Kids who perform well tend to carry themselves in a different way. They have a confidence that affects the way they handle themselves in the circle or in the batter’s box. But, can it work the other way? Does your body language enhance your performance? The answer is yes.
Recently we worked with a pitcher who had a lot of ability. However, she tended to glance around nervously on the mound, slump her shoulders, and avoid eye contact with anyone. I set some new rules. Any time she was on the mound her posture was to be strong, with the head held high and shoulders back. She was to move deliberately between pitches and to develop a routine. She was instructed to receive the ball from the catcher, stare at the batter a moment while thinking about the situation, take the signal, and during this time her facial expression could not change. Her eyes could not wander. Everything was designed to give the impression that she was in control. That weekend she emerged as a serious game-changer.
During the game, all eyes are on two people, the pitcher and the hitter. If a hitter looks uncomfortable and lacks confidence, the defense feeds off of it. If the pitcher looks shaky, the defense tends to become tentative while the offensive dugout gets louder.
Does this mean that a pitcher should look aggressive and hostile? Not at all. One of my best students smiled constantly, even during the College World Series. It gave her team the feeling that everything was going to be alright. Batters had to wonder what she knew that they didn’t.
Another college pitcher was simply too nice. She always looked like she wanted to be friends with the batter. I asked her to develop a “personality” for game day. She decided to remain happy and nice on the mound, but the minute batters stepped in the box she would stare at them intently with absolutely no facial expression and no body movements. It changed the dynamic and put a little tension in the air. Many batters became uncomfortable and broke eye contact. That was an added bonus.
One pitcher was too serious and looked unhappy on the mound. This made it hard for her defense to relax and umpires felt they were getting attitude. Something had to change. We wanted her to stop and enjoy the moment. We asked her to interact with infielders, laugh with her catcher, and let her love for the game show. Success soon followed.
One pitcher was very analytical and competitive. She was so focused that you would never know if she had just experienced a homerun or strikeout. She had a plan and was always working her plan. Something might go wrong but she would immediately learn from it and make adjustments. Nobody was going to build momentum against her. Opponents sensed it from the way she worked the circle, communicated with her catcher, and watched hitters carefully to learn their strategy so she could disrupt it. Her senses were on full alert. That was a strong mound presence.
The way you carry yourself in the circle is important, but you still have to deliver when the game is on the line. The very best mound presence comes from knowing you are fully prepared and that you have developed the tools to win. All week long you must be building your skills, practicing with a purpose, and getting ready to deliver that one pitch that can change the game at a crucial time. Armed with that knowledge, it is much easier to demonstrate confidence and control in the circle.
*Note: Make plans to join Denny for events this fall in the areas of northern Virginia, Charlotte, New York, northern Delaware, and Atlanta. Email us for more information.