Five Tips To Maintain A Competitive Pitcher's Mentality
To my pitchers, the pressure we face daily is something our non-pitching teammates will never fully understand. We truly control the speed and momentum of the game. It is in our best interest to have the strongest mentality on the field in order to keep the power in our favor. During any good or bad outing, we must remain resilient, confident and unbreakable in the circle.
Below, I offer five tips for maintaining a competitive pitcher's mentality.
Jala Wright is a junior pitcher for Duke University and an intern for Softball America. Wright transferred to Duke following her freshman season at Michigan State University.
Your Best Is Better
Your movement and speed can vary during any given game, practice or bullpen session. You may be hitting 65 mph or even faster, but the spin is not spinning as efficiently as you would like it to. Or, your spin could be breaking seven or more inches, but your legs are dragging. No matter what the situation is, you must believe in your ability to get a batter out. That should never be in question. Step in the circle feeling like the batter will be going right back into the dugout in a matter of three pitches.
Get Ahead, Stay Ahead, Finish
By getting the first pitch strike called, we up our chances of getting a hitter out significantly. When ahead in the count, we, as pitchers, have a 67% chance of getting the batter out, versus a 33% chance for the hitter to get a hit. Use the odds to your advantage! Go after hitters with your best stuff, changing a batter's eye level and mixing speeds. The key is having a good pitch sequence that will make them chase that out-pitch, which should be an inch or two off the plate. Work your favorable spots and do not let a hitter creep back in by giving them anything fat or middle. Use the corners or chalk lines for the best results and to help you sit that batter back down.
Have A Poker Face
There have been various moments when I wanted to yell, curse and scream in the circle because I was pitching subpar and trying to control things that were out of my control. There have also been times when I just wanted to be smiling from ear to ear and bust a dance move because no hitter could hit my ball. Either way, those reactions are not acceptable due to our role as pitchers. We must keep good body language and a poker face to show that we are in control of ourselves. Our opponents can easily read us and then try to do things to rattle us as pitchers. By remaining composed, we can pick up our performance if we are doing poorly or continue to be consistent if we are doing great.
One-Pitch Mentality To Bounce Back
Giving up home runs, forking over the lead and missing spots are all inevitable aspects of pitching that will happen to every pitcher. We are humans and mistakes are going to be made. After you release a pitch, all you can do is move on to the next pitch. How you respond after something bad happens in a game is crucial in determining the rest of your performance that day. Do everything in your power to limit the damage by staying locked in mentally on your next pitch.
Yes, You Will!
One of the main reasons I chose to be a pitcher is that I live for the big moments. With the bases loaded and no outs when you're up against the opposing team’s best hitter, what are you going to do? My parents and I have an inside joke asking, “Are you going to mildew or barbecue?” I always choose barbecue!
Be the pitcher who wants the ball in any given big moment. This will build confidence within yourself, your coaches and your teammates, who will know that you have done it before and you will do it again.