Here is another creative mental concept I adapted from Tim Gallwey’s Inner Game theory. Whenever one of my hitters is struggling with consistency, even though nothing is mechanically wrong with the swing, I will often suggest an “art project”.
Gallwey teaches a drill to his tennis students called “Art Appreciation”. He writes, “The game is simple: You just look at the court and the net as a kind of three-dimensional canvas. Each new trajectory of the ball is then perceived as a new line on the drawing. The player sees the ball from an aesthetic point of view and regards its path as a line drawn by an artist. He notices not only the shape of the line, but the way it relates to others in the drawing.”
Like many of Gallwey’s mental games and strategies, this drill can be applied directly to softball and baseball hitters. During live batting practice, front toss, or tee work, I often ask my hitters to paint a mental picture like the photograph (above). Each hit adds another line to the mental drawing. After only a few swings, the line drawing will begin to take shape.
Hitters can either admire this work of art or mentally erase any lines that fails to match the vision of the “artist”. When the trajectory of the lines forms a picture acceptable to the hitter, this is an indication the swing has been corrected.
Here are the benefits of this unusual drill:
A Clear Mind
Mentally drawing the trajectory of the ball in the air serves to clear the mind of thoughts that often get in the way of hitting success. As Tim Gallwey states, “This drill also keeps the mind absorbed in the reality of the ball that it forgets to doubt, try hard, condemn or over instruct itself because it is too occupied with the ball trajectory.” This drill reinforces the importance of blocking out anything that would get in the way of total focus on the pitch.
An Effective Way To Make Adjustments
My coaching philosophy has evolved over the years from one of technical instruction to teaching through observation. The mental techniques I have written about on this site and in my book Hitting With Torque: For Baseball and Softball Hitters are geared toward allowing a hitter to make adjustments WITHOUT instruction. When a hitter can “feel” what needs to change in the swing through trial and error, this is the most effective way to make adjustments.
If the line drawing begins with ground balls or weakly hit fly balls, a hitter with sound hitting mechanics will eventually change the mental drawing by hitting line drives consistently. The body will naturally find a way to make the necessary adjustments to improve the drawing until it is a masterpiece.
Telling hitters what physical adjustments they should make or showing them how to make the adjustment can be effective. However, permanent change only occurs when hitters make natural adjustments with their bodies through trial and error.
Photo Album For Future Success
After successfully completing this drill several times, hitters will have a mental photo album of success. During games, they can recall the images of these drawings to trigger the appropriate response by the body to produce hits with the ideal trajectory for the game situation. The results will be a masterpiece hitters can be proud of.
About Paul Petricca
In addition to writing this hitting blog, Paul is a hitting coach and the author of the book Hitting With Torque: For Baseball And Softball Hitters and his new children’s book Going Going Gone!. He is also 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, and DePaul University.