Before Mechanics… Check The Mind

Sorry I’ve been MIA. I’ve just finished the first draft of my book, Performing on High Ground, that will be available in early fall.  Super exciting!  I may need you to help me decide on a book cover. More on that in the coming weeks…

Anyways, last week I began working with a baseball client on fielding.  I had been told by his coaches that although the athlete was quite talented he had developed some poor fielding mechanics that had been costing the team when it mattered most.

As a Sport Psychology Consultant and former college infielder I asked myself…Is this a mechanical problem or a mental stumbling block manifesting itself in a poor fielding approach?

I began by throwing him short hops in a good fielding position and quickly realized that he was afraid of the ball as he continued to pull his head away instead of seeing the ball into his glove.

I asked him… “What has fear ever done for you?”

To which he replied, “Nothing…”

So once we squared that away the fear didn’t disappear instantly but it brought an awareness to the fact that half his fielding troubles came from a fear of getting hit in the face. Not a good thing if you plan on remaining an infielder for long.

I then put a personal challenge to him that was once given to me in my freshman year of high school.  My coach had been mad at the team for a lack of fundraising and so after an hour of running we had fungo mania groundballs in which he was absolutely smashing baseballs at us.  His only words?

“Don’t let me hit it by you.”

Those words stayed with me my entire career and are what I challenge each infielder I work with to adopt as their fielding mentality  ‘It’s not getting by me.  I’m making every play.’

It’s a personal challenge that you, the fielder, will not allow anything within your reach to get by you.

For any fielder who holds that confident idea in mind…fear cannot exist at the same time.

In life and sport you’ll either hold onto one or the other and it’s up to you what you allow free reign in mind.

If you’re focused on seeing the ball into your glove you’re not worried about what the ball might do to you.

Fixating on fear will tell your body to be hesitant and likely lead to an error.

Making it a personal challenge will free the body to do what it’s (hopefully) been properly trained to do.

Plus, challenges are more fun.  Fear kills the joy of the game.  Yet, too many athletes play with fear because they’ve never been taught they don’t need to live or play with it.

LESSON LEARNED: Before automatically thinking it is a mechanical flaw, check the athlete’s mindset to see if there’s anything holding them back first ‘upstairs’ before changing anything mechanical.  Adjustments happen first in the mind…then in mechanics.  Many times when the mind gets right the mechanics follow.

So, kick out the fear by flooding your mind with the personal challenge to go out and compete and win each pitch and each moment in life.

Where does that battle happen?  Right between your ears…

What parts of your game or life have you been allowing fear free reign?

What impact is it having on your body and performance?

What’s one strategy now that you’re aware of the fear that holds you back that you can use to kick out the fear and take hold of a confident approach?

More to come on lessons from this infielder…