If you have been watching any of the NCAA baseball and softball tournaments I am sure you have noticed hitters taking time to stare at the bat before stepping into the box to hit. I first noticed this on a large scale during last years College Baseball World Series. The entire UCLA baseball team made this an important part of their mental preparation before each at bat. Some doing it between each pitch. They hit the ball extremely well and won the NCAA Championship.
This year you will see this mental ritual being utilized by most college teams in the playoffs.
Focusing on a specific point on the bat helps the hitter bring their mental and emotional focus to a single point. This helps the mind eliminate the distractions of the moment like the sound of a loud crowd and the pressure that comes with an important at bat in a key series.
This ritual helps focus the mind on the task at hand. Hitting. Focusing on a single positive swing thought like “hit the ball hard” sends a message to the conscious and unconscious mind to execute at a high level.
Where the Mind Leads the Body Follows
Focusing on a specific point on the bat is also a reminder to bring their emotional state back in to balance.
If the hitter is thinking pressure producing thoughts then the mind will focus on what not to do. Negative thoughts like “don’t make an out”, “don’t strike out”, and “I have to get a hit” increase stress and pressure. Pressure producing thoughts can also create emotional surges that are counter productive to hitting. Where the hitter aims their mind the body follows.
A Deep Centering Breath
You will also noticed hitters taking a deep breath after they have taken time to stare at the bat. This deep breath helps the hitter in a several ways.
It reinforces the minds ability to focus on the present moment.
It helps the hitter calm any amped up emotion they might experience during the at bat.
It sends oxygen to the brain. When the brain realizes it is receiving a surge of oxygen it sends a message to the body to relax.
Hitters are more productive with a relaxed mind and body.
Achieving Their Peak Performance Zone
Each hitter has certain level of intensity, adrenaline, and internal stress that allows their body to perform at its peak. We call this the “Peak Performance Zone”.
Taking time to focus the mind on a specific place on the bat and take a deep centering breath helps the athlete move into this zone before each pitch. This increases productivity.
It Works For The Pros
I taught this technique to a Major League player who was struggling at the plate. He was focusing on the wrong things during his at bats. His intensity level was way too high. He was out of his zone when hitting.
He learned how to bring his focus in before each pitch and breath in a way that relaxed his mind and body. His productivity at the plate soared. His average increased by over 30 points the last two months of the season and his RBI and HR totals spiked dramatically.
Most importantly baseball was fun. He learned to enjoy the game again.