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Posted by Patrick Cohn
“What was I thinking?” you mutter in frustration after you struck out at bat. You lost your focus temporarily and it cost you the at-bat. Most players at times, lose focus, blank-out, get distracted, or are too stressed to concentrate. Even the greatest players in the world have trouble concentrating under pressure. Outcomes and winning are stressed in a result oriented society, making it difficult to focus on what really matters—sticking to the task and focusing on only execution.
The goal in baseball is to win, score runs, and get a hit every time at-bat. This is obvious. If you dwell too much on winning or getting a hit, you can lose focus on execution. In addition, if you worry too much about the outcome, you can’t focus on what you need to do to get a hit. Results come from focusing on the process of execution. Focusing on the process is a simple concept to talk about, but one of the most difficult things for athletes to do consistently.
A key lesson I teach to baseball players is how to maintain a present focus. I often need to repeat myself several times and say the same thing in different ways to get the point across. Good results such as getting a hit and winning games comes from focusing on the process or paying attention to one play at a time; one at-bat at a time. You should “see” a positive result in your mind as you settle into the batter’s box. But you don’t want to become so fixated on getting a hit–”I need to get a hit”–that you worry about not getting a hit, going 0 for 4, and tighten up.
Some sport psychologists would say that choking is caused by not paying attention to what’s important —execution. When you focus on execution, it helps keep your calm and free of result-induced pressure. What do I mean when I say focus on execution? Execution is not focusing on the mechanics of hitting. You want to have a plan for each at-bat and stay committed to that plan.
By immersing yourself in your preparation—set-up, balance, visualizing a good at-bat, and focusing only on the pitcher, you put yourself in a position to get a hit. You can’t alter the outcome after the bat makes contact with the ball or the ball is in the catcher’s glove. Plan your at-bat, rehearse it in your mind, prepare your body, and react to the pitcher. What happens next is out of your control. You control your mental focus and you want to use this to your advantage when thinking about your mental game of baseball.