Hitting “ The Mental “ Side
If You’re not training, You’re falling behind
The higher the level you play at, the less talent separates the player and the more the MINDSET is the difference. Everyone practices, the first place team and the last place team. Practice is NOT what makes you different or better. How you practice does. What you practice does. Your mindset/mentality DOES! When you know you have your next practice, your next workout. What you need to ask yourself and know is “what is your intent”?
Do you know what your “intent“, is as a hitter? Clearly some swing with the INTENT to hit it hard, and clearly others swing with the INTENT to look good. Some swing as if they were in a bubble and they don’t want to break it. Others swing as if it’s the last swing they will ever take. Knowing your INTENT is where we start. Your INTENT is your mindset.
Let me start with a few quotes from some notable hitters and then we can start with how to change your mentality to what is called ATTACK MENTALITY.
My life time batting average has been increased 50 points by qualities I would call purely Mental -Ty Cobb
I am trying to stay out of my way and think as little as possible. Josh Hamilton on his crazy Home run pace May 2012
Hitters think way too much – Miguel Cabrera
When Tony Gwynn stopped by to see his son play for the Dodgers last year at Dodger stadium he sat down to talk with Don Mattingly. When Don was asked by a reporter about the conversation Mattingly responded with “we talked about hitting approach and mentality,””Obviously, with men in scoring position, you have to make sure the mentality is right. You need to keep a simple approach. Sometimes you complicate things and put pressure on yourself”
Look middle away, about 72% of the time in real life at every level, the pitch is middle-away. It helps the hitter hit the pitch where it most likely to be – Carl Yastrzemski
These are Great hitters, who clearly believe that the mental part of the game is what separates them from the rest of the world.
In understanding the Mental side of hitting it starts with the hitter to be honest with them self. To understand who they are and what they are capable of. It starts with Confidence. What helps build Confidence? It starts when each hitter start to train. The repetitious act of hitting balls off the tee, taking batting practice, strength and conditioning sessions all start working together to develop a hitters mindset and the work they put in helps build Confidence. For some players, the harder they work the more confident they are. Either way, Confidence is ingredient number one in the hitters Mentality. It lacks fear or intimidation. It erases doubt or the threat of failure. It allows the player to do one thing, Focus on hitting the ball hard. Focus is the next ingredient. Focus allows the player to understand any given situation throughout the game enabling them to react properly.
Focus allows a player to simplify the game. “See ball, hit ball” If you can see it you can hit it. Being able to do that means you are also relaxed. Relaxation is one of the final ingredients. It is amazing how hard it can be to just relax, focus, and be a confident hitter. A player though who has worked hard and understands the game, can relax come game time. The player knows what to do and all the work they have put in allows them to do that.
“The Gift of Failure”
“Experience is the best teacher.” We hear this statement often, yet many of us don’t realize that it is rarely the warm and fuzzy moments in our lives that we learn from the most. Usually, our greatest life lessons come through our worst experiences. In short, we learn most from our failures. Perhaps another way to say our opening statement is that “FAILURE is the best teacher (or preacher).” In other words, failure is a gift.
Now, I know that we don’t usually think of failure as a gift. None of us wants to find failure neatly wrapped and waiting for us under the Christmas tree. No one ever sets out to fail. Well, at least you and I haven’t. There are no best-selling books on “10 Steps to Failure”, but everyone who has ever found success has had to walk through the waters of failure. Show me a successful person, and I guarantee that he or she experienced some form of failure before they reached the pinnacle of success. In fact, failure does not PREVENT success…in most cases it PRECEDES it. *Now, I’m preaching!*
In the sentence of life, failure is a COMMA – not a PERIOD. Failure should cause us to pause and reflect, but it should never cause us to stop! There have been many times that I experienced failure in my life. It was those moments that allowed me to pause, reflect, and then move forward. If I had stopped at my point of failure, I suspect there would be no Pro Bowls, Super Bowls, Truth Youth Organization, PrimeU Prep Academies, or Hall of Fame.
All of us have the potential to make it to the “Hall of Fame of Life”, but the road to the Hall of Fame is usually littered with obstacles, naysayers, haters and doubters. Like Judas, some of them are close enough to dip with you then turn around and KISS you. They’d rather see you in the “Hall of Failure.” However, we must LEARN from our failures and not LIVE in our failures. Failure is a great teacher, preacher, and motivator, but it is a terrible landlord! (TRUTH!) We must learn the LESSON…but keep on PRESSIN’ without STRESSIN!
Here are four lessons I’ve learned about failure:
Failure does not make YOU a failure.
The essence of coaching is having the ability to make your athletes believe in what they are doing and maximizing their potential. Some coaches are cutting edge and look for the newest ways to do things, while others use a grass roots approach and look to the “old school” for ways to develop players. None apply this old school mentality better than San Diego State pitching coach Eric Valenzuela. A native of Covina, Valenzuela, the highly regarded Valenzuela made his mark as the pitching coach at the University of San Diego.
In 2008, his Torero pitching staff was one of the best in the nation registering the seventh best ERA in the country while producing the #4 overall pick Brian Matusz. His staff that year was also fourth in the country in strikeouts while adding two other hurlers inside the top ten rounds of the major league baseball draft. Between the 2007 and 2008 season he helped tutor three pitchers to All American honors.
With old school roots, Valenzuela talked about the people who most influenced his coaching style. “I actually have two people in my life that were and are influential in my life when it comes to pitching. One is my high school pitching coach Tom Salter, who was also the head football coach at La Puente Bishop Amat High School and the other is Frank Sanchez, who was my college head/pitching coach at Pepperdine University.”
Putting together a unique style of toughness and technique Coach Valenzuela further discussed Salter and Sanchez’s influence. “Coach Salter was influential in my pitching career because of the mental toughness aspect of it. He challenged us on the field every day, conditioning, bullpens, and the mental aspect of competing. Coach Sanchez, really challenged us on the specifics of pitching, from mechanics to structure of our practices to pitch calling and competing at the highest level.”
With an already strong back ground in coaching from his father Victor, we asked Coach Valenzuela what are the main 2 or 3 things that he emphasizes and how has it affected the development of his staffs over the years? “A couple things I really emphasize to my pitchers is one, being in the best condition of your life and two, having a structured throwing program, structured bullpens and arm care. Coming from a boxing background where my father is a boxing coach for the last 35 years, conditioning and endurance is huge. I challenge my guys everyday and put them through strenuous workouts daily to get them mentally tough. I feel that if you feel that you outworked your opponents then you will be more confident with yourself.
With a detailed oriented approach Valenzuela further elaborated on his development plan. “The second item of emphasize is a proper throwing routine, which includes a specific long toss program and structured challenging bullpens. We are very detailed oriented when it comes to our throwing routines. Our pitchers and myself have a high level of communication where they keep me informed daily on how their arms feel. That to me is the most important detail of all, you have to have open communication with your pitchers and you can’t assume you know what they are feeling.”