Q&A with Division I Head Baseball Coach, Greg Moore. What are some good ways to implement mental discipline in organized practices?
Article specific to baseball but can be adapted to most any sport.
Ask players to fully execute small acts within practice. Below are a few examples that are simple, painfully mundane and important to slowing the game down. Learning the breath, controlling the feet and sharpening the eyes takes time. Many players feel a “flow state” when they begin to get better at these three things.
Take an exaggerated and full breath before each of the first 10 throws in play catch. This is more challenging than it sounds. Tell players not to begin throwing until all air is out of their mouth. The breath is completed. Around the third throw players new to this get antsy. Get to ten completed breaths and players have the building block for taking deep breaths in games.
Put an X the size of the one in this sentence on a player’s bat barrel, as close to the sweet spot as possible. Permanent markers work well. With one foot in the box, before beginning a batting practice round, focus clearly on the intersection of the two lines. This eye focus drill can be linked to a big, deep breath. You can see players who are glossing over the “X”, and those who are zeroing in.
Next ask players to practice this focus exercise 20 times per night. Then introduce the big breath and focus on the “X” between each pitch in a game. This is slowing an at-bat down.