The Mental Game
Over the past 40 years of playing and coaching, I sought an answer to the question every competitive athlete eventually asks, “What will give me the edge to become a star performer?”
When I was playing, I thought the answer was to become physically dominant and develop the best mechanics. That plan served me relatively well in high school as I was placed on the All-Met first-team baseball squad and attracted the attention of college scouts.
However, I discovered that my plan was not enough when playing in college. I was still one of the strongest and fastest on the field and could perform great game feats, but not with the consistency needed to get to the professional level. Something was missing.
As the years went by and I started coaching my children, my desire to find the missing piece to the recipe increased. Answers were sought from experts inside and outside baseball, mostly outside.
My findings were not what I expected and changed my view of sports and much more.
I’m going to share with you a small bit of what learned from seven years of diligent study, formal education, mentoring from experts, and hands-on practice:
- Tuning an athlete’s body to its best physical condition is necessary but insufficient when trying to become a champion or just play your best.
- An athlete’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, especially while under duress, are a reflection of his or her deepest beliefs and perceived truths.
- “Physical Blocks” and “negative” emotions can arise when we try to do things that are not aligned with our deepest, usually subconscious, mental/emotional programming.
- Using easy to implement powerful tools, we can remove undesired responses and behavior patterns. We can then deliberately insert new programming that becomes the foundation of superior performance (and life.)
Much more can be said about how athletes and the rest of the world are effected by the “Mental Game.” This topic is a passion of mine and I look forward to sharing more on the subject here and in future blogs.
Pressure and Performance
To illustrate the power of the non-physical side of us and why it must be trained, consider how some athletes perform in practice versus a game, particularly a game laden with high expectations and consequences.
Every MLB pitcher plays a gentle game of catch with his catcher during practice. That routine is performed successfully thousands of times across the course of a season in the emotionally-safe environment of practices.
Now watch that same routine of “playing catch” as it is attempted in a setting loaded with external stimuli that might be perceived as unsafe, the 2014 NLCS between the Nats and the Giants.
If you watched the video, forget about the wild pitch for a moment and focus on the attempted intentional walk. Yikes!
A simple event like tossing the ball to a teammate became a nightmare. On the 0-10 scale of difficulty for a MLB player, throwing the ball to the catcher with no threat of it being hit or having to fit in the strike-zone is less than a one. The bat boy could perform it.
Why then did the highly physically trained Nats pitcher throw it over the head of the catcher?
It’s a safe bet to say there was a lot going on in the mind of the pitcher that effected the way his body moved. The sympathetic nervous system was in full swing. Cortisol and other stress chemicals were pumping away.
Some would say, “That is understandable as it was a really pressure filled game!”
Pressure is an interesting thing; no device can quantify it, yet most athletes and fans swear it exists.
No player I’ve ever asked can show me what pressure actually looks like. Instead they inevitably describe to me their perception of a pressure-filled situation like: “Bases loaded in the championship game. The count is 3-0 and I’ve got to throw a strike!!!”
An observer from another planet with no knowledge of Sports Center or emotional tie to the game would watch a so-called pressure game and probably say, “An intentional walk in the playoffs is still just a game of catch.”
Perception determines thoughts, feelings, and behavior! I’ll elaborate on the science behind this statement in a future blog.
If the brain perceives a threat, things get whacky in the body and mind. Games like baseball, golf, tennis, and any other that requires quick thinking and controlled explosive movements require the perception of a safe environment.
Therefore controlling the athlete’s perception of what is going on in front of the athlete is the solution all coaches, players, and parents should seek.
Easier said than done…unless you have the right tools.
Teaching and Healing – The Future of Sport Performance Training
For the past six years, I’ve been quickly, quietly, and successfully helping athletes, D1 college guys all the way down to nine year old Little Leaguers, to change the way their brain perceives events so they can play with more freedom and quickly achieve the awesome game results they desire.
It’s an immense joy for me to provide this “magic” to a young athlete. I wish I had these tools when I was playing. That’s OK. Things happen for a reason and I know that the events of my past have helped me find my calling; I am a teacher and healer.
Know that the processes I’m using do not include me being a warm, fuzzy coach that puts his arm around a player and utters kind words. Nor is it about me being the tough-love guy. I’ve tried both of those tacts over my coaching career and the results were never great. The only person that felt better in the short run was me.
The solution to changing perceptions, and consequently performance, comes from the science and protocols within a field called Energy Psychology.
I’ll explain more about that in my next blog. For now, just accept that we are more than flesh and blood. Einstein said we are all energy. The processes I use take advantage of that paradigm.
I am very excited to bring these services to more of you. This is a game-changer for those that are ready for it.
Imagine an athlete training at DSP getting the world-class physical AND non-physical training. Does that sound like a competitive edge?
Mental and Emotional Training Now
If you know an athlete right now that could benefit from a science-backed mental training system that can help them now and for the rest of their playing days, please consider contacting me for more information about the services I provide.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Otherwise, stay tuned over the coming weeks and I’ll present more details about how we can work together to change lives.
PS: I hope Aaron Barrett will not be upset I used his experience as a teaching tool. He no doubt suffered at the time he was on the mound facing the Giants. I don’t know Aaron but feel he would be fine knowing that younger athletes might learn and benefit from his experience. Some day I look forward to talking with him and sharing the powerful tools I’ve assembled.