It is springtime, and that means that baseball and softball are in full swing. It also means that my phone is ringing and my email box is full of players and their parents wanting help to end a hitting slump.
When these players walk into my office, most are dejected, down, and frustrated with little confidence. Many of these hitters were “tearing it up” earlier in the season and then hit a slump that has lasted a while.
The sad thing to me is that a 2 for 12 slump is catastrophic in the eyes of many coaches, so they start tweaking and changing the hitting mechanics of a good hitter. These changes take a hitter who is only mentally struggling and create a physical struggle. Frustration heightens, and players and coaches become more and more impatient. The hitting slump usually worsens, meaning a drop in the hitting order from 3 or 4 to 7, 8 or 9. Some end up out of the lineup altogether.
If coaches and players could recognize that this approach only increases the ‘get it right” mindset of the hitter, they would understand that this increases pressure and tension in the body and, in most cases, erodes self-confidence. Stressed-out, tense hitters with low belief and low self-confidence rarely hit the ball well.
Instead of altering mechanics, try creating a relaxed atmosphere in the cages and games. Teach your players how to relax during each hitting rep or at bat. By learning how to get in their “zone” before each pitch, hitters approach each at-bat with a consistent mental and emotional temperament. They are focused and relaxed. They leave behind the “get it right” mindset and return to loving the game.
I worked with a major leaguer, hitting .248 for the season in late July. He had lost the love of the game and was focused on the changes his coaches were making to his swing, scouting reports, videos, and all the other interventions to get him to reach his potential. He was locked into trying to get it right and please his coaches. By learning how to breathe the right way, get in his peak performance zone before each pitch, and reconnect with his love of the game, he ended the season hitting .281 and hit 17 HR’s and 36 RBI’s during this time.
His slump wasn’t physical in nature and only required a mental adjustment. He reached his potential and has continued this upward trend for the last three seasons.
Hitting slumps are rarely physical in nature. The mental and emotional pressures that coaches put on players and players put upon themselves can make the best hitters in the game struggle.
Where the mind leads, the body follows. Wherever you point your mind as a hitter, it will determine how well you hit the ball. Become mindful of your mental approach and how you handle your emotions during the game, and learn how to breathe in a way that creates a calm mind and body.
The game becomes fun again, confidence soars, and hitters move back up in the batting order.