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Introducing Mental Skills Into Youth Organizations

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Greg Moore

How do youth organizations introduce the mental part of the game to 8-12u players?

The simplest way to introduce the mental part of the game is to ask questions before even the simplest drill. Below is an example of redirecting a player at any age to be simpler and clearer in batting practice.

Coach: What are you trying to do during BP today?

Player: I want to drive the ball in the gap by keeping my hands high early and above the ball late.

Coach: If you’re ready early your hands will be in the right place. What do you want to do with your timing?

New player goal: I want to be ready on time to drive balls in the gap.

Ownership, discernment, clarity and simplicity improve through reps like physical skills, even if young players don’t know these ideas yet. The player interacted. His thought process was sharpened by the coach’s question.

Other questions and ideas that create subtle coaching opportunities:
Pre-practice: What is your plan?

Prompting adjustments: A player puts down ten bunts in a row. A player puts down zero of ten bunt attempts.
What did you do in those ten reps?

Finding the best way: Ask them to put breakthroughs and struggles in their own words. Did you feel that? What did that feel like? Why?

When a player struggles: Encourage “athletic, aggressive talk” that relates to flow, dynamic balance, vision and feel. This can break the impeding, usually mechanical thought. After a quick conversation the player usually shares the mental speed bumps.

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