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Avoiding the Hitter's Slump: Mental Strategies for Success

In baseball, hitting successfully comes with a 70% failure rate. A lot of hitters get frustrated and lose all confidence after making several outs; it starts to drive a player crazy. Getting out more often than getting a hit is inevitable, so the important question is, “How can you stay confident in the face of failure and avoid falling into the dreaded slump?”

Strategy 1 Quality At Bats -- Hit the Ball Hard! The best thing a hitter can do to reach consistent success is to focus on things that can be controlled. Focusing on your batting average or other aspects of the game beyond your control is a waste of mental energy and reduces your chance of success. You cannot control getting a hit -- there are too many factors that prevent you from getting a hit anytime you want (getting a good pitch, the fielder catching the ball, the umpire’s strike zone, etc.). Hitting is a confidence game and the biggest mistake most hitters make is they base their confidence on whether or not they get a hit. Hitters should focus on the process of hitting versus the outcome of the at-bat. You can control the quality of your at-bat in several ways. Some examples are: earning a walk by not swinging at bad pitches, having a good plan of attack and making hard barrel contact, moving a runner to the next base, and anything that positively helps your team.

Strategy 2 Know Yourself “Knowing yourself” helps hitters to simply do what they are capable of doing. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are, stay within your capabilities, and know what your pitch looks like so when you get it you are ready for it. Being the best version of yourself as a hitter and maximizing your strengths will produce better results. Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera, Anthony Rendon, and Francisco Lindor are all successful in different ways.

Strategy 3 Hitting One Pitch at a Time The basic challenge of hitting is to be in control of yourself so that you remain relaxed and focused on the best chance of success. Many times, a hitter who is struggling does not necessarily have a physical issue (although this can be one factor) but the hitter simply has no plan to stay ready to hit.

Step 1 Have a Routine When you put on your helmet, instead of mindlessly putting on your helmet while talking to a teammate, make the act of putting on your helmet the start of your at-bat. You are getting mentally focused to hit as soon as the helmet goes on and now you are focused on this at-bat, not the last at-bat, or the last time you were on defense, or anything else.

When you step into the on-deck circle you are stepping into the circle of focus. Get your body ready by doing some stretching and swinging of the bat. Study the pitcher and get some good views of every pitch he throws. Plan your attack -- what pitch are you looking for and what are you trying to do? Pretend you are at-bat. Imagine every pitch that is thrown to your teammate as a pitch coming to you -- work on your timing. Visualize pitches coming from the pitcher and what you will do when you get to the plate.

Walk to the plate with confidence holding the barrel in your hand. Before stepping into the box, wipe out the footprints as a way to wipe away any negative thoughts or previous at-bats. Focus on the barrel of the bat and take a deep breath (control the moment) and remind yourself to “see it and hit it.” Step into the batter’s box with a plan to compete.

Step 2 Recognize, Release, and Refocus Hitters must recognize when they are losing their focus. This is known as going from green (good) to yellow(frustrated) or red (out of control). Whenever a hitter misses a good pitch, an umpire makes a bogus call, a fan yells something, or anything else occurs to create negative/nervous tension the hitter must recognize it and have a way to release it and refocus for the next pitch. Some common release routines are to pick up dirt and “rub away the last pitch” or unstrap the batting gloves and strap them up as a sense of “letting go of the last pitch and strapping up for the next.” Refocus by using your routine - look at your barrel, take a deep breath, positive thoughts (rip it -- rip it), and step in ready for the next pitch!

When does your at-bat start? What do you do when you are in the hole and on deck? What do you do when you are at the plate? How do you release negativity and refocus each pitch?

WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE IN A SLUMP -Focus on the strategies mentioned above. Get back to thinking positive thoughts. -Replay previous success you’ve had in your mind! -Develop good routines! -Keep it simple. Have a basic plan and stick with it. -Keep it one at-bat at a time. Don’t think 0-13 or 2-20. You are always 0-0 going into every at-bat. -Be where your feet are. Focus on the present and each pitch. -Choose your words carefully. Avoid negative thoughts, such as, “I can’t hit” or “I stink.” -Focus on the quality of your at-bat. How many at-bats were you in control of yourself? Had a clear plan of attack? Saw the ball well? Made solid contact? -Control yourself, have a plan, and trust it!

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