Managing Your Mental Game Time Thoughts
Do you find that thinking affects your pitching negatively?
Have you unsuccessfully attempted to “not think” while pitching?
Have you been on the mound when you couldn’t stop over-analyzing what you are doing?
Maybe you gave up a home run to give the other team the lead and no matter how hard you tried to “not think,” you only thought about it more. Even after several batters, that home run still haunted you and your pitching performance.
A lot of times, we hear expressions like “just pitch” or “don’t think… pitch.”
It’s not thinking that detracts from a pitcher’s performance.
We are constantly thinking.
Some thoughts are productive (knowing the situation, what pitch you are going to throw).
Other thoughts are counter-productive such as obsessive thinking (fear of making mistakes, inability, reliving mistakes) or over-thinking (focusing too much on technique, trying to paint the corners).
Josh Beckett, 34, has been pitching in the Major Leagues for 14 years and his figured out the most productive thought process for himself.
Beckett had his share of ups and downs throughout his career and has learned from his vast experience.
Beckett was once heralded as one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues. Then, after going 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA, Beckett’s 2013 season was cut short in July due to thoracic outlet syndrome.
When reflecting on his injury, Beckett stated:
“It’s crazy how simple things become difficult to do.”
Beckett was referring to little daily tasks, but the same can be said of pitching.
Sometimes, ball players complicate the game by over-thinking and placing unneeded pressure on themselves.
Due to his previous injury, Beckett wondered whether he would ever pitch again in the Major Leagues.
Then, on May 25, 2014, Beckett pitched a no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies throwing 128 pitches with 6 strikeouts and only 3 walks. Beckett was honored as the National League Player of the Week for his no-hit pitching performance.
Beckett put his potential no-hitter in perspective during the game which took off the pressure to perform:
“I took a moment in the ninth while I was warming up. It was what it was, and if I threw one, great. If not, I have healthy kids and a healthy wife – and that’s the main goal.”
Another way Beckett managed the pressure was to acknowledge the situation without ruminating about it.
Some pitchers suppress their thoughts which only serve to increase the feeling of anxiety:
“You’re thinking about it the whole time. I don’t know why there’s that unwritten rule not to talk about it and stuff. I was joking about it from the fourth inning on.”
Tips on managing your game-time thoughts:
- Keep baseball or softball in perspective. Your ball is not a life-or-death proposition… It is a game.
- Stay focused on productive thoughts (your strengths, your game plan or the situation). Avoid the dark side by over thinking, trying to be perfect, or worrying about making mistakes.
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