I was recently asked by a high school baseball coach to reduce the anxiety of his players, particularly as they step into the batter box. As I reviewed my strategies with the team, it became apparent these ideas were much bigger than the game itself and could be applied metaphorically to everyday life. Check it out and feel free to respond with some anxiety reducing strategies of your own.
Take care of your body – Sleep is essential especially before a big game allowing your mind to be at its best. Eat a healthy breakfast/lunch and snacks with lots of protein. Avoid caffeine and stay hydrated—lots of water.
Practice – Automaticity is the ability to perform complex tasks without thinking about it. Practice your swing over and over. When you get to the plate, don’t think about your swing as it takes focus away from the task at hand—just hit the ball.
Positive Self Talk/Visual Success– Positive self-talk can be used to correct bad habits, focus attention, build self-confidence, and change negative thoughts to positive ones. Mental imagery is the process of using ones senses to create or re-create a positive or successful past experience in the mind. Tell yourself you can hit the ball and visualize yourself doing it well. This process will build confidence.
Focus/Attention – when at bat, only the ball matters—not the score, not your last performance—be in the moment. The ability to selectively attend to cues, events, or thoughts while disregarding others is the key to successful performances (Gill, 2000).
Set Goals – Successful people in all professions and sports set goals, both short-term and long-term. They write them down, they are realistic and measurable. If you don’t have goals, how will you know you are getting better?
Relax – recognize anxiety and learn how to control it through relaxation strategies. Some of these techniques are deep breathing exercises which is an instantaneous process that can be used before batting. Before each game consider meditation (relaxing the mind first and letting the muscles follow), and progressive relaxation techniques (relaxing the muscles first, and letting the mind follow).
You can’t be perfect – Not all batters hit all balls. It is okay to be frustrated by bad at bats, but don’t hyper focus on it and learn from your mistakes.
Final Words – Preparation (pregame mindset and nutrition), execution (be the best during the game), evaluation (postgame analysis used to improve).