Pitching Mental Toughness

By Steven Ellis former Chicago Cubs pitching pro

Winners are made in practice. Everyone says, “You have to practice like you play,” but very few pitchers know what that really means, and even fewer do it. Practicing like you play is quality practice, and it takes mental toughness to practice with that kind of intensity and desire.

Watching Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens practice their pitching between starts, you can see their intensity and concentration. When they throw a bad pitch, they do not have the attitude, “It’s okay; it’s only practice.” Instead, Maddux and Clemens both respond like they do in a game; they get upset. When the do not execute a pitch the way they want to in a game, they adjust, refocus, and get it right. This is also exactly how they behave when they practice.

In practice, you should push yourself to do it right, again and again. You put pressure on your-self to be consistent, because that is what it takes to be great. You cannot hit one or two balls hard out of 10 swings and call yourself successful.

Great players are able to repeat their mechanics and approach consistently, day-in and day-out. You do not make the Hall of Fame in any sport by having one great year. You are a Hall-of-Famer by performing at a high level for many years. Consistency starts with good practice habits.

Players who practice like they play are usually the best players, and this is one of the main reasons for their extraordinary skills. Next time you have a chance to see a Major League baseball game in person, arrive early, if possible, to see the teams practice.

Watch the best pitchers pitch, and watch the best fielders take ground-balls and fly balls. Pay attention to their effort level and intensity, and you will see why they are the best. Being the best takes work; there are no shortcuts to greatness.

Many people believe that you should not practice when you are tired. Winners practice when they are tired because they know that many games and decided in the last couple of innings when everyone is tired.

Key points about practicing when you are tired:

Practicing when you are tired develops discipline.

You have to push yourself, not only to do it, but to do it right.

When you start getting tired, the first thing that you start to lose is your concentration. The mentally tough are aware of that and stay focused.

The second thing that happens when you start to get tired is you give more effort to compensate for your fatigue. But the mentally tough athletes stay in control and trust their abilities.

Knowing how to play and knowing that you can get the job done when you are tired gives you confidence and pride.

Practicing the “right way” when you are tired builds mental toughness and character.


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