Mental Performance Training For Baseball

Henry Ford once very famously said:

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

Your actions and behaviors on a daily basis aren’t the only things that are going to determine your outcome in the sport of baseball. Athletes are not robots, no matter how much they try to be sometimes.

There is no such thing as following a formula like a zombie for X number of years and that’s all you need to accomplish your major long-term goals. Your actions will always shape your thoughts and emotions, but your thoughts and emotions will also always shape your actions.

It works both ways, and baseball athletes need to be some of the most complete people on this planet, both body and mind if they want to reach their potential in this sport.

Being Real

For most of us, any goal that we set is normally started with a huge rush of enthusiasm. Any successful person knows how important enthusiasm is to the game of baseball because no games are ever won with a dull state of mind. The breath of enthusiasm will always be needed to reignite the fire of your passion for baseball – and things done with extreme passion are never performed with no attached emotions.

It seems so obvious, and yet it very hard to find at times. That breath of enthusiasm that gives oxygen to the fire of your passion is something you can’t give someone, but you can feel it in yourself.

In the real psychology of achievement in high-level sports, any worth goal is always started with both the attitude and emotion of enthusiasm. Trying to take emotion out of the game is a self-defeating tactic because it’s what got you into the game in the first place. The problem many baseball athletes run into is not the “starting” of enthusiasm when seeking achieving, but the “maintaining” a high level of enthusiasm the entire way through.

Anybody can start, but it takes a tough bastard to see the thing through to the end.

The Balancing Act

Enthusiasm precedes passion – but both keep the doors wide open for emotion to enter at any time. While emotions are required to achieve any goal, it’s a constant battle between two opposing sides.

Too much emotion will lead to pressure and eventual burnout, but not enough emotion in the game won’t get you very far either.

Unless you’re emotionally invested in your pursuit, you will likely quit when you run into your first hardship because you have never witnessed anybody apathetically win a championship. That’s the thing with goal setting, you need to have big targets, but big targets guarantee you that you will have tough times.

When tough times occur, thinking logically is something you can do to steer enthusiasm and passion in the right direction. As the old saying goes…

Let passion drive you, but let reason steer the wheel.

Reason helps you focus your emotions when the task is challenging into areas of your life where you need the most help, both internally and externally.

If things aren’t working out well for you right now, you may have to do a real self-awareness evaluation to find out what you need to start paying attention to, so you can improve.

Beating Yourself Up

Being self-critical and beating yourself up sometimes can allow you to have the difficult conversations with yourself that you were previously avoiding.

It’s amazing to me how often baseball athletes take on new goals and expect to be good at them from the very beginning. Then, when this is inevitably not the case, they quit.

Listen, you have to be mature enough throughout this process to be self-critical or else you will never reach your goals. Being self-critical allows us to learn and grow into better versions of ourselves.

But, just like our emotions – being self-critical is its own double-edged sword.

You need to have some self-critical thinking skills, but more often than not people get out of hand with this and the very action of being self-critical is what leads them right to failure. You need to be able to balance self-critique with the ability to acknowledge your successes.

Nobody ever self-doubted their way into the MLB – you have to forgive yourself for your screw-ups, but also not excuse yourself for them either. If you don’t do this then you will never learn from your mistakes.

If you only ever focus on your mistakes, then your past will control you and remind you before each and every game that you should be insecure about your ability and have anxiety about the sport because “you just aren’t any good”.

There is a very fine line between self-critique and self-abuse – the former promotes growth and progression, whereas the latter produces insecurity and fear (about the sport that you’re supposed to be enjoying by the way).

Insecurity and anxiety will always drown passion and enthusiasm, and self-critique should always be about self-improvement.

The moment you allow self-critique to be fueled by a judgemental energy is the moment you decrease your performance in baseball rather than increase it.

Paving the Way Towards A High-Performing You

If you struggle with some of what I have talked about above, it’s because after you make mistakes you start blaming yourself, putting yourself down, and recycling those two thought patterns over and over until things just get progressively worse.

Do not overexaggerate your mistakes and do not undermine your accomplishments, doing so will only sacrifice the very two things you have needed all along – passion and enthusiasm.

If you based self-critique within self-judgment instead of positive learning, you will make self-sabotage a part of your DNA and receive the wrong end of the double-edged sword each and every time.

To make it very simple, you need to understand the differences between mistakes, slip-ups, and actual failure. It’s unrealistic and completely immature to think you’re going to be perfect all the time and it’s unrealistic and completely immature to think that you won’t run into mistakes and slip-ups on your road to a long-term goal.

Screw ups happen at the highest levels of baseball performance, even very often within the World Series.

Instead of blaming yourself and waste time in your sorrows, make being self-critical a goal-oriented exercise:

What could you have done differently?

How was your preparation leading up to the game/goal?

Did you do everything you should have? If not, what’s the missing element that will get you there?

This is what being self-critical is really all about, asking the questions we need to ask ourselves in order to improve ourselves because blaming ourselves will never amount to anything productive.

Passion is a great thing.

Enthusiasm is a great thing.

Self-criticism is a skill.


“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

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About the author

Dan Garner

Dan Garner is the head strength coach and nutrition specialist at He has coached baseball players and other athletes at all levels from youth to MLB players. Garner holds many educational credentials and has been mentored by some of the top coaches in the world.

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