Before the 2009 season began, we asked 42 Head Baseball Coaches at Division I universities to help us better understand how the mental game of baseball is perceived and used in college baseball. Our goal was to learn more about how coaches taught the mental game in their programs, the biggest mental game challenges their players faced, and where mental skills training could make a bigger difference in the future. The following summary provides statistics and commentary on the results of our interviews.
The interview began with eight open-ended questions, asking coaches to offer their opinions on a number of topics. We accepted as many answers on each question as each coach cared to give.
The second half of the interview asked coaches to rate their players on 15 statements that defined different areas of the mental game. Coaches would hear the statement and then provide a rating on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most applicable and 1 being least, for how much the statement applied to their team.
How applicable are these statements on a scale of 1 – 10?
(10 is most applicable, 1 is least)
|1||The parents of our athletes put too much pressure on them.||7.27|
|2||I have players on my team who have trouble slowing the game down.||6.83|
|3||Our athletes put too much pressure on themselves.||6.71|
|4||My players get caught up with winning and losing (outcomes) instead of simply focusing on the “basics” (processes) that lead to victory.||6.51|
|5||I have players who think too much instead of just playing the game and trusting their gut.||6.46|
|6||I have players on my team who are physically talented, but completely unpredictable in games.||5.68|
|7||I have players on my team who have trouble concentrating on executing their skills.||5.56|
|8||I have players on my team who are afraid to face big challenges.||4.85|
|9||We lose to less talented teams because we get overconfident.||4.34|
|10||We lose to more talented teams because we play scared.||4.15|
|11||My players don’t work hard enough to succeed on their own so I have to constantly push them harder.||4.10|
|12||My players make too many mistakes on routine plays.||4.07|
|13||My players lose their cool too often in competition.||4.05|
|14||My team plays well in practice, but not in games.||3.88|
|15||Our failures can be traced directly to lack of effort in practices.||3.10|
These results suggest that coaches believe that they can affect the mental game, as shown by lower scores on statements regarding areas that coaches have direct control. Coaches are directly responsible for effort levels, quality practices, hard work, and setting the emotional tone for their players. The statements that coaches agreed with most dealt with sources of pressure (in fairness to parents, it would be interesting to find out from players themselves whether they think their parents place more pressure on them than their coaches do), thought processes, and players maximizing their physical talents. Perhaps the best individual formula for coaches defining how sport psychology consultants could help their programs is to consider where their players’ greatest challenges lie and to think about their own comfort levels and abilities to help their players overcome those challenges.
This research is meant to be ongoing and we would love to have your participation in completing the survey. If you are interested in submitting your answers or if you would to offer additional thoughts, please contact Geoff Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Geoff Miller’s book, Intangibles: Big-League Stories and Strategies for Winning the Mental Game — in Baseball and in Life, will be released in August, 2012. For more information and free sample chapters, please visit: