A book every player and coach should read

Often times on this blog and other sites we talk about various physical skills and how to execute them. That’s important, of course. But nothing can get in the way of one’s mechanics faster than a player’s own head.

Anyone who has played fastpitch softball or baseball knows it’s a game built around failure. There are many, many ways and opportunities to fail, and as they say a hitter who fails 70% of the time is an All-Star. Knowing that, the objective isn’t to avoid failure — you can’t — but instead learn how to deal with it when it inevitably occurs.

Years ago at the National Sports Clinics I had the opportunity to see a presentation by Ken Ravizza. The book he wrote with Tom Hanson, Heads Up Baseball: Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time, is probably the single best book on the subject. Sports psychologists such as Jeff Janssen refer to it often. In the book you’ll find a discussion of what happens in our little brains to make us go all goofy. More importantly, though, you’ll find a series of techniques to deal with them. Techniques, by the way, which have been adopted by many of the top-level athletes.

I had the opportunity to put these principals into action just the other night. I’d watched one of my students pitch in a game where whatever could go wrong did go wrong. Her high school team is not very good, even by high school team standards. She started having some control trouble, and as will often happen that’s about the time her teammates decided to go brain dead. I could see her getting more and more uptight, which caused her to lose both her mechanics and her rhythm, which of course caused her to get wilder and wilder. When she did get the ball over and it got hit, easy outs turned into baserunners, further adding to the frustration. Every pitcher, and every pitcher’s parent, has been there.

So we worked some on her mechanics the other night, but since they were looking pretty good overall I really shifted the focus on her mental game. I showed her how to determine where she is mentally (relaxed, confident, uptight, worried, out of control), and then gave her some of the Heads Up Baseball techniques to use when she’s feeling the pressure. We then applied them in the course of the lesson. If she threw three pitches in a row for balls I would make her use a relaxation technique. Darned if the next pitch wasn’t a strike every time.

Heads Up Baseball costs just $10.17 in paperback at Amazon.com. Most of us spend more than that on a pair of batting gloves. If you’re at all serious about the game, use the link above to go there directly and purchase this book. It’ll do more for you or your players than the most expensive gear you can buy.

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