How should pitchers mentally prepare for games and intense situations?
This is a good question. For some, they are born with it and will always rise to the occasion. Others have to work thru some rough patches before they figure it out. But a lot of it has to do with having confidence/developing it. So if you are brought into a tie game with bases loaded and no outs you should be thinking this is my mound, they can't touch me. Not- if one of them gets a hit we lose the game or if I throw a ball here I'm in trouble. Confidence is key.
The only way to prepare is by getting exposed to uncomfortable situations. If you're a younger player, spot play for some older teams when you can. When 2019 was an upcoming freshman, he played 16u. It helped him get used to playing with bigger, faster, better players who wanted nothing more than to crush the little 8th grader thinking he could hang. When he was a freshman his first start was against the #1 team in the state on 20 minutes notice after the starter hurt his elbow warming up. Thrown right into the fire.
Its not just baseball. The top athletes in every sport are mentally tough and when they take the field they genuinely believe they can't be stopped. In order to get the nerves and discomfort out of the way, you have to put yourself in stressful situations and work out of them. Don't worry about the result, focus on how you're going to get this out, what you want out of the AB/inning/game, etc.
You have to be able to execute pitch by pitch and don't think about the past or future.
Of course that is easier said than done if you just gave up two smashed balls and you have runners on second and third.
Mike tyson said anyone has a good game plan until he gets hit in the face and pitching is like that too. Staying in the moment with bases empty and two out is easy but when you have traffic on the bases it gets much harder. You need to push that to the side though because the only thing you can control is the next pitch.
I thought the alcohol was for the parents of the pitchers?
My son learned and is still learning this. As Clemson’s closer the last few years (more of a fireman in 2017) he had to compartmentalize and focus pitch by pitch. All he could do was execute and move on. Not sure how much your son will read or reads but any Stoicism books along with Dorfman’s book in the mental game we’re all recommended reads by their mental coach.
At the end of the day he needs to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
I thought the alcohol was for the parents of the pitchers?
Did you notice that a moderator deleted my reply that said “with alcohol”. Jeez, there was an entire thread that was talking about whiskey on here and when I make a joke they delete it. Get off your high horses, moderators and apply the same rules to everyone.
First off, embrace the nerves. I pitched at the highest level & freely admit that I was borderline terrified prior to taking the mound. I was able to find a way to channel that into adrenaline & focus once the hitter actually stepped in. This is not a negative (fear, apprehension, etc) Explain that it is OK & to use the extra juice.
Visualization: People talk about being "in the zone." This is how you get there. Practice, repetition, work, visualize the nasty slider on the black & it will be so.
A novice gets the sign & thinks like this: "Slider. Ok, let's see what happens."
A Pro gets the sign & thinks like this: " Slider. Ok, like it. 1-2 count, just busted him in with fastball. Start this middle down & he has no chance.
The single most important attribute that a pitcher MUST have to be successful is confidence. You can have immense talent but you wont be successful if you lack confidence. Conversely, you can have marginal talent and still be successful if you are supremely confident. It wont always happen, but at least its possible.
The way to develop confidence is thru success. You have to believe in your training process and buy into what you are being taught. Obviously this requires the right teacher......and that is where the process breaks down for so many young pitchers. There is just so much bad information out there as it relates to pitching instruction. I describe pitching as both an art and a science. Envision the process of pitching as a pie that has been cut into 8 pieces. Its not hard to find a pitching instructor that knows about 1 or 2 pieces of the pie and can teach about that. But its really hard to find someone that can teach about the whole pie. But I digress..... Assuming that you have located a good instructor, and assuming the young pitcher has bought into the training process that is being presented to him, the next step is preparation. You prepare by doing drill work to solidify your mechanics. You build arm strength with a throwing program. You build your body with strength and conditioning work. You throw bullpens to establish command of the fastball and to learn how to throw effective off-speed pitches. You get comfortable with different grips. Once those things have been accomplished you are ready for game situations.......and you have the tools to be successful.
One thing that every pitcher has to learn is what to focus on. If you are doing bullpen work you focus can be one of two places - either on what is happening on the mound OR what is happening at the plate. But not both. When you get into a game the focus HAS to be on what is happening at the plate - both in terms of pitch location and movement (or lack thereof). Assuming that the focus is in the right place, the next thing is that EVERY pitch must be thrown with conviction. If a pitcher is not fully convinced that he is throwing the right pitch the chances are it wont work out well. This can get a little tricky if the pitcher doesn't have the freedom to shake off a pitch. If a coach is calling pitches its very important that there be a running dialogue during the game between the pitcher and the coach calling pitches to stay current about what is working and what isn't. Poor communication can cost you a game if the wrong pitch is called (and thrown) at a critical point. I tell all the pitchers I work with that they need to OWN every pitch they throw. They need to understand their own strengths (and weaknesses) and know how they are most likely to get hitters out. You would be amazed how many HS and college pitchers don't know what their most effective pitch is. Awareness is a critical thing in a game on the line situation.
Assuming that a pitcher has successfully navigated thru all the water described above, it now gets down to execution. I'm a big believer in positive imagery. You have to see yourself (in your mind) throwing the chosen pitch and getting a positive outcome BEFORE you actually do it. Next, you have to be in the proper mindset - and this may vary depending on the emotional makeup of the individual. For me, the bigger the situation the more I would downplay it in my mind. I would tell myself that I was pitching in a meaningless intrasquad game in order to stay relaxed. Assuming I agreed with the pitch call (I could shake off anything I didn't like) I would envision myself throwing the pitch exactly how I wanted to, then take a deep breath, deliver the pitch, and react accordingly. Sometimes that meant backing up 3B but most times it meant seeing something good happen.
That was the routine that worked for me. It could be way different for someone else.