It’s no secret that hitting a baseball is up there as one of the most difficult things you can do as a human being. The game makes us suck, especially as hitters. Shoot, we only get 60 ft to see a little white circle and try to hit it with a round bat somewhere no one can catch it. Oh the balls coming in as fast as 100 mph. Sounds fun! Definitely. Sounds hard too! Even more so. Well it’s no wonder why we get so frustrated on a regular basis. Think about it, the best hitters at the highest level of baseball have a mere 30% success rate (.300 BA). I challenge you to find another profession where you wouldn’t get fired after only doing your job successfully 3 out of 10 times. And no one is happy when they don’t succeed.
No doubt you’ve heard all this before. So what’s that mean for players? It means there’s an awful lot of times where you don’t do as well as you expect to. It’s a constant uphill battle and baseball players have chosen to make camp at the steepest of grades on the trail. What comes along with failure? Negativity. How do you play well? Positivity. Belief and confidence that you are a great player and can succeed. Herein lies the uphill battle.
It’s well known positivity makes the engine run. Even in everyday life, positivity is a habit earned and valued by the most successful of people. However, as human beings, we have this unique ability to somehow dwell upon and be affected by negative events more powerfully than positive ones, even if both occurrences are present. Psychology calls this phenomenon Negativity Bias. So when little Johnny’s goal at the dish is a hard line drive and he squares one up straight to the center fielder, will he be mad? You bet he will be. When the goal is to win the baseball game and you do but you went 0-4 with 3 K’s, you’re going to be mad about the three K’s? You get the picture.
Why are people so dang negative? It’s an acquired skill the brain has learned to try to protect us from the dangers of the environment. You’ll remember the horrible feeling of a burn from a fire more specifically than the refreshing feeling of a hot bath. The fire will hurt you again, but the bath probably wont.
“So Coach Jordan, on the baseball field my brain is automatically going to be negatively biased about everything that happens but I somehow have to find a way to be positive because that’s going to make me play better?” Right you are young man. It’s a tall task that most don’t figure out until late in their career, if at all. There’s good news, though, I believe we can practice dealing with the negativity way more effectively than we do now. Imagine that, practicing thinking. Even so, it’s a necessary part of being a successful baseball player that is vastly undervalued by players and coaches.
Here are a few general ideas players that I work with will hear me talk about to help them throughout the course of a game or season.
Acceptance – Learning to understand that you will think negatively at some point. Its an automatic response of your brain. But how we react to a negative thought defines its effect on us. Can I counter this negative thought about with something positive that will allow me to feel more confident? “I can’t find the barrell today, but I’ve got one more at-bat and I am seeing this pitcher well.” Maybe It’s true that it wasn’t your day at the plate, but the first phrase is still a negative thought. The second phrase ends this entire idea with another true positive statement. It’s certainly a victory if every thought we have is capped off with something positive.
Perspective – It’s very easy to wander into the land of seriousness when playing baseball, especially if we aspire to use the game to make something of our lives. The higher level you get, the more serious players tend to be, sometimes in a negative way. We are playing a game!! Act like it, show that smile on your face when you do well, congratulate your teammates. Absolutely be mad when you don’t play well, but understand that this game will never be the end-all-be-all of your life because it will eventually end, as it does for everyone. Keeping a fresh look on why you are playing baseball in the first place can help you keep a clear view on life.
“Being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed, but being negative will guarantee you won’t.” – Jon Gordon