Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

Playoff baseball: Part 3 – The mental side

May 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Coaching, Mental Side

“Don’t ever bet on kids.”

That quote comes from an Old School baseball friend of mine.  I believe it to be good advice. 

On any given day, there is no telling which team is going to show up.  Will it be the team that is focused, energetic,

The teams that win are often the teams with the best mental state at that point in the season

driven to win, and united or will it be the scattered and distracted group that can drive a coach to insanity.  When it comes to teenagers, you just never know.  I’ve seen tremendously talented teams show up for playoff games and not be even remotely close to performing as they could.  Of course, we all have seen less talented teams catch fire and play well above their heads.  It’s part of the game but it’s also the nature of young people.

Knowing this, the mental side of your team is paramount when playoffs begin.  Readers of this blog know that I am not a fan of the common myth that “a player/team is either mentally tough or it’s not.  There isn’t much you (the coach) can do about it.”  I believe there is quite a lot a coach can do about it.  Ultimately, a coach cannot play for his team but I think a coach can positively affect his team’s overall personality and mental state during the playoffs.

Earlier in my coaching career, as I stated in Part 1 of this series of playoff posts, I tended to provide my players with a tremendous amount of information going into our playoff games.  Looking back, I believe it was counterproductive and caused some players to overanalyze the game and tighten up.  I began to switch to a more laid-back approach in later seasons and the results tended to be more positive.  Practices included more fun and laughter.  Practical jokes increased.  As Part 2 mentioned, practices became shorter and less intense.  Basically, my pre-playoff approach became less about getting my players to perform and more about getting my players to RELAX so they could then perform.  In my opinion, the various championships later in my career, were, at least in part, due to this gradual change in priorities.

Every team is different so I’m not saying that my methods will work for every team.  It could very well be that those teams “caught lightning in a bottle” and performed in spite of whatever I did.  Regardless, addressing the mental needs of your team to relieve pressure, tension, and fear prior to playoff games is a key to peak performance this time of year.

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