What To Do When You Feel Panic

It happens to every pitcher at some time. Something gets out of sync and the harder she tries the worse it gets.

In some cases a pitcher may come to the realization that things have seriously stalled. Her goals seem to be out of reach. If left on her own, either of these pitchers can panic. The outcome can get very ugly, very quickly.
Let me explain in a practical way. A couple of weeks ago I went to watch one of my high school pitchers who has strong D1 college potential. She is just a freshman, but she disappointed me, and I was very honest about it. She arrived for her next lesson and it was obvious that she was ready to get after it. A few minutes later we discovered a very small timing issue, corrected it, and it became one of the best lessons ever. That little issue had “thrown off” her entire motion and she experienced some panic. Because she was in panic mode, she had developed inefficient little movements to compensate for the problem. These had bled over into her breaking pitches and soon everything was chaotic in her motion. Correcting one thing changed everything.
Before proceeding, I will say about our Certified Instructors. They are intensively trained to recognize those tiny issues and bring kids back pretty quickly. We realize that every kid faces this at some time, in some fashion. When new students arrive, their parents often talk about how they used to be really good, but something changed. It is pretty simple. They were doing something ineffective that finally caught up with them, or something got out of place in their motion. In either case the person working with them was not capable of recognizing, or dealing with those problems.
When one of my regular kids feels panic because things are not right, I tell her to remember a couple of things. Your talent does not just “go away”. Relax, I will find the problem, and you will be better than ever. Do not run out there and try to find some quick fix. Your body is lying to you. It thinks it is feeling one thing but is doing another, and right now you do not want to trust it. Lay down the ball. Wait until we get together. I promise things will be fine. (in extreme cases, we will skype and get things fixed if need be)
If your current teacher cannot explain how to get things in your motion back in sync very quickly, move on to someone who can handle it. Be demanding and have a sense of urgency. If a new student comes to me and says, “Yeah, we have been working on that crowhop for a couple of years”, I naturally question whether to take this student. If she lets something that serious control her for a year or more it shows one of four things. It can be a lack of urgency, a lack of self-discipline, a lack of body awareness, or trusting someone who was not qualified to develop her. She should have panicked long ago. The same goes for a “glove flying” issue. If she but did absolutely nothing about it, what does that tell me about her? If you claim to have high goals, but never searched out someone who can get you past the simplest of issues like these, how seriously can we take you? If you wait too long to realize there is a problem, we have little chance of getting you where you could have been, and nothing makes us more sad.
So, panic can be a good thing for a couple of reasons. For one, it forces needed action. In another case, when a kid suddenly “loses it”, when we walk her through the steps to get her back on course, she learns what caused the problem and how to prevent it next time. If she is a great competitor, she will make sure the problem never happens again. It if comes back repeatedly, we begin to have serious questions about her.
But, panic can also be a bad thing for those who are always “under its influence”. If parents live that way, the kid can’t help but absorb it. She never feels that her feet are firmly planted on the ground because that parent is always jerking the rug from under her. If you bring panic to the situation every day, nothing, nothing, nothing good can come from it.
The ideal situation is to never experience panic. We prefer students who are constantly monitoring their progress and steadily marching toward goals. But, in every career, there will come a time when she reaches a crossroads. How she gets into that mode, how she decides to deal with it, and whether she deals with it at all, will almost always determine whether she soars to great heights….or stalls at her present altitude.