Psyched Online

LETTER OF THE MONTH

TO: questions@psychedonline.org
FROM: XXXXXX@msn.com
SUBJECT: Mental Throwing Problem
DATE: Wed, 18 Jun, 2004

Gary wrote:

I have a problem and I hope you can help. Half way through this past varsity baseball season my 16 year old son developed some throwing problems as a catcher. When attempting to throw he would have problems releasing the ball, sometimes double clutching or throwing the ball directly into the ground right in front of him. As I watched these throwing tendencies develop with my son I became very concerned and was reminded of my senior year as a catcher in high school. I played four years of high school varsity baseball but unfortunately I ended my senior year not able to throw the ball 60 feet back to the pitcher. Throwing a baseball is something most take for granted and not many people within baseball circles can relate to this problem. Its very frustrating, humiliating and a lonely feeling for a 16 year boy that previously never gave throwing a baseball a second thought.

I have talked with several people that have struggled with this problem themselves, or had a son with the problem. My son is currently doing throwing drills using a “grading system” but never has the problem during these drills. He only struggles when throwing around the team during practice or game situations. I’m wondering if the focus should be with a psychologist instead of continuing with throwing drills in an isolated environment.

My son and I would greatly appreciate any recommendations or contact information you can provide to help deal with this problem.

I hope to hear from you soon. Thanks, Gary.

TO: XXXXXX@msn.com
FROM: psychedonlineorg@yahoo.com
SUBJECT: RE: Mental Throwing Problem
DATE: Wed, 18 Jun 2004

Hi Gary and son,

I did get a chance to read your email. Here are some thoughts. One. It sounds like the throwing problem has a become a thing in itself. An approach is to shut off the thinking. The world it is focused on the more problematic in can get. Your son has all the anticipatory failure thoughts and visions. The humiliation and shame have become another level of the problem put on top of the original problem. The more problem solving strategies attempted, the more it become ingrained that there is a problem to resolve. It is paradoxical. The approach is more to get the weight off the problem, get away from thoughts. Easier said than done. I would suggest creative visualization approaches. Where he gets to “see” himself in a game situation making the throw he wants to make. He needs to create it himself in all the details possible. There is an article in www.psychedonline.org on creative visualization. I suggest he and you review it. I would be glad to help you on the telephone or on line to create visualizations. He needs to see in his mind what it is like to catch the ball and go through the throwing the ball, seeing it fly and reach the target. The visualization should include all game situations. He needs to practice this visualization before playing, during play and after playing. Remember he might have to make a number of attempts to create a visualization that works for him. There is no right or wrong visualization.

Two. Create a state of mindlessness. There are thought stopping techniques. Again there is an article in Psyched that is specifically targeted to achieving this mindless state.

Three. Relaxation. There are many relaxation techniques that your son can use. He must practice them. Throwing the ball in the ground sounds like his muscles are tightening up at the point of throwing. No athletic attempt is successful when muscles are tight. He has to teach his muscles to relax by practicing relaxation techniques. Then when he is actually playing he needs to use relaxation methods. This is not an issue of skills. He knows how to throw. There is just too much thinking in the way of execution.

Let me know what you think of these ideas and if you need help directly. I will go through the process with him and you if you would like. Also, let me know what progress or lack of progress is made.

Good Luck,

Paul Schienberg, Ph.D.
Editor/Publisher