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Creating Positive Thinking at the Plate

I truly believe that one of the biggest hindrances to a hitter's success is the way that they approach an at-bat mentally. We have seen hitter's who have impeccable mechanics, lack a strong mental side and struggle. We have also seen hitter's who may have some holes mechanically, but have a tremendous approach at the plate and have success. While the ideal we strive for with every hitter is to have an ideal swing mechanically with a strong mental approach, the mental side can have a more profound impact on a hitter than the nuts and bolts of mechanics. While there is a lot that goes into the mental side of hitting, today I want to discuss how to limit fear and doubt at the plate and create a more positive approach at the plate.


"Don't thoughts"


One of my biggest grievances with coaches is the way that they talk to hitters before an at bat. Just about every hitter has had a coach put a negative thought into their head at some point in their career and may not have even realized it. Any statement with the term "don't" or "can't" can have a profound impact on a hitter at the plate. The most common of these are : "don't chase anything", "don't swing at a first pitch off-speed pitch", "don't chase the high pitch", "you can't hit the ball in the air" or "don't (fill in the blank mechanically). While these are just a few examples, many hitters step into the box with a "don't or can't thought" in their head.


What these thoughts lead to are hitters who lack aggressiveness and are timid at the plate. When a hitter gets into the box thinking that they can't do something, these thoughts act like brakes on aggressiveness. While coaches may be well intentioned in their statements, these thoughts often have a negative impact. I have seen it happen over and over. Here is an example: Coach tells a hitter not to swing at the high fastball. The hitter gets into the box trying not to mess up, is nervous, gets a high fastball and swings. I truly believe that if players were not told what not to do, they would have much more success.


Reworking negative thoughts to positive thoughts


In order to create positive thinking at the plate, we need an entire team effort. This includes parents, players and coaches.


Parents and coaches


The best thing that parents and coaches can do is to express positive and aggressive thoughts to their player. Simply changing the wording of a statement can have a profound impact on a player's mentality at the plate. For example, if a player is chasing pitches try saying "expect your pitch" instead of "don't chase". Use "hunt fastball" instead of "don't chase off-speed".


The second thing that coaches and parents can do is to limit the amount of thoughts they put into a hitter's head during a game. Often times coaches and parents give hitters too much credit and don't realize how hard of an activity hitting is. They think that a hitter can process 10 different statements at the plate, while most hitters need to get closer to clearing their head than increased thinking at the plate.


Players


Think aggressive thoughts. Your job in the box is to hit the ball as hard as you can. When you think aggressive thoughts, the swing mechanics often times are the best and pitch selection is improved. Expect your pitch and crush it. Keep it simple. It can be hard when a coach or parent is barking negative thoughts at you as you head up to the plate, but any time that a negative or fearful thought comes into your head, go back to the most aggressive thoughts you can to clear those out.



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