One of the things that probably holds more hitters back than anything is having a tentative approach at the plate. They stand nervously in the batter’s box, shifting from foot to foot, death grip on the bat as they await the next pitch.
Then it comes and they wait until they can wait no longer, then finally flail at the ball as it goes whizzing by them.
It isn’t that they don’t know how to hit, or that they haven’t practiced the physical act of hitting. The problem is that they don’t have the right mindset.
They may be worried that they will strike out, looking bad in the process. Or that they will pop up, or hit a weak ground ball, particularly if they have been doing that a lot lately.
They may also be looking at how many runners are on base and thinking about the possibility of stranding them. They may be thinking if they screw up the coach will yell at them or take them out of the game.
Whatever it is, they’re thinking about the possibility of negative outcomes and therefore not focusing on the task at hand – which is to see the ball and hit it.
What they should be doing instead is adopting the mindset of a predator. A predator doesn’t worry about what might happen if it doesn’t catch the prey. It simply goes for the prize.
In fact, as my friend and fellow coach Heather Cole once told me, the predator loves the hunt more than it loves the kill.
In softball terms, that means the hitter shouldn’t be so focused on the outcome. Great hitters are all about the process of the at-bat.
They are not trying to defend themselves or the plate against the pitch. They are there to attack the pitch.
They are on the hunt, and every pitch is an opportunity to drive the ball into a gap or over the fence. They don’t worry about whether it will happen or not. They place all their focus on making it happen.
The funny thing is when you approach every plate appearance like a predator you start walking to the plate with a bit of a swagger. When you have that swagger you have more confidence in your abilities, which lets you get even more aggressive.
Before you know it all those outcomes you were worried about start taking care of themselves.
In this world there are two options. You can either be the prey or the predator.
If you want to be a great hitter, start thinking (and acting) like a predator.