Over the years I’ve tried emphasize the importance of coaches helping players develop mentally to handle the pressure of playing baseball. It’s difficult to hide on a baseball field and any advice to help make a player feel more confident and focused is important. This month I’m happy to have a guest post from Craig Sigl owner of mentaltoughnesstrainer.com.
How Youth Baseball players Can Deal with Nervousness
I remember it well…
I was a 10-year old playing on a Major team in Little League with 11 and 12 year olds.
As the smallest player in the whole major division, I often went up to bat shaking like a leaf and thinking “these guys are all so big!”
One particular at bat comes to mind… our team was down a run in the last inning and it was my turn to bat with 2 outs. It was just like one of those Disney movies where the underdog kid finally gets his chance. Just before that, swinging my bat in the on-deck circle, a hundred thoughts are swirling around in my mind like:
“What if I strike out?”
“What will the team think if I don’t get a hit?”
I actually started picturing in mind what it would be like to walk back to the dugout seeing all of those disappointed faces of my teammates. I took a few glances at the pitcher and he seemed to get bigger and bigger every time I looked. I could feel my body shaking and my movements were stiff.
I watched the current batter and he looked just as scared as me. He ended up striking out looking at a third called strike. As I walked to the batter’s box, a new thought entered my head.
It was the voice of my older brother who played college baseball at the time. I looked up to him a lot!
A month ago, after a game where I was caught looking at a called third strike, he told me that you always want to protect the plate with 2 strikes and swing at anything close. He said that if you go down swinging with 2 strikes, you’ve done your job. “Just make sure that you go ahead and get your swings in because even Babe Ruth struck out a lot and look at how great he was.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of for striking out swinging.”
I could do that!
I heard the message loud and clear at that time, but what was more important was that I had a solid plan for how I could always get the approval of my brother which I very much wanted.
My mind then locked onto just getting my swings in and it didn’t really matter what happened beyond that. That’s all he wanted to see from me and I suddenly felt 10 times better.
I stepped up to the plate with my eyes laser focused on the pitcher’s arm and where the ball would come out. I just kept repeating the words in my head:
“just get your swings in, just get your swings in, that’s all you have to do.”
My body started working right again and I completely forgot about being nervous as I hit a grounder up the middle for a single. It was a triumphant day for me and I’ll never forget it…
Parents and coaches: Give your young player a consistent message that all they have to do to make you proud is to show up and play and that will go miles toward eliminating the nerves. Boil it down to a simple sentence or phrase that he can repeat to himself like I did that he will find great comfort in. Come to an agreement between you for something that really works for him. Have him practice using this phrase in practice.
By the time he gets to a high-pressured situation, his phrase will be his go-to focus mechanism.
Let’s do this,
Craig Sigl’s work with youth athletes has been featured on NBC TV and ESPN. Get his free ebook: “The 10 Commandments For a Great Sports Parent” and also a free training and .mp3 guided visualization to help young athletes perform under pressure by visiting: