By Eli Straw
One of the main skills, and yes, it’s a skill, any young ballplayer needs to learn is consistency. Baseball is a sport defined by streakiness, especially in terms of hitting.
There’s not a baseball player alive who hasn’t found themselves filled with joy in the midst of a hitting streak and overcome with anger and frustration in an unending slump.
Understanding the nature of baseball, it seems odd to try and push consistency on a young player. However, the consistency I am addressing has nothing to do with the outcome of an at bat.
Baseball seasons are long, even at the youth level and especially if the athlete finds themselves jumping from school ball to travel ball, never really having much down time throughout the year.
The longevity of the season allows for these streaks to even themselves out. So, it’s not the outcome of an at bat we are aiming to be consistent with, but the approach an athlete takes in training and right before an at bat.
By putting consistent systems in place for your baseball player, you are placing them in a position to become a consistent producer on the diamond, without ever having to worry about the outcome of each at bat.
Two Aspects Of Developing Consistency
The reason I alluded to consistency being a skill is how it needs to be instilled in a young athlete. Of course, I am not meaning they must become skilled to the point of getting a hit each game. Anyone that understands baseball knows that’s an outlandish thought at any level.
In thinking about developing the skill of consistency within your athlete, we are wanting them to develop a consistent approach.
This approach is going to involve their training as well as how they approach each at bat.
Consistency In Training
Routines are powerful tools for even the youngest of ball players to begin utilizing.
Baseball training can sometimes be mundane and repetitive. Spending an hour hitting off the tee every day, working on that low and away pitch they struggle with, may not be the most exciting idea to a player.
However, it is through this consistent effort great players are made.
Hitting streaks are no accident (while they may sometimes appear so). They come from you doing something well, consistently. Perhaps pitchers keep throwing you that middle-in pitch you easily hammer.
Or maybe it’s because you’re seeing the ball abnormally well as of late.
The only problem is, neither of these are necessarily within your control as a player. What you can do, though, is develop consistent training practices that will place you in the best position to succeed every time you get up to bat.
What I mean by consistent training is having a routine in place. Something you do, each day, outside of your typical team practice.
As a coach or parent, you can help your athlete create such a routine. Make it simple, not overly complicated, and only about an hour each day.
Target their weak points and build upon their strengths. By putting forth this type of training, each day, an athlete will be putting themselves in position to perform consistently while focusing on the aspects within their control.
Developing Consistent At Bats
Apart from training leading up to the game, the other aspect of consistency within a baseball player's control is what they do leading up to an at bat, and the steps taken immediately afterwards.
Watch any major league game and you’ll see a set routine most hitters go through on the on deck circle, before stepping into the batter’s box, and between each pitch.
There is a reason for this and it has to do with consistency. What these players are doing is getting themselves into a certain state before each at bat.
For some it may involve getting relaxed, others may be getting themselves motivated, while another player may be trying to take their mind to somewhere else completely.
No matter what their goal is, or what process they go through, the important part is each player has developed a routine that works for them.
What a pre at bat routine does is, it allows you to approach each at bat the same. No matter, the pitcher you’re facing, the situation in the game, or who’s watching, you make yourself comfortable by ensuring you step into that batters box the same way each time.
This places you in a position, just like with developing a training routine, to produce consistent results.
There are a few different phases that are important to pay attention to when crafting your own pre at bat routine, or helping your athlete develop theirs:
In The Dugout
Your at bat begins in the dugout. Here you want to be crafting your approach, while also utilizing some mental exercises to get your mind into an optimal state. These include visualization to help build confidence going into the at bat, along with breath work to reduce anxiety.
On Deck Circle
When you’re on deck, develop a set routine you use. Maybe you get there, bend down to stretch, stand back up, swing the bat in each arm to loosen up, and then take a few dry swings.
It doesn’t need to be that exact process, the point being, do something rhythmic to get yourself comfortable. From there, begin timing up the pitcher.
Before Stepping Into The Batter’s Box
Now it’s time to hit. Before getting into the box, do a set routine. Get your sign from the coach, take a few more swings, take a deep breath, repeat a mantra, anything you’d like to set yourself in the moment and get your mind ready to hit.
Between Each Pitch
You’ve seen major leaguers between each pitch, they step out, re-velcro their gloves, spit on their hands, take a swing, get the sign, etc. Develop a simple routine for yourself.
After The At Bat
Now, this is an often overlooked aspect of the whole routine, but very important to piecing together consistent performances.
You need to have a set routine you go through after every at bat. Develop one for when you get out and for when you get on base.
When you get on base, have something you say to yourself or do that helps you feel grateful and successful for that plate appearance.
If you get out, develop a way you can handle the frustration and move on quickly. Take what you can away from the at bat, but be sure you are not carrying it with you into the field or your next plate appearance.
Baseball can be an unforgiving sport. With all the aspects of the game not within your control, it’s important to develop consistency in areas you can control.
For young athletes, it’s a great skill to begin learning. Teach them how to create consistency within their training and the way they approach each at bat.
This will allow them to produce consistent performances, because the way they approach the game is in such a consistent manner.
Eli is a mental performance coach focused on helping athletes with the mental side of the game. He brings a proactive and applicable approach to mental training. Eli believes that repetition is key to success and so it is no different when it comes to mental training. You can read more articles written by Eli here, and learn more about the 1-1 mental coaching services he offers by clicking here.