Are you spending enough time working on the mental aspects of hitting with your softball team? In this post, we’ll cover some mental hitting basics, and five simple mental hitting drills you can use to boost your hitter’s success.
Mental Hitting Basics
The most important part of a strong mental game is confidence. A confident hitter is fearless and stress-free in the batter’s box. She looks forward to and thrives on high pressure situations. She thinks positively and believes in herself and her skills.
Confidence results from knowing you are prepared.
How do you build confidence in your players?
- Highlight a player’s past and present successes.
- Give her the tools to free herself from negative thinking. (Self-talk, visualization, preparation)
- Use mental hitting drills to put players in stressful or fearful practice situations , so they can work on successful execution and mental training.
- Positive coaching! Players respond best to positive comments, feedback and encouragement. For example, “Taylor, be aggressive and think HIT, HIT, HIT! You’ve done this successfully in practice many times. Go get the job done!”
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Mental Hitting Drills
The following five drills will help develop critical mental hitting skills, allowing your batters to eliminate fears, improve focus and have a great at-bat every time they step to the plate.
This drill focuses on a player’s concentration, perception and ability to read a pitch. Concentration is keeping your mind focused on one task or a part of a task that allows you to be successful.
- Set the hitter up in a bullpen practice situation with a pitcher.
- Have her take 5 pitches at a time, without taking live swings.
- Instruct her to use a soft focus on the pitcher when she steps into the box (not really focusing on any one thing) and then switch to a hard focus on the pitcher’s release point (the moment the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand).
- Rotate hitters, allowing each 4-5 opportunities to complete the drill.
Reading each pitch as it is delivered and trying to identify the spin are important perception skills. Switch up the drill by changing what you want the hitter to concentrate on each time (soft/hard focus, timing, swing sequence, reading spin, etc.).
This drill focuses on getting the body used to the correct swinging motion and forms awareness of how the body parts feel when they work together in the proper sequence. This drill will create muscle memory and develop trust in her swing.
- Set the hitter up with a bat, no pitcher or ball.
- Have her practice 5 swings in a set, 3 sets at a time.
- Instruct her to concentrate on one part of the swing at a time and eventually move on to concentrating on one whole swing at a time.
- Encourage the use of self-talk and positive visualization between each swing.
Pressure Situation Drill
Giving players the opportunity to practice pressure situations before game time will boost their confidence and improve their mental game.
- Set up a scrimmage that mimics a high pressure, game-like situation.
- Discuss ways to conquer any fears associated with the situation with players before the scrimmage. Remove the false evidence that is associated with the fear by facing it and thinking it through realistically.
- Encourage self-talk and team support throughout the scrimmage.
Keep a chart of successes to review after the scrimmage. Reviewing the things that were done well will help build confidence.
College-Style Practice Drill
- Focus on one skill at a time during this drill.
- Set up a scrimmage that places emphasis on one specific skill (running, bunting, hitting, etc.).
- Keep track of the number of concentrated efforts observed and report the findings to the team after the drill.
Tracking their efforts shows them their successes and the value the coach places on their abilities.
Short Scrimmage Drill
Place an emphasis on using mental game skills including self-talk, visualization and hitting routine throughout this drill.
- Set up a 2-3 inning game that starts with players on base to develop offensive and defensive execution.
- Observe the players in different situations.
- After a botched play, pull the player aside and ask her about her thought processes and if she was using mental game tactics. If not, remind her how she can next time.
If you’d like to see more mental hitting drills and strategies like this, make sure you check out the Mental Hitting Ebook.