Oral Hershiser talks about Confidence during the 1997 World Series
His win loss record of 204-150 with a lifetime Era of 3.48 is nothing to sneeze at. Having pitched some 3130 must be some keys mental game strategies that have helped him succeed along the way. Read Mental Game Coach John Ellsworth’s conclusions of how Hershiser became a master of the Confidence game.
Oral Hershiser – would be Hall of Fame pitcher played in MLB for 17 years with four teams.
His win loss record of 204-150 with a lifetime Era of 3.48 is nothing to sneeze at. Having pitched some 3130 innings there must be some keys mental game strategies that have helped him succeed along the way. His World Series experience, knowledge of pitching in the big leagues and mastery of the Confidence game prepared him and sustained him during his successful tenure in major league baseball. Read Mental Game Coach John Ellsworth’s conclusions of how Hershiser became a master of the Confidence game.
In the fall of 1997 Oral Hershiser of the Cleveland Indians was in the middle of a World Series battle for all the marbles against the Florida Marlins and the chance to become a world champion. During this series Oral participated in a number of interviews and talked openly about each game and imparted comments and suggestions about the type of things that helped make him successful. From a mental game perspective the one thing that rings out in my mind was a statement he made during one of those interviews. Oral said, “I think that you can lose the rookie jitters real quick, though, if you have some easy first few innings, and you get confidence, because success breeds confidence. And a little success goes a long way in big games.”
How does an athlete gain confidence? So many athletes have the physical talent, can throw with velocity and velocity plus, but can an athlete with these types of skills become a winner over and over again? “Because I was over throwing, I had great velocity but not much movement…” was a statement Hershiser made about his appearance in game one of the World Series. Needless to say, the Indians lost game one of the World Series. Did he have confidence in his velocity, but not in his ability to hit his spots? Frank Tanana had a 78 mph fastball for the last four years he was in the majors, but he knew how to pitch and get outs. He had confidence in this pitch even though he could no longer throw it 90 mph plus. Frank has 240 wins in his career in the majors and he played until he was 40 years old.
Performing well every day requires application of the three C’s, Confidence, Concentration, and Composure. Confidence is not an innate skill, but one that is derived from a baseline of past performances, practice and preparation. The more an athlete refines their competency or skill mastery the more confidence becomes prevalent. Tommy Lasorda said, “A motto and a philosophy that I have really stressed was: you’ve go to believe in yourself, self-confidence is without doubt the first step to success.”
Over the years I have found that confidence is both person specific and task-specific. People derive confidence from different sources. Essentially there are three sources from which athletes glean confidence:
- From practice
- From what others say or do
- From past performance success.
I mention these because it is imperative that you tap into what makes your personal confidence mental set operate optimally. Most athletes will tell you that confidence comes from past success, playing well or positive experiences in their sport. The more times you execute a pitch successfully, the more confidence you will glean from this success. Hershiser was a master at getting ahead of hitters. He would get significantly more first pitch outs than many of his peers at the time.
Confidence is task specific. Hershiser is confident because he has great physical ability, and is confident he can place the ball where he wants to at just about any given moment. Why is this so? He believes in his ability to complete a task successfully because he has worked long and hard during practice. A major source of confidence is successfully executing a skill repeatedly in practice or competition. Without making it sound overly simple, if you have achieved success one or more times, and you think you can do it again there is a high probability that you will. Confidence can grow from watching others perform the same skill or watching yourself perform the skill.
Once you have achieved success at a skill or task repeatedly you are well on the way to thinking and therefore believing you can do it again. This conviction is the foundation for building resiliency and self-confidence. To further build on recent success you can boost your confidence by seeing success before it happens. Randy Johnson learned by experience that to be successful and throw no hitters and almost no hitters requires you “focus on one pitch at a time, getting one batter out at a time, not thinking ahead, and not making any judgments about your performance.” In essence he as saying, you must have confidence. Curt Shilling said, that “in tough situations, I reach back mentally to a time when the odds were stacked against me and I succeeded. I feed off those recollections and use them to fuel my confidence out on the mound.”
For me, the key to remain in a confident, focused and composed place during a competitive situation to is to remain in the present, trust that you have been there before, focus on one pitch at a time, getting one batter out at a time, and not make any judgments about your performance. Success leads to confidence. Confidence leads to trust. Trust and confidence lead to refined execution. A mind executing in a refined manner is clear, relaxed, patient, present, and confident. Commit to believing in your ability until you pitch the last pitch and get the last out of the game. Remember, there is not such thing as a bad day on the mound. One of Oral Hershiser’s famous lines is, “the plan begins with strike one.” Success and confidence begin with strike one. The rest is one pitch at a time.
John R. Ellsworth,M.A., Mental Game Coach, ProtexSports, LLC, 800-608-1120