By Nate Barnett
So many times the only skills worked on in practice have to do with improving the physical part of the game. It's necessary, but how much of baseball instruction is spent on the mental side of the game? You know, stuff like the following:
1. Dealing with failure
2. Building confidence on the field
3. Visualization or imagery
4. Creating belief
5. Goal setting and achievement
6. Creating a culture of winning
7. Eliminating fear
I know you'd agree with me that the points above are valuable to any athlete's game. But, if they are that valuable, why aren't they being taught more? The fact of the matter is the mental side of baseball IS being taught more, just not at the lower levels of baseball (college and below). Until more emphasis is placed on mental baseball instruction, you're on your own for development. There is help along the way, you just have to look for it. The articles I write here are a good place to begin.
If professional baseball is now investing time into having sports psychologists teach mental skill development, why isn't everyone? The answer is, it's tough. There is little immediate feedback. It's not black and white like hitting a baseball is. You either hit it hard or you don't, right? The observation of success or failure is immediate while hitting. Mental training is long term; results are not always seen immediately. Plus, few coaches have the time or the capacity to teach it. When was the last time you handed your players a piece of information on the mental game or devoted a practice to teaching the skill of dealing with failure? It doesn't happen. But my point is it can happen. It takes education. Which is precisely what you're doing now, reading, learning, and transforming the way you think about mental baseball instruction. Just make sure your learning doesn't stop with this brief article.
How important is learning how to embrace and master the mental side? Combined with your devotion to physical improvement, it will be the deciding factor for what gets you to the next level (as a player or coach). Do your homework; don't take my word for it. Ask any college coach, professional player, or scout how important understanding the mental side is.
Nate Barnett is owner of BMI Baseball designed to improve the mental game of baseball in athletes. Learn how to help your game by improving the skill of mental baseball
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