pitching psychology

Pitching Psychology: 8 Tips For Winning The Mental Battle

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pitching psychology

As a pitcher, it’s important to have a strong mental game. Pitching is a complex skill that requires focus, concentration, and discipline so a good pitcher must be able to control his or her thoughts and emotions to succeed. There are many different things for baseball players to consider when approaching pitching psychology and emotional management. Some amateur pitchers like to think about mechanics and focus on delivering the perfect pitch while others like to get in the zone and just let their pitches flow.

Here are 8 tips and tricks to help you win the mental pitching battle in Little League

Baseball Pitching Psychology:

1. Understanding The Mental Game Of Baseball

As a pitcher, it’s crucial to understand the importance of this element of pitching. Just as important as the physical side, the mental side of pitching includes things like your mindset, your approach, and your ability to handle adversity.

If you can master these skills and control your thoughts and emotions, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful pitcher.

It’s easy to let your mind wander during a game and it can be difficult to block out distractions and remain calm while pitching. If you can keep your focus throughout the entire game, you’ll be in good shape.

2. Baseball Mental Skills – Find Your Approach

There are many different ways to approach the non-physical side of pitching. It’s important to find what works for you and to stick with it. If you’re constantly changing your approach, you’ll never be able to master the mental side.

pitching psychology

3. The Power Of Positivity And Pitching Psychology

The power of positivity is a powerful pitching tool that can help keep players focused and relaxed on the mound. When things are going well, it’s easy to get caught up in your head and start thinking about the end result. Positive thoughts can help keep you in the present moment and focused on the hitter.

Make sure that you are staying focused on the present moment and don’t let negative thoughts or previous pitch outcomes affect your current performance. Stay positive and confident, and trust in your abilities.

One tip is to try using positive statements while you are on the mound.

Some examples of positive self-talk include:

  • “I’ve got this.”
  • “I’m in control.”
  • “I’m relaxed and confident.”
  • “I’m executing my pitches and pounding the strike zone.”

4. Baseball Players Should Visualize Success

Visualization is one of the best mental strategies that can help your mind and body prepare for good things on the mound. Before your next start, take some time to visualize yourself pitching well. See yourself throwing strikes, getting outs, and pitching deep into the game. The more detailed you can make your visualization, the better.

Some tips for using visualization effectively:

  • First, get into a relaxed state. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths. Doing this between pitches helps to stay calm and relaxed. If you get too tense, your muscles will tighten up and you won’t be able to pitch as effectively. So, take a deep breath before each pitch to clear your head and focus your energy on each at-bat.
  • Next, focus on specific game situations. For example, imagine yourself pitching in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and two outs.
  • Picture yourself throwing strikes and getting outs. Visualize every detail of the situation, from the feel of the ball in your hand to the sound of the crowd cheering.
  • Finally, believe in yourself. Believe that you can achieve the success that you are visualizing.

5. Don’t Let Your Emotions Get The Best Of You

pitching mentality

Pitching is an emotional game. It’s important to be able to control your emotions and not let them get the best of you. When things are going well, it’s easy to get too high and start making mistakes.

On the flip side, when you don’t have your best stuff, it’s easy to get down on yourself and lose focus. It’s important to stay even-keeled and maintain your composure on the mound. Your body language plays a key role in this, as it not only reflects your mental state but also communicates a lack of confidence or uncertainty to the opposing team.

This is one of the most important pieces of advice when it comes to pitching psychology and how it impacts the game.

How many times have you seen a young kid completely unravel after giving up a walk or a hit? Maybe some teammates playing behind him made crucial errors on the field and the pitcher just never recovered. They let their emotions get to them and things start to snowball.

6. Mental Toughness And Pitching Psychology

Mental toughness plays a huge role when it comes to pitching psychology. There will be times when things are going bad and you feel like you can’t get out of a funk. It’s important to have the mental toughness to battle through these tough times and come out on the other side.

As a baseball pitcher, having mental toughness is important for several reasons.

  • First, pitchers need to be able to block out distractions and focus on the task at hand, which is throwing strikes and getting outs.
  • Second, they need to have the ability to bounce back after a bad outing or a tough loss.
  • Finally, pitchers need to be able to handle the pressure that comes with playing the game’s most important position.

Mental toughness is what separates good pitchers from great pitchers. It’s what allows a pitcher to go out there and perform at their best when the game is on the line and it helps them shake off a bad outing and come back stronger the next time out.

Those who take more of a mental approach on game day and focus on one pitch at a time are usually better at handling the pressure of pitching in front of large crowds.

Baseball is 90% mental and the other half if physical.

Yogi Berra

So why is this part so important for baseball pitchers in youth sports? Because without it, they simply wouldn’t be able to do their job.

How to stay mentally tough

There are a few things you can do to help stay mentally tough on the mound:

  • First, have a short memory. If you give up a home run, don’t let it bother you. You need to forget about the past and move on to the next pitch.
  • Second, focus on the task at hand. Don’t worry about what happened earlier in the game or what might happen later. Just concentrate on the present and do your best to execute each pitch.
  • Finally, stay positive. Believe in yourself and your ability to get the job done. When things go bad, don’t get down on yourself. Stay positive and keep fighting.

These are just a few tips for staying tough on the mound but they can also be applied in all sports.

7. Preparation Is Key

Do your homework before an upcoming game

Another important mental aspect when it comes to pitching psychology is having a plan. Whether it’s before big games (or even before each inning), it’s important to have a game plan and know what you want to achieve.

Know your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses on the baseball field, what type of hitter they are, how they tend to swing at different pitch types, etc. The more you know about the opposing team, the better chance you have of getting them out.

It can be hard to do this as a young pitcher without all of the video and analytics so try to work with your coach to see if they can help pick up any useful information on each hitter after the first pass through the order or after watching them take batting practice.

8. Have Confidence In Your Abilities

Confidence is an important part of pitching psychology. If you don’t believe in yourself, it will be difficult to become a great pitcher. Even if it takes a long time to develop that mentality, remember, that you can pitch at a high level. When you take the mound, have confidence in your stuff and in your ability to get hitters out.

It also helps if the hitter thinks you are a little crazy

Nolan Ryan

As a pitcher, nothing is going to go your way 100% of the time. You may make a great pitch that a hitter blasts over the fence but it’s always important to shake it off and move on to the next play.

On certain days, you may have great success or maybe nothing is going your way. The great thing is, as a baseball player, there is always the next play where you can make an impact.

Pitching Psychology And Coaching

Sports Psychology In Baseball

While the game has always been primarily physical, the mental part of the game has come to play an increasingly important role in recent years. This has led to a rise in the use of mental coaches at all levels, including youth baseball.

Former MLB manager, Joe Maddon has long argued that the mental component of baseball is the sixth tool for which players should be evaluated, along with running, throwing, fielding, hitting for average, and hitting for power.

Joe Maddon pitching mentality
Joe Maddon

Youth baseball teams should consider employing sports psychologists for several key reasons. Firstly, the mental aspect is crucial at all levels of the game, and young athletes often need guidance to develop the necessary mental skills for success.

Additionally, sports psychologists are instrumental in helping players manage the pressures of competition, teaching them to control their emotions and maintain focus during high-pressure situations.

Have a positive mindset

Finally, they can help young players develop the mindset needed to be successful in baseball and in life. The game of baseball can teach valuable life lessons, and mental health coaches can help young players learn and apply those lessons.

Every youth baseball coach should spend part of each practice working on developing their player’s mental skills. Even if they may lack physical skills, preparation is the key to helping them build confidence. Mental training, whether it’s around situational awareness, hitting with two strikes, or pitching with the bases loaded, can help these kids get over some of their anxiety.

But what if the coach is the problem?

What happens when coaching methods become a problem? Young athletes often struggle with self-doubt, asking themselves, “Am I not good enough?” or “What am I doing wrong?” in response to overly harsh coaching. While coaches aim to push players toward success, it’s important to recognize when this approach may be too intense. Excessive pressure can lead to lower morale and even depression, impacting performance both on and off the field.

In baseball psychology, the first step is to understand the team’s needs and strike a balance between motivation and overwhelming challenges. A coach who achieves this not only promotes peak performance but also builds a strong, resilient team.

The Mental Game Beyond Pitching Techniques

Parental Support:

As parents, your role in your child’s baseball journey is pivotal. Your support can shape their attitude towards the game and influence their mental resilience. Here’s how you can be their pillar of strength:

  • Positive Reinforcement: Celebrate their efforts, not just outcomes. A well-thrown pitch or a great catch deserves praise, irrespective of the game’s result.
  • Managing Expectations: Understand that growth is a process. Every game, win or lose, is a learning experience.
  • Fostering Love for the Game: Encourage them to enjoy the game. The more they love playing, the less they’ll fear failure.

Pitching Psychology and Dealing with Failure:

Baseball, like life, is filled with ups and downs. Teaching young players to navigate these challenges is crucial:

  • Embrace the Process: Remind them that even the best players strike out. What’s important is to learn and adapt.
  • Post-Game Reflection: After a tough game, discuss what went well and areas of improvement. This constructive reflection can turn setbacks into future successes.

Routine and Consistency

A consistent routine can be the anchor that keeps a player grounded, especially in high-pressure situations:

  • Pre-Game Rituals: Whether it’s a specific warm-up or a favorite song, encourage your child to have a game time ritual to set the tone.
  • Pre-Pitch Routine: Just like professional players, having a set routine before every pitch can help in focusing and calming nerves.

Teammate Support Can Help With Pitching Psychology

In a team sport like baseball, the camaraderie between players can be a game-changer:

  • Celebrate Together: Teach players to celebrate each other’s successes. A team that rejoices together builds a positive environment.
  • Support in Tough Times: A kind word or a pat on the back from a teammate can uplift spirits during challenging moments. Encourage this culture of support.

Why Is Baseball A Thinking Man’s Sport?

Baseball is a game for smart people

Baseball isn’t like other sports. While athletic skills are certainly important in the sport, the game of baseball is often considered to be more mental than physical. This is because pitchers and hitters must outthink their opponents in order to be successful.

Pitchers must choose the right pitches to throw, while hitters must try to guess what pitches will be thrown and where they will be located. Both pitchers and hitters must also have the mental discipline to execute their skills under pressure.

This is why many baseball players are known for their high IQs. To be successful at the game, players must be able to think several steps ahead of their opponents.

Mental toughness at any level of the game can be a huge competitive advantage. Players must be able to maintain their focus and composure in pressure situations and they also need to have the ability to bounce back from mistakes and setbacks.

So while baseball may not look like a brain game on the surface, the reality is that it takes a lot of mental skills and intelligence to be successful at the sport.

Baseball Drills That Help With Pitching Psychology

Set goals for the day

Every baseball player seems to be a creature of habit, so having a daily practice plan that includes some element of mental development will benefit their growth. It could be as simple as developing a pre-pitch routine.

In baseball, especially pitching, having a singular focus is key. This is good advice that all instructors should be teaching their young pitchers. When kids are first learning how to pitch, they are terrified of hitting batters. This often leads to a barrage of walks and a brand of baseball no one wants to watch.

It’s all in their head so have them start throwing practice bullpen sessions to prepare them for upcoming games. One trick I like is having them pretend that there is no batter in the batter’s box or having them practice with a coach standing in there who isn’t afraid of getting hit. Once they eliminate the fear of hitting someone with a ball and focus only on the catcher’s mitt as their focal point, they will begin attacking the hitter instead of pitching passively.

Final Thoughts On Pitching Psychology

There are many different components of pitching psychology that ballplayers can use to improve their mental game. It is important to find a method that works for you and stick to it. Positive self-talk is one way to stay focused and relaxed on the mound. Visualization is another great tool that can be used to picture success. Even meditation and yoga are entering the youth sports world.

Whatever it is, try to stay calm and composed under pressure. Remember to trust your training and preparation when you are pitching in a big game. Aspiring to the levels of the Major Leagues or dreaming of taking the mound in the World Series starts with the mindset of a successful type of pitcher.

Chris F.

Chris F.

Chris Forbes is the founder and editor of BaseballMode.com, a leading blog in the youth baseball space. As a lifelong baseball player, coach and fan, he decided to team up with his young son to offer advice and share their experiences with the sport they both love. Chris lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children.

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