Mental Toughness Tips #3: Internal Traffic Signals
What keeps ballplayers, or athletes of any sport, from playing at their best?
At times, they get stuck thinking of past mistakes. Other times, they are worried about what will happen after the next pitch is thrown. In other words, they are not focused on the task at hand.
In this blog series, we are discussing the concept of “playing one pitch at a time.” Ken Ravizza, a pioneer in the field of sport psychology, wrote in his original book Heads Up Baseball that playing one pitch at a time consists of the following three steps:
Step 1) Practice self-control.
Step 2) Have a plan.
Step 3) Trust the plan.
Ravizza taught that in order to practice self-control, one must develop self-awareness, which he likened to internal traffic signals. During my time teaching ballplayers and other athletes, I often ask them what they do when they are driving and they see a green light. Although the simplicity of the question often makes them think it is a trick question, they inevitably say, “keep driving.” Then, I ask them what they do when they come across a yellow light. Without fail, someone laughs and says, “drive faster.” Finally, when I ask them what they do when they see a red light, they say “stop.”
These behaviors often play out in baseball in the same way as in driving. When players are performing well, they are in a “green light” and they should continue without hesitation. When players begin to face setbacks, they are in a “yellow light.” Often times, players will respond by going faster. They tend to blindly rush their performance and hope for the best, which often leads to bigger problems. When players are facing serious setbacks, they are in a “red light.” Just like while driving a car, if players rush through a red light, they can face unwanted negative outcomes.
The key in Ravizza’s system is to learn to catch yellow lights before they become red lights. When players notice yellow lights, they should pause and take action to bring themselves back to a green light. The first step, is to gain awareness of what green, yellow, and red lights feel like to each individual athlete. For examples, review the following infographic:
If you are interested in learning more about playing one pitch at a time, please continue reading this blog series or contact us for a free phone consultation.
Author Dr. Jason von Stietz specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Sport/Performance Psychology in Torrance, CA. He is available for a free initial phone consultation. Dr. von Stietz works with individuals from Long Beach, the greater Los Angeles area, and the South Bay including Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and El Segundo.