I use two primary sports psychology techniques with my athletes. Both techniques were discussed in our readings of Concentration and Strategies To Train Concentration and The 4 C’s. I use visualization and narrow concentration techniques.

I would like to discuss the techniques used by using one of my athletes who happens to be the starting pitcher for the Pittsburg Pirates, Chris Jakubauskas, formerly with the Seattle Mariners. We use visualization and concentration techniques every day in our strength and conditioning.

I would like to discuss how we use these techniques in training and most importantly how these practiced techniques are transferred onto the mound which is the most difficult task to master for my athletes.

1.    Visualization – In every exercise that we execute we use the technique of visualization. The training example I will use is pulling a sled laterally using a “high knee” pitcher’s start to initiate the pull. I stress “high knee, leg drive, and open hips” as he would execute on the mound. After careful rep and distance schemes, his mind eventually thinks about the movement briefly and the body executes the movement as if he were on the mound. The transfer is “visualizing” this sled movement on the mound and reaping the benefits of the neuro-muscular facilitation of the drill as he executes his pitch. “My mind visualizes briefly and then my body takes over in a natural manner as result of repetitive pulls with the sled in the sand”, Chris Jakubauskas, Pittsburg Pirates.

2.    Narrow Concentration – I am going to use Chris again as an example of using narrow concentration. Our readings state that an athlete must “narrow his or her concentration to minimize distractions”. With a professional pitcher, they do a lot of “thinking” in the bullpen (as opposed to a game where there is less thinking and more like “just do it”) such as working on strike zones which are a third of the plate and the outside and inside corners. “In a game, you think about throwing into weakness and to do this you have to forget who the batter is, and just throw to his weaknesses and let the body take over. If you get caught up in the batter (the distraction), he will crush the ball out of the park.

So I concentrate (narrowly) and forget the distraction and throw to his weaknesses”.  I help him narrow his concentration through forgetting about names, organizations, and crowds. As he trains, I constantly remind him of players who have no weaknesses and are physically larger than he. I do this so much that he has to narrow his concentration to really think about pitching and not the external distractions that can bother an athlete.

Everything in the weightroom and on the track is done with extra noise and we do not get outside unless it is very, very, cold or very, very, hot. I need him to train under horrible conditions so that when he is in baseball conditions, he has no distractions and feels no resistance or fatigue in the later innings.

Weather is a great way to train the heart as well in the area of willpower.


2 outs, bases loaded against Mat Sui, Chris pitching: “I concentrated on not pitching anything down and in and visualized past strikeouts with big names. I forgot the name (the distraction of Mat Sui), and narrowed down to just throwing a good pitch over the plate. Three pitches later, he was out of there”.

I have used these techniques in all sports and all ages. They seem to be effective in my system and the successful “point of transference” seems to lay on the effective use of visualization and narrow concentration.

For every athlete, they learn three things the first session:

1.    Visualize
2.    Narrow your concentration.
3.    Execute….just do it.

Thank you.

Matt Poe