Many of us in the coaching profession have familiarized ourselves with the mental game of baseball. It has been widely accepted by the baseball community of why it is important. This post is an example of how to introduce two activities of the mental game that are cheap and easy to do to help give your team the mental edge on opponents.
It Begins Before It Begins
This phrase can apply before a practice and games. First, the implementation of the visualization to the team. I would recommend implementing a visualization program during a team meeting before the beginning of fall baseball practices. This allows the team to understand why this program is important and how it will make the team better. The why and how the visualization should be implemented is because it makes the team play without constantly worrying and letting them control the game, rather than letting the game control them. By allowing your players to already expect anything to happen, it gives them the opportunity to not be surprised by anything during the game. Now you can to do one of two things when it comes to visualization. You can have the team as a whole together during the visualization exercise or divide up the team into three different groups. One for offense, defense, and pitchers. It is important to note that for pitchers, they would typically only need the pitching visualization, but you can put them into the defensive one as well. Visualization is an exercise that many of the best of the best in baseball have done to make them receive their mental edge on opponents.
Now in regards to implementing visualization to your team it is best to shoot for 5 minutes for the first week of practice and then expand to either the 25 minute range or 30 minute range for the team towards the end of the fall. This activity should be used all year during practice. It would also be important to suggest to your players to work on their personal visualization before a series so they can play the game freely and have no negative thoughts going into a weekend or week day series. The thing that I like about the activity of visualization is that it is very simple, yet it allows a ton of focus that will be needed in the game of baseball as well. Once your team becomes proficient in the art of visualization, you can have them focus on different situations that they could be in, and have them see themselves coming through and being successful. You can also have them see themselves not being successful and have them relax themselves after they came up short.
Another thing that I would suggest coaches to get for their players is journals. The reason why I suggest this is because it is important to have your players write down the times that they have been successful and why they were successful. This can be a successful key for your players whenever they feel unconfident. It would also be suggested that whenever your players write these moments down that they can play these through their heads during stretching to give them that extra boost of confidence that they needed before practice or a game. It allows them to feel that confidence again when they need it the most. Another activity that I like is to have your players during the week to write down one thing in their game that they are trying to get better at, and have them visualize them coming through in that area all week before practice. Now with all of this being said, this isn’t the only way to start and do a mental game program. This is just a post to help out coaches who are curious into putting a mental game program into their team.
Zach Casto (@CoachCasto_WVSU) is a student assistant coach at West Virginia State university.