We have all heard of the term “confidence” and I am sure we can agree that it is of vital importance to a baseball player’s progress and development. Yogi Berra put it best, “Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.” Although gaining and developing confidence to some may seem like an easy task, it can be the single greatest flaw in a players’ game, and what ultimately prevents them from maximizing their potential. Having struggled mightily with confidence over the years, I have found the following thoughts, strategies and tools to be quite useful.
First and foremost, I believe the most important element within all of this, is having the ability to be comfortable within your own skin. Before anyone steps on the baseball field, it is absolutely crucial that they love themselves as a human being and wholeheartedly accept their reflection in the mirror, regardless of how their box score reads after the game. If this proves to be difficult, it will undoubtedly be more challenging to remain confident during times of struggle on the field. Baseball is arguably the most difficult sport there is; it’s success rate is minimal compared most other sports. For many years I would base my self worth off of the amount of hits I recorded, the number of runners I threw out or the MPH reading that would flash on the radar gun. This is not a healthy, ideal or practical way to live life and it is not sustainable over time. Baseball players have to learn to compartmentalize between life as a ballplayer and life as a human being. When you truly come to grips with the notion, a huge weight will be lifted off your shoulders, allowing you to play free, loose and relaxed. Soon thereafter, baseball will become much more enjoyable.
Our family and true friends will still love us unconditionally and their opinion of us will not waver based on our athletic development or achievements. A parent will love you for the individual you are, not the batting average you maintain. A true friend will want to spend time with you because they enjoy your company, not because you hit the game winning home run. Your significant other will love you because of how you make them feel, not your average fastball velocity. As a ballplayer and especially as a young child, it is crucial to remember that those who truly love you will always love you, regardless of how the scoreboard reads. This is by no stretch an easy concept to grasp and it is a difficult lesson to learn: the day after my first shoulder surgery, I had 35 missed calls, 43 text messages and 8 voicemails. The day after my fifth shoulder surgery, I had 4 missed calls, 6 text messages and zero voicemails. That experience allowed me the opportunity to see who truly loved me and who just loved the idea of me.
One of the most detrimental acts any ballplayer can partake in is comparing themselves to those who surround them. This is a recipe for disaster on a variety of levels. Day in and day out, the goal of any ballplayer should be to win the battle against themselves. Baseball is a team game. If you begin to compare yourself to the teammates and opponents around you, you are setting yourself up to derail mentally! Did you improve yourself today? Are you better today than you were yesterday? That’s what matters.
The greatest achievers in any industry have an internal drive that allows them to focus solely on self-improvement. In addition to holding themselves to the highest standards, they’re able to judge their performances solely on preceding versions of themselves, not against teammates or competitors. Each and every one of us develop, mature and progress at our own pace and on our own timetable. None of us are genetically equivalent, so what is the sense in comparing ourselves to others based on factors that are out of our control? Many often forget that this game, similar to life, is a marathon, not a race.