A PARENT'S GUIDE: YOUR CHILD OVER-THINKS WHILE PLAYING BASEBALL - What To Do About It
Is your kid a thinker?? As in, he thinks way too much when he's playing that it paralyzes him?
If it looks like he hesitates or it looks like his movements are jerky in games but in practice they're smooth, good chance he's an over-thinker!
Here are some ideas you can implement to help address the issue with him.
1. Identify if it is it situational or is it mechanical? Situational
Do you notice hesitation because he simply lacks knowledge of what to do in those situations? If so that would be a situational knowledge gap. A couple of suggestions here would be to talk to the coach and see if you can ensure those knowledge gaps are addressed.
One of the most powerful habits I had as a player that helped me increase my baseball knowledge and IQ was simply watching baseball games.
Nowadays, your kid has a lot more vying for his attention and affection than when I was playing. I didn’t have Facebook, YouTube, and every other social media site.
But if you can encourage and support a habit of watching baseball and cultivating that love, do it!
I used to tape games and watch them again and it seems like I always learned something new every time I watched them.
Most of the over-thinking probably falls in this category and it was the primary nemesis during my playing career.
When your son is focused too much on where his hands are, his foot placement, making sure he turns his hips, see the ball, and on and on, there’s just too much going on in his mind that it disrupts his reaction time.
The result will be that you’ll see hesitation. You won’t see a lot of tenacity and aggression. You will notice a lack of commitment and that he may even look like he’s playing scared.
Now that you’ve identified a little better what your child’s issue is, now let’s move closer to what you can do to help him.
2. Use his mental prowess to his advantage
I want to encourage you that the tendency your child has to over think doesn’t have to be debilitating but can become an asset. You just want to help him harness it by focusing on the right things, at the right time, and ensuring he’s making the right analysis.
Quick framework to help your player harness the mental prowess so it doesn’t lock them up:
1. Help him focus on the right things. What are those “right things”?
-Goals that are in his control and create a learning mindset.
-The process or steps needed to get the results. I know it seems like I’m contradicting myself but I’ll explain below how to use this aspect of your kids analysis in a better way. This could be something as simple as “start balanced, stay balanced”.
-Plan. Make sure your athlete knows what his plan is when going up to the plate. Help him focus on one thing here. It could be something as simple as “hunt for a strike”
-Execute. It’s good that your kid evaluates whether he executed his plan and if not, why. This is a good habit and practice and can be a good conversation topic for later, just allow him to explain himself instead of you interjecting or lecturing him on why he didn’t. Give him space to figure it out for himself.
2. Help him focus on a proper analysis
The main analysis that most young players have is whether they made the play or not… whether they got a hit or not.
This leaves much out of the discussion that should be considered. There are many questions that can be asked and when answered can reveal there were plenty of mini wins within the process your child should be proud of.
Did you feel good? Did have good rhythm? Did you see the ball well? Did you swing at a strike? Did you hit the ball hard? Notice that if you help your kid analyze at-bats or games with these questions, they can say an emphatic yes to all of the above and yet not get a hit. All these questions either show that they did a good job executing on things within their control or they had positive outcomes that will position themselves well for future consistent success. And that’s the
3. Timing of the analysis
I’d argue that timing of the analysis potentially has the greatest impact. So let’s dive a bit deeper here:
Analysis your child can and should do pregame or post game:
Review of goals, mechanical cues (keep it simple and short!) Keep in mind that the closer your kid gets to game time, the less you want to talk about mechanics. And if you are going to talk about his swing or pitching, help him become more in-tune to how he’s feeling.
Mindsets and cue words like smooth, powerful, quick, explosive may be more helpful for overthinkers because it gets them into more of a feeling mindset. They want to become aware of how their movements feel and less about the step-by-step process.
That step-by-step awareness is better used for their practice during the week… but now it’s game time! Post-game, follow up with how they recall they FELT. Again, we want to emphasize feel!
Analysis your child can and should do during the game between At-Bats:
Was the plan executed? Was it a good plan?
If your athlete is an overthinker, I would encourage more of these types of questions for them to ask themselves during the game and stick to mechanics/technical questions for evaluation after the game.
This does not mean evaluating technique during a game is bad or wrong but may just need to be dialed down for some time and have the above questions emphasized for some time.
Analysis your child can and should be doing in the moment of competing
Encourage one cue word or metaphor that locks your child into the moment. One tip I have that I got from a former teammate and MLB player, Jeff Frazier, is sing a song! Jeff told me one day before a game that was his secret sauce to help him get into a right mindset when hitting and playing.
Interestingly there’s a growing body of research surrounding the topic of how music and singing can help reduce anxiety when athletes perform under pressure. Cognitive Psychologist, Author of and Barnard College President Sian Leah Beilock mentions in her Ted Talk, “Why We Choke Under Pressure and How to Avoid It”, how singing a song is one of many methods athletes and performers have at their disposal to keep their attention off of the “step-by-step paralysis by analysis” and stay locked into the present moment to perform under pressure.
It’s a great Ted Talk that highlights much of what I’m writing about here that when your kid thinks too much about the step-by-step procedures of his movements, it disrupts his mental abilities to instinctually execute those movements… the result: slow, jerky movements that look timid instead of the aggressive smooth movements you see in practice.
Finally, What You Should do During a Game
If you know your kid is an overthinker, you aren’t going to want to yell out any reminders about technique when he’s in the batter’s box or on the mound pitching. He’s probably already highly self-conscious and reminders about what he’s doing and what he looks like will make things worse.
In the moment, it should be all feel and instinct! Game time is play time!
Biggest thing here: Your son's "weakness" can become his strength.... just help him figure out how to leverage it to his advantage.
Share this if it helped you
If you know of other parents that deal with the same issue with their kid, share this article with them if you got some nuggets from it. Help me equip as many parents as we can with knowledge they need to help their kids unlock their potential!
Success to you and your child,
Your Baseball Mentor
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