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Play Like You Practice. Take Your "A" Game from Practice into Competition

They are called “batting practice hitters” in baseball and there are other names in other sports for players who do EXTREMELY WELL in practice and then lose their “A” game … in the game; in competition.

Are you one of those guys or girls?  They hit “bomb/missles/ropes” during batting practice and then … Uh, oh … the “vanishing” act.  

If the game is soccer or hockey, everything is in the net.  Basketball … every shot  is a “swish”

However, game time comes around and that player is suddenly nowhere to be found.  In his/her place is Harvey … or Nancy … Milquetoast; timid, shy, scared to death; trembling knees, sweating, fidgeting, eyes darting around.

Okay.  I get it.  In fact been there.  Done that.   There is a huge lesson here and I am going to help you with it … and in depth but just not today.  Today I’m going to give you something small but powerful; a quick “pick me up”.  I’m going to give you a “bandaid” for your “boo boo” if you will.

 Here it is:  INSTEAD OF “taking your “game in the cage” to your “game on the field” simply  … “take the cage to the field.”

 Huh?  Say what?  What the hell am I talking about?

One year in college baseball I was stinking it up on a level of GIGANTAMONDO (Is that a word? If it isn’t, it should be …) proportions.  Would you believe 0 for 19.  Yes, that is, in fact a one with a nine after it.

 The word “embarrassed” doesn’t come close.

 If I had been in Little League the coach would have taken me aside and told me to take up a sport I could succeed at … like checkers.

I can hear the coach talking, “No really son.  It’s easy.  Red and black. That’s it.  Just red and black. Left,  right or forward.  I’m sure you can handle it.  Just try.  C’mon now there little buddy.  I believe in you.”

Needless to say I was berserk.  I was throwing up … and not just before games but before practice as well.  I could sometimes get through my morning classes without dreading practice but oh baby … by around noon to one o’clock my stomach would start to rumble around and flip like it was one of the rides at Coney Island..  I was commiserating with a friend of mine when a thought drifted into my mind; about how much fun I had had playing as a boy.  I started telling my friend about my childhood.

It was great.  Our lives at least our “play time” revolved around baseball.  During warm weather my dad would come home, we would go into the backyard and play catch and he would throw batting practice to us.  Then we would eat dinner and then, probably a minimum of twice a week, we would go to watch minor league baseball.  It was wonderful.  Magic.

When summer rolled around we played constantly; like the kids in The Sandlot movie; after chores from about ten o’clock in the morning until past dark. 

And of course in those games, nobody kept score or laughed when you dropped the ball or made a bad throw or swung and missed. We just kept playing.  We just had fun.

The memories of those years are vivid beyond belief.  I remember them as if they were yesterday. 

The next game I was in the on deck circle when I started to drift a bit.  Maybe not the best mental skill for a baseball game but this time it was a good drift; all the way back to those summers.  I could see my brother in left field; my friend Chip playing shortstop and Bob on the mound. 

We would play until we wanted a break and then we would go to the corner house where the lady who lived there had a couple of apple trees.  She would let us eat the apples and even put a metal cup out on her spigot for us to drink as long as we turned off the water after we drank 

Suddenly I wasn’t in a college baseball game heading up with an 0 for 19 on my back.  I was in Iowa with my friends.  The memories and feelings were so vivid that I walked to the plate oblivious of anything except for the pure joy of playing baseball and BANG!!! 

Double in the gap 

We all fantasize.  We all make believe.  Hell, actors do it for a living and we can do it to our benefit as athletes and performers.

I recall an interview with Goose Gossage where he was describing closing for the New York Yankees in the World Series.  Millions of fans. National TV.  The whole world watching.

He talked about how nervous he was when suddenly he thought, “Hell … win or lose … either way, I’ll be back at the ranch with my family tomorrow.”  He took a deep breath  WITHOUT the weight of the world on his shoulders and pitched.


Taking on performance anxiety and fears is serious.  We need the “why” for the fear and learn to clear it; clear the interference in order to maximize our performance.  We need to simple “antidotes” for our fears; conquer them and then replace them with confidence.

That type of “fix” requires knowledge and some work; repetition specifically of mental skills and mental skills are no different than physicl skills.  The more you practice the better you get.

Sometimes … often in game situations we don’t have time for a lot of work; just a thought or an image to calm us down and allow us to play to our potential.

Try this one.  “Take the cage to the field.”  Take all those images of all your good times and carry them to the field with you.

The process works when you work the process. 

Believe me … at the highest levels of performance which you all aspire to … mental skills are the MOST IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR GAME.  At the lower levels in sport, mental skills are still "stigmatized". Some student athletes and their parents think that working on mental skills is an admission of weakness; of being broken. Nothing could be further from the truth. ALL major league teams employ mental skills coaches. Mental skills can easily elevate your skills by 5 - 10%. Mental skills work can having you playing at the top of your game CONSISTENTLY. Fixing mechanical skills or getting bigger stronger faster without being tough mentally simply DOES NOT WORK!!!

Sometimes we need help but don’t know who to ask … or how.  Contact me and I can explain all our programs including  sports mental toughness programs which can easily improve your own mental game or that of your son/daughter or the players you coach.

I work with athletes and their families at every level of performance from all over the world using ZOOM over the internet!!!


Karl Avdek, Founder, GC-GP-GH

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