With so much emphasis on creating "showcase players" I'm pleased to bring you this guest post from Baseball Brains (www.baseballbrains.net) on how to create players that can compete and play with confidence:
There isn't anything more important in baseball, than confidence. The mind holds incredible power over an athlete on the baseball field, perhaps more than any other sport.
While I believe these are well accepted statements, I don't believe there is nearly enough attention being paid to actually developing confidence. If glove skills and the ability to hit a hard line drive are both in need of constant practice, confidence surely is also.
Here are 3 ways a baseball player can develop his confidence and shroud his game in a mental toughness that is nearly impossible to break.
1: Forget The Results and Solidify Your Process
It's often said that players should focus on their process and the brutal truth of the matter is that if you don't, you'll be disappointed more often than not. Baseball players are very competitive athletes, and as such they hold themselves to a very high standard. This competitive spirit is the fire that produces season ending dog piles, and it's also the source of constant frustration for some players.
The best thing a serious baseball player can do to become more consistent and more confident, is become a little less serious about each result. Whether it's in the field, or at the plate, each and every result is simply a dot on the trend line of your upward trajectory.
It is entirely possible to do everything at the plate right, and not get a hit. It happens all the time. This makes it imperative that the player not put more weight on WHAT he did at the plate, than HOW he did it.
Likewise, there are a multitude of hits recorded every season where the hitter did everything wrong. Stuck his butt out on a 1-0 curveball that was off the plate and flared it over the first baseman for a single. While this may technically raise his batting average (a truly worthless stat for most amateur baseball players), this result tells us nothing about the quality of his at bat.
Do things right, always. Set goals and strive to achieve them everyday and every week of the year.
Let the results happen as they will, they're largely out of your direct control anyway. Grab onto the things you have perfect influence over; your attitude, your effort, your fundamentals, your process. Give those things everything you're made of everyday, and your confidence will surge.
2: Work Hard...Okay Now Work Harder
Confidence hates excuses, and it loves sweat. These are two universal truths that you should get used to in your pursuit of excellence on the baseball field.
In the 6th inning, when you're on the mound with a hitter at the plate that you must get out, where is your confidence in that moment going to come from? Is it going to come from you complaining all week about the weather? Is it going to come from you calling the last few drills coach had you do stupid?
Far too often, the pitcher in this situation simply doesn't have the confidence necessary to do anything except throw the ball and pray. Pray it goes where he wants it, pray he throws it as hard as he needs to, pray the hitter is suffering from an equal lack of mental strength as he is.
Confidence has got to come from your HARD work.
That pitcher should know exactly where the pitch is going because he did those accuracy drills and charted every stupid throw for two months. He knows his weaknesses and he'll stay away from them, he knows his strengths and the hitter is about to know them too.
He knows he'll throw the ball as hard as he needs to because his fitness has never been better. His core has never been stronger. His legs have never been more explosive and ready for this moment. The sweat that it took to get them that way was truly tough. It didn't feel good, it was weird at times, but he stuck with it because he was dedicated to his process. It's this moment, this pitch, that all that work was for. He's earned confidence, and he's brimming with it.
3: Lead Others
Leadership comes in many forms, and it's always worth doing in baseball. Most of the time it isn't possible for a player to lead the whole program, or the whole team that he's on. It's just too tough to gain focus from everybody involved, as some of the guys invariably won't respond well to certain people. That's fine. Pick the core group that has the desire to get to the top of the heap, and lead them.
Go hit extra ground balls to them or find a coach that wants to stay after practice to hit the group a few more. Go to the weight room or the batting cages over the weekend when the team isn't doing anything else. Work your butt off, and hold yourself accountable for doing things right. The simply act of you doing so will inspire the others to do exactly the same thing. Inspiring others is exactly what leadership is about.
Baseball is a team sport, a player will be much more confident in himself if he looks around and sees a bunch of other guys who have been working just as hard as he has. Kicking people into gear and getting your teammates to grind with you will have dramatic impacts on the quality of your team and the level of your confidence.
The bonds you form with your battle mates through the blood sweat and tears of hard work will help carry you through the hard stuff. You will strikeout, you will boot a ground ball or walk a hitter. When you do, there will be plenty of hands reaching down to pull you back up. This support is what comes from truly leading guys and being part of something that's greater than yourself and your daily results.
In summary, I don't think there's anything more important for an athlete who desires to play baseball at a high level, than pure confidence. Confidence can transform an average player into one that is damn hard to beat.
Remember this one very important message in closing; confidence must be EARNED. Nobody can give it to you, and it isn't free. The good news is once you've earned it, you'll also have earned a great deal more. A more athletic body, a better approach to your career, friends and solid teammates, and you'll earn your place at that level you hope to achieve. Be a more confident baseball player, and you'll have a shot at being truly elite in this game.
Special thanks to Baseball Brains for their great contribution!
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