The mental game as it pertains to baseball is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s game. Originally it was viewed as something for the weak minded and those that had the ‘yips’. However, as the mental game has become more prevalent through guys like Ken Ravizza, Brian Cain, and Diamyn Hall (there are many others), the thinking about the mental game has changed. This has been a positive change in baseball and has increased the awareness around teaching the mental game. I wanted to use this blog post to share how we teach the mental game in our practices and how it translates to the game. Here are 3 ways we implement the mental game into our practices.
- ) Mental Game Minute
This came from Tyler Pazik, who runs the Pazik Performance Group. At the beginning of every practice we go through a checklist of the mental game. The checklist is as follows:
- Message to team
- Mental Minute
- Quote of the day
- Daily Stoic (read by the team)
- Value of the day (from team core principles)
- Who exuded the value of the team yesterday?
- Recap previous practice (Well, Better)
This all takes place in the matter of about 5–8 minutes. It starts with a quick message to the team from coaches, then goes into the mental minute. We will have a quote of the day to get our minds focused on what we are intending for that day, then have a team member read a passage from the Daily Stoic. We will then go over our value of the day from our core principles that we have set up. We will recognize someone that exuded the previous days core principle, then recap our previous practice through asking our players what went well, and what can we do better. This is an important time in our practices as we get players minds focused on the objectives of practice and our team goals. It gives them time to let go of whatever has been going on throughout the day and get ready and focused for practice.
2.) Put it into practice
We teach our guys to have a release refocus routine for when they get into yellow/red lights out on the field. The release/refocus routine has a physical action, followed by a deep breath, and a thought, image, or feeling (TIF). However, we don’t just teach them to have this routine, we implement it into our practice routines. When we have BP, the athletes that aren’t hitting are going through their release/refocus routines. We are telling them if they are in green/yellow/red lights and having them practice what they do in those situations. Same with BP, we allow our players to slow down if needed and go through their routine before hitting the next baseball, rather than doing rapid fire BP. Also, anytime our pitchers are in their bullpens or in scrimmages we have them practice their release/refocus routines so they are prepared when they are out on the mound. If we are only talking about the mental game and not putting it into our practice planning our athletes won’t be prepared when the games start. They need the opportunity to practice it, so they are able to use it when things aren’t going their way in game.
3.) The Classroom/Games
We spend 30 minutes of practice once a week, talking through situations that happen on the field and how we are going to work through them/proactively react to them. We also talk about different aspects of the mental game from focus/concentration to motivation/commitment. The classroom time gives us the opportunity to get them off the field and work on different aspects of the mental game in a controlled setting. We go over goal setting, having a 168 plan (planning out your week), a well, better, how sheet that allows them to assess themselves and their performance in different aspects of baseball and life. During games we track different aspects of the game that help our athletes look at the process instead of results, such as Quality at Bats, our BASE2 Checklist, and winning the freebie war. These are all part of getting our athletes to look less at the outcome, but about working the winning process, that if done consistently will produce the results they want. Results are important, but they can hinder if looked at incorrectly. Sometimes a great swing gets caught and that doesn’t mean the hitter failed at what they were trying to do, they just got beat. They have to learn to release that frustration and refocus, knowing that if they continue to hit the ball hard, they’re eventually going to get on base.
There are many different ways to implement the mental game, honestly just holding a competitive practice will help athletes learn how to compete and deal with failure, but athletes need a way (release/refocus) to let go of the failures that they’ve had and learn how to deal with the different challenges the game will throw at them. If you are interested in any of the information provided here, feel free to reach out and I can send you everything we use.