Mental toughness in Youth Pitching from a Youth Pitcher

I am a 13 year old pitcher moving up from my peewee (11-13) rep team. (travel team is what its called in the states i guess) Pitching is really influential at this level. A good pitcher can be the difference between a loss and a win. Here is what i think of mental toughness and personal examples of how good mental toughness can help you out. This is not me bragging its just me using my personal experiences to help teach the youth or coaches or parents that read this.

  1. Mental Toughness: Nothing is more important than the mental toughness of a player. This includes every situation it can be in, every emotion too, getting sad is bad, anger might be detrimental depending on how it is used, happiness is good but you have to still be focused.

Ex of good mental toughness: I played for our Bantam (14-16) AAA squad in September at a showcase tourney. In the weeks leading up to this in exhibitions I had mostly been sitting. It was a 6-6 game in the top of the 7th (we only play 7). We had gotten our first 2 batters to first and second. I was on deck and the batter at the plate did a sacrifice bunt to move them to 3rd and 2nd with one out. At this point the other team switched to their closer who was a team alberta kid and threw about 77-80 according to his baseball academy’s stats on him. The fastest I had seen before this was about 65mph. I stepped in and fanned on the first two pitches. I didn’t get down on myself though. The next pitch I fouled off and the catcher lost it in the sun and I got another chance. This sparked some happiness inside of me. Next pitch was right on the outside of the plate and I launched it 300 ft to right for a sac fly. Got a big clap from my teammates. It felt amazing. But wouldn’t have been possible if I had been scared.

Ex of bad mental toughness: My close friend on the team was pitching. He hadn’t pitched much and was quite emotional. We were both 12 at this time. He knew that if he wanted to ever pitch again he had to be succesful in this moment. The first batter got hit by the ball. This guy wouldn’t hurt a butterfly and was scared to throw inside on a guy crowding the plate. He started getting scared. The next batter got a triple off of him. The guy started crying silently, but as the shortstop I could see it when he turned and walked back to the mound. I didn’t do anything which is a mistake on my part. But the kid collapsed and allowed 8 runs that inning and then was pulled, he didn’t pitch again and the next year he didn’t even try out for the team.

Mental Toughness as a pitcher affects the outcomes of games. We are kids and we are more emotionally fragile than adults, we go through school with all the drama that goes on through that, so don’t harp on kids when they collapse or do bad cause they will get scared and it will be brought into their head more and it will be tougher for them to cope with it. Let the kids play and if you can save them before they completely collapse.

Good post,

I suggest if you haven’t already get your hands on the following books and give them a read:

The mental game of baseball by H.A. Dorfman and Karl Kuehl

The mental A B C’s of pitching by H.A. Dorfman

Head’s up baseball by Tom Hanson and Ken Ravizza

See Christy Mathewson’s “Pitching in a Pinch” for a fun discussion of mental toughness: (public domain)