Coaching and teaching - many through the mortgage process and others on the field

Category: Baseball (Page 2 of 11)

Visualization – A Great Baseball Mental Exercise

I’m linking to a fantastic article from Geoff Miller at The Winning Mind regarding visualization and it’s fantastic capabilities to help baseball athletes prepare.

What is Visualization?

Visualization is the widely used mental technique of “seeing” your performance in your mind.

The technique is generally done by closing your eyes and imagining a play or action.  It can also be used as a primary training device to take the place of actual physical activity when a player is unable to practice.

You can read the entire piece here…and here’s a little bit about Geoff Miller and The Winning Mind:

Geoff is an expert in baseball psychology and manages sport programs at Winning Mind. Since 2005, Geoff has provided mental skills coaching services to the Pittsburgh Pirates (2005-2009), Washington Nationals (2010), and Atlanta Braves (2010-2014.) 

Why Does Visualization Work?

Per Miller’s article, visualization is effective for two primary reasons:

1. “It strengthens neural pathways, the roads that our brain uses to send out messages to our bodies. A strong neural pathway is like an exact route you know to get from your house to the airport, the mall, etc. The more you picture yourself executing your skills, the stronger your neural pathways become until eventually you feel so comfortable playing your game that the movements feel automatic.”

2. “Our brains see real performance and imagined performance the same. We experience this phenomenon often in our dreams.  For example, you might dream that you are falling and wake up bracing yourself or dream that you are in a panic and wake up sweating.  When you’re awake you might experience a real feeling if someone describes that light, tingling you get that resonates from the bat all the way down your arms when you connect with the ball on the barrel or the stinging in your hands when you get jammed on a ball.”

How Do You Do It?

Miller continues: “When practicing visualization, you should describe the sounds and feelings that go along with swinging the bat, fielding the ball, and throwing pitches. In comic books, Batman and Superman would beat up the villains by punching them, but to get added effect, the artist would draw in a big POW and BAM. When a bomb went off, you’d read KABOOM! These words strengthen our pictures and make our visualization exercises more effective.

Pitching words: fastball ZIP, curveball DIP, slider WHOOSH, POP into the glove

Hitting words: CRACK, SLAM, WHAM, CONNECT, LIGHTNING, POW

Fielding words: GLIDE, REACH, STRETCH, SCURRY, LEAP”

In Conclusion

The biggest issue that many players have with using visualization is not that they can’t imagine the details of their performance, but that they can’t see themselves succeeding.

If this is the case, I’d highly recommend that you read the complete piece here.

The goal we are trying to reach in using the mental game is to know what to do without thinking about it. As Miller says, “using visualization helps us practice our skills so we are more familiar with them and we feel like we’ve already “seen” our performance happen when it does.”

Off-Season Baseball Strengthening and Flexibility

I’m linking to a great article from COR (a California based physical therapy firm) that outlines specific, baseball related strengthening and flexibility exercises.   

Baseball is unique in that many typical weight training exercises can be counterproductive, as players really need to stay flexible, but strong at the same time. 

Doing bodybuilding type work can actually be detrimental, as you can’t play baseball effectively if you are muscle bound!

Many of these exercises shown in the COR sequence are similar to what Jordan Zimmerman uses with his ZB Velocity and Strengthening program – and you can find our more on that here…

Here’s their concept:

Let’s explore what makes great exercises for baseball players. You need to know which exercises are blunders so you can pick the best for your performance and your body. Great exercises for baseball players do the following:

  • Train the entire body
  • Improve explosive power
  • Strengthen and protect the shoulder
  • Improve mobility of the thoracic spine
  • Improve ankle, trunk, and shoulder mobility

What exercises should not be are painful. Don’t shy away from soreness, but don’t fall victim to the ridiculous myth – “no pain, no gain.”

Baseball players need to focus on balance, explosive power, agility, and rotational power. Strength-training helps baseball players achieve these results, but only if the exercises are done properly and with the mechanics of the game in mind.

What baseball players need to avoid are exercises that exhaust only certain muscles, such as muscles in the shoulder. Doing so causes significant imbalances and leads to injury instead of success on the field. Baseball is a full-body sport, so the greatest exercises for baseball players must address all the muscles, not just a select few. 

I highly recommend that you go through this link and take a look at the exercises and make them part of your routine. 

A Must for Pitchers – The ZB Velocity Program

I’ve got a really good friend that does some excellent work with pitchers – his name is Jordan Zimmerman – and he runs a program called ZB Velocity that is helping players get stronger, throw harder, and stay healthier!

This program isn’t about using weighted balls and focusing solely on arm strength. Instead, its a holistic approach to strengthening the core along with proper mechanics that brings about a noticeable change in velocity.

Why ZB Velocity?

Many of his players see an increase in 3 to 5 miles-per-hour after an 8 week session with ZB Velo – and more importantly, these pitchers are staying healthy because of it!

I’d invite you to click on the video below to take a look at what Jordan and his group are doing….

I highly recommend reaching out to Jordan to find out more – his contact information is here.

From ZB’s Facebook site:

April 2016 was the launch date of their DVD set and online video series of pitching instruction, velocity training and other baseball related product. ZB Velocity is now offering individual and group pitching instruction to youth, high school and collegiate players.

Below is a list of what is currently offered:

One on one instruction
Group instruction
Video analysis
Speed and conditioning training
Strength training
Arm health
Velocity training
Pitch grips
Mental side of the game
College recruitment

Jordan is a retired MLB pitcher and played 11 years of professional baseball before his official retirement in 2005. Prior to his arrival in professional baseball, Jordan played for the Canadian National Team multiple times.

He was drafted out of high school by the Los Angeles Dodgers but decided that going to college was the smarter choice at that time. While attending Blinn College, Jordan received All State and National awards as a pitcher. In 1995 he was drafted and signed by the Seattle Mariners. In 1999, Jordan got the official phone call and was called up to the Major Leagues with the Mariners.

Today Jordan resides in Surprise, AZ with his wife Jennifer and 4 children. He is the owner of ZB Velocity strength training and the pitching coach for Shadow Ridge High School.

Contact ZB Velocity

You can find out more on Jordan and ZB Velocity here, here and here – and I highly recommend reaching out to him if you, or anyone you know, is a pitcher and is looking for proper mechanics and strengthening!

One of my favorite baseball instructors is Steve Springer, of Quality At-Bats fame. If you haven’t read much or followed Spring, you really should. He’s one of the best in the business when it comes to baseball instruction.

His specialty is the mental game, although his mechanical teaching is fantastic, as well.

The topic of the video that I’m sharing has to do with players that don’t find themselves in the starting lineup regularly. This is a must-see video on how to handle being a bench player and the right mind set that must accompany this position.

Some key quotes:

“Don’t be that guy where it’s all about me”

“Take batting practice like it’s your game…take ground balls like it’s your game…take fly balls like it’s your game and be ready when the coach calls you.”

Take Steve’s advice to heart – there can only be 9 guys in the lineup – and teams carry 25+ players, so do the math. There’s not a starting spot for everyone.

Steve Springer’s baseball hitting lessons incorporate the mental side of hitting along with increasing bat speed drills and coaching improved hitting mechanics.  Players and coaches of all levels – youth little league, high school, college and pros agree – Quality At Bats™ is one of baseball’s best hitting programs.

Daily Mental Practice For Baseball Players

I’ve consistently pointed out that the mental part of baseball is an undervalued and lesser taught piece of this great game.  Sure, mental toughness and “having a good approach” are buzzwords used by coaches every day…but what can you do to teach it?

Well, I’m linking an article by Alan Jaeger regarding some specific advice on “mental practice” every day.

Here’s’ the link to the full article – and I highly recommend that you read the entire thing!

Here are some of the key excerpts…..

Addressing The Mental Game: Prioritizing Your Practice Plan

Practice plans have been passed down for generations, and they of course have plenty of merit. But at what point (and what cost) are we going to continue to center our practice plans around physical preparation when we know that between the lines, the game is at least 90 percent mental? Hitting, throwing and running bases are all indispensable, as is bunt defense, pitchers fielding practice and first and third run downs.

But this is the 21st century – times have changed.

The good news is that society is changing for the better. More than any other generation in the past 50 years, this generation is privy to the reality that Mental Training is not only a credible field, but it’s application to sports and life is a essential. Which begs the question — what are you doing to act on this reality?

Done as a precursor to practice each day, each coach will be given enough information to lead his players through a 10 minute, mental training exercise or session that revolves around breath work.

Ultimately, whether we call “mental practice” relaxation, meditation or mental focusing time, the application of these exercises on a daily basis will have the greatest and most profound effect on your players minds. For without practice how can you expect any skill to be developed and maximized.

Understanding Where We Want To Be: The Zone, Locked In, Unconscious

Having a great mental game is as much about understanding where we want to be, as where we don’t want to be.

When things are going well it seems like the mental game is simple. And when things aren’t going so well the game can be very frustrating and complex. Understanding “how” we go in and out of these states of mind is extremely valuable.

In sports, we actually have many terms for this “optimal” state of mind. It’s been referred to by many names, including “The Zone”, being “Unconscious” and being “Locked In.” The technical term for this state of mind is called a Peak State, and has very specific attributes, including:

  1. The absence of thought
  2. A complete immersion with the action
  3. A sense of being process oriented
  4. A sense of calm or peace
  5. A detachment from the outcome.

By understanding the components of a peak state of mind, we can better understand ways to train the mind in order to put it in alignment with this ideal state.

Breath Work: The Core Ingredient Of Your Mental Practice

Mental Practice is a very broad field that includes breathing exercises, imagery, visualization, affirmations, and so on.  You can also get forms of mental practice from among other things, Yoga, Martial Arts and being in Nature. Anything that brings the mind into a state of “presence”, a state of peace and quiet can be categorized as mental practice.

But the most common element that I’ve found in mental practice revolves around the breath.

There are many reasons why the breath is at the center of mental training exercises universally, including several physiological benefits (relaxation, lower blood pressure, oxygenation), but some of the other profound benefits may be more subtle. For example, the breath is always happening now, which symbolically, can be extremely helpful in teaching the mind how to be present.

The breath is not a thought, thus, the more time you spend with your breath, the more time you are training your mind how to be in a “no-thought” state. Again, the absence of thought and being present are two major characteristics of a Peak State of mind. Thus, the breath alone can be a catalyst in changing the mind from a result oriented default, to a process oriented default.

Other benefits that can often be associated with breath work include calmness of mind, improved concentration, focus, patience, discipline and inner trust. Inner trust, which is similar to the term confidence, is a by product of spending time in a relaxing and comfortable space each day, and getting to know your self and your inner workings. Considering that your breath keeps you alive 24 hours a day, it’s safe to say that a lot can be gained simply by spending time, appreciating and understanding our breath.

Looking where to begin?

Control your breath.  Learn how to take deep breaths, in your your nose, out through your mouth.  Let your belly expand, not your neck.  Try this during your practice sessions and see how you feel.

Want to Learn More About the Mental Game of Baseball?

Here’s the link to Alan’s book that talks about his approach.  It’s called “Getting Focused, Staying Focused: A Far Eastern Approach to Sports and Life.”  

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