For most of the country, the winter time can be a challenging season for baseball teams and players who are trying to stay sharp and make improvements. The obstacles are many: cold weather, end of the semester finals, holidays, and fatigue (physical and mental). With all these factors, how can players separate themselves during this difficult stretch? Try these suggestions and I know that you will gain an edge on the competition!
1) Finish strong in the classroom. This might seem odd as the #1 priority, but the reason it's numero uno is you can't play if you're not eligible. The best way to find yourself in the "dog house" is to post a lousy GPA. It's okay if you need to put baseball on the back burner for a couple weeks (which can be refreshing); whatever you need to do to have a solid semester in the classroom so that you don't go into the winter break in academic trouble.
2) Work on your weaknesses. It's easy when you're not working under the supervision of a coach to have practice sessions that are comfortable. You may spend significant time working on your game, but is it mostly spent on aspects of the game that you enjoy and are already good at? Trust me, your coaches will be more than willing to provide you with feedback and suggestions on ways to improve your weaknesses during your break. Don't be afraid to ask, it's a sign of strength to seek out advice!
3) Take your strength and conditioning to another level! This is a surefire way to gain distance on your peers. It's my experience that at the amateur level, most athletes lose momentum in the weight room and in their speed training when they are away from the structure of their program. Don't let yourself fall victim to the temptations of the winter break. You worked too hard all fall to go backwards during the holidays. Remember, the season is right around the corner, keep your focus!!!
4) Practice with Pressure. In the game of baseball, every pitch is a competition. To ensure that you are ready for the upcoming season, it's important that you put yourself in competitive situations. If you train with others, then competing is easy. Tee competitions, fielding competitions, and sprint competitions are all ways that you can simulate game-like intensity. The real challenge is for those of you who work out solo. The ability to compete against yourself and mentally put yourself in a game situation- even when you are all alone- is a tool that allows successful athletes to get meaningful reps when most people are just going through the motions.
5) Set Goals. Winter break is a great time to reflect on the previous year and look forward to the upcoming season. Very few people take the time to intentionally set goals. The benefits of goal setting are powerful. I know personally that goal setting helped me stay focused during times that I could have easily let up or become distracted. Dream big and set goals that are going to require you to play at your absolute best everyday. Write them down and put them in a place where you are forced to look at them every day. A baseball season is a marathon but it is made up of a bunch of sprints; the player who is prepared everyday to give his best is the one who will be at the front of the pack at the end of the race!