This past summer, I realized a lot of my players were performing in a very tense state on the field. Most of them looked like they were over exerting themselves, extremely anxious, and nervous. This is a strategy I created and presented to my players to aid them in remaining relaxed while competing.
There are three simple things an athlete can do to improve their focus and performance almost instantly. B.L.T. – Breathe, Look, Talk. In order to perform at our highest potential, we must be able to break the game down into simple moments that occur one after the other, rather than trying to take on the entire game at once. Doing these three things every pitch of every game will help to narrow your focus and keep your mind concentrated on positive key points. This will assist you in performing without distractions, and achieve a successful performance.
In order for our muscles to work efficiently, one muscle must relax (lengthen) while its counterpart tightens (flexes). For instance: raise your hand to shoulder, while keeping your elbow close to your side. Feel how your bicep flexes and your triceps lengthens. In competition, athletes tend to get anxious or over excited; in response all their muscles tighten up. This makes it hard for the lengthening muscle to do its job. Their bodies start to react like a rubber band that has been stretched too tightly; they snap. You may have felt this effect during a crucial at bat with two strikes. When that next pitch comes in, sometimes we panic, or “snap”, and just swing, even it it’s a bad pitch…strike three. In order to keep yourself in control, and your muscles working correctly, we must keep our bodies relaxed. We do this simply by deep breathing. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold it in for two seconds, and then exhale slowly for 6 seconds. As you repeat this you should be able to feel your heart rate slow, and your muscles physically relax.
The mind is more powerful than you could ever imagine; it has been argued that it has more of an affect on your performance as an athlete than your physical ability. Our brain is the control center to our body; it controls what our bodies do. Our body follows what our mind thinks. If we keep worrying about making errors, or striking out, chances are, our bodies are going to make the images we have in our mind a reality. This however, can work in our favor. If we look (think) in the direction we want to go, rather than in the direction we want to avoid, our bodies will positively respond. Picture the outcome you want. In your mind create an image of yourself having success; see yourself hitting a line drive into the gap, catching a fly ball, or throwing a breaking ball that causes the batter to swing and miss. By rehearsing the outcomes we want in our minds, we create a track for our muscles to follow. It’s like practicing, only it takes place in our minds. Don’t look where you don’t want to go.
After taking a few deep breathes, and looking into the direction we want to go, we must pick a simple focus to say to ourselves. It should be something simple, direct, and positive. Make sure there is no emotion attached to the way you talk to yourself. For instance at the plate, one could repeat, “up the middle, on the ground”, or in a bunt situation one could repeat, “top half, ball down”. One or two things that create the outcome you want. A pitcher could say “lock, and lift” before throwing a change up. A fielder could say, “Charge and follow through”. Make sure in this statement you don’t include the word “don’t”. Our brains only see the big the picture, and tend to not pick up on the word don’t. For example if you say, “don’t drop your hands”, your brain only hears, “drop your hands”. Instead try flipping to, “keep your hands high”. This also follows the rule of don’t look where you don’t want to go, we don’t want to drop our hands, so we don’t want to think about it either. We want to think about what we want to do, keeping our hands high. It’s a simple point for your brain to focus on, keeping you in the game, and undistracted by pressure.
Before every pitch, breathe. Look. Talk. B.L.T.
Quote of the day
“Quality thoughts lead to quality actions”