More than any other player on the field, the pitcher plays a mental game. But no matter how much you prepare, doubts can creep in the second you step over the white line.
To get their pitchers in the right mindset, coaches often use the cliché, "just trust your stuff," which sounds great but is difficult to put into practice. In a game of inches, where even the slightest mechanical tweak can have a huge impact and every hitter requires a different approach, how can you always trust what you bring to the mound?
In my experience, pitchers start to lose confidence when they think about things that cause doubt, like mechanics or mistakes. Even if they start strong, they can lose their groove when the pace of the game changes.
One of the best ways to achieve consistency and truly trust your stuff is through a pre-performance routine. Use such a routine not only before a game, but also between innings, between pitches and whenever a situation starts to get away from you. By going through a set routine, you'll become more consistent in preparation, which will lead to more consistency in performance.
Here are four keys to setting up your pre-performance routine:
1. Make It Yours
No single routine works for every player. When developing your personal routine, try to find one that matches your personality and makes you feel completely comfortable.
2. Combine the Mental and Physical
Your routine should be both mental and physical. For example, you could set two goals for the game while putting on your shoes, or take a deep circle breath while whipping the rubber. Combining a mental act with a physical one is a powerful way to develop consistency.
3. Make It Automatic
Practice your pre-performance routine every chance you get until it becomes virtually automatic. If you can make your routine as natural as breathing, it will help you develop a more consistent approach on the mound.
4. Stay Committed
Once you find a routine you like, stick to it! It's OK to change something if you sense it's not working, but don't scrap your whole routine after one bad outing. Keep practicing until it becomes automatic.
What does a pre-performance routine look like on the field? Check out the big league routines of Chris Capuano and C.J. Wilson. If you have a routine that's working well for you, share it with us on Facebook or Twitter.
Christine Rickertsen is a mental training consultant currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area. After receiving her master's degree in sport psychology, she started a consulting business designed to help athletes. She's had the opportunity to work with an increasingly diverse population of athletes and teams. Visit her website at selfmadeathlete.wordpress.com.
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