The Mental Edge in Sports – Inner Game (Baseball)
Watch New York Yankee Jason Giambi at the plate, and you gain valuable insight into why an athlete’s “inner game” or mindset is so critical to his or her performance. Giambi leads the American League in walks and on-base percentage and was named the “player of the month” for April. When he approaches the plate, he brings with him discipline and an unwavering ability to follow a plan. Before he even swings his bat, he demonstrates the power of “mental game” or “sports psychology” strategies.
The Mental Edge in Sports:
New York Yankee Jason Giambi’s Inner Game
By John Ellsworth
Watch New York Yankee Jason Giambi at the plate, and you gain valuable insight into why an athlete’s “inner game” or mindset is so critical to his or her performance.
Giambi leads the American League in walks and on-base percentage and was named the “player of the month” for April. When he approaches the plate, he brings with him discipline and an unwavering ability to follow a plan. Before he even swings his bat, he demonstrates the power of “mental game” or “sports psychology” strategies.
“I know if I get myself in a good mindset, that’s where I need to be,” Giambi recently told the New York Times. “I don’t need a million swings to get where I need to go.”
Giambi’s mindset begins with this critical idea: He knows what he likes to hit. As the late Ted Williams said, “You are a better hitter when you swing at good pitches.” And that’s just what Giambi does.
Giambi doesn’t waste his time ruminating about the pitch. He knows what he’s going to do as soon as he sees the pitcher release the ball.
This is how Giambi comes to the plate ready to play “the game within a game,” one of his favorite phrases. He takes his time and makes the pitcher work to get him out. He believes in his plan and knows that if he rigidly sticks to it, he’ll be successful more often than not. That’s why he has such a high on-base percentage. Like the late Ted Williams, he doesn’t get sucked in by bad pitches.
“I get on deck and I start looking at the guys’ release points,” Giambi told the New York Times. “I can tell you without even looking at the catcher, from his release point, if that’s a ball or strike.”
In his book, “The Science of Hitting,” Williams said, “The observant guy will get the edge.” The observant guy is the athlete who studies the pitcher and becomes acquainted with his patterns. Again, this is all about the “mental game” that makes Giambi so successful.
Observed Yankee pitcher Aaron Small in the New York Times article, “He’s just gotten better over the years as far as his eye. It’s incredible watching the pitches he doesn’t swing at. You don’t know how he does it.”
How does he do it?
First of all, his calm is almost hypnotic. He never loses composure. His ability to focus on his plan plants him firmly in the here-and-now, which, in sports psychology terms, is just where athletes need to be. They shouldn’t be thinking about the next pitch, their last mistake, or their kids’ homework assignment. They need to live in the moment. That’s the key to a strong mindset. Athletes like Giambi rarely get distracted.
What’s more, Giambi’s success at implementing his plan brings him confidence. Once he commits to a pitch, he’s successful more often than not. That’s because he trusts in his ability to hit. An athlete’s trust in his or her ability is an important mental game advantage. When athletes like Giambi possess this kind of trust—based in large part on their experiences–they commit to memory the mechanical details of tasks like hitting. The task becomes automatic. Giambi doesn’t have to think; he simply believes in himself and swings.
Just watch him at the plate. For Giambi, most of the action takes place long before he takes his first swing. It happens in his head while he’s playing a winning “game within the game.”
John Ellsworth, a former professional baseball player, is a practicing Sport Psychology Consultant & Mental Game Coach in San Jose, California. www.protexsports.com – 800-608-1120