Routine is something that has forever been a big part of sports and in particular baseball.  At the professional level, you're playing almost every day for 162 games.  Even at the amateur level, you're playing at least four games a weekend in tournaments, 3 a week in high school, or up to 5 in college.  We've got reporting times, stretching times, BP times, times to announce the lineups, and so on.  It's all part of creating an environment of routine.  Us normal people are the same way.  You probably have a certain time that you wake up in the morning for school/work and a routine you follow in the morning to get ready.

While I completely agree with the use of routine, I have my doubts about some of the teachings on the topic today and whether athletes are really getting it.  The place where the practice of routine is more evident than any other sporting setting I have seen is the College World Series.  If you watched this year, you no doubt saw the battle between the home plate umpire and hitters in between pitches to stay in the box and keep the game moving.  Some hitters made me feel like I was watching rhythmic gymnastics with the extensive nature of their pre-pitch routines.   That and EVERYBODY going deep breath and stare at the barrel of the bat is what stood out to me.

I'm not questioning the use of routine.  I am a huge advocate for it.  There are a couple of concepts I think have to be considered and ultimately questioned before you blankly say, "I'm big on the mental game.  I have routine."  The first is the routine has to be yours.  When I see a full lineup of hitters all have the same exact pre-pitch routine I can't help but wonder if the coach has forced them to do so because, "You have to have a routine."  For me, that is no different than making every hitter have the same exact swing.  It's ineffective coaching.  Second, understand the purpose behind what you are doing.  Why do you have this pre-pitch routine?  The routine is to create a feeling of comfort, control, and lock into the present moment.  One thing to ask yourself is, "Is my routine helping minimize thoughts, or is it clouding my head with even more?"  If the answer is the latter, it may be a good idea to reassess.

As a player, I was probably way too dependent on routines for the creation of comfort.  I had to eat the same pregame meal, listen to the same song driving down to the field and end it at the exact time (Clarence Carter- Strokin), take the same number of swings with the same drills, and so on.  While I do think some routine is great, I became a slave to my routine.  What I was unknowingly doing is taking the control of my performance and giving it to a song or a certain food (and not for nutritional purposes).  Think about how ridiculous that is for a moment!  That control was really given in my thought process more so than the actual routine.  I'd be anxious about completing my routine and then be anxious about my performance.

In closing, I implore you to understand a couple of things again.  Your routine is up to you as much as your swing is up to you.  Don't become a routine robot!  Also, understand the purpose of the routine instead of just saying, "Well, they do it so I guess I should."  Create the feeling of comfort, and lock into the present moment.  Routine should be a tool to for you to control and not vice versa.


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