by Alan Shore
Gerardo Parra, Az Diamondbacks - I don't care where I am in the lineup, I play the same way every day.
Alan asked: Hi Coach,
Would appreciate your insight & suggestions on this situation please.
My son is a solid 10U-AAA level player for a select team in North Texas. Prior to this spring / summer season, he was primarily a 5, 6, 7 hole hitter for his team & did very well.
In the fall, he was a pretty consistent hitter. This season, he was dropped down in the batting order to the 8, 9 & primarily into the 10 hole in the order.
Since his fall in the order, it seems that he is trying so hard to get hits in the games, his strikeouts have increased & other bad habits have started showing up ( I am guessing because he is internally putting so much pressure on himself to perform at the plate).
My belief is that kids (regardless of what a kid or parent says) think that if they are hitting at the bottom of the order, they are the one of the poorer hitters on the team.
The thing is, he is as good as a hitter as probably hitters 5-11 on this triple AAA team...however I am not sure how to help him learn how to take his practice performance to the game.
I also don't believe he truly understands what "slowing the game down" means.
Unfortunately, at this level, his coach has essentially told us that if the performance does not improve, he will continue to play in tournament "pool games", but he may be sitting on Sunday's.
I honestly don't believe that ANY 10 year old kid should be sitting on Sunday's regardless. I feel like this coach (intentional or not) has made my son feel like if he makes a mistake on Saturday's, then he basically has no shot at playing on Sunday's.
So again, my concerns are that my son is putting so much pressure on himself, that it has effected his play on the field...
Ultimately, I don't think we'll be returning to this team in the fall, but more importantly - I need advice on how to help my son regain his confidence, take his practice performance into the games & learn how to "slow the game down". Thank you in advance.
Rick answered: Alan, thank you for your question!
Situations such as you describe are tough on players as young as he is; but they don't need to be.
The first step is for them to realize what things in their situation they have control over, and which they do not.
While you are certainly aware of those things you cannot control, you have to focus in on those things which you are able to do something about.
At the moment, it sounds like he is letting his position in the batting order, in his mind, determine his net worth as a player, which is never the case, and also not something he has any control over.
He does, however, have complete control over his thoughts and approach within the game. Mental framing is putting your mind in a position to be successful. It is possible to frame situations to your advantage.
The realities of baseball lineups are that top and bottom tend to disappear after the first time through. The games play out and the at bats are there, the opportunities to come through in game situations are there each and every day.
He's 10 and just because he may be slotted where he is right now does not mean he is destined to be there the rest of his career. He has an opportunity now to play and develop, how he frames those opportunities will ultimately determine the outcomes.
There are many physical and mental changes ahead of him, and all the other players on this current team. There will be players who will not adjust to those changes and will drop by the way. Others will adjust and continue to move forward.
What he can work on right now is establishing a solid approach to each at bat.
FOCUS ON THE PROCESS AND THE RESULTS TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES.
Control is lost when players feelings and thoughts focus on consequences, whether they be catostrophe or conquest.
Trying harder when things are going poorly may be a good sign of character; but it is not the right way to improved performance.
Thoughts or self statements such as, "I am going to pitch a shutout", or I'm going to get 4 hits today are positive to be sure; but they are thoughts based on result goals ~ which are beyond the control of the player and likely to provoke feelings of pressure, not confidence. They are seemingly positive means which lead to negative ends.
Create a consistent approach to every at bat. There should be no difference in your approach if you are ahead or behind by a lot of runs, tied or one or two runs ahead or behind.
Keep the game simple. Have a plan, relax, see the ball and trust your muscles. Easily said, not so easily done. It takes practice and repetitions to create that routine for yourself, to not be distracted and stay steady. The goals for this approach are process oriented, not outcome oriented. You have control of the process.
Go to the plate knowing where the pitchers's release point is, as you step in the box, take a deep breath and exhale as you settle in. (That will relax you and your muscles, so that they can work smoothly.) Soft focus the pitcher and the mound, as he starts into his delivery, sharp focus to where he will be releasing the ball, get your load/stride early and slow ( fast and late causes the ball to bounce and the hitter to be late)SEE THE BALL ~ TRACK IT AND WHACK IT. Look to hit the ball hard, somewhere.
The breathing mechanism is all a part of slowing the game down. The relaxation allows your muscles to work as designed, with muscles that accelerate, and those that decellerate. Working together they provide you with the best possible control and swing.
You can use music to speed up, or slow down the game. There are times and days you need to do both. Everyone has music they relate to, you run it through your head the same as you do self talk.
Realize what is going on with you in the moment, use an appropriate song you like that will allow you to slow down and focus. Make your self talk be positive. You wouldn't like a coach yelling at you for something; you shouldn't be yelling at yourself. Treat yourself good. Create a key phrase for yourself; "SEE THE BALL" is the most functional and appropriate replacement thought a hitter will ever have in the batter's box, remember it and use it, it is a powerful tool.
It all takes time; but all of it is able to be worked on either at home, or in practice. Build a routine for yourself and take that routine straight into every at bat, every pitch of your games.
Controlling your thoughts is a big part of "slowing the game down".
A lot has surrounded hitting. You can and should create routines for base running, fielding and dugout times. Your goal would be to become a complete player, one that has the ability to contribute at game time, even on those days when their bat fails to show up, or any part of their game is temporarily out of sync.
One of the great things about baseball is there are many ways to contribute to the success of the team.
Mistakes are a part of playing baseball. They are just an opportunity to learn and move forward. It is all about how you frame the situation.
Good luck as you both move forward. Roll with it, there is always another at bat, ground ball, fly ball, stolen base attempt, pitch to deliver, team, etc.
You are 10 years old and have a lot of baseball ahead of you. I wouldn't let one team or one situation define who you are in your baseball.
Keep working on your game. Focus on the process, it gets you through the tough times, keep them from controling your thoughts.
I would be interested in hearing how your summer is going. Keep in touch.
Yours in baseball,