I am a firm believer that the mental game of pitching is equally, if not more important than the physical aspects. Without mental discipline and focus, it is very difficult to succeed out on the mound.
This series of posts over the next couple weeks will focus on the various mental challenges you may face when pitching. Make sure you subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss any parts.
At some point in the career of a pitcher, you will challenged by distractions.
Distractions can come from many different sources, and appear in many different forms. Such distractions can be detrimental to your preparation, and your success.
Why are distractions detrimental to pitchers?
1. Can take you off your game plan
Every pitcher approaches a performance differently, but each has one primary goal: to win. However, knowing you want to win isn’t enough.
You must have a game plan, and it must be executed in order to be successful.
When you’re distracted, you lose sight of your goals, and your overall plan deteriorates. At this point, you’re just going through the motions physically, but mentally you’re in a different setting.
2. You will lose focus
Focus is key to your success, but distractions will cause you lose focus. Lost focus results in the inability to throw strikes, and you will be unable to access the muscle memory necessary for proper pitching mechanics.
3. Can lead to negative self talk
Self-talk is the most detrimental mental challenge a pitcher can face. When things aren’t going according to plan, pitchers will usually turn to negative self-talk.
All kinds of thoughts will running through your head when you’re not doing well such as:
- “Why can’t I throw a strike?”
- “My mechanics don’t feel right.”
- “I can’t believe he just made that error.”
Mental negativity and self-talk will lead to a poor performance.
4. The snowball effect
As you can see, everything I listed is in a snowball effect process.
Distractions → Takes you off game-plan/goals → Lose focus → Negative thoughts = POOR PERFORMANCE
Do not underestimate the power of distractions and the effect it can have on your performance.
Is there a solution? How can you overcome distractions, and be mentally prepared for to pitch?
4 ways to overcome distractions
Christopher Columbus once reported to have said, “By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.”
I like that quote.
Here’s how to overcome pitching distractions:
1. Start preparing early
Mental preparation must begin the days prior to your start. Starting your preparation earlier can help you develop mental goals, and give you confidence on game day.
At least two days prior to your start you should visualizing your performance and your goals for that game.
2. Avoid distracting situations
It is highly recommended that you avoid circumstances that could serve as distraction prior to any start. This means getting your homework done ahead of schedule so you’re not stressing about it or avoiding a petty argument with your girlfriend.
You must so everything in your power to avoid distracting situations!
3. The night before
The night before your start is incredible important for your ability to concentrate on game day.
The key is to avoid activities that could lead to distractions the following day. Don’t go sleep at 3AM or drink all night. Being tired or suffering from a physical challenge can be a huge distraction. If it’s within your control, then you should avoid it the night before.
Secondly, spend time visualizing your performance. Mental preparation is your shield against distractions.
4. Become a ghost on game-day
This was a personal favorite technique I used in college. On game day, I would do my very best to avoid people, distracting conversations, or anything that could take my mind of the game and my goals.
The “ghost” technique isn’t for everyone, but if you are easily distracted then you should consider it.
It’s your job as a pitcher and teammate to be fully engaged when your pitching. You must take the necessary steps to avoid distractions, and if you succeed, you will be focused, determined, and goal-oriented on the mound.
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One of the big misconceptions in baseball is that playing the game keeps you in shape to pitch. I wish that was true. It’s not. To get to the next level, preparation is everything — but you need a plan. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching.
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