A tool that isn’t talked about very often and is very under utilized by players and coaches alike is visualization.
Visualization can be used in many different ways for different end goals.
You can use visualization for relaxation/focus, bringing your focus back to the current pitch/event, improving your performance at a certain skill, and to help you reach your long-term goals.
Here is how each of the above utilizations of visualization will help you: Relaxation/Focus: A great way to use visualization is to help you relax and focus. A great time to perform visualization for this purpose would be before a game or a workout.
Part of your routine could include finding 5-10 minutes before or after batting practice to sit in a quiet place, listen to music, and visualize the performance you anticipate having that day.
If you visualizing having great at-bats, making great plays, throwing strikes, or whatever you are going to do that day, you will go into the game much more relaxed, focused, and confident because in your mind you have already been successful that day MANY times!
Refocusing after each pitch or play: Whether the previous pitch was a success or failure, being able to refocus after each event and bring your attention back to the present play is absolutely vital to being successful in baseball!
After each pitch for example, replay the way you approached the previous pitch (whether you swung or a took it) in your mind, visualize the correct way to do it, take a deep breath, and return your focus to the current pitch.
Having this as a routine you perform after each event only takes a very quick moment, but it brings your attention away from the past event (whether positive or negative) and gets you back into a positive mind-set.
Improve your performance: Your mind is an incredible tool that you can use to improve your specific skill without using any energy.
There have been many studies done that have shown that when an athlete visualizes themselves performing an event, their muscles actually fire in the same sequence as if they were actually performing!
Taking 10 minutes each night before going to bed and visualizing yourself taking 100 perfect swings, throwing your curveball correctly for a strike, fielding ground balls effortlessly, or even visualizing yourself playing long-toss can and will help your skill set improve!
Reaching your long-term goals: Have you ever heard the phrase, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it?”
If you have never seen yourself playing in a Major League stadium, facing CC Sabbathia in front of 40,000 people, how can you ever expect to have it happen?
Visualizing whatever your goal is will help you stay focused on the goal and will keep you pushing towards your goals!
Visualizing can be very challenging.
It is like any other skill, though, the more you do it, the better you get at it! Since this is the off-season, take 10 minutes each night for the next 30 days and visualize yourself perform your skill perfectly.
This, along with consistent practice, will make you a better player! It requires no energy and you have absolutely NOTHING to lose from doing it!