented) is the single most important principle to understand about a players’ Mental Game approach.  Being Process Oriented means that you are so committed to this action that the results of your action no longer exist.  The present moment is all that matters.  And the instinctive nature of an athlete can take over because “thoughts” cease to exist.

This state of mind, which has also been characterized by being in The Zone or being Unconscious, allows the athlete to feel a sense of relaxation, freedom and trust because the only thing that matters is NOW — the mind is no longer concerned with what happened, or what may happen because it is too preoccupied with what is happening.

The irony is that this state of mind seems to be more familiar in practice situations because there tends to be little “real” consequences at stake in practice, and little to think about.  However, in game situations, when the uniform goes on, statistics count, wins and losses are at stake and peers and scouts are watching, this environment tends to invite a lot more “variables”.  Because things begin to matter, players seem to be more vulnerable to focusing on the consequences of their actions, rather than the actions themselves.  And these “variables” can bring elements that didn’t exist in the practice environment, like stress, tension, distractions and over thinking.

In the case of a Pitcher, these variables may include: the “consequences of my next pitch”, “thinking about what may happen or what did happen”, “worrying how my coaches/teammates are judging me”, “who’s in the stands”, “statistics”, “mechanics” and so on.  These variables are countless and have nothing to do with a pitchers ultimate goal — to Identify what his or her Process (approach) is, Commit to it and Trust it.

Constant Versus Variables
The only time you see obstacles is when you take your eyes off of your focus

Whereas consequences and results can have countless “variables” the Process is more of a “constant” — it is a few, predetermined components that each individual pitcher identifies as their key to executing their best pitch possible.

For example, the following basic elements illustrate what a typical pitchers Process could look like: 1) Take a Deep Breath, 2) Look for a Focal Point (Intent), 3) Have a simple mechanical cue, and 4) Attack the Focal Point (Commit).  Because these four elements (in this example) are both tactical and knowable it will tend to be very relaxing to the mind.  Also, because they are constants, ANYTHING else that may come up in a pitchers mind outside of these constants (e.g. the future or past, the consequences or results of their action), can now be considered a “variable”.  Thus, your Process keeps things simple — it is based on a few predetermined elements that you have identified as putting you in the best position possible to execute your most ideal pitch;  elements that are intrinsically motivated, repeatable,  and independent of the variables going on around you.

The beauty of having this Process Oriented plan in place is that whatever components you choose, they are yours and they are knowable.  Again, it is a relief (and advantageous) to the mind to know that there are just a few constants in place that can be relied on rather than having to worry about innumerable “variables” that may come up in game situations.

Conversely, without a Process in place for the mind to focus on pitchers may be vulnerable to over thinking simply because baseball has so much “dead time” (30 seconds between pitches, 30 minutes between at-bats), and because it’s a statistics driven sport (e.g. Batting Average/ERA).  It’s probably not unusual for players to focus on things in game situations like, “how many hits do I have”, “how many innings have I thrown”, “what inning is it”, “what’s the score”, “where’s my batting average or era at now”, and so on.  Dead time and Statistics are two factors that can put players in a vulnerable position in game situations.  And performing independent of “thoughts and statistics” could be seen as quite challenging — thoughts that may have nothing to do with a players ideal approach or Process — thoughts that have nothing to do with putting a player in the best position possible to execute their plan.

Alan Jaeger has consulted with several high school/college programs including UCLA, Arizona and Cal State Fullerton, and MLB Organizations including the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Indians.  For more information about Jaeger Sports and their products (“Thrive On Throwing 2” DVD or Digital Download, J-Bands and Mental Training Book, “Getting Focused, Staying Focused”), please visit their website at www.jaegersports.com or call 310-665-0746.  You may also download additional articles/videos at http://www.jaegersports.com/press_articles.php/, and Youtube, keyword jaeger sports.  Twitter: @jaegersports

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