I want to focus on Self-talk using positive affirmations because I feel it is just as important to have these attributes and skills as it is to have outstanding pitching mechanics. In my opinion, what separates some minor league pitchers and major league pitchers is their attitude.
These positive affirmations aren’t the answer to everything a pitcher needs, but, in my mind, a vital part to success. What are our athletes saying to themselves on the mound during the game? How are they mentally preparing themselves before they step on the mound? I know if the following principles are applied effectively, that you will improve your pitching performance drastically. The following is an example that I like to go through in my mind, not just on the pitchers mound, but through any important event in my life. (I use it everyday) I just substitute pitcher for other activities I’m going to be doing. Everyday is your most important day in your life right? Okay! Positive affirmations/self talk You can use this example if you’re a pitcher, but any athlete can use this same template and apply it to anything that you do whether it is hitting the ball, fielding, throwing etc.
Remember, good self-talk is done with confidence not cockiness! Here we go. “I am the best pitcher in this league. I am the number one Pitcher because I am focused and enthusiastic all the time, and my skills are the best. Every time I step-up on the mound I am physically and mentally energized and ready for the best game of my life. I absolutely feel it today! Today is the best day of my life and today is the day I achieve my goals! On the mound I know that I am successful and this is where I make true magic happen. Stepping up to the mound, I am excited; with the expectations of many strikeouts and my talented teammates behind me, I am confident! As I find each hitter’s weakness I attack it a pitch at a time, knowing each pitch is the most important pitch I throw. My teammates look to me as a leader and their confidence grows when they know I have the ball. I set and achieve huge goals and have a clear vision of what the final outcome of each game will be. I am emotionally, physically and mentally prepared because I continue to work on pitching mechanics, pitching drills and emotional training. I am enthusiastic and passionate every day! I am the most consistent reliable pitcher on the team. My emotions are positive and I am in complete control of me and my mindset.
I am the best!” It is important to read your affirmation out loud each day. Switch this up if you have to, make it your own, but decide today that mediocrity is unacceptable and you will begin to achieve goals and others will want to follow your lead. After a few weeks of reading the affirmation (with enthusiasm) that you have written for yourself, you will begin to experience huge success. Self-talk will quickly help you become who you want to be, Be who you want to be right now by acting the part!! Many pitchers can relate to a time when they have overcome great odds and succeeded. These same athletes have failed on several occasions. Think about this statistic that I’ve read and given great thought to several times.
Baseball is a game of failure, Hall-of-fame hitters fail 70% of the time and the best pitchers succeed maybe half of the time. Not very promising, is it? Do you see why it is important that athletes can’t rely on physical strength and natural talent alone to succeed? The point is experiencing all of this through plenty of on-field performances we can use our past experiences either to our advantage or disadvantage. We can draw a lot of power from the past successes we have achieved. A pitcher can take him back to the time of their peak pitching performance. This can have such and impact on how they approach game day. I’ve worked with several pitchers that have struggled finding the strike zone.
I will talk to them about that time when they felt unstoppable when their game was 100%, everything seemed to work in their favor; they were un-hittable. (They were literally Superman!) I have them describe to me what they were thinking, how they felt emotionally and they paint that picture of success deep into their minds that those feelings come back to them. When the athlete can truly remember those feelings (physically, emotionally, and mentally) they will have no problem zoning in and not only throw strikes but have command on all of his pitches. Why? Many reasons, but he knows he can do it! He’s done it before right? Why wouldn’t he be able to do it now? That is the attitude he begins to establish again, one of complete and unshakable confidence. The pitcher can immediately change their current emotional state of feeling frustrated to creating excitement and true enthusiasm through self-talk on a successful experience that happened in the past. We can also look at past failures as a learning tool of what not to do again.
I remember pitching to an outstanding team with a lot of great hitters. These boys knew how to crush the ball. I knew that because the three pitchers that threw before me were getting shelled. Sure enough, with the bases loaded, my coach calls me in to finish the job and save the game. One hit could score two and that would be the end. Now, at that time I was in High School. As I took the mound, it wasn’t with great confidence. With about 10 warm-up pitches, I was supposedly ready the throw. Another issue, I was thinking the “I hope I don’ts”. You can guess where that got me. One pitch, bases loaded, big farm boy, homerun, game over! A couple days later I remember my best friend’s father tell me, Boy that ball would have gone out of any ballpark! Fortunately, I haven’t forgotten the feelings I felt on the long bus ride home that night. I truly learned from that experience.
Don’t dwell on these performances; recognize the emotions behind the loss or a poor performance. At times a pitcher may be in a similar situation that he was in when he had a bad experience; (game experience, good and bad, is some of the best experience a pitcher can have) understanding self-talk and positive affirmations can change the pitchers mindset and help them experience a different outcome the next time he encounters similar problems. I hope everyone takes these exercises and principles that have been learned or reviewed and starts to apply them immediately! I am confident that if done correctly, any athlete will drastically improve their overall performance on the mound and also become a better leader on and off the field.