Whether you are a coach, athlete or parent, we have all seen this scenario unfold. Practices go awesome, you step up to the plate and are crushing the ball, everything is going great. Come game time however, it’s a different story. Almost Jekyll and Hyde! 0 for 4 at the plate and you could barely hit a foul ball. Sound familiar? Well, you are not alone. In fact, this was a major reason for me becoming a mental toughness trainer.
As a baseball coach in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada for the last 12 years I have seen this happen more times than I can count and not just with hitting. It also happens with pitching, fielding, throwing and nearly every other aspect of the game.
Over the years, by far, the number one reason I have heard for the cause of this, and you have probably heard this yourself.... lack of confidence. Now, if you have heard this before, you have probably said something like this to your child or to a player you coach "you just need to be confident when you get up to bat"? Well I am here to tell you that this is just not the case. Lack of confidence is NOT the cause of playing well in practice then struggling in a game situation. Lack of confidence is not the problem, it is a symptom, a result. That symptom tends to have developed over a period of time - weeks, months or years - and almost always boils down to the root cause being FEAR. That’ right, FEAR.
There are really only two types of fear:
1 - Fear of physical harm to the body
2 - Fear of emotion - fear of failure, rejection, even fear of success
When I see a player that has a fear of physical harm they will almost always have that same response in both practice and game situations. Imagine a batter stepping back when the pitch is thrown or stepping away from a ball thrown to them. When a player is doing well in practice but not performing in a game situation, I find that the increased pressure of a game situation exaggerates an underlying fear, most of the time a fear of failure. My solution is to uncover the fear and remove it using the R.A.C.E. formula. R. is RELENTLESS and all my clients learn how to embody this for competition and become their own mental coach. Players need the A. AWARENESS of how they operate so that they can take full control of their mind and body working together for consistent skill maximization. And then, we go to the core of the problem and C. CLEAR it out. E. is EMOTIONAL MASTERY and keeps the player fearless and focused no matter what happens in a game including pressure situations. These are the keys to the success of the athletes that go through my program.
This is how we achieve long lasting change, by eliminating the mental interference that is the root cause of the lack of performance. I address the cause of the problem not just the symptoms. If you try to increase confidence, without addressing the fear like so many other coaches, mental trainers or sports psychologists do, when a stressful game situation arises, the underlying fear will always trigger the same old response and the performance reducing symptom - being lack of confidence - will always return.
If lack of performance in game situations sounds like you or someone you know, fire me an email or pick up the phone right now while you’re thinking about it and we’ll talk further about how you will end this problem asap!!
Ken Ansell - Your Mental Toughness Trainer