Geoff Miller

Mental Skills Manual, Part II

In Tips for Improving Performance, Uncategorized on November 9, 2009 at 11:05 pm

The Mental Skills Manual is meant to teach players how to answer the following:

  1. Know who you are
  2. Know what you want
  3. Know what to do when you don’t get what you want
  4. Know what to do in the meantime before you’ve mastered these concepts.

Part I of this series of posts offered an introduction to the manual and a framework for developing mental skills.  Part II begins the process of “know who you are” with ideas for developing self-knowledge.

Knowledge

Know who you are

The first step to using mental skills in baseball involves acquiring knowledge, including an understanding of who you are and what you need to work on.  There is no point to learning a breathing technique if you aren’t having problems managing intensity level or staying focused.  There is no point to working on developing a positive attitude until you know which situations cause negative thinking.  So step one is learning about yourself in a simple way. This section includes some easy questions and lists designed to help players learn more about who they are as players and people.

Key ideas:

  1. Know yourself
  2. Know your comfort zone
  3. Keep it simple

Know Yourself

There are three easy ways to get to know yourself better.  Your coaches already encourage these methods and you may see as you read on that you already practice them in one way or another.

Track Your Performance

Tracking performance is the best way to learn from success and failure on the field.  In many ways, the tracking of performance is the backbone of the history, spirit, and nostalgia of our game.  Compiling statistics, charting pitches, watching video, and pre and post-game meetings are all methods used to track performance.

The following list of questions offer a simple way for you to track your performance in a way that may connect your collection of plate appearances, chances in the field and pitches thrown with the learning moments you must be able to find by yourself if you are to be successful over a long period of time.

Tracking Performance Processes

(write down your answers to these questions once a week)

  1. What did I do well this week?
  2. What areas of my game do I need to improve?
  3. What is the one most important thing I need to do to keep performing at a high level?

Another way for you to develop self-knowledge is to rate yourself on how well you did at carrying out a process goal.  For example, let’s say you are a hitter that needs to develop better plate discipline.  You know this as a player and your coach can identify this need as well.  So your answers to the questions listed above look something like this:

Tracking Performance Answers

  1. What did I do well this week?

I was aggressive at the plate and saw the ball well.

  1. What areas of my game do I need to improve?

Better plate discipline.

  1. What is the one most important thing I need to do to keep performing at a high level?

Stay patient and wait for pitches I know I can drive.

In this case, we have a player that knows himself well.  You know exactly what you need to do to improve and your coach agrees that your self-assessment is correct.  Now you need a way to know if you are making progress.  So you rate yourself on plate discipline.  And you measure a specific process that produces plate discipline.

Rating Performance

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 is best), how did I do this week at staying patient at the plate by waiting for pitches I knew I could drive?

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

If you focus on this process and rate your performance each week, you should see measurable progress in walks and extra-base hits (or at the very least, hard hit balls) in the weeks that earn high ratings.  And you should produce your own learning moments by tracking this area of performance.

Ask Someone

Some players aren’t as good at making self-evaluations as others.  Sometimes this is because the player doesn’t have much awareness.  Other times, a player has plenty of awareness, but gets so tunnel-visioned during competition that he doesn’t see the big picture.  In some cases inaccurate self-evaluations have nothing to do with focus and everything to do with too much or too little confidence.  A cocky player may not think there is anything he can do better.  An insecure player may be so afraid to confront his weaknesses that he refuses to take accountability for his failings.  And many times, hard-working, confident athletes don’t think enough of themselves so what coaches see in their performance and what they see don’t match.

If you are a player who consistently rates himself in a way that is different than others see you, you should ask someone (whose opinion you trust) what they see in your performance.

If the player from the last section rated himself a “10” on patience at the plate when his coaches saw him as a “3”, then that player needs help developing a better feel for rating himself.  You can do this by simply telling your coaches what you thought of your performance and then listening to what they thought.  If you are truly asking for your coaches’ opinions, not just seeking their approval, and you are willing to listen to their feedback, this can be a worthwhile process.

A Note on TAIS Assessment

The most important reason we use TAIS (The Attentional and Interpersonal Style) inventory to assess the psychological characteristics of athletes is to directly measure and learn about how they see the world.  We are able to understand how people concentrate, where they get distracted, decision-making styles, learning styles, leadership styles, and communication styles, including how people set expectations and what they say to themselves when they feel pressure.  By giving athletes feedback on their profiles, we can provide them with starting points for knowing themselves and knowing how to learn more about themselves.

For more information about TAIS inventory, click here: http://taistest.com/

Tell Someone

One of the great benefits that many people experience when they go to therapy is a sense of clarity around their issues. The ability to think about yourself and put those thoughts into words can work wonders in changing perspectives, dealing with fear and anger, and confronting tough issues.  It’s a good idea to communicate with your teammates and coaches anyway, for lots of reasons.  And many people in the game find the social aspect to be the most rewarding part of their jobs.

Players can learn more about themselves by telling people around them what they are learning and how they are making progress.

Coaches should take every opportunity that they can to find out what their players are learning.  It will help them understand their players better and it will help make the lessons they are teaching become permanent.

To be continued…

Click here to view Part I of the Mental Skills Manual.

If you would like to receive new posts from The Winning Mind in Baseball by email, please CLICK HERE.

Geoff Miller’s book, Intangibles: Big-League Stories and Strategies for Winning the Mental Game — in Baseball and in Life, was released in August, 2012. For more information and free sample chapters, please visit:

For more information, please contact Geoff Miller at miller@thewinningmind.com.

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  1. While I appreciate your desire to keep things simple, I believe that there is much more to being mentally tough than you suggest….
    I have found that one of the biggest problems is knowing what to do when you have some success. Often times success reinforces bad habits. Lots of ballplayers have big unwieldy egos that have actually helped them. Other athletes use insecurity to help motivate them. How do you deal with the athletes who have had reasonable success, who think they have all they need, who have been reinforced for sub-optimal values and psychology but who are arguably not playing as well as they could be if they made some key adjustments?

    Thomas

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