Hitting Slumps: The Real Causes and Solutions

My 14u team is currently mired in a collective hitting slump. After starting the season red hot, hitting .365 as a team, we have struggled over the last three weeks hitting about .230. Our run production has gone from 5 runs per game down to 1.3 runs per game. It's no surprise that after a solid 9-4 start we're only 1-5-1 since.

It's one of softball's immutable laws...if you can't score you can't win!

It's also one of the immutable laws of the universe...13 years old athletes are inconsistent!

Now certainly hitting slumps, whether for a 13 year old softball player or 30 year old Major Leaguer, may well be rooted in physical and mechanical flaws. If your athlete is pulling her head, dropping her hands or swinging under every pitch she won't have much to show for it.

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However, the more common root cause of hitting slumps lies between the ears. The mind is, in fact, so powerful that it can actually cause physical changes that make hitting a ball squarely nearly impossible. Therefore the mental plays a far bigger part in both causing and solving hitting slumps for individual players and entire teams. 

So in solving your athlete and her team's hitting slump consider these 6 "mental dynamics":
1. Over thinking. Too much going on inside the head. Maybe coach and parent are yelling instructions while she's in the box. The mind must be entirely "zen like" focused on the task at hand to be successful as a hitter.
2. Can't do thinking. This looks like "expecting" failure...doom and gloom thinking. Negative thinking and fear of failure can actually cause anxiety than will cause reflexes to slow, eyesight to diminish and hitting mechanics to be altered.
3. Lack of focus. This can happen when the mind is distracted by dwelling on the past or future rather than the present moment. With only 1/3 of one second to make a decision on pitch velocity, movement and location anything less than 100% focus can doom your athlete's potential for hitting success.
4. Not paying attention. Your athlete can help herself out immensely as a hitter by noticing little things like umpire strike zone, pitch type and location tendencies, defensive positioning, etc. When in a slump your athlete needs to look for any edge she can get! 

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5. Trusting herself. For younger athletes I find this is the biggest culprit that sabotages success. When in a slump younger hitters tend to take too many good pitches and find themselves perpetually behind in the count. I encourage my players and those I coach privately to be aggressive and trust themselves to swing early in the count at a pitch they believe they can hit. Don't wait until you have two strikes and the evil rise ball and change up rear their ugly heads.
6. Team energy. A collective team hitting slump can be caused and remedied by something as simple as team energy. Hitting is certainly contagious and so is not hitting. I have found that staying loud in the dugout and staying mentally engaged in the game can help a team hit well. Good team energy can fuel comebacks, while poor team energy looks like waiving the white flag!
So take these 6 mental dynamics into account (as well as any mechanical problems) to help identify and solve your athlete and her team's hitting slumps. The great news is that these 6 dynamics are all a matter of choice. With proper mental preparation your athlete's slumps should be few and far between!

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