Why Failure In Training Breeds Success In Games

Written By: Luke Johnson

Why Failure In Training Breeds Success In Games

Today we'll look at how variable training and failure help to better a player’s mentality and preparation come game day and different drills that will help develop your approach. 

The Practice Work

Tee work, front toss, and casual batting practice are all good things when learning new movements and for your pregame warm-up but there’s more to being a great hitter than just having a “good swing” and 5 o’clock power.

Hopping into a cage and taking swing after swing with no plan, no awareness for what the goal is for the day, and no thought to making the pitch to pitch adjustments is going to build confidence in the present but set up failure come game day. We all need some confidence-boosting days but too many times that’s the bulk of how athletes train. 

I’ve seen countless players with all the talent in the world but shut down come game time. I believe this comes from being in unfamiliar situations that you have not practiced. As we all know failure is a part of all sports but especially in baseball and softball. We all know the saying if you fail 3 out of 10 times, you’ll be an all-star. Yet success is all that is practiced so failure becomes harder to manage when it, inevitably, happens.

Check out this quote from Chicago Cubs star, Kris Bryant, about how he challenges himself in practice:

Kris Bryant Practice Quote

This doesn’t mean you always have to do variable training or impossible sliders off the pitching machine, but it does mean you have to switch up the day-to-day training routine. If all you do every day is hit batting practice fastballs you will only become good at one thing, hitting fastballs right down the middle.

To become better, it’s important to broaden your skillset and work on areas you’re lacking. This will allow your player to feel better prepared, more confident, and overall, more successful come game day.

Examples of Technique Training to Take Your Game to the Next Level

1. Pitch Selection Training

Pitch Selection Training

    1. Challenge your hitter with fastballs and off-speed but have them start by only swinging at the fastball, while still throwing a full mix of pitches. The next step is to switch it and only have them swing at the off-speed. Last do full simulated at-bats with a count (to make sure they’re not just going into cruise control and swinging at everything). 
    2. It is important to also do this by starting with different counts and situations to make it as game-like as possible.
2. Zone Awareness Training

Zone Awareness Training

    1. This can be done with fastballs or off-speed but make the pitch constant. Mark the plate with 6 baseballs (4 if using softballs) and have the player start by tracking pitches into the zone and calling out which ball it crossed (1 would be black on the inside and 6 would be black on the outside).
    2. The next step is to do the same thing but have them actually swing creating awareness for where the pitch is.
3. Variable Timing Training

Variable Timing Training 

    1. This can be done with fastballs or off-speed but make the pitch constant. Pre-pitch call out what field you want your hitter to work (Left, Center, Right). This will force the hitter to have zone awareness by not swinging at inside pitches if they’re trying to work the opposite field and adjust their timing on the fly.
4. Situational Hitting Training

Situational Hitting Training

    1. This can be done with a constant pitch to start but should eventually develop into a full mix of pitches. This is just how it sounds to create a situation and count for the player and force him/her to execute.
    2. Examples include:
      1. A guy on third and one out (get the run in)
      2. Bases loaded infield in (get it to the outfield)
5. Velocity From Pitching Machine

Velocity from Pitching Machine

    1. Having a coach that can throw good batting practice is great but no coach can throw 100 mid 90’s fastballs and devastating off-speed pitches. Working off a pitching machine, if available is great because it can give you game-like velocity and knee-buckling breakers on a consistent basis. Also gives hitters a challenge to keep consistent mechanics and timing on nasty pitches.
    2. The goal is obviously to hit anything that we may set the machine on, but I notice a lot of hitter’s struggle to make timing adjustments. If this is the case, players can strap on a rebel’s rack and focus on timing the turn.

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