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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Can Baseball Poise Be Taught?

Can Baseball Poise Be Taught?

By Jim Bain

You'll sometimes hear fans, bear in mind these are mostly relatives of the players, at amateur baseball games comment on the composure, determination, toughness or mental attitude of a player.

What they are attempting to describe, and everyone has their own mental conception, is the Poise a player maintains during a critical game moment. The question is... can Poise be taught?

To make sure we're all on more or less the same page, I'll define Poise as the ability to keep one's nerves and emotions in check when confronted with a game changing situation, while maintaining 100% ability.

This poise issue pertains to all players, all positions and all situations, such as a batter who represents the last hope to drive in the tying run or the game is lost, but because the pitcher encounters the situation more often than any other player, coaches will tend to use them as their example. They want a pitcher with poise.

Let's look at some of the various tell tale signs of a pitcher having poise.

1. He is not arrogant, but is confident he has the ability to pitch out of any situation. He never wants to be pulled from the game.

2. He realistically assesses the situation, it's not a time for denial, and formulates a plan of action to deal with the situation. If he walked the bases loaded he must take responsibility for his control, not blame the lousy umpire.

3. He will do whatever it takes to compose himself and stick to the plan. In a critical situation, if you have a pitcher who reacts to a called ball then waits impatiently for the return throw from the catcher, he is about to or has, lost his poise.

It's human nature to experience disappointment when a call, especially a close call or the pitcher honestly believes he threw a strike, goes against him. It's how you deal with the disappointment which dictates poise.

Same scenario, but when the pitcher receives the return throw, walks to the back of the mound rubbing up the ball, then returns to the pitching rubber, has maintained his poise. He took time for the negative feelings to dissipate, refocused and began anew.

4. Makes quality pitches when it's absolutely necessary. Instead of grooving a belt high fastball in an attempt to get a strike, he throws a breaking ball to an over-anxious hitter. He remains a pitcher... not a thrower.

There are many more actions which indicate a pitcher with poise, but again, can poise be taught?

The answer is as simple as looking at the soldiers in our military. Military training teaches you everything possible in order to perform your duty under duress. You are drilled and taught to perform complex functions without thought or hesitation, your training takes over.

However, no matter how intense or realistic the training is, the element of pure terror, which can only be invoked by actual combat, can not be simulated or experienced.

So without the actual fear, the training is worthless? Obviously, that's ridiculous. The reason I gave this example is you'll hear coaches say that without the actual feeling of game pressure, practicing poise is worthless. I say ridiculous.

Practice methods:

1. Literally set up critical situations for your pitcher to deal with during practice.
(a.) Bases loaded with 1 out;
(b.) Have runners on base;
(c.) Have a batter actually trying to hit the pitch.

2. Challenge the pitcher to throw 6 strikes in a row while you stand behind him watching. Suddenly 6 pitches will seem like 60 and your shear presence will create pressure to perform.

3. Set up situations where the pitcher is asked to Limit the Damage.
(a.) Bases loaded 1 out;
(b.) Have pitcher attempt to limit the number of runs scored before attaining 3 outs.

There's no doubt the element of actual game pressure adds significantly to a player's ability to remain poised. However, the coach's job is to train and teach the pitcher how to handle all sorts of pressure cooker situations, leaving the game pressure as the only addition to the pitcher's problems.

No matter how difficult, dealing with one issue vs. numerous is much more accomplishable.

Jim Bain, former Minor league baseball player and member of "Baseball Coaches of America" shares his advice on baseball coaching baseball drills on his exciting info packed website:

Be sure to check out his 2 books on Amazon, "The Pitch" and "Season of Pain". Great reading about baseball.

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick