Overcoming Pressure in Big Games
Every baseball or softball player hopes to play big in big moments.
All players dream of coming up big when the pressure is on… Getting that BIG hit late in the game to start a rally… Making that BIG pitch to get out of trouble with runners in scoring position… or making that BIG catch in the field to take away a hit and save a run.
Despite wanting to play big in big moments, many players fall short of their dreams. Not only do these players fail to rise to the occasion, they often perform worse under the big lights.
For instance, Jake K. is a high school pitcher whose regular season stat line is impressive…
Jake averages seven innings per start with 9 strikeouts per start and a 1.54 ERA.
In his junior year, Jake was dominant on the mound.
Jake had only lost one game and his team made it to the state final for the first time in 10 years.
Needless to say, the team was really depending on Jake to have a strong outing.
When Jake took the mound for his warm-up pitches, he was a little tighter than usual.
Jake felt tremendous weight on his shoulders and he felt he needed to carry his team to victory.
When the game started, Jake felt awkward as he released the ball.
Jake felt the pressure build and his pitches practically had no movement.
It was like batting practice as the opposing team pelted the ball in every direction.
Jake gave up four runs and never made it out of the first inning before he was pulled from the game.
Many times, in big moments, it’s not the other team that is a player’s most daunting opponent…
In big moments, players often get in their own way and beat themselves. In big moments, players get overwhelmed by the magnitude of an important game and heap pressure on themselves.
Excessive pressure can cause players to doubt their ability and the accompanying anxiety causes them to tank in big moments.
In reality, a game is a game… Nothing more, nothing less. Batting in the bottom of the ninth with runners in scoring position is the same situation in scrimmages, preseason, early season games and playoff games.
When a player starts assigning importance to games, performance usually suffers.
Dodger pitcher Yu Darvish had an uncharacteristic performance in the 2017 World Series.
Darvish was obtained by the Dodgers in a last minute trade at the end of July to add another ace to the staff as they steamrolled into the playoffs.
Unexplainably, Darvish pitched uncharacteristically poor.
In Game 7, Darvish lasted just five outs and gave up five runs. In his two World Series starts, Darvish surrendered nine runs (eight earned) in 3 1/3 innings with 21.60 ERA, the second highest ERA for a pitcher with at least three innings pitched in a World Series.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts felt Darvish was ready to go for Game 7.
ROBERTS: “I know he wanted the baseball. I know he was prepared. I just can’t explain the results. I really can’t.”
Being prepared physically is not enough. To play big in big moments you must be committed to learning how to be fully prepared mentally.
A Tip for Playing Big in Big Moments:
Before big games, remind yourself that the game is the same game you have played all season. You are playing under the same rules and regulations.
In order to maintain some sense of normalcy, maintain your normal preparation, pregame routine or warm-up.
Lastly, stay focused on playing within yourself. Trying harder to make the BIG play will only throw your mental game out of whack.
Get The Mental Edge For Baseball and Softball Players!
Do you (or your athletes) lack full confidence in your skills when you step on the field as if your game disappears at game time?
Do you lose composure easily after you make your first error of time game?
Do you feel embarrassed after striking out and carry this with you for longer than one inning?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, check out The Mental Edge For Baseball And Softball Players!
Boost your (or your athletes mental) toughness! Learn 8 mental toughness lessons to help ball players improve confidence, focus and composure.
Download your copy TODAY and start boosting your mental toughness!
What are baseball mental game customers saying?
“After completing ‘The Confident Athlete’ series, I noticed a dramatic improvement in my level of play or should I say consistency. I play NCAA Division I baseball for Lamar University, and even my coaches have noticed a change in the way that I approach the game – my attitude and confidence at the plate. It has also helped me reach a new level of focus. I am able to get into that zone where I am able to narrow my focus on to the task. Thank you for helping in my continuing goal to mental toughness.”
“After completing your program… he was more aware of the things that made him tight. He learned to control his breathing and control his emotions.”
“Thank you so much for talking with our team. You are a great influence. The confidence material really helped me, and I will be working on that as long as I play and after. I can now step out there and just relax and play.”
~Melissa Riesberg, Clarke College Softball
“Dr. Cohn has put together a program that has enabled myself and our players to approach the mental game in a systematic way that is easy to use and apply. Our awareness level has greatly increased.”
~Marty Hunter, Head Baseball Coach, George Fox University