“I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the total death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear…I will permit it to pass over me and through me.”
The mind is a beautiful and complex thing. Sometimes we can keep our mind focused and other times it gets away from us. At times we let doubt into our minds and we find it difficult to let it pass through. It stays there, right at the forefront of our mind when we face adversity. You have two options; give into the fear because you are afraid to fail or face it head on and view any failure as a learning opportunity.
Our intelligence increases through the mistakes we make. As a pitcher, we have to learn to accept failure and embrace the lessons that it creates. If we are afraid to fail then our growth as a pitcher dies within us.
Here is an example. You have runners on second and third with two outs. Your team is up by one run in the last inning. You can think two things. One is that you don’t want to feel responsible for losing the game if you give up a hit. The other is that you’re going to challenge the hitter head on. Regardless of your mindset, you may still give up a hit that scores both runners which in turn means you have failed. The next part is important. Do you feel like you suck as a pitcher or do you feel determined to not have that happen again?
Success eliminates fear. That is exactly what confidence is. But we only get to that point by being in the position where we are facing adversity. You have to want to face adversity, that’s the only way to get better. And when you fail, we have to want to understand why we failed rather than fell sorry for ourselves. It is not an easy thing to do. As a pitcher, we feel as if we are carrying the team on our shoulders. If we fail, we feel as if we have failed our teammates, our coaches, our school, our parents, and so on. But everyone knows we don’t want to be unsuccessful on the mound. They realize we are trying our best, but sometimes our best just isn’t quite good enough.
Going back to our scenario in which you lost the game, learn to break it down in order to prevent the feeling of failure as often as possible in the future. If you can be honest with yourself and look back at what you didn’t do well, you will learn how to grow as a pitcher. Most often, we failed because we didn’t locate the pitch exactly where we wanted it. We gave the hitter too good of a pitch to hit. So let’s dive into the idea that we missed our target. The question now is; why did you miss? Trace your steps backwards from when the ball was hit. Did the pitch feel good out of your hand? Did the pitch you throw feel like the right one? Were you thinking too much about holding runners or just the runners in general? Was your mind racing with thoughts that you couldn’t control? Did you do a good job of breathing? Do you feel like you rushed yourself? And lastly, were you afraid of the moment?
Now you may think these are a lot of questions to ask yourself and that’s true. But remember, we’re trying to figure out why you mis-located that pitch. All of those questions are directly related to that pitch and more importantly, your fear of failure. You may sit there and say well I wasn’t afraid to fail and I felt like I was in control. If that’s the case, then you shouldn’t have missed your target. But the truth is there is something we could’ve done better. If we are fully in control our ourselves and we have worked tirelessly on the things the above questions address, there is nothing to be afraid of. You know you have put the time in. If we are in control of our mind, then we are in control of our body. If we are in control of our body, then it appears to others we are in control of the moment. This then puts doubt into the hitter’s mind which is what I like to call “checkmate.”
The fear of failure goes hand in hand with self-confidence. Embrace the fear as it often brings out the best in us, not the worst. Work on all aspects of your game and as you strive to perfect those things, it helps reduce failure which thus helps eliminate doubt and fear. This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort with the full acknowledgement you have to continue sharpening your skills in all departments, not just physically pitching. The fear of failure is real and ready to overtake your mind in an instant. You have to be willing to accept that as well as accept your flaws. When those things are addressed, you will begin the process of overcoming your fear through confidence and actually pitching through adversity.
In closing, take a sheet of paper and write down three things you’re afraid of that could happen when you’re on the mound. Break those down in reverse order from the feeling of disappointment to your preparation. From there (if you’re being honest with yourself), you can determine what you need to work on. Embrace the fear of failure, it is the only way for you to achieve true success.