Mindset: Separating Practice and Games


A major learning point in developing yourself as a baseball player comes from the mindset you have in practice vs. games. These mindsets need to be completely different, and it’s important to understand why. You need to learn how to get yourself to use the right mindset at the right time. Lets explore why the different approaches are important, and if not separated, detrimental to performance.

 Practice Mindset

Lets start by breaking down the practice mindset and how to approach developing yourself as a player away from competition. The first is “skill work”. Skill work is anything that takes practice or repetition to master. There’s no doubt that in the game of baseball, skill work is required to reach your potential as a player. The fundamentals of fielding a groundball, the footwork on the bases, and the technique of swinging a baseball bat are all acquired skills that need to be developed over time through repetition. At times, these skills need to be exaggerated in order to correct bad habits. Let me give you and example:

If you are working on fielding groundballs, there are many techniques that will allow you to field a groundball more efficiently and consistently. Lets say you have a tendency of fielding high, that is, you don’t approach groundballs low enough and so you have a hard time being consistent. In practice, you should exaggerate staying low by consciously thinking about it. You need to get your body to feel the correct fundamentals of this action through conscious thought.

Its only through exaggeration, feel, and constant repetition that you are going to break your bad habit. And these types of corrections can be made to any skill in the game of baseball. Conscious thought and conscious awareness of your body needs to be a major component of your practice time. This is the only way to change bad habits and develop good ones.

 Game Mindset

In contrast to the conscious practice mindset, the game mindset needs to be much more unconscious. When the lights come on and the umpire says, “Play Ball”, it’s about competing with what you have. Some of the skills and corrections you made in practice will show up in the game, some of them won’t. But you’re not worried about that. You’ve developed a completely different mindset that allows you to separate what you’ve done in practice, to what you’re doing in the game. Your instincts kick-in and you don’t care how good or bad your fundamentals are. You don’t care what you look like when you field a groundball. You don’t care how ugly your swing is. Your job is to find a way to get the job done under any circumstances.

This is the competing mindset. The competing mindset doesn’t know anything about fundamentals. The competing mindset just knows what it takes to win on that particular day.

Why you need to separate the two approaches

The competing, unconscious mindset vs. the fundamental, conscious mindset NEEDS to be separated on every level. The reason for this is if the fundamental and conscious mindset creeps into game situations, it will affect your performance in a negative way. The fundamental mindset is not meant for competition, it is only meant to create a feel for correct movement. But when it comes to getting results, it is not an advantageous approach. The practice mindset has NO room in the game day mentality.

Although the game mentality does have a place in the practice environment (simulating competition, and game-like drills are important), it is much more focused on technique and getting yourself better. I always tell my players that if they want to get better, they have to change something. And in order to change something, you have to change it in practice. If you only play games and you never consciously change anything to make yourself better, you will never get better. The same player will show up game after game. If you are satisfied with the player that shows up in the game and have no desire to get better, than maybe the game mindset should be your approach 100% of the time. However, if you have the desire to better yourself, you need to have the ability to separate the practice mindset from the game mindset. If you master this skill, you will reap the benefits of both performance and development.

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About Brian Hamm

My name is Brian Hamm and I am all about "Baseball Development". Through my journey as a high school and college player, I always felt that a competitive advantage eluded me. I constantly researched and discovered new resources, ideas, and theories that have shaped how I coach today. It’s my goal to work relentlessly in order to give my players, clients, and coaches the biggest competitive advantage that will allow them to reach their full potential. My mission is to spread my knowledge to baseball players around the world and help change the developmental process forever.

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