“Take a breath”–breathing routines to improve a pitcher’s performance
By Earl Nash
During a typical game a pitcher will be knocked “off balance,” when he gives up a big hit, or when his defense lets him down. Once a hit or error has occurred the pitcher must immediately take control of his reaction, or he will experience a breakdown of his fundamental pitching mechanics, making things even worse.
Since his mind and body must both be balanced for peak performance, a pitcher needs a method to “re-set” his balance. While most of the game is out of his control, after he releases his pitches, a pitcher must immediately take charge of what he can control: his mind and body.
Once a pitcher acknowledges he has been knocked “out of balance” and is thinking in a negative manner, he must stop that pattern of thought and start a new, positive one by making a conscious decision to “re-set” his mind and “turn the page.” He should employ this Long Routine:
"1. Focus on a point on the CF wall.2. Inhale. Holding the ball in your glove at your waist, allow your pitching hand to rest on your belt and notice your stomach “expanding.”3. Hold this breath as you count silently to 21.4. Exhale. Let the breath out slowly and completely.5. Re-Set. Say to yourself: “turn the page…RE-SET!”6. Return to the Start position of his delivery.7. Resume your regular delivery routine; take your sign from the catcher."
A pitcher should also use this Long Routine just before starting an inning.
A pitcher should “take a breath” prior to every pitch, using this Short Routine, before taking his catcher’s sign:
"1. Inhale deeply and completely.2. Exhale. Let the breath out slowly and completely.3. Return to the Start position of your delivery.4. Resume your regular delivery routine; take your sign from the catcher."
This Short Routine allows a pitcher to take control of his body to maximize performance. Taking a deep breath and exhaling completely “re-sets” the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. Failing to take this breathing action allows the body chemistry to further deteriorate and the pitcher’s performance follows.
A “deep breath” requires filling the lungs full enough to cause the stomach to rise. To attain the benefit of maximum oxygen intake, place your pitching hand on you belt and notice how the stomach presses out on your hand. Then, you should let the breath out slowly and completely; releasing the breath quickly diminishes the benefit.
A pitcher must make both the Long and Short Routines a habit, so he will automatically apply these techniques during the heated action of a game. At home, you should practice both routines, until they become an automatic response. Ask your catcher, or coach, to remind you to use these relaxation techniques during games.
"As it says in the excellent book, The Mental ABCs of Pitching: “Breathe or die.”"
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