Managing Your Anxieties In Baseball
by Stanley Popovich
At times, our worries and anxieties can overwhelm us. In addition, our worries can distort our perception of what is reality and what is not. Here is a brief list of techniques that a baseball player can use to help gain a better perspective on things during their anxious moments.
Sometimes we get stressed out when everything happens all at once. Baseball is a game of explosive action, interspersed with periods of continuous strategizing and muted tension. The best players can summon their peak performance at the stroke of the bat, the sudden break of a would-be base stealer, the rocket launch of a frozen rope in the gap, the instantaneous, mercurial harmony of the double play. Players who allow their anxieties to interfere with this rhythmic push and pull of action versus respite will invariably succumb to the vagaries of the game – the deer-in-the-headlights pickoff, the errant throw, the strikeout looking.
When this happens, a person should take a deep breath and try to find something to do for a few minutes to get his or her mind off the problem. Where a person generally could read the newspaper, listen to some music or do an activity that brings a fresh perspective on things, the baseball player has nowhere to hide. Still, altering one’s mindset can prove to be a great technique between games - perhaps even between innings.
Our fearful thoughts often exaggerate our feelings and can make our problems worse. A good way to manage worry is to challenge negative thinking with positive statements and realistic thinking. When encountering thoughts that make us fearful or anxious, we need to challenge those thoughts by asking ourselves questions that will maintain objectivity and common sense.
Ready with the Pitch
For example, what measures can we take to focus better during tense game situations? As many trainers and coaches advise, infielders frequently can concentrate better on their in-game responsibilities by getting into a “ready” position as the pitcher delivers to the plate. Similarly, hitters may improve their offensive production by concentrating on making contact with the ball in the hitting zone regardless of the game situation, despite the batting slump they might be riding, and irrespective of the pitcher’s skill level and reputation.
Remember that all the worrying in the world will not change anything. Most of what we worry about never comes true. Instead of worrying about something that probably won't happen, concentrate on what you are able to do.
See the Ball, Hit the Ball
Another technique that is very helpful is to have a small notebook of positive statements that you can carry around with you. Whenever you come across an affirmation that makes you feel good, write it down in your notebook. While it might not be practical to carry your notebook into the dugout, you might find it useful to reference before and after games that you play. Whenever you feel stressed before a game, open your notebook and read those statements. This will help to manage your negative thinking and prevent your worry from interfering with your performance on the field.
In every anxiety-related situation you experience, begin to learn what works, what doesn't work, and what you need to improve in order to effectively manage your fears and anxieties. For instance, if you have a lot of anxiety before your next game, you might want to take an extra jog around the outfield. The next time you feel anxious before a big game, you can remind yourself that you got through it the last time by taking that extra jog. This will give you the confidence to manage your anxiety the next time around.
Take advantage of the help that is available around you – your coach, your trainer, your teammates , your parents. If possible, talk to a professional who can help you manage your fears and anxieties. Many players have access to professional trainers at their local batting cages or baseball training academies. They will be able to provide you with additional advice and insights on how to deal with your baseball related anxieties. By speaking with these support people, players will help themselves in the long run because they will become better able to deal with their problems in the future. Remember that it never hurts to ask for help.
It is not easy to deal with all of our fears and worries. When your fears and anxieties have the best of you, try to calm down and then get the facts of the situation. The key is to take it slow. All you can do is to do your best each day, hope for the best, and when something does happen, take it in stride. Take it one step at a time and things will work out.
Editor’s Note: Stan Popovich is the author of "A Layman's Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non Resistant Methods" - an easy to read book that presents a general overview of techniques that are effective in managing persistent fears and anxieties. For additional information go to: http://www.managingfear.com/