Mind Games: Coaching the mental side of hitting
By Greg Bach
There’s no question about it: hitting is what youngsters love most about softball.
But the problem is that hitting a fast-moving pitch that is dipping, rising or spinning can be as difficult as learning another language.
And, at times, just as frustrating.
Since the best hitters fail seven out of 10 times, helping your young athletes maintain a positive outlook – and a confident swing – is crucial for being productive at the plate.
“I would encourage anyone coaching any age player to first and foremost focus on the mental aspects of competing, and in the case of hitting that would be no different,” says Matt Meuchel, the head softball coach at the University of Nevada.
The veteran coach shared these tips with SportingKid Live on ways you can help your players confidently swing the bat all season long:
Do you know what your players are thinking as they step into the batter’s box? If their thoughts are draped in negativity – afraid of striking out, focused on their last unproductive plate appearance, etc. – they are already setting themselves up for failure.
And that means your team’s chances of scoring runs plummets.
“A lot of the time hitting comes down to timing and being on time and at the right location at the right time,” Meuchel says. “Much of that is dictated by the mental approach and thought process of the player preparing to hit. Much of coaching and coaching hitters is spent on the mechanics about getting to the right spot at the right time, but frequently that is not the main problem.”
READY TO RIP
You want your players to develop the mindset that they are going to be swinging at pitches and making solid contact – not sitting back hoping for a walk.
“They must always be ready to hit,” Meuchel says. “Since hitting is a reactionary skill we have to be as proactive as possible and they need to be thinking that they will be swinging at every pitch until they choose in flight to not swing.”
MAKING EVERY SWING MATTER
You want your players to be aggressive at the plate - and that means swinging hard.
“They should be attacking the ball when they swing,” Meuchel says. “They do not simply try to make contact with the ball, but rather they seek to drive the ball by swinging hard.”
Yes, you want players going to the plate ready to swing, and to be aggressive when they do swing. But, you don’t want them swinging at everything.
“You want your players swinging at good pitches,” Meuchel says. “Even though they are aggressive and always ready to hit they only swing at strikes.”
Employ these six methods with your team to help young athletes remain calm, focused and centered
WNBA great Tangela Smith recalls how important those encouraging words from coaches and teammates were during her playing days – and reminds today’s youth coaches of how influential the rights words can be for kids
Ryan Harris, Super Bowl champion and author of Mindset for Mastery, on inspiring young athletes to believe in themselves and compete with confidence
Having a game day routine to call upon can help young athletes become more consistent and confident performers