As coaches we love to learn and teach a new drill that might help our players field better or hit better. At times, we even get bored at practice so bringing in a new idea or drill is refreshing for both players and coaches. Where many of us fall short is working on the skill of emotional control; better known as the MENTAL GAME. Do you have a player or maybe even a whole team that's inconsistent on game day? For example, on Saturday your all-star team shows up, but on Sunday, it's the bad news bears. When you ask, "what happened today?"
You receive blank stares because the athletes truly don't know why their performance dramatically shifted so much. You break the team huddle and chalk it up to a bad day, but the next weekend the same thing happens.
It's true, sometimes bad days just happen, and bad days can be contagious on a team where it seems like everyone forgot to eat their Wheaties. In reality, the answer lies within the mental game, or lack there of. As coaches, our communication style and practice set up can lead to stronger or weaker mental approach. It takes conscious effort and time for players to become aware of their mental game and practicing the skill of control. How often do you focus on growing the mental and emotional game of your athletes? It's not an easy task, but an extremely important factor in a players' success and consistency.
Let's take for example a hitting routine. Some are more visible routines/rituals than others, but the reason for them is to create automation within our bodies and our minds before an at bat. I must emphasize BEFORE an at bat. Many players do some sort of repeat behavior during an at bat. Many of them are unaware of the power a routine has if implemented before it's their turn to step in the box. The on deck circle is a great place to start. Slowing the mind and the body down with breaths, positive words/phrases, and timing swings can help a hitter feel much more comfortable before they are at the plate. This is just one example of how beneficial controlling of our mental game and approach is to performance. When playing a game that includes so many moments of failure, it's important for athletes to feel a sense of control. Their mental game is something they can develop and control if given the right tools and environment to practice these skills. For more information on mental game development in practice and games, please contact: email@example.com