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50 National Team hitters on how to work out of SLUMPS

How coaches can best help their players and how the world’s best bust out.


It’s a question that inevitably comes up when I’m discussing the mental side of softball and baseball – “how do you approach being in a slump and what’s the best way to get out of it?


Let’s face it, as hitters, caught in the middle of a slump is the last place we ever want to find ourselves. It always seems epically long with no end in sight and we’re just searching for that blooper that lands in to get us “off the schneid” to get us going.


So to get to the bottom of this age old question, I thought I’d go to the best:


I surveyed 50 men’s and women’s National Team hitters - including 2022 Olympians - from Canada, USA, Australia, NZ and Italy and had them answer three simple questions:


  1. What is the MOST helpful thing a coach can do to help you during a hitting slump?

  2. What is the LEAST helpful thing a coach can do to help you during a hitting slump?

  3. In a 2-3 bullet points describe your approach to working your way out of a slump.


What resulted was some really interesting feedback on how coaches can a guide an athlete through a difficult time as well as a myriad of awesome ideas and approaches to staying calm and getting back in the groove.



What is the MOST helpful thing a coach can do to help you during a hitting slump?


Surveyed athletes were provided the following options for this multiple choice (select one) question:

  • Provide technical/mechanical advice

  • Leave you alone

  • Move you down in the lineup

  • “Pump” your tires” with positivity

  • Try to take the pressure off by reminding you that you bring more than just offence to the team

  • Remove you from the lineup

  • Other (write in response)

As you can see by the chart below, the answers were split fairly evenly with “providing technical/mechanical advice” coming out on top by a very small margin (a caveat to this is that as a hitter I would want this advice coming from a coach who I’ve worked on mechanics with previously as opposed to one I haven’t. It helps to have a previous rapport and consistent talking points. If it’s someone new it could feel like too many people trying to “fix” what’s going on which can lead to frustration and a prolonged slump.)



At the opposite end of the spectrum, “leave me alone”, tied for the second highest response among athletes surveyed which underlines the point for coaches that not all players can be painted with the same brush and the importance of understanding how to best motivate and manage your athletes.


“Pump your tires with positivity” ranked 4th among respondents which isn’t surprising based on the teachings of the Locked In Mental Training Program. Simply focusing on positivity and asking our athletes to “just think positively” can run hollow for many athletes, especially those who are experiencing many negative thoughts and feelings. It can even have some question if there is something “wrong” with them if they are experiencing many thoughts of a negative nature. As an alternative, as noted so eloquently by one athlete, “I wouldn't say pump my tires, but letting me know you believe in me.”


Finally, given the competitive nature of National Team athletes and Olympians, it is not surprising that there was not one vote for either “move you down the lineup” or “remove you from the lineup” and as you’ll see below, hitters want to swing their way out of slumps!


What is the LEAST helpful thing a coach can do to help you during a hitting slump?


Surveyed athletes were provided the same options for this multiple choice (select one) question as listed above.


A vast majority (64%) of the 50 respondents voted for “remove you from the lineup” as the LEAST helpful thing a coach could do to an athlete during a slump. Athletes in general are competitive, for National Team athletes and Olympians this rises to another octave. The hitters have spoken – don’t take them out!


That said, coaches write the lineups and in must win situations you need to go with the lineup that gives you the best chance to win at that given time. No one said being a coach was going to be easy!



“Leave you alone” is the 2nd highest ranked response at 14% while it was tied for the 2nd MOST helpful thing a coach can do for a player in a slump at 22%. You may be asking, “what can I do with that intel?!” Again, it shows the importance of knowing your players – you might even take the step of asking players what they feel most comfortable with when they are struggling. This level of openness can deepen the trust level between coach and player resulting in a player more at ease and able to relax and let their talents flow.


In a 2-3 bullet points describe your approach to working your way out of a slump.


For the 3rd question, the National Team hitters were asked to provide their approach when they find themselves stuck in a slump. These point form responses provided an extremely interesting look into the various approaches that these athletes take to help them work through and past a slump and as the chart below shows, there were certain words and themes that were common for many.



The most commonly mentioned word of all 45 responses was “simple”. So often when hitters struggle, the game speeds up and we try to do too much. Simplifying our approach is so valuable as it allows us to get back to basics and fundamentals while providing a framework to focus moment to moment. As one responded said, “Don’t over think it. Remind myself what got me here and stay true to my roots.”


Not surprisingly, the second most common answer was “drills”. Hitters want to feel like they are taking action and working on what they feel will make them more comfortable and confident heading into their future at bats. Here are some of the great drill ideas provided by the National Team hitters:


“Take a bucket of balls (small ones) and I make it hard on yourself. Have a partner toss 3 balls in the air and get them to call out what ball to hit. I practice difficult drills so when it comes time to hitting off a pitcher it seems easier.”


“Pick one mechanical issue that I know I struggle with and focus on that one thing. No matter the outcome of the ball, was I able to adjust that mechanical issue? If no change, move on to the next.”


“Getting in the cage and working on fundamentals so that all you have to worry about is being in a good mindset come plate time.”


After “drills” and “mechanics” the 4th and 5th most noted words were “presence” and “perspective”. Presence is linked to focus, mindfulness and a player’s mindset; essentially where is the player’s mind when they are getting in the batter’s box. Is it fixated in the past replaying previous at bats? Or projecting into the future trying to predict the outcome of their next AB? Elite players know that we perform our best with a clear and calm mind where we trust in our abilities and just let them flow in our performance. This “flow state” is the opposite of trying to think our way through at bats. As one player put it, make the wise choice between “full head, empty bat or empty head, full bat”. (I love that!!)



Conclusion


Based on the data in questions 1 & 2, it is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for coaches to help guide their players through and out of a slump. While some look for a more hands-on technical approach to working with their swing, others just want to be left alone to work through it themselves. This makes understanding your players so important and what can truly elevate a coach’s performance.


For hitters, as hard as it can be it is best to resist the urge to engage in overanalyzing, ruminating about the past or predicting what will happen in the future. Simplifying your approach, being present moment to moment and having the perspective that slumps are temporary and that everyone goes through them will help set you up to bust out and get back to your smashing ways!


About the Locked In Mental Training Program


The Locked In Mental Training Program is a guided online course, accessed through one's device, developed by a World Champion men's player (Derek Mayson) who has dedicated his career to studying the mental side of the game to overcome an anxiety disorder he faced personally. Over 6-weeks. learners engage in daily 2-4 minute audio lessons and exercises to reinforce the learnings which include:

  • Understanding how the mind works

  • Focusing intently for when it really matters

  • Managing challenging thoughts and feelings

  • Connecting with confidence

  • Overcoming common obstacles

Learners can sign up individually or as a group (team and association group rates are available) by contacting Derek here.

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