Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Big Game


                                                                                           (photo credit: nytimes.com)

Today's the big game. A rivalry game. An undefeated season on the line. Maybe today is a championship game. Or Scout Day. Today is the day you've been working toward for months. For you, for your team. Today is the big day. The big game.

What will I do to be special today? How can I step up? These are dangerous thoughts.

When the big game arrives, you have either put in the preparation, or you haven't. Players who perform consistently high in practices will have the confidence to perform consistently high in games. Players who perform well in regular season games should play with confidence in big games.

It doesn't take a Hall of Famer to tell you that the rules of the game haven't changed. A 90 mph fastball is still coming in at 90 mph. The requirements in approach and swing path are still the same. Why, then, do some struggle more than other in big games?

Hitters who have big game success have practiced at high speeds, have created intensity in their minds in regular season games, and know how to gain control and slow their minds down.

When the mind is slow, the body can react.

When our belief is that we have to do something different as a hitter, or if we feel unprepared, we get stressed and don't breathe as deeply. Muscles tighten, brain function slows just enough to affect clarity and precision. Results suffer. Ok, so we know we have to breathe well while in the midst of stressful competitions. What else can you do?

Visualize. The part of the brain that processes real information can differentiate those experiences from those that you vividly imagine. Practicing mental imagery creates confidence in preparation that never actually took place. Your brain can take you through scenarios that, when presented with similar real life images or information, feel familiar. Familiarity breeds calmness and confidence.

Here is a link to great info and instructions from Brain Cain on practicing visualization.

Great big game hitters also have perspective. Over-focusing on the meaning or importance of a scout day or a rivalry game creates a need to do well. When your body goes into fight or flight mode, your adrenaline and cortisol levels rise so high that your body's fine visual focus and manual accuracy are compromised.

The feeling of desperation can be helpful in athletics, but not in hitting.

Big moments require high energy, aggressiveness and instinct. But if you aren't playing with the same energy and intent every single day, you will feel the need to step up.

If the big game is wildly different in your mind than a regular game , your results will be compromised.

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