“Practice the game the way you’re going to play the game. Practice hard and play hard. Run hard and above all else, hustle every moment you’re on the field whether you are practicing or playing in a game.” – Pete Rose
Ever wonder why players can’t perform during a game. During practice we see them field ground ball after ground ball without missing a single one. During batting practice, it’s line drive after line drive. During base-running drills, players make efficient turns. But, during a game, the skills that come so easy to them during practice seem to be a distant memory. Ground balls bounce off their gloves. Balls are overthrown. Hitters struggle to make contact. Why is this?
One reason could possibly be that your players are simply going through the motions at practice. They’re not performing each rep at game-speed. Then, when in the game, they can’t perform. They can’t make the plays in the game that they make all the time in practice because they’re not used to making the plays at game-speed. Their minds are racing under the pressure; and their bodies simply aren’t used to moving at the game-speed pace. They’re out of their element in games.
Fear takes hold of them because they’re now trying to do something that they are not used to doing. Yes, they field many ground balls during practice. They swing a hundred times each week. They know the skills needed to succeed. BUT, they never perform these skills at game-speed. And since the body is not used to the pace of the game, the mind (and body) succumb to the fear; and the result is failure.
The following excerpt is taken from a recent Men’s Health Article covering the Navy Seals: “So the secret to courage is putting yourself in the same difficult situation or hostile environment on a consistent basis, day in day out, or doing a seemingly difficult action over and over, a million times, until you no longer have any emotional attachment to that situation, environment, or action. You become immune to it. You become part of it.”
When running your practices, you need to challenge your players. Challenge them to visualize making each play in a game situation. Create chaos during drills, requiring them to focus every second they are on the field. No longer accept players “going through the motions.” Putting them in stressful situations in practice will get their minds and their bodies properly prepared for the games.
Brian Butterfield, the infield coach for the Boston Red Sox, says that “When I’m out there every day, I try to put players through similar drills that are relevant to the game.”
So, when you lay out your next practice plan, ask yourself the following, “Is this going to prepare my players mentally and physically for the game?”