The dreaded hitting slump is something every baseball player wants to avoid. When the hits stop falling in it can bring a lot of frustration and added pressure.
As I’ve mentioned previously, one of my favorite mental coaches is Dr. Patrick Cohn of Peak Sports Performance. Dr. Cohn is a sports psychologist out of Orlando Florida.
He’s always preaching about mental preparation – as well as the techniques athletes can use to grasp it to improve performance…and handling a slump is right in his wheelhouse.
He sent out an e-mail blast recently that I’ve posted below regarding slumps in baseball – and how to best get through them.
Here’s a portion of his piece, with a great example from Joc Peterson, the Chicago Cubs’ outfielder:
Chicago Cubs left fielder Joc Pederson utilized a mental cue to break out of his early season slump in 2021. Pederson had one of the best pre-seasons in the Major Leagues, hitting .372, 11 extra base hits and 7 homeruns in 17 games for the Cubs.
Unfortunately, Pederson started the regular season with a bit of a slump going 0-15 at the plate in his first few games. Pederson ended his little slump by hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning of a game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
After the homerun, Pederson was awarded a waffle maker in the dugout by teammate Ian Happ. After the game, Pederson explained the meaning of the waffle maker.
PEDERSON: “We haven’t really been getting too many hits as a team. So I texted him and a couple of (other teammates) last night. He said, ‘Yeah, I’m bringing the waffle maker.’ You know, going to waffle some balls. It was pretty funny.”
The mental cue of a “waffle maker” kept Pederson focused in the present on what he wanted to do, “waffle some balls,” and not on the slump itself.
Cause and Effect
What is the main cause of slumps? Per Cohn, if a player was to look back at their past slumps or performance ruts, they would probably identify the inability to focus as the primary cause of staying stuck.
Yet, when most ballplayers are in the middle of a slump, they look for a physical or mechanical solution. Many players will take additional batting practice, work with their hitting coach, change up their mechanics, and even switch bats trying to get back on track.
Cohn states: “When you ruminate and replay strikeouts, failure to move runners, missed opportunities to drive in runs, and difficulty making contact with the ball, strong negative emotions arise and battle for your attention.
When you pay attention to all the distractions during an at-bat, your body tenses up and throws off your timing.
Breaking out of a slump requires you to change your thinking or what you focus on. For example, a mental cue is a verbal or visual reminder to narrow your focus on what you want to happen”
More from Dr. Cohn
You can find more from Dr. Cohn here:
Peak Performance Sports, LLC
Mental Training for a Competitive Edge