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Monday, October 5, 2009

Baseball Instruction's 7 Essential Mental Skills

By Robert Bulka

There are many different methodologies for teaching baseball instruction. When most folks talk about baseball instruction they talking about three things: fielding, hitting and throwing. I often wondered why there isn't more importance put on teaching the mental aspects of baseball as well. What I've come to realize it that mental skills are learned, but it is an implied knowledge, meaning it's found it to be so important that I added my "7 Essential Mental Skills" to my baseball instruction program. Here they are:

How To Keep Your Cool
How To Use Visualization
Confidence and Positive Thinking
How to Eliminate Negative Thoughts
Stay Focused - No Distractions
How o Overcome Intimidation
How To Prepare in pressure situations (like a sacrifice bunt)

1. How To Keep Your Cool
One of the most important things you can teach your baseball players is how to act, both on and off the field. Another hot topic is arguing with an umpire, coach or another player. Arguing can result in immediate expulsion of the game and possibly the league.

To help players deal with frustration I teach the "10 second rule". This simply means they count to ten before talking. This is to let the rage pass. Believe it or not I have seen it work pretty well.

2. How To Use Visualizaion
Visualization is simply seeing things in your "mind's" eye before they happen. Let's say the hitter has a bunt sign. He can step out of the batter's box and visualize himself successfully executing the sacrifice bunt. Now, when he steps back in the box he has a mental picture, or a blueprint so to speak, to help him execute the strategy. This is a very effective tool.

3. Confidence and Positive Thinking
Positive Thinking and confidence are an essential part of baseball instruction. Think about the game in general, think about how many times you fail. I mean a .300 batting average is great but realistically it's being successful only 30% of the time. Think about how many outs we make, and the errors, and the mental lapses in judgements, etc. etc. There is negative and failure all around.

To promote positive thinking I use stories of incredible baseball comebacks of the past so the kids can see it's possible to comeback from a deficit and win. To boost morale and confidence players are encouraged to root and cheer for each other. It can makes all the difference hearing it from your peers.

4. How To Eliminate Negative Thoughts
Using the confidence building and positive thinking techniques also help to eliminate those negative thoughts. You can help visualize the release of negative thoughts by breathing in deep and exhaling. At the same time visualize that negatively exiting with your breath.

5. Stay Focused - No Distractions
This is so difficult to do, especially for kids. Here is a a great fielding drill that helps them focus and avoid distractions. It uses competition as it's catalyst.

With glove in hand, have four to eight players make a semi-circle around you. Yo will need a baseball glove and two balls. Now throw random ground balls and try to keep at least one of the balls active at all times. Any player who misses the ball or doesn't throw the ball directly back to you sits down and is waits for the next game. Last player left is champ.

6. How to Overcome Intimidation
Sometimes games are won before they even begin. This is because a team's appearance can intimidate a team so much that psyche themselves into thinking they have no chance. Before each game, pump your players up with accolades to boost their confidence. Another technique you can use is to huddle and give a real good pep talk.

7. How To Prepare In Pressure Situations (like a sacrifice bunt)
The use of the skills discussed above, combined, will help them prepare in pressure situations.

Robert Bulka is a former college baseball pitcher and current coach in the New York Metropolitan area. He has penned 2 books on Baseball Scorekeeping and he manages three baseball related sites.

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick