In today’s youth baseball world players are being pushed harder than ever and trying to live up to unrealistic expectations coming from all different angles; PG rankings, “showcase” teams, coaches, winning every game, and worst of all their parents. So much so that good, talented players fall short of performing at their peak because they play tight, scared and full of anxiety.
Pressure from the outside world has players losing sight of the end goal and ultimately losing the internal battle; the mental battle that goes on all game long inside ones head which ultimately leads to success or failure. As Yogi Berra told us a long time ago “Baseball is 90% mental and 10% skill”. The internal battle is a fierce, never ending battle where either iron is sharpening iron (leading to success) or iron is slowly shredding away gold (leading to untapped potential).
The two most common sources of pressure come from; 1. emmense focus that too many parents and coaches put on winning and being perfect every at-bat and every play in the field; 2. High School players, and parents, being too concerned about getting scholarships or why they haven’t received an offer yet while others are, leaving players playing selfish. Both of these sources of pressure leads to losing the internal battle because now they have to be perfect every time out to receive the extrinsic reward they are after – being perfect and a scholarship. I am not knocking the value of winning and parents wanting there child to be successful but at some point coaches and parents have to realize that baseball is a game of failure and their team and/or son will only get better by failing. Failure is a part of success, not the opposite.
In a game of failure and where the spotlight is always shinning on you, the internal battle happening between every pitch gets tougher and tougher. You generally have less than 20 seconds to prepare yourself for your next opportunity to shine. In those short 20 or so seconds, players have to be able to mentally prepare themselves for the next play and forget about what has already happened. But to often players are thinking about the last error they made, their last at-bat where they didnt get a hit, or how they are tired of hearing their parents yelling at them. 20 seconds is a very short time to prepare oneself for the next opportunity but at the same is long enough for negative emotions to creep in and steal success.
So what can a player do to win the internal battle? First, they need to realize they do not need to be perfect and accept that they will have to fail in order to get better. Second, they need to have a short memory and learn to quickly get over what has happened. How can you do that? By focusing on what you learned from the experience and having positive self-talk – reminding yourself you can succeed and going over what you learned and the adjustment your going to make the next time. Another thing that helps is thinking about how your going to help you team out on the other side of the ball.
The internal battle can only be won when a player is free to make a mistake; free to learn and accept failure; free from nagging parents; and free from the pressure of having to be perfect. This freedom allows players to create a positive mentality after an undesirable outcome which in turn leaves them prepared to succeed on the next play. This freedom will help your child persevere in tough situations on the field and overcome mistakes made. This freedom will help them see the value in going 0-3 at the plate or giving up the game winning hit. Because in both situations there is something that can be learned.
Focus on the future and not the past. See yourself succeed in your mind. Expect good results and learn something every play. Then let your instincts take over.