For the experiment, a unique and different field study will
be conducted. For over a century people have studied
the game of baseball and the way it works. How do players get a feel
for the game? Are the talents of these athletes strictly naturally
given, or do they take years of training and exercise in order to cultivate
the skill needed to perform the game at a high level of intensity?
These are just some of the questions baseball coaches, players, scouts,
and analyzers of the game have been trying to discover.
Over the past few decades, psychology has become a major tool
for sports in general. For example, always trying to look for new
strategies to help improve their game that they bring to the table.
Many strategies, techniques, and new ideas have been tried, some have worked
and some have failed. But for the most part sports on any level,
whether little league or professional, all have a certain degree of psychology
involved within them.
“The field of sports Psychology has experienced rapid growth in the
last five years. Elite and professional athletes use elements of
sports psychology to improve their performance. ProFormance provides
sports psychology training programs for experienced practitioners.
These training sessions provide background strategies and tools for adding
a sports psychological component to an established practice”(Professional
Sports Psychology Group Process).
In the study a training exercise will be taught to the participants,
from the game of baseball, in order to help them improve their skills at
a fielding position. But in this experiment we will be using a subject
pool filled with people whom are not used to playing the sport to any major
degree. In other words these people are not players of the game at
this juncture of their lives.
Helps in Sports:
Before moving onto discussing the major aspects of this field
test we will be first looking at some other related psychological tools
used to enhance performance in sports. In the study different strategies
people have tested to see if they help people improve their game skills
in any way. Exploring the different aspects of how psychology has
been affecting sports in a positive manner over the course of its history
helps us to truly understand the importance of the psychology of sports.
Today we now have different strategies to help athletes develop and
improve their game. Tools such as visualization, this is seeing in
one’s mind events and occurrences before they happen. This could
also include a mental run-through of how athletes will conduct themselves
in a certain situation. Another strategy is presence and awareness.
Where an athlete will focus on resting and getting the mind calmly adjusted
to the goal at hand. Not letting themselves be concerned over mistakes
or misses. Not over-practicing the day before an event, and trying
to eliminate stressors that may impede performance (Performance & Sports
“Professional Sports Psychology Group is dedicated to reducing stresses
of individual team members and improving collaboration and team success
within professional sports organizations. Through counseling and
developing skills in areas such as anger management, performance enhancement,
adaptability and teamwork, athletes are afforded a greater chance of success”(Professional
Sports Psychology Group).
Throughout life, when playing sports, athletes have always been told
to keep a cool head and not let the opposing players psych them out in
any way, shape, or form. Not to let anyone else get a psychological
edge or advantage on them in any way. Stressors such as fear and
anxiety are normal healthy feelings that athletes need to have to a certain
degree. Without them they would be flat and lifeless (Performance
& Sports Enhancement Corner). Now this study will
be taking that knowledge and using it to test one of the physical aspects
of the game. Setting up this study using a psychological design while
testing physical ability and how it can be improved upon at the same time.
Sports in Psychology
Sports psychology first came into play when coaches and players
wanted to test the mental as well as physical aspects of sports.
These players and coaches wanted to find out how the persons mental status
affected people on and off the field of play. After the 1970’s the
use of psychology in competitive sports spread widely (Professional Sports
Psychology Group Process). The purposes of the application of psychology
to sports are to secure the mental health of the participants, to improve
sport performance, and to select, limit, and guide the influences on the
participants. The most common techniques of psychotherapy used include
relaxation techniques, desensitization procedures, cognitive therapy, behavioral
modifications, and group dynamics (Geron, 1983). The mental health
of those involved in sports is crucial, especially on the pro and amateur
For Example, we have all seen Chuck Knoblocke lose control of his physical
game, by throwing balls away from the first base bag and making so many
throwing errors, because of his mental condition. When the game itself
gets into someone’s head and they feel that they cannot perform their task
it can ruin a person’s career and their self-esteem. Making the problem
a lot more difficult to correct. Now counseling is available for
athletes to try to help avoid these types of problems. Counseling
services may include the areas of how to effectively deal with media and
lifestyle management including family, marriage, child development, career,
retirement, drug and alcohol abuse, and other personal issues (Professional
Sports Psychology Group).
The pressures athletes receive from the fan base, media, and coaches
are extremely intense. This is obvious to see because of the strenuous
training athletes put themselves through to be in the best shape they can
be in order to perform at their highest level. It is also shown in
others ways such as in the wear and tear on their body’s that athletes
undergo. Athletes today need methods for relaxation and desensitization.
Other methods mentioned such as the cognitive therapy approach and the
behavioral modification approach are huge helps in the field.
Elements of mental skill and performance enhancement training include;
the use of visualization for sport-specific skill enhancement, arousal
control methods to maximize control over physiological reactions, attention/concentration
exercises to maximize the athlete’s ability to focus, the use of various
cognitive techniques to direct the athletes inner voices, the development
of a “mental recovery device” to use under high stress situations, and
a confidence-building program tailored to individual athlete’s styles (Professional
Sports Psychology Group).
When an athlete becomes able to keep emotions and behaviors in
check this is when he or she is at their most productive state. Athletes
call this being in the zone. This is the place where they can block
out all of the outside world and concentrate at their challenge at hand.
Helping them to mentally focus on one thing, and only having just the one
task on their mind. They are constantly trying to find new ways of
helping them focus on one thing and blocking out what is around them.
Keeping a cool head is one of the most important aspects of sports.
It is right up there with confidence and natural given ability. Many
of the most gifted athletes of today do not even make it to the professional
level because of their mental status. The pressures become too much
for them and they collapse because mentally they cannot cut it. Physically
they have all the skills needed to be a star, but emotionally and mentally
the struggle is too much for them.
“The higher an athletes self-esteem, the closer they will perform
to their skill level. But athletes often follow paths of behavior
that are self-destructive, without realizing the consequences. For
example, when athletes withhold their feelings, it is often a form of lying
that demeans them, creating psychological baggage that affects their ability
to focus and process data. In many instances this shows up in explosive
and misdirected anger (on and off the field) and mental errors during competition.
But once an athlete’s issues (personal, team-related, coach-related) are
dealt with in a positive manner and brought to completion, their life will
be more in harmony and it is only then that visualization techniques will
be effective. This process is called Psycho-Self Imagery” (Mind Over
In the experiment the mental status and concentration of the participants
must be zoned in when they are taking the fielding tests. Reaching
the zone means the participants must be totally focused in on the task
at hand. If not the point and purpose of the experimental design
will be a flop. Just proving in sports mentality is the most important
thing that needs to be prevalent in an athletes mind.
Earlier studies have been done to test the research in the field
of sports psychology. And this particular one represents examples
from three areas; structural types of motor skills, training method, and
modeling of sports activity. It was argued that the significance
of psychology will grow from basic research and simulation of man as an
automatic system; discovery of the regulating laws of his activity should
be the focus of this research (Rokusfalvy, 1977). Here we were looking
into experimental tests designed to recognize and discover the strengths
and weaknesses of the human motor skills, how people train for their sports
interests, and ways of modeling their sports activity.
This can help my study in certain ways as well. Knowing
the abilities and disabilities of a person is key in testing the athletic
prowess of a person. Understanding the limitations of a person and
knowing their weaknesses will help me to not expect too much or too little
from the participants. Having an understanding of motor skills will
help me to have patience with the learning process of the experiment and
know that practice does not make perfect. But it does make strong
and healthy improvements.
Another study conducted set out to discover and or identify some
of the various problems in sports psychology (Vanek, 1981). Such
problems currently being looked into on things such as motivation, the
relationships of activity and personality, the determination of volitional
effort by emotional categories, and social conditions of activity for individual
and group achievement (Vanek, 1981). These are major problems in
the study of sports psychology. Most people know that when people
are not motivated that it brings down their interest in whatever it is
that they may be doing. The moral of the participants will be a big
deal for the designer of the experiment during the testing. If the
subjects do not want to be there participating, then the results can often
times be skewed. That is why in the experimental design an attempt
will be made to choose from a subject pool of healthy males and females
between the ages of 18-24.
The study will hopefully be made into an interesting design where
the participants will want to be there, not only helping me out, but becoming
better at a hands on physical skill. As well as helping us to better
understand the psychology of sports. It is very important to rule
out and try to get rid of as many confounding variables as possible.
So when it is time to total up the results they will be as accurate as
possible. We want the participants in both groups to encourage the
rest of their group members to do well and succeed. Positive reinforcement
and energy is very uplifting for groups when they are trying to learn or
improve on a new task. The subjects will be polled to make sure they
have an interest in the challenge they will be presented with for the experimental
design. Those asked to perform the task whom are uninterested will
be replaced with someone who is willing to put fourth the effort in the
experiment. This will also help out so that the results will not
be skewed or confounded.
Other baseball studies have been tried and tested for the soul
fact of improving a team’s skills (Frozen Ropes Training Tips). This
includes tips on how to build a stronger team. Strategies talking
about limiting practice times as not to over practice and burn out the
players. Tools such as respecting the game, its rules, and the field
it is played on. Have one person stay after for one on one workouts
after each practice session. Being sure to allow time for proper
warm-ups and stretching. This also includes other things such as
players knowing their situations. It must be a natural reaction for
a player to go to the right place during the right time, the scenarios
of the game. Who needs to back up what positions and which base the
ball needs to be thrown to when it is hit to them. Which base the
ball needs to go to depending on whether or not there are men on base or
depending on how many outs there are when the situation occurs. All
these are simple defensive mental parts of the game, which do not show
up on the stat sheets after the games. The same applies for the offensive
part of the game. The mental aspects of the game which are never
written down are as equally, if not more important than the physical aspects
of it. The participants are going to have to work hard in order to
improve. And the control group in the experiment will also have to
work hard at their task so the results will be totaled fairly.
The next important part of psychological sports research is the
coaching aspects of the game. Good coaches get into their players
heads. They lead and guide them in a positive manner (Psychological Activity).
They train them mentally and physically so they will be prepared to make
the pressure plays in big situations. And so they will also have
mental ability to stay focused and make the routine plays when the intensity
level in the game is at a down point (Psychological Activity). If
players do not receive good encouragement and credit for what they are
doing they become disinterested. And that is when mistakes are made.
Good coaches know how to strategize and know where to put players so
they will have the highest level of success. They know who to play
and when to play who, so the best results will happen for the team.
Coaching involves mentality as well. It is a constant chess match
between opposing coaches on predicting how the other will make their next
move, or how they plan to attack the next situation during the game.
More studies have also been done testing and helping to unlock
the undiscovered powers of one’s mind and gain a competitive edge.
The techniques used include voluntary relaxation, visualization, and attitude
enhancement (Sports Psychology, mental training for every player).
In my study visualization will be key. The participants need to focus
their eyes on the task at hand by not being distracted by the outside world
around them. Performing the one task is what they are asked to do.
Concentrating and having solid hand-eye coordination is going to play a
large factor as to whether or not the participants will improve with help
of the fielding enhancement technique design.
Other tests of sports psychology help to teach athletes to accept
failure. No one is perfect. And no matter how good someone
is there is always someone out there who is better, bigger, faster, and
stronger. Learning to deal with failures is a huge part of sports.
Baseball is no different. It is a game of failures and successes.
“If one cannot learn to conquer and accept their defeats, they will never
be able to go anywhere in the life of sports” (Aronson, Baseball in Psychology).
In the study I am conducting I will need the participants to be able to
keep their heads up even if they do not succeed. If they make a mistake
with a ground ball, just to shake it off and attack and field the next
one that will be coming at them. Pouting and feeling bad for yourself
does not get a person anywhere in sports. Accepting failure and putting
your mind to successfully completing the next task is such an important
aspect of the game. If a person focuses on their failures it will
be in the back of their mind during the next plays to come. And when
this occurs people become tentative and more errors are sure to be made.
Athletes on every level are expected to set goals for themselves.
Even in the experiment being run, all the participants will be expected
to set goals for themselves. Goals should be set. They should
not be set too high or too low. They need to be high enough in order
to challenge the person. And not too low, because the person will
not be challenged enough. If the participants do not actively want
to improve then my results will be skewed and that would not fair well
As mentioned briefly before the visualization aspect of the game
is a very crucial part. When scouts are looking for players they
look for people who have a feel for the game. Hitters who know how
to pick up spins on the ball and can adjust to its flight, and still be
able to hit the ball hard in some direction. Other studies have had
people perform visual tests to improve eyesight and train players on what
to look for. Helping them learn to pick up rotations so they can
make better contact or to help them recognize the spins in flight to help
determine where the ball will land after it is hit (Vision Training for
Athletes). Learning how to play the rolls and bounces in the field
and being able to determine if a ball in motion will stay fair or go foul
(Vision Training for Athletes). The participants in the study will
be hit grounders, and hopefully they will learn to pick up spins on the
ball and the different ways for which it bounces on the field. My
goal is that they will improve their hand-eye coordination as well as their
fielding ability. Vision training for athletes has now been compared
to and viewed as being just as helpful as weight training (Vision Training
Eye tracking is the ability to accurately follow the path of a
moving object a long period of time. In all sports, being able to
follow the path of the ball is the most important skill. Eye focusing
is the alignment and function of the two eyes. In sports, you must
be able to focus instantly on the ball near and far, quickly and accurately
(Sports Vision and Baseball). In this study focus on eye positioning
and will help to determine the flight path of a ball. Depth perception
is the ability to judge distance or how close or far something is from
you. In baseball it is the ability to judge a high fly ball or throw
accurately to a base. Hand-eye coordination is the ability to make
the hand do what the mind and eyes see (Sports Vision and Baseball).
Here another example is explained on how depth perception and hand-eye
coordination play key roles. In my experiment the participants will
have to judge the balls being hit to them. They will be challenged
to make these types of decisions in the heat of the moment.
A final note needed to be said about infielders. The participants
in the study will be fielding ground balls so it is crucial they have some
idea about how to act and react like an infielder would. The participants
will need to be sure they are never caught standing still. They need
to always be prepared for the next ball coming at them. They will
need to anticipate and do their best to settle the ground in front of them
being sure that any holes will not misdirect the ball’s path. They
will have to be ready by standing on the balls of their feet as well as
be moving forward at the time when the play begins or ground ball is hit
(Eteamz, Making a Baseball Infielder). Finally, the participants
will need to be able to focus on their fielding mechanics when taking the
ground balls (Baseball: Effective Fielding Mechanics). The participants
will have prior notice as to what they will be doing. So hopefully
this will motivate them to do some research, or be prepared and know something
about fielding mechanics and the proper way to take ground balls.
Lastly, we will be moving away from previous research on sports,
baseball, and how psychology is involved in all of its aspects. Also
included are the ways in which all these prior studies have significant
relevance and involvement in what my experiment will be entailing.
I suppose it is time to present you with my theory on how this experiment
will be conducted. What you don’t know is how the participants are
going to be used. In the study sixteen to twenty participants will
be split up into two groups of eight or ten. One control group and
one experimental group of subjects will be used. The control group
will be receiving a glove to field the ground balls that will be hit to
The experimental group will be given a flat paddle that will be
able to be attached to their hand from the back of the paddle. They
will be hit ground balls from the same distance and of equal power as the
control group. Each member of each group will receive ten groundballs
each. At the end of the training exercises, which only the control
group’s stats will be recorded and scored in as part of the results, the
participants will then all be given a glove to take ground balls with.
Then testing will be recorded on both groups.
The only reason the control group’s stats will be recorded the first
two series of training is because they are being tested to see if their
fielding percentage improves over the span of practice time. Both
groups will be hit grounders from the same distance and at the same level
of power that the ball is struck on all series of trainings. Besides
the first series of grounders the third series will be the only other one
in which all the participants and groups will be graded or judged.
The point of the study is to see if the training exercise with
the paddle, that the experimental group took grounders with, will help
to improve their fielding percentage once they are given gloves to use.
This is in comparison to the control group, which used gloves for all series
of training. The main focus being observed is to see whether or not
the training with the paddles will help to improve the fielding percentage
of grounders for the experimental group in comparison to the control group.
The hypothesis is the group who uses the paddles during
the field training and then uses regular gloves on the final series of
official testing, will improve their fielding percentage of ground balls.
In comparison to the control group, who used gloves during the prior series
of training, and on the final series of the official testing. So
in a nut shell that is the hypothesis and back-up information to go along
with it. Hopefully the combination of prior research studies and
information, and personal experienced knowledge of the game of baseball,
will produce an interesting and insightful experiment where something new
can be learned.
Return to top
Rokusfalvy, Pal, “Studia Psychologia: Certain Problems of Experimental
Basic Research in Sports Psychology”. Vol. 17(2), 1975. Pg 162-167.
Vanek, M. “Current Problems in Psychology of Sports”. Vol.
21(5), 1977. Pg 411-415. 1981-04464-001.
Geron, Emma. “International Journal of Sports Psychology”. Vol.
14(2), 1983. Pg 123-131.
Frozen Ropes Training Tips: Practice Organizational
Psychological Activity: The Intended Use of the Sport Psychology
Consultation System. http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/dept/coachsci/vol33/rushall4.htm
Sports Psychology: Mental Training for Every Player.
Aronson, Elliot. “Baseball and Psychology”. http://faculty.ed.umuc.edu/~mofsowit/aronson.html
Visual Fitness Institute: Testing Training and Improving Athletes’
Visual Skill Level Through the Use of the Most Technologically Advanced
Training Techniques and Equipment. http://www.visualfitness.com/programs.html
Vision Training for Athletes: Is it Weight Training for the Eyes.?
Sports Vision and Baseball: As We Approach the 21st Century.
ETeamz: Baseball Infield Making an Infielder http://eteamz.com/baseball/instruction/tips/tip.
Baseball: Effective Fielding Mechanics. http://howtoplay.com/baseball/fielding.html
Professional Sports Psychology Group: http://www.performanceinc.com/pspg_services.html
Performance & Sports Enhancement Corner: http://lifefirst.com/cor_PerfSports.asp
Professional Sports Psychology Group Process: http://www.proformance-inc.com/training.html