ABCA Clinic Recaps - Dr. Tom Hanson


Liam Carroll

How To Teach Players To Stop Choking & Start Playing Big In 15 Minutes
Dr. Tom Hanson – Author, Play Big Baseball

Clinic Topics

1. 3 Crucial Distinctions
2. Teach Players to Play Big in 15 Minutes or Less
3. Why Players Choke (and don’t learn what you teach)

This was the second clinic focussing on sport psychology following Jim Meier, highlighting a growing interest in and demand for this kind of expertise from coaches at all levels.  Tom Hanson will be familiar to anyone who has read Heads-Up Baseball, one of the best books on the mental game of baseball, which he co-authored with Ken Ravizza.  It’s the type of book you won’t get back very quickly if you loan it out.  It’s also available in audio-book format and can make for great listening. 

Hanson’s presentation seemed to be a sales pitch for his business; that said, he did speak about some topics that reinforced or expanded upon some concepts from the book.  Here are notes from his outline:

Part A: 3 Crucial “Distinctions”
1. Distinguish means to clarify or to bring from the background to the foreground.
2. Simplify – this is your job as an expert.
3. Coaching is a relationship business.

“My biggest early coaching mistake was focussing on improving my players more than improving myself.”

Create a “winning emotional context” (feel it).

Part B: Teach Players to Play Big in 15 Minutes or Less


“Our bodies change your mind!”

How to coach the ABCs:
• What should you do when you’re ahead?
• What should you do when you’re behind?
• What should you do when you get a yellow light?
• What should you do when the umpire is bad?
• You must practice the ABCs if you want them to show up under pressure.

Part C: Why Players Choke (and don’t learn what you teach)

Humans are not designed for baseball.

The critical variable: a belief (cellular level) that “baseball is a fun challenge” vs. “baseball is a threat.”

My Mission: “teach players, coaches, and parents to free themselves from a belief system based on fear and return it to a belief system based on love.”

My Most Important Thing

Two questions for you:

How important do you think the mental game of baseball is?
How much of your practice is dedicated to the mental game?

The mental game of baseball is about playing one pitch at a time, with confidence.  That’s incredibly difficult to do.  If you expect your players to stay in the present moment (with confidence) for an entire game, you better be practicing your mental skills.  Dr. Hanson and other sport psychologists have identified the skills and concepts and proved that thoughts follow actions.  Like any other skills, the mental ones must be practiced.

Last Up: Rod Olson

On Deck: Kevin Barr


tagged under: baseball, coaching, softball, sport psychology

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About Liam Carroll

Liam Carroll

Liam was a Regional Coach and then Development Coordinator for BaseballSoftballUK until May 2014. He returned to his hometown of London to work for BSUK in 2010 after stops in Somerset, Bristol, Cornwall, California and Nevada. Growing up playing in Britain, Liam made the move to America to study and play university baseball. After figuring out that his future would be brighter as a coach rather than player, he moved to the University of Nevada Las Vegas to finish his degree and coach college baseball. Since then he’s coached youth and adult teams on both sides of the atlantic and with the Great Britain Baseball National Teams.

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