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MENTAL TOUGHNESS TRAINING MANUAL FOR BASEBALL/SOFTBALL PLAYERS

John Lefkowits, Ph.D. David R. McDuff, M.D.

BASIC PRINCIPLES MENTAL TOUGHNESS TRAINING-WHAT IS IT? BUILDING SELF-CONFIDENCE THINK LIKE A WINNER - COGNITIVE STRATEGY IMAGERY TRAINING FOR PRIME PERFORMANCE GOAL SETTING STRATEGIES PLAYING IN THE ZONE -COMPETITIVE ROUTINES PLAYING IN THE ZONE-INTENSITY REGULATION PLAYING IN THE ZONE-ATTENTIONAL FOCUS TEAM BUILDING - THE POWER OF THE GROUP

MENTAL TOUGHNESS TRAINING MANUAL FOR BASEBALL/SOFTBALL PLAYERS: BASIC PRINCIPLES
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CHAPTER 1: MENTAL TOUGHNESS TRAINING . the umpiring crew. swing. or fielding play does not make or break you as a ball player. a community leader. a coach. Focus on what you can control: timing. nor should you try. or make errors. The result of one at bat. and other interests and skills. but not realistic all the time. You have no control over who is pitching and what pitches he/she will be throwing. You cannot control everything. You’re an athlete. Playing baseball is just one of many things you do well. a daughter. A friend gets traded or moves to another team. Problems are temporary & will change. mental strategies.WHAT IS IT? Mental toughness is more than just mental. It is also important to recognize that the 2 . perhaps a husband or father. Life happens. You are going to strike out. a son. Self-talk including selfcriticism happens to everyone. a nagging injury starts up again. pitch selection. When not performing. the weather. In order to be mentally tough on the ball field. you must have talent and be in peak physical condition. Nobody expects perfection. Baseball is part of life. Staying positive is a good goal. Staying positive is not enough. give up hits. Your technical skills have to be sharp. pitch. You need their support and expertise. You can develop strategies to manage self-talk more effectively. This will impact on baseball. Stuff happens. Baseball is a team sport. family. It’s not just up to you. It's also physical and emotional. you can make adjustments and improve. You are not just a baseball player.Winning is not your sole responsibility. a family member gets sick or injured. a teacher. Sometimes all sorts of lousy things impact on our lives. There are other players on the team. a relationship is strained or ends. Keep your perspective. You have no control over the team’s schedule. You have friends. You cannot easily stop these thoughts.

Like other aspects of mental toughness. these skills can be learned. Loehr describes four emotional markers of mental toughness. emotional and mental sides of your self affect each other. Ø Emotional Resiliency . Being able to use your emotional life effectively will help you perform at your prime more consistently. not withdrawn. you can bring all your talent and skill to life consistently. Ø Emotional Strength . Emotional flexibility also speaks to the skill of drawing on a wide range of positive emotions .Being able to handle setbacks and recovering quickly from them. in part. confidence building and other skills described later can be powerful techniques in reaching a high level of mental toughness. you probably already have many of these skills. By being mentally tough. It is based. CHAPTER 2: BUILDING SELF-CONFIDENCE WHAT IS IT? Self-confidence is the belief that you can handle the demands and challenges of the game. Ø Emotional Flexibility . Ø Emotional Responsiveness . 3 . pleasure. WHY BOTHER? Self-confidence comes more easily to some players than others. on how you have performed in previous games.You are emotionally engaged in the competitive situation. However.The ability to handle different situations in a balanced or nondefensive manner. It is also depends on how well you manage your inner critic and the way you think and feel about baseball. there is often room for improvement. Jim Loehr (1993) is a noted sport psychologist who has worked with many top athletes over the last twenty years. Toughness is not about having a "killer instinct" or being mean or cold. In general. For some players it comes more easily than for others.physical.humor. fighting spirit. The use of thinking skills. Mental toughness training allows players to tap into emotional and mental resources that keep play at its prime as often and consistently as possible. It is not something genetic. He suggests the following definition for toughness: " Toughness is the ability to consistently perform toward the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances". to play at this level. imagery. for many players.The ability to handle great emotional force and sustain your fighting spirit no matter what the circumstances.

It is possible to alter this self-talk in a way that benefits performance. WHY BOTHER? The pressure of the game can lead to self-criticism and negative selftalk. At times. Like the personal affirmation list. Repeat them to yourself. Try and be specific. Once you have come up with a number of affirmations.Recall some of the most useful things a coach or friend ever said to you about baseball or even life. Albinson and Shambrook (1996) recommend having this second list which speaks to your best previous performances. These are meant to be general sport-related affirmations.300 in August .Three British Sport Psychologists. you play better.Write down a number of positive statements about yourself. here are three practical and useful approaches. (3) Personal pep talks .COGNITIVE STRATEGY WHAT IS IT? Cognitive strategy involves the relationship between thoughts and athletic performance. In order to give your self-confidence a boost. . This is for your eyes only. CHAPTER 3: THINK LIKE A WINNER . write them on an index card and repeat them on a regular basis. you're more focused and better able to handle adversity. 4 . It's easier to manage intensity. Remember how that felt and how you were able to use those words and support. The way you think. this does not happen all the time. or even on the field. you can update and change the list as needed. (1) Develop a list of personal affirmations . even the most self-confident ball players have lapses. yet it does not have to be related to winning a game or award. Even though your best performance often occurs with no conscious thinking ("being in the zone"). begin to doubt their abilities. Don't worry about being modest. They should include important aspects of your game that have meaning for you and can be repeated in the locker room.When you’re feeling confident. Developing these cognitive strategies can help limit distractions and aide performance. For example: *I played great on the road this year. This will likely affect your performance. For example: *I have made great progress this year. MAKING IT WORK FOR YOU. directly affects feelings and behavior. *I was 1999 college player of the year *My field play saved a game last month *I batted over . (2) Develop a list of achievement reminders . *I am mentally tough *I love the challenge of critical situations *I focus well under pressure . Feel free to review it as much as necessary. Add to it. It is useful to change or add to this list over time. dugout. Bull. Start with just a few and add to it over time. Write it down or just focus on it when you need to. develop it.

We all have an internal critic. has this always been the case. something is wrong."lets go. (1) Awareness . cool off." What can you learn . say "I can hit off this pitcher.Note what is being said. You need to find what works for you. how does this compare to my season average.Once you have explored the reality of your selfcriticism. and if not.Self-confidence has to do with your expectation for success. Lets say your not getting down on ground balls. critical and seems to want to make you choke. The first step is making it conscious. or cool yourself down. (1) Staying positive is not enough .There may be times you want to pump yourself up. What was going through your head during each game. Certain words can energize . (2) Focus . glove down". (4) Changing bad habits – Self-talk can be an aid in correcting technical errors. "See the ball" . Self-talk can either boost or undermine your confidence. etc. Instead. (5) Taking it up or down . how well did I hit him. Since you can usually control self-talk. This depends on the game situation and your internal state.First. take it slow". There are four steps for managing the critic. Example: "You will never hit a knuckleballer. keep it focused on performance."settle down. “Down in the zone”. In contrast.Certain words can help you regain or sharpen your focus. listen to your internal critic and put it to work for you in a positive way. you need to be aware of your inner voice.Use facts. (3) Building Confidence . boomer time". not outcome or your sense of self. pump it. For example. Examine the statement . pitching or fielding). pay attention. It's a myth to think you should always be positive. Some of you may be very conscious of your internal dialogue. never will". That's that voice that comes out of nowhere and is negative. Example: "When was the last time I faced a knuckleballer. what can you gain from this. just stay loose and focused". but not realistic all the time. Listen without debating . "Protect the plate". bend the knees. never have. Recall your best and worst game from last season. Many ball players find they do best when they are focused on what they were doing (engrossed in the task of hitting. The following techniques will help you deal with your internal conflict.Staying positive and upbeat is great. In contrast to "I'm an idiot if I strike out again". MODIFYING SELF-TALK. Self-talk is the way one makes perceptions and beliefs conscious. What we say to ourselves can be positive or negative. As you see the ball hit in your direction you may say "down" or even describe the entire motion "track the ball. For example. or “Get a good jump” can act as cues. whereas other words will be more relaxing . 5 . reason and rational thinking. poor performance often occurred when worrying about the result ("I have to get a hit or strike this batter out or the team will lose"). If not.MAKING IT WORK FOR YOU: USING SELF TALK.

the game is on the line. I will have an edge". imagery can be practiced on a bus or in the dugout. imagine a red light) and or physical (e. You may already do some of these things well. What else can I work on . In order to do this. For example.g. stop) visual (e. CHAPTER 4: IMAGERY TRAINING FOR PRIME PERFORMANCE WHAT IS IT? Imagery training is the mental practice of a skill or given task without actually doing it. It requires commitment and should become a part of daily practice.g. fielding or pitching can benefit from using imagery. (1) Practice . such as batting. Remember. However. this manual is just a starting point. you can use a verbal (e. each skill can be further refined and developed. I'm feeling the energy I need to take it to this batter". MAKING IT WORK FOR YOU. Fortunately. (3) Thought stoppage . These six skills are foundations for using imagery as part of training. snapping your fingers) cues.This is for a particularly troublesome criticism that keeps coming up. Imagery involves more than visualization . any skill related performance. imagery requires practice. WHY BOTHER? Imagery is a powerful tool when used correctly.How can I make this a good learning experience. you feel your heart pounding and you begin to sweat. consider creating a self-improvement plan with a team assistance specialist.g. Example: "If I time my swing a little differently. however.it includes all other senses as well. It can provide an edge in enhancing physical performance and is useful in both pre-competitive and competitive situations. here comes another walk or hit". (2) Reframing . Your critic says "Nervous as hell again.Just like developing any new skill. Imagery is probably associated most with Olympic Track and Field Athletes or Gymnasts. CREATING A PLAN. Counter with. 6 .Example: "I've actually done all right against knuckleballers as long as I concentrated on protecting the plate and seeing the rotation of the ball". After trying some of these cognitive strategies. your pitching in a critical situation. "Man I'm pumped and excited.This involves putting a different meaning on the criticism or experience.

(5) Using all five senses . although you will tend to use one form over another.Imagery is more than just visualization. "explode" may be a trigger for taking a strong cut at the ball or “snap” for a curve ball off the plate. confidence-building ones. Use your sense of smell. Your imagination can have a powerful effect in shaping your reality.Feel your cleats digging into the batters box. For example. Sergei Bubka. (3) Timing and Control . touch and even taste-be creative. Bubka states that he uses both internal and external imagery. (6) Triggers .Depending on your own style. It is often useful. Bubka. You may be surprised 7 . have found imagery to be extremely valuable in enhancing performance. Smell . When relaxed.Allow yourself to smell the grass and dirt of the playing field or the smell of hotdogs and popcorn from the stands. the Russian world record holder in the pole vault. but not necessary. Imagery can also be used in a more general fashion. or fielding practice. Controlling images is also important-use positive. Keep in mind imagery is not used instead of regular batting. to engage in some type of relaxation exercise prior to using imagery. He even hangs out with the gymnasts in order to better understand how best to use mental practice techniques. he is one of the most successful track and field athletes ever. However. Hearing . imagery is optimal when used in real time. the umpire calling balls and strikes. How might that look? What would that feel like? Be creative in allowing yourself to imagine new ways of hitting left-handed pitching. It is important to recognize it works best when combined with actual practice of the skill. It can be helpful to slow down or speed up the images to analyze certain techniques. as well as visual and feeling senses. Clearly. (4) Using internal and external perspectives . the voices of other players. Touch .Generally.(2) Relaxation . Being able to use both forms of imagery is ideal.For the most part. or as if watching your performance on a screen.Triggers can be certain words or phrases that call up specific images of performing a skill well. It may be useful to just imagine yourself hitting lefthanders more effectively. pitching. For example.Imagine the sounds of the crowd. Bubka is not a baseball player. imagery works best when your relaxed. Feel your feet. you will tend to imagine scenes from either inside your self. but replicating actual playing conditions is usually best. you can focus more on the imagery. Hear the crack of the bat hitting the ball solid and strong. describes using imagery as a part of his daily workouts. These triggers are often associated with a strong emotion. hips and shoulders rotating as you move wind up to pitch. hearing. and many other athletes from a wide range of sports. lets say your having difficulty hitting left-handed pitchers.

2. refine. Hit 30 more RBI's (60 to 90). but it is not a magic bullet. Reduce the number of walks (3 to 2 per game) (3) Breaking it down . All Star Break . The more you practice and rehearse these skills in your head. (1) Challenging yet realistic . the more likely it will affect your actual performance.Use short term goals as stepping stones toward long term goals. facilitates effort.Season is six months. Example: Regular Season . you 8 .Finding the right balance between pushing oneself without setting yourself up for failure.In order to obtain your specific goals. Example: Become a better power hitter by increasing home runs and runs batted in.at how helpful it is to imagine yourself being successful in game situations which have been difficult in the past.Put a number on it. Provides focus. RBI's 45.00 before the end of the month". Weekly Home Runs . (2) Be specific .Five per month. such as "I will raise my batting average by 10 points or lower my ERA below 4.Three or Four (4) Implement strategies to achieve goals .Fifteen per month. 3. MAKING A PLAN 1. RBI's . Goals usually focus on improving a measurable skill. Results in higher level of performance.Home Runs 15. WHY BOTHER? Valuable. it is important to review the benefits and limitations of imagery. widely used technique in sport psychology. In general. RBI's . CHAPTER 5: GOAL SETTING STRATEGIES WHAT IS IT? Goal setting means achieving a specific level of performance in a certain amount of time. Monthly . It can be useful. Examples: Hit 10 more Home Runs (20 to 30). and evaluate an imagery training program.One or Two. MAKING IT WORK FOR YOU. You may need assistance to help develop. leads to new skills. the following five strategies provide the basis for fully utilizing goal setting as a way for improving performance. It will work best if you’re committed and fully integrate imagery into your regular training routine.Before starting an imagery program.Home Runs .

Example: Use index card or make a chart. position in box and timing. Keep it manageable by starting with one or two goals. Winter. Observe best power hitters on own and opposing teams. 9 . Talk with best hitters/pitchers on team. Spring Training Work with hitting coach on stance. Continue to make refinements during batting practice. make a copy and place it in your travel bag during road trips. 3) Take it seriously and make it a part of your training.Absolutely critical. Needs to be part of daily routine. it is important to set your goals in writing with input and assistance from others. such as inside your locker. off-season Develop enhanced weight training/flexibility program Study video tapes of your swing or pitching motion. and assistance specialists). (6) Evaluate .Crucial to continually evaluate and assess effectiveness of goals. (5) Chart it . Set goals for batting practice as Spring progresses. Regular Season Monitor progress (see below). Example: Figure out the best time for regular meetings on progress and follow through with it. Put it in a visible place. Regular re-evaluation of goals is critical for this to be successful. Compare with best hitters or 20 game winners/closers. trainers. Goals can change. Get obsessive. need to evaluate with input from others (coaches. Establish regular meeting times to evaluate goals. 2) Don't do too much all at once. This can be broken down to three separate times of year. SETTING A PLAN 1) Before beginning a program.must develop specific skills for achieving them.

The pre-game stage should also address equipment. home or away. (2) Your intensity level staying cool under pressure. Your routine will vary depending on whether it is a day game or night game. Each phase of your pre-competitive routine should address both physical and mental preparation. This involves everything you do the day of the game from the time you wake up until you take the field. these are routines not rituals. you can adjust them depending on the situation. It is useful to develop a routine for each circumstance. miracles don’t happen . Remember. Rituals are superstitious. There are three critical areas for achieving more consistent performance: (1) Developing a consistent pre-competitive routine. This section is about helping you get into a zone. WHY BOTHER? Clearly.Being prepared eliminates problems and increases the likelihood of success.CHAPTER 6: PLAYING IN THE ZONE . MAKING IT WORK FOR YOU. & Final Preparation. "played out of your head". Virtually every athlete has had the experience of being in the zone.PART I WHAT IS IT? Think about those times you've been "in the zone". you play your best when performing at your peak. You've probably played your best games when "in the zone". There are three stages in a pre-competitive routine: Pre-Game. they tend to control you and can get in the way. Research has shown that for most athletes the experience occurs spontaneously and is generally short-lived. However. Routines are adaptable. (3) Being aware of your attention and the way it affects performance. It's as though you can do no wrong. many ball players don't realize there are specific mental skills you can use that help you move toward prime performance. Being well prepared every time you take the field will set the stage for a consistent high level of performance. (1) Develop a consistent pre-competitive routine . 10 . PRECOMPETITIVE ROUTINE. Arrival at the Stadium. but there are things you can do to help move toward a higher level of consistent performance. It's amazing.

These concentration cues help you intensify. Some athletes engage in relaxation. Bull. Mental . batting and fielding practice should all be leading up to greater intensity and focus. ARRIVAL AT THE STADIUM What time do you arrive? When are the meetings? Do you have any specific meetings with any of the coaches or trainers? Physical . 11 . instead. relax and concentrate. Include bats.Make a checklist of everything you need to take to the stadium.What time do you wake up? What do you eat for your meals? Do you do any type of aerobic or anaerobic exercise prior to arriving at the stadium? What other obligations do you need to take care of before going to the stadium? It is important to address all of these questions and develop as consistent a routine as possible. cleats.This may involve reviewing the team your playing. the pitching staff.preparation. toiletries. Visual cues involve intense focus on something specific in the environment. How will this affect your game and what will be expected of you? How have you done against this pitcher. Attentional cues can be either verbal. Do you do any specific warming up just prior to the game? Do you typically check your glove. For example. Does the trainer need to work with any physical problems and how might this effect your game? Mental . Physical . uniforms. meditation or reviewing or writing in a journal (e.Examine line up and opposing pitcher. There are no set cues. How is your focus and intensity? Is it necessary to make adjustments on thinking.Warming up. or even looking at home plate for a moment. the writing on the bat. the pitcher getting set. use of imagery or thinking strategies).g.PRE-GAME Equipment . studying videotapes and reviewing signs. visual or physical. glove. this team. Albinson and Shambrook (1996) divide the final preparation phase into three distinct phases . bats. batting gloves. Do you need to raise or lower it? How is your focus and concentration? Is anything getting in your way today? What do you need to do to improve focus? FINAL PREPARATION This is the time for any fine-tuning just before the game. focusing and execution. etc. Before discussing these it is important to understand the use of attentional cues since they are used sequentially in each phase. in this stadium? How will this affect your mental game? Assess your intensity level. the logo on your batting glove. imagery or relaxation strategies. only unique groups that work differently for each player. Note if there are any specific skills you need to work on. concerning goals.

contact. Take final practice swing. "smooth". Take practice swings. 12 . Perform. putting on batting gloves or just the feel of the bat as your swinging. (1) Preparation phase . analyze pitchers motion. focus. Protect plate & swing bat. wiping your hand on your shirt. For example.Use of physical cue to tune in attention.Approach and breathe deep. Evaluate game situation and what is expected of you. Focus eyes on visual cue. Use imagery to visualize successful at bat. Occurs in on-deck circle. (2) Focusing phase . (3) Execution phase . and pitch selection. Imagine making good contact with ball. protect. The following are the three phases described above which integrate the use of attentional cues. relax. enter batters box. Verbal cues are a single word that you repeat silently. taking a deep breath. Repeat a cue word such as "power". Three deep breaths to help relax upper body. Focus on pitchers' movement. tapping home plate with your bat. deep breath. ready. Physical cue may be knocking dirt out of cleats. "contact".Physical cues require doing something. For example.Repeat a positive verbal cue.

STAYING COOL UNDER PRESSURE Intensity is the way your mind and body become energized. One key goal is to identify an ideal level of intensity and achieve it. or shortness of breath. (3) Consequences of the situation. "I know I'm going to have more errors than hits today"). For example. or a long rain delay. For example. heart racing. sweating. such as overconfidence or an early sign of over-training or burnout. It will be different for each of you. GETTING TO PRIME INTENSITY. each of you requires 13 . You can feel this in your body . that they will not be loved or supported if they fail to meet certain expectations. coaches. fans. You may also find yourself agitated. field conditions.CHAPTER 7: PLAYING IN THE ZONE . Sport psychologist Jim Taylor (1996) identifies five major causes of over-intensity: (1) The demands of the situation. This involves unexpected or uncontrollable events. Remember. there is no magical formula for achieving prime intensity. tense and distracted. Environmental factors also contribute to intensity level. Ball players can develop a fear. These are the times when it's hard to "get up" for games.g. perhaps outside of immediate awareness. You are dragging and lack your usual energy. but does happen. a last minute pitching change. He was convinced he would be blown out by the third inning (consequences) that would hurt his career (meaning). family members can also impact on your intensity level.PART II INTENSITY REGULATION .such as butterflies. Under-intensity is not as common. Utilize the Goldilocks principle . Over-intensity happens when you get "too up" for a game. Also. Joe was pitching in his first playoff game (demands). All of these factors interfere with pre-game routine and make it more challenging to reach and sustain intensity. Focusing on consequences and exaggerating the meaning of one game can lead to problems with over-intensity. It can be useful to monitor any irrational thinking and modify it in order to keep your perspective. such as expectations of others players. This can also involve excessive negative self-talk (e. which he believed was greater than his skill (resources) to win the game. media. This results from an obvious physical event such as a cold or jet lag. It can also be psychological in nature.find just the right amount of intensity-neither too much nor too little. Social causes. (2) Your resources to manage the demands. (5) Recognition of bodily reactions. How to reach the best intensity level for prime performance differs for each ball player. (4) The meaning placed on the consequences.

Centering . You focus on your center of gravity and your feet against the floor. It is important to carefully evaluate your situation and your performance skills accurately. The first set of words are for bringing down your intensity. thinking/feeling and control. This requires taking a close look at what you d o before and during a game.Were you playing home or away. Thinking and Feeling and Social/Environmental. This skill is easy to develop and it works. this can help bring you down and keep you loose. fill up. It will also help you be more aware of tension in your body. This involves standing in a position of strength. To get to your prime intensity level you must focus on three areas . music can be used with imagery if it helps you settle down.What was that like pre-game? How relaxed were you and how did your body feel? Be as specific as possible.This involves the ability to visualize a peaceful scene. day or night? What was going on with the other guys.When you feel yourself tighten up.different things in order to reach prime intensity. exhaling with a key word and relaxing. This skill involves the progressive tightening and relaxing of all muscle groups throughout your body. Deep muscle relaxation .Most of us rarely pay attention to how we breathe.Physical. For some people. shallow breaths. Did this change during the game? What was it like in the field and in the batters box? (2) Thinking and feeling .Two important thinking skills are reappraising and key words.Combine this with deep breathing. and out slowly through your nose.What was going on in your head before and during the game? What were you feeling? Did this change when the game started? (3) Social/Environmental Causes . pay attention to your breathing. Figuring out what your best intensity level is the first step. This is done at three levels . Thinking Skills . When you tense up. Some guys even hold their breath without realizing it. and allows you to loosen up in any situation. It will help you loosen up. It is important to look at these factors from one of your best and worst games (1) Your physical state . You use deep breathing by taking in fresh air. you begin to take short. THINKING AND FEELING Guided Imagery .physical. In order to relax. such as the beach or the mountains and really get into the details of it. PHYSICAL Breathing . deep breathing is the key. Reappraising refers to the consequences and meaning we attach to certain games or situations. It is important to feel your breath go all the way down. these include: 14 . as if trying to keep someone from pushing you over. This helps you feel the difference between tense and relaxed muscle groups. This makes the tension worse. coaches and at home? How was the team doing overall and how close a game was it? CHANGING YOUR INTENSITY LEVEL. However. Key words . when your in a high pressure situation. deep into your abdomen. When you evaluate things in a negative or exaggerated fashion your intensity level tends to shoot up.Certain words c an be used as triggers or cues to help modify your intensity.

On the other side. ain't no use worrying. The coach also said he got nervous about the guys who said they were never nervous. And if it's under your control. Unexpected events and unfamiliarity are also outside of your control. aggressive. or ability to think and remember. Choose which words work best for you. Acceptance . A well known football coach used to ask his players who got nervous before the game. fire up. For example. Focus on the control side of the list. list what is outside your control. stay loose. easy does it. the weather. According to Dr. etc. perception of the world. It is useful to identify the things that can go wrong prior to or during the game and develop strategies for handling them. cool. Right on Satchel. The next set are for pumping up your intensity . These skills are excellent ways to use this energy and channel it to improve your performance. your swing. An altered state of consciousness occurs when you experience a change in your sense of time. focus. cause it's under your control".PART III ATTENTIONAL FOCUS Sport Psychologist Robert Nideffer (1992) believes that playing in the zone and choking are both examples of altered states of consciousness (ASC). he found that the guys w ho admitted to nerves actually played better. the days lineup. or come up with your own. How can you shorten your pre-competitve routine while remaining sharp for the game? It may be useful to make a list of unfamiliar events that could occur and effective strategies for handling them. a delayed flight gets the team to the stadium late. There are times when we all get nervous before a game. CONTROL Satchel Paige once said "If it's outside your control. such as your conditioning. etc. hustle. the opposing pitcher. get pumped.explode. Nideffer. Make a list of those things you can control. breathe. relax.settle down. Just worry about what you can control. 15 . how you handle yourself in the field. cause it's outside your control. it all depends on the way you focus your attention. ain't no use worrying.Lets get real. Keep in mind that nerves are a part of the game and are one way that your body gets pumped and prepared to play well. CHAPTER 8: PLAYING IN THE ZONE .

"It just happens". external focus.This is about reacting or performing. This is known as time compression. The pitch is on the way to the plate. When your attention is external. Athletes often describe the experience as if they're not thinking. you constantly move from one attentional focus to another. As a result. this is not necessarily your upper limit. The ball has just been hit toward you. shapes and sizes. when playing in the field. a poor performance often happens when your focus is mostly internal. but places on a continuum. common objects can take on strange qualities. performance seems automatic and you don't need to think about what your doing. you have the ability to alter your state of consciousness. During a dream.This happens when you have to look out at what is going on around you. In contrast. Typically.This means rehearsing a performance before we do it. Your goal is to move steadily toward a narrowing. When you're hitting well. when playing well your attention shifts less frequently. who is on base. Keep in mind that these categories are not rigid boxes. At these times you feel more in control and almost as if you know what pitch is coming next. This happens when your studying signs or opposing teams. when you come up to bat and see how the infield is positioned. The ball. the pitcher. Generally. (4) Narrow external focus .This involves thinking. the situation. Even when playing well or in the zone. The same thing can happen in baseball. your focus is probably too much inside your head. (1) Broad internal focus . You are focused on making sense out of a lot of information. which allows you to have a greater awareness of what is going on around you. For example. 16 . the ball seems to slow down and you see it better. everything seems to speed up and you don't see the ball as well. planning and analyzing. you can stay focused on task relevant cues. Your focus is more external and you spend little time "in your head". In order to do this. If you have ever played in the zone or choked. what signals are being flashed. we need to look at four different types of concentration or attentional focus (Nideffer. When your not playing well.An example of time distortion occurs when seeing an enjoyable movie and being surprised that two hours have just gone by. you think what you will do if the ball is hit to you. Playing in the zone happens when you're immersed in either an external or internal focus of attention. (2) Broad external focus . For example. Things don't seem as clear and it's harder to anticipate well. 1992). A perceptual distortion can occur when dreaming. (3) Narrow internal focus . When you choke. This makes it difficult to pay attention to what is important. You can often see this narrowing of attention if you watch a good hitters eyes just before he hits the ball.

The team is a group that impacts on your performance in obvious and subtle ways.. One important area to highlight concerns the roles of different players and how these affect 17 . Similarly. you need to develop ways to stay outside of your head. the team has an impact on you. There are many different ways to understand groups. centering.When you commit an error. Imagine yourself getting out of your head and shifting to a narrow. Sport Psychologist Shane Murphy suggests using the four R's when you get distracted: React . This involves identifying distractions and refocusing attention. The goal is to help you keep your momentum toward the development of concentration skills and the ability to quiet distractions. then move on. Allright. For example. All of this should only take a few moments and can be used in virtually any situation. or muscle relaxation. Groups are very powerful.Use one of the methods described earlier to help you settle down . It is important to recognize that just as you have an impact on the team. make an adjustment for the next grounder. No athlete is able to stay in the zone all or even most of the time. REACT .. you tend to play worse. when the team is playing better..Relax ..In order to help you move along the continuum toward a narrow external focus. breathing.. don't ignore it. you get upset with yourself. just keep it in perspective. you can better appreciate how the team affects you and how you can use the power of the group to improve your performance. external focus. morale is down and every game seems like a chore. but don't let it become so big that it messes up every aspect of your game. MAKING IT WORK FOR YOU. it often helps you play better.Let yourself refocus.key words. WHY BOTHER? By understanding better how groups function. morale and cohesion.. such as leadership style. social dimensions and success rate. imagery.THE POWER OF THE GROUP WHAT IS IT? Baseball is both an individual and a team sport. The functioning of the group depends on many different factors. RENEW . Allow yourself the emotional reaction. like before you made the error.... If the infield is faster than expected. when the team is slumping. CHAPTER 9: TEAM BUILDING .Renew.Figure out what interfered with your performance. and everyone seems to be hitting well. RELAX .Reflect . REFLECT .

) (1993). other team members may be unaware of the unique challenges of a specific role. such as your position and number in the batting order. team leader. the team will function better under stress and work together better as a unit. V. A lack of clarity can lead to confusion. Albinson and Shambrook (1996) The Mental Game Plan.the team. Role Clarity . bench player) in order to get a better sense for the demands of that role. reduced confidence and increased conflict among other players or coaches. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. moody player and perhaps scapegoat. Carron. Winter. overall team cohesion may suffer. For example. three conditions are necessary in order for there to be a link between individual roles and team effectiveness. Often times. Lew (1997). informal roles are team clown. New York: Penguin Books. A. The Coleman Roberts Griffith Address: Three myths about consultancy work. Role Acceptance . Some ball players have even tried playing another position (e. Bull.: Human Kinetics. IL. yet be unhappy with it. United Kingdom: Sports Dynamics Carron. Informal roles are important. This can be achieved by simply talking more to each other about your specific role. James (1994). Perceived Role Performance . 9. (1988). When the three types of roles work for the majority of players on the team. Hardy. Group Dynamics in Sport. All groups tend to assign roles to different individuals. According to Dr. but come about in ways that have more to do with one's personality style than your playing ability. These are role clarity.g. New York. role acceptance and role performance. as well as informal roles (Carron. 18 . 1988). Loehr. REFERENCES Bright. catcher. Sports psychologists have found that when individuals on the team have a full appreciation for the demands of different positions.This concerns the extent to which players are clear what their formal role is on the team. Eastbourne. which can lead to undue criticism. Is staying positive merely enough? Sport Science for Tennis. John (Ed. without adequate performance. 1995. Even if one is clear and accepting about their specific role. Heil. Eastbourne. Deborah (1995). Champaign. 277-294.This concerns how well players are performing their specific roles. It is possible to be clear about your role. There are the formal roles. Unite Kingdom: Sports Dynamics. Psychology of Sport Injury.This is the extent to which players are satisfied with their assigned role. The New Toughness Training for Sports. they are usually more cohesive. pitcher.

Nideffer. Champaign. Exploring Exercise and Sport Psychology. D. J. Jim (1996). A Physician’s Approach to the Psychology of Injury. 75-106). IL: Leisure Press. Steadman.: American Psychological Association.Murphy. Emmaus. D. In Heil (Ed.C. (Eds. (Eds.) Exploring Exercise and Sport Psychology (pp. Ungerleider. Champaign. Robert (1992). New York. Intensity Regulation and Athletic Performance. Judy & Brewer. The Achievement Zone. B. 19 . Washington.Washington. Taylor.: Human Kinetics.C. Britton. Mental Training for Peak Performance. Psyched to Win. Steven (1996). Inc. Shane (1996). New York: Berkley Books.) (1996). In Van Rallte.) Psychology of Sport Injury (pp. Richard (1993). 25-32). and Brewer. Van Raalte.: American Psychological Association. PA: Rodale Press. J. IL.

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