yogi-berra1Baseball is ninety percent mental.

The other half is physical.

Yogi Berra

It’s one of the best-known baseball quotes of all time.  And especially true when it comes to hitting.

Most coaches understand the importance of hitting mechanics, bat speed, power… and the other physical elements of hitting. But very few spend enough time working on the mental aspects of hitting. In this post, we’ll cover some mental hitting basics, and five simple mental hitting drills you can use to boost  your hitter’s  success.

Mental Hitting Basics

The most important part of a strong mental game is confidence. A confident hitter is fearless and stress-free in the batter’s box. He looks forward to and thrives on high pressure situations. He thinks positively and believes in himself and his skills.

Confidence results from knowing you are prepared.

How do you build confidence in your players?

  1. Highlight a player’s past and present successes.
  2. Give him the tools to free himself from negative thinking. (Self-talk, visualization, preparation)
  3. Place players in stressful or fearful practice situations to work on successful execution and mental training.
  4. Positive coaching! Players respond best to positive comments, feedback and encouragement. For example, “Jimmy, be aggressive and think HIT, HIT, HIT! You’ve done this successfully in practice many times. Go get the job done!“

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Mental Hitting Drills

The following five drills will help develop critical mental hitting skills, allowing your batters to eliminate fears, improve focus and have a great at-bat every time they step to the plate.

Perception Drill

This drill focuses on a player’s concentration, perception and ability to read a pitch. Concentration is keeping your mind focused on one task or a part of a task that allows you to be successful.

  • Set the hitter up in a bullpen practice situation with a pitcher.
  • Have the hitter take 5 pitches at a time, without taking live swings.
  • Instruct him to use a soft focus on the pitcher when he steps into the box (not really focusing on any one thing) and then switch to a hard focus on the pitcher’s release point (the moment the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand).
  • Rotate hitters, allowing each 4-5 opportunities to complete the drill.

Reading each pitch as it is delivered and trying to identify the spin are important perception skills. Switch up the drill by changing what you want the hitter to concentrate on each time (soft/hard focus, timing, swing sequence, reading spin, etc.).

Dry Drill

This drill focuses on getting the body used to the correct swinging motion and forms awareness of how the body parts feel when they work together in the proper sequence. This drill will create muscle memory and develop trust in his swing.

  • Set the hitter up with a bat, no pitcher or ball.
  • Have him practice 5 swings in a set, 3 sets at a time.
  • Instruct him to concentrate on one part of the swing at a time and eventually move on to concentrating on one whole swing at a time.
  • Encourage the use of self-talk and positive visualization between each swing.

Pressure Situation Drill

Giving players the opportunity to practice pressure situations before game time will boost their confidence and improve their mental game.

  • Set up a scrimmage that mimics a high pressure, game-like situation.
  • Discuss ways to conquer any fears associated with the situation with players before the scrimmage. Remove the false evidence that is associated with the fear by facing it and thinking it through realistically.
  • Encourage self-talk and team support throughout the scrimmage.

Keep a chart of successes to review after the scrimmage. Reviewing the things that were done well will help build confidence.

College-Style Practice Drill

  • Focus on one skill at a time during this drill.
  • Set up a scrimmage that places emphasis on one specific part of the drill (running, bunting, hitting, etc.).
  • Keep track of the number of concentrated efforts observed and report the findings to the team after the drill.

Tracking their efforts shows them their successes and the value the coach places on their abilities.

Short Scrimmage Drill

Place an emphasis on using mental game skills including self-talk, visualization and hitting routine throughout this drill.

  • Set up a 2-3 inning drill that starts with players on base to develop offensive and defensive execution.
  • Observe the players in different situations.
  • After a botched play, pull the player aside and ask him about his thought processes and if he was using mental game tactics. If not, remind him how he can next time.

If you’d like to see more mental hitting drills and strategies like this, make sure you check out the  Mental Hitting Ebook.