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Category: Baseball (Page 1 of 13)

Improving Athletic Performance Through Visualization

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Visualization is one of the primary techniques used in sports psychology today – and one of the most underutilized by athletes.  An athlete’s performance is often the result of what’s happening inside his or her head, or more specifically the movies and soundtracks playing inside that head!

Performance visualization is used by virtually all great athletes and research has shown that, when combined with actual practice, improves performance more than practice alone. Imagery also isn’t just a mental experience that occurs in your head, but rather impacts you in every way: psychologically, emotionally, physically, technically, and tactically.

Think of mental imagery as weight-training for the mind

Overriding Factors

There are two keys principles to keep in mind when practicing visualization. The first is, your practice needs to be consistent. 10 minutes a day every day, will always beat an intense hour long session once a week.

It helps to make a commitment to practice your visualization the same time every day.  First thing in the morning as close to waking as possible is ideal. This is because the mind is still slightly lucid at this time, which makes it easier to conjure up images.

The second key principle is you must stay positive in your thinking.  Even if you can’t quite see crystal clear images yet, you will still gain huge benefits from your visualization practice.  Trust me, it still works.  For some people that will be feeling the image, or just getting a sense of what it might look like.  Wherever your current level is, nurture it and allow it to grow.

Accept that you can’t always perform the way that you visualized

Research has also indicated that the act of envisioning a relevant muscle movement can potentially result in electrical activity in the specific muscle, despite the fact that there is the absence of the actual movement of the muscle.

That same electrical activity bears a resemblance to the electrical movement that occurs during the actual movement. In this regard, the relevant muscles are primed for the upcoming physical activity.

Also, you should visualize successful outcomes…

Success Story

Sports psychologist Patrick Cohn recently shared a story from USA volleyball players Alix Klineman and April Ross, who won the gold medal in beach volleyball at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Klineman/Ross became only the second U.S. women’s duo in history to win an Olympic gold medal in beach volleyball.

When asked how she pumps up and prepares for a game, Klineman pointed to visualization as a significant component.

KLINEMAN: “I do some visualization, which has been really powerful. I visualize myself in my body, so instead of looking at myself from another perspective, I see myself on the court, going through different skills and doing them really well. It’s like this positive reinforcement of knowing what it feels like, looks like, and how to execute it at a really high level… There’s a really powerful connection between body and mind, which I think a lot of people don’t realize.”

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Photo by Martin Péchy on Pexels.com

Visualization or mental rehearsal is a powerful mental tool to raise the level of your game. When you use mental rehearsal with your physical training, you will improve consistency, you mental game, and take your game to a new level.

Per Cohn, if Olympians use visualization to achieve greater results, you can also raise your game by adding visualization to your daily training schedule.

Finally, check out this video  from one of my favorite sports psychologists, Dr. Patric Cohn.  I’m a big fan of the good doctor, as he really values and emphasizes the power of visualization in sports. Although this isn’t the most dynamic video you’ve ever seen, it’s content is extremely powerful.

A Great Baseball Training Opportunity: Major League University

Most baseball players spend the majority of their time working on their physical skills.  But what about the mental side?

Today, I’d like to highlight Austin Byler’s Major League University – and an article that he’s written regarding “Building Mental Toughness on the Baseball Field”.

The Program – Major League University

“Major League University is a top-tier mindset and leadership training company.  Our mission is to inspire student-athletes to become the best versions of themselves by training in three major areas: mindfulness, character, and personal development.  We believe these pillars lead to sustainable success on and off the field.”

Austin Byler

MLU was founded in 2018 by Austin Byler and Kewby Meyer.  Both had just wrapped up their careers in professional baseball where the daily physical and mental struggles, as well as anxiety, were commonplace.

They realized that they could help provide athletes with a healthy foundation for success in life…and MLU was born!

Their Leadership Academy is something that I would highly recommend for players.  I know Austin personally and he is one of the most outgoing and positive guys that I’ve seen.  His goal is to serve others, build relationships, and demonstrate his deep faith to those with whom he connects.

Building Mental Toughness on the Baseball Field

Next, I highly recommend that you check out this article that Austin penned regarding his friend Ray McIntire and his college experience:

Austin highlights Ray’s grit and determination, and dives into mental toughness with definitions and actions.  There’s also a podcast with both Austin and Ray that’s totally worth the listen.

I’d highly recommend that you take a look!

Again, do check out Major League University – and pass this on to others in your baseball circle, as this is an extraordinary program.

Going Mental: Embrace Sports Psychology to Manage In-Game Stress

The psychology of baseball is fascinating, and I’ve linked to many articles over the past 6 years regarding its importance.

I’m linking to an article from Jared Wyllys of The Sporting News on how Major League players have embraced this new idea and have flourished.

You can find that article here….

All players spend plenty of time on the field working on their physical craft – hours of batting practice, fielding practice and bullpen work.  But what about practicing the mental game?  I think that’s something that’s not done enough.

I highly recommend the read for all players, as there are tons of examples of how big-league ballplayers use their mind to enhance their game.

Here are some other articles that I’ve written over the years that might come in handy:

Getting Ready: Infield Pre-Pitch Strategy

Great baseball defense demands great reflexes and quick thinking during the game…and that means having an infield pre-pitch strategy. Losing focus between pitches will lead to mental mistakes and fielding errors.

It is imperative that every fielder expects the ball to be hit to him on EVERY pitch.  Players can’t be surprised when the action is directed their way.

This is why it is extraordinarily important for an infielder to be ready for the ball at all times. A good infielder minimizes distractions by preparing himself before every pitch.

There are a few essential things players should be doing between pitches when on defense. This is called the Pre-Pitch Routine.

Here are two articles – one from USA Baseball and another from Colonial Baseball Instruction that highlight the importance of an infield pre-pitch strategy and go into great detail on having the right plan:

USA Baseball – Pre-Pitch Preparation for Infielders

Colonial Baseball Instruction – Coaching Pre-Pitch Routines

Secondly, I’m linking to a fantastic YouTube video from Elite Youth Baseball on the proper defensive pre-pitch footwork.

Defensive Pre-Pitch Footwork in Baseball

In the video, they break down and analyzing the proper pre-pitch footwork utilized by the best MLB defensive players in the game, as well as give some pointers on how to get young players to understand and incorporate this important fundamental into their game.

I’d invite all players to take a look at both of the articles and the video, as these tools are of ultra importance to development and solid defense.

Handling Slumps in Baseball

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.

Peterson’s Example

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
888-742-7225

https://www.baseballmentalgame.com/
https://www.peaksports.com

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