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The following article was provided to me by Coach Luis Villarreal who just happens to be my son's pitching coach. Selecting a coach to work with your son or daughter is a tough thing to do as you are entrusting someone with the well being of your child. Not just from a physical standpoint but from a mental standpoint. After all, the real goal is not just to make your child a better baseball/basketball/soccer/football/softball player it's to make them into confident, respectful and driven adults. After a few sessions with Coach Luis and getting to understand his philosophy I was more than comfortable that we had picked the right coach to work with my son and when he shared the following article he had written that opinion was solidified. FOR LOVE OF THE GAME By Luis Villarreal "THE ROAD TO SUCCESS." The road to success starts within a heart that wants to be the best at something--a heart, mind, and soul that does not want to be ordinary, but extraordinary. Most pitchers have a tough time mastering the mental game of pitching at a younger age. A lot of mistakes and poor outings are made from a weak mentality. When these pitchers are confronted about their mental game, they tend to deny it and say their mentality has nothing to do with it. The sooner they can get over this obstacle, the sooner they will master the mental side of pitching. The mental game consists of not only knowing your surroundings, situations, and plays given, but staying inside of yourself and controlling what can be controlled. Don’t, let small talk like, “Keep the ball down, this guy can hit” get inside of your head. Controlling the mental game means ignoring this kind of talk and pitching without any of this negative outside influence. Playing with fear must always be avoided. Don’t let negative thoughts creep into your mind while you are pitching. Thoughts of failure, negative “what ifs”, ect should not be thought about. These will inevitably lead to you actually doing this negative thought. BECOMING MENTALLY TOUGH ENOUGH TO OVERCOME ANY SITUATION! The Mental Pitching Tips you find here will teach you everything from dealing with failure and success as a pitcher to learning how to make necessary adjustments and pitching with confidence, and much more. Remember, being physically talented is not enough. Being able to perform all the right techniques and strategies is not enough to guarantee success. The key is being a successful baseball pitcher is to develop all of these traits and become mentally strong enough to handle any situation that comes your way. Learning how to succeed mentally at baseball pitching is fun but it is hard and it takes discipline and effort too. Experience in game situations is the best way to apply these concepts. Learn from past experiences and apply what you’ve learned to the future. You’ll improve more than you ever thought you could. Any pitcher with any experience on the mound at all understands that there is much more to winning than meets the eye. Having great pitching mechanics and technique is not enough, especially against experienced hitters. So what is missing? Confidence is a key factor in pitching. We have to know that we will get the next guy out. We have to know that we are in control on the mound, and that nobody else can affect what you do out there. Pitching with confidence is a key component of pitching that all the great pitchers eventually learn how to do. Having the confidence to go out there and know you are the best can only help you, so the earlier you can learn this, the more effective you can be. A good pitcher knows how to block out distractions. For a pitcher, a baseball game can become very noisy. You may have coaches yelling across the field, other players yelling to each other, and the background noise of the fans all coming at you at once. This can be a very daunting situation, but must be mastered to be an effective mental pitcher. When you are pitching, it is just you and your catcher. You should not care about what the other players are chirping about, or how obnoxious that guy behind the fence is. Just focus on your task at hand, which is pitching the ball to your catcher. "If your not practicing, somebody else is, somewhere, and he'll be ready to take your job." -Brooks Robinson THE HIGH PRICE OF COMMITMENT Total commitment means sacrifice. It means being the first one at practice to work on pickoffs. It means staying late to better develop command of your pitches. It means taking a bucket of balls and a jug of water to the field by yourself in the summer in 95 degree heat to long toss to the fence when you don’t have anyone to throw with. It means bundling up when it’s 40 degrees and windy outside to get your throwing in over the holidays. It means running sprints in the summer instead of going swimming with your buddies. Total commitment means sacrificing things that may seem good at the moment to give you the best chance to be great on the mound later. I suggest you do some soul searching and ask yourself if you’re willing to pay the high price of total commitment. Ask yourself what your true motivation for playing is, and be honest with the answer. If you’re not willing to to give 100% commitment, someone else is and I guarantee you they will be successful. The goal of every truly competitive pitcher I know is to be successful. People may define that success in many different ways. One thing is for sure though… consistent success will not come without total commitment. Sure, there will be days that your commitment will not be 100%. It is human nature to want to find the easy way to do something and you will want to try and find that easy way at some point in your journey. I warn you though not to use human nature as an excuse to ease up. Fight human nature and do what most will not do… take the hard way. Great pitchers find out what it takes to dominate and more importantly THEY DO IT. They do more so they can be more. What are you prepared to do? Totally commit to doing the same and you will have more success than you ever thought you could. "Baseball is 50% from the neck up" - Ted Williams KEY POINTS TO TOTAL COMMITMENT Understand your true motivation so you can know for sure if you’re willing to totally commit to becoming a great pitcher See the big picture…your commitment on a daily basis to the little things will lead to your desired result of success and domination Read, study, learn, ask questions to find out what it takes to be great Make it a habit to put into practice what you now know is required to be great Learn about yourself and what things might distract you from total commitment and eliminate them. Be prepared to make hard decisions to do that. Understand that your success depends on your performance, and that your performance is directly related to your commitment level Learn to enjoy doing things that you know are making you better"HARD WORK." It will take hard work on the part of anyone who wants to be the best. How much work will it take? That depends on your final goal, or the greatness of your dream. If you want to be the best, then you are going to have to do more than others A brief Bio on Coach Luis Villarreal: Drafted in 2002 by the Boston Red Sox. Played 9 years in the minor leagues. Currently is the pitching instructor at Xtreme Speed in San Antonio, TX. Pitching Instruction Part 2 Pitching Instruction Part 3