We all want our young people to enjoy high levels of confidence regardless of whether or not they participate in sports. Confidence can have a material impact on an individual’s mental, social, and even physical health. This is never truer than during the developmental stages of a child’s life!
One of the greatest aspects of youth sports is that we are allowed to use controlled situations to help our young people learn lessons about life. Baseball is a game which is built on confidence. If we can teach youth athletes how to be confident on the baseball field, that positive energy will likely translate off the diamond as well.
Today, we will be reviewing how sports psychology and confidence impact baseball performance, why baseball is the loneliest team sport, and how self-confidence techniques can translate from sports to everyday life.
YOUTH SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY AND BASEBALL PERFORMANCE
Baseball has long been touted as “the thinking man’s game”. While this most often refers to players’ needing to understand the nuances of situational strategy and make split-second decisions, we believe it can also be applied to another area: self confidence.
All successful baseball players exhibit strong self confidence.
If a batter steps into the box, his or her thoughts can be anywhere. Youth hitters might be thinking about their homework. They might be thinking about the fact that it is a 95 degree day and their hands are sweaty. They might even be thinking about a cute girl in the stands.
More importantly, they are probably somewhere on the spectrum between total confidence that they will get on base and a complete lack of confidence that they will succeed. This confidence or lack thereof is a greater signifier of a successful at-bat than any physical attribute.
If a youth player is afraid of striking out, they probably will. If they are excited about the opportunity to get on base, their odds will skyrocket! As youth coaches and parents, it is our responsibility to instill confidence and focus on positive outcomes. Seeing baseball scenarios as opportunities to succeed, rather than risks which might lead to failure, is an important concept.
BASEBALL IS THE LONELIEST TEAM SPORT
Baseball is a team sport, but it is fundamentally different from other major team sports. There is no passing in the traditional sense. There are very few set plays. To explore this idea of baseball being the loneliest team sport, consider the following:
In football, each team calls a predetermined play in a huddle or at the line of scrimmage. This play can take into account the field position, down, distance, player abilities, and the opposing team’s tendencies. When the ball is snapped, each player performs his or her job, and can depend on teammates for help as needed.
In baseball, most pitches do not involve a play. They involve a pitcher, hitter, and perhaps the catcher or other fielders. The difference is that each player is left on a metaphorical island. Each player must think and know exactly what he or she must do in each situation.
Where football players can depend on one another for help. Hitters and pitchers receive no such help. They are out there alone with all eyes fixated squarely on the result. Player confidence in youth baseball is perhaps the most important factor which can determine success vs. failure.
PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYERS ARE JERKS
Bryce Harper, Barry Bonds, and Ty Cobb all have one glaring similarity: they are arrogant jerks. They think they are better than everyone else, don’t care about anyone besides themselves, and will do whatever it takes to succeed.
This must mean that all professional baseball players are jerks. Or are they?
What might initially seem like a negative personality trait is really just one manifestation of the confidence it takes to succeed. No, you should not teach your youth baseball player to grow up and act like Barry Bonds or Ty Cobb (who incidentally, were both huge jerks).
The important trait which all successful baseball players is an unflinching confidence in their own abilities. Rather than look at brash players like Harper or Cobb, instead consider players like Mike Trout. Trout is every bit as confident as those other men without the nasty side effects.
When it comes to youth athletes, instilling confidence on the field has been shown to boost mental health off the field as well. Sports allow young people to remain confident through both successes and failures.
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