In the corporate workshops I lead and college classes I teach, we discuss the importance of building trust to develop meaningful and enduring relationships. Unfortunately, trust in all aspects of our lives is declining. The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual measurement of trust, reveals the continued decline in all sectors of our society. As a college hitting coach, I see the same lack of trust prevalent with softball and baseball hitters.
As long as there is “risk” in the world, trust is necessary. Think about it. If there was no risk in the world, trust would not be needed. Unfortunately, risk is everywhere. From the moment we wake up to the time we go to bed, we experience risk at every turn.
When hitters enter the batter’s box, it is a risky proposition. The number one risk for hitters is the fear of failing. Failure is commonplace in any sport, but especially for softball and baseball hitters. Achieving success only 30%-40% of the time is applauded and even celebrated.
Hitters are also at risk of letting down their teammates, coaches, friends, and family. No other team sport is more dependent on individual success than softball and baseball. Sometimes, it feels like the whole world is focused on hitters when they are alone in the batter’s box. The only way to ward off the demons of hitting risk is to learn to trust.
Optimism and Control
James Sharpe and Charles Green wrote about practical ways to build trust by mitigating risk in our lives. They contend when people are optimistic and enjoy some level of control, they will be more inclined to trust themselves and others. Applying these concepts to hitting will result in a healthy mental approach during each at-bat.
Let’s start with optimism. Hitters who have difficulty trusting their swing are typically pessimistic about their chances to be successful. When they make that short walk to the batter’s box from the on-deck circle they already have two strikes against them. They are not optimistic about the result of the upcoming at-bat.
Coaches can motivate and teammates can scream positive thoughts, but only the hitter can find that level of optimism to combat self-doubt and risk. Artificially generating optimism can work temporarily, but it can quickly fade and disappear, especially in pressure situations. A hitter who enters the batter’s box with artificial confidence can lose their optimism after falling behind in the count 0-2. The risk of failing increases causing optimism and trust to decrease.
Achieving Enduring Optimism
When hitters adopt the hitting keys described in my book Hitting With Torque: For Baseball and Softball Hitters, their bat speeds jump. As I have written many times on this site, it is not uncommon for bat speeds to increase 10-20 mph in a very short period of time. I know this is hard for some coaches to believe, but the right power swing sequence will produce dramatic results.
Softball hitters with 60 mph bat speeds (not exit speeds) will naturally be more confident and optimistic when their bat speeds reach 70 mph or 80 mph. No pitcher will be able to consistently blow the ball by hitters with elite bat speeds. The risk associated with each at-bat is now drastically reduced and the ability to trust increases.
Coaches are quick to say “Trust your swing!”. But, without a repeatable and powerful swing sequence, these words of encouragement ring hollow. It is impossible for hitters to trust their swings without really believing they are better than the opposing pitcher.
Hitters with elite bat-speeds have every reason to be optimistic. They will never have to rely on words of encouragement alone to be confident. It will now be much easier for hitters to believe their coaches when they urge total trust in their swing.
Coaches also have to earn the trust of their hitters. As I mentioned earlier, encouragement has limited and temporary positive effects for hitters. Teaching a swing sequence that improves bat speed, power, and consistency is imperative to building trust. The only way I have found to gain credibility with hitters is to objectively measure their improvement.
All college hitting coaches should use some type of bat speed measuring device. When hitters see their bat speeds jump, it is easier for them to trust their coaches and their swing. This results in enduring optimism.
For more information about target bat speeds for softball and baseball hitters at every level, here is a link to a previous post. How Fast Is Your Baseball/Softball Swing?
Control Builds Trust
The second factor that builds trust is control. Sharpe and Green contend that even if people are optimistic, they also need some level of control to trust more completely. We can all think of examples in our lives when we were optimistic about something, but were reluctant to trust because we lacked control of the situation.
Consider first time skydivers. They know jumping out of an airplane will be fun and exhilarating. But, what if after boarding the plane they are told a new employee packed the parachutes and it will be the pilot’s first solo? The level of trust by the novice skydivers would understandably be low until they received assurances the parachutes were packed correctly and the pilot was competent. These assurances provide the control to go along with optimism.
Control From Coaches And Teammates
Traits of trusted coaches include honesty, transparency, consistency, empathy, and accountability. Trusted coaches provide psychological control for their players. When hitters have confidence their coaches will treat them with fairness and integrity, they feel an enhanced sense of control.
Teammates also contribute to the control level of hitters. Hidden agendas and personal conflicts can cause hitters to question the values and mission of the team. Increased anxiety levels due to negative team dynamics will rob hitters of the control they need to bring a clear head into the batter’s box.
Control From The Swing Sequence
Hitters who are optimistic about their offensive potential due to more bat speed still need a consistent level of control. I often see hitters with high bat speeds who do not trust their swings. The only way I know to increase the control my hitters feel is to continually work with them to refine the swing sequence.
Professional golfers spend hours and hours on the practice range perfecting every detail of their swings. They continually seek the consistency that will provide a greater sense of control in tournaments. Softball and baseball hitters who work hard to make their swings repeatable will enjoy the control they need to totally trust their swing. This level of control will lead to even more optimism…and trust!
The Trusting Hitter
It takes two parties to form a trusting relationship. I hope I have convinced readers that hitters who feel trusted by their coaches and teammates will respond with equal trust. They will trust their coaches to help them reach their offensive potential. They will trust their teammates to shower them with unconditional support and encouragement. More importantly, hitters will trust themselves and their swing. This unwavering trust will minimize the risk of failing at the plate leading to offensive success.
About Paul Petricca
In addition to writing this hitting blog, Paul is the hitting coach for Roosevelt University Softball in Chicago and the author of the book Hitting With Torque: For Baseball And Softball Hitters. He also is a public speaker and provides unique customer engagement training through his company Torque Consulting. Paul teaches a Customer Relationship Management class to undergraduates at Wheaton College (IL) and MBA candidates at Loyola University Chicago, DePaul University and the Benedictine University Asia Program