Tag: Mental Training

In the game of baseball, things happen fast. The higher levels you play, the faster it gets. And at the top, with the big boys in the MLB, things happen almost so fast that you can’t even see it. With pitchers like Justin Verlander, Brian Wilson, and Aroldis Chapman throwing fastballs at up to 105.1 mph, you can quite literally blink and miss it. Couple a pitcher’s ability to blow fireballs past a hitter in .395 seconds with their ability to come back with a changeup that seems to mosey in at 80 mph and it’s clear to see that hitters have their work cut out for them. That’s why so many hitters in the MLB log countless hours in the batting cages, studying opponent pitchers’ tendencies, and doing whatever they can to get an edge.

One such technique is pitch recognition, the ability to quickly determine the pitch thrown based on the rotation of the ball and appearance of the laces. But how can players practice such a thing without getting out on the field and facing live pitching?

Don’t worry. There’s an app for that.

Developed by scientists at the University of California Riverside, a new app called UltimEyes was created to help train batters’ brains to work better. In an effort to help “expand brain power,” the app shows a series of blurry, wobbly lines that overtime get closer and closer. By studying such lines, players can become better at distinguishing different lines and help make their vision more acute, which translates to being able to tell the difference between a slider and curveball, for example. UltimEyes was an instant success at California Riverside, helping their team score 42 more runs and earn five more wins than in their previous season. It was so successful, actually, that it made a believer of Coach Doug Smith, an admitted skeptic.

“I’m a bit of an older school guy, but I think if you don’t look at the science part of it when it’s staring you right in the face, you’re not very bright,” Smith said of the app and the process.

UltimEyes is available on the App Store via iTunes for $5.99. While that may seem like a hefty price for a single app, it seems a small price to pay to strengthen your brain and take your game to the next level.

For a look at the different pitches themselves, check out this article by ESPN also accounting the importance of pitch recognition.



New vision app helps baseball players keep eye on the ball. (2014, July 10). CBSNews. Retrieved July 15, 2014, from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-vision-app-is-changing-the-game-for-baseball-players/

On July 1st, 2014, at arguably the greatest venue in all of tennis, two men stepped onto Centre Court at Wimbledon. One of these men proceeded to hit 37 aces, a total of 70 winners, and won in four sets. The other was Rafael Nadal. In what has already been proclaimed one of the biggest upsets in recent tennis history, 19-year-old wildcard Nick Kyrgios defeated Rafael Nadal in just the quarterfinals of the tournament. The win was no fluke, either–Kyrgios won with authority.

Dominating nearly the whole match, Kyrgios set the tone early, opening the first game with an ace. He would ride his nearly untouchable serve, breaching 122 mph at times, all the way through the match until he fittingly ended the game on another ace that seemed all too familiar to the first. And it was not as though Nadal played poorly or rolled over for Krygios to come storming through. While he had some tough shots that created opportunities for Krygios, the story of the day was Krygios’ talent rather than Nadal’s implosion.

Motivated, he said, primarily by the doubt his mother expressed prior to the match’s start, Kyrgios played the whole match with one purpose: enjoy the game. Smiling throughout nearly the whole competition, and even sprinkling happy dances in after particularly important points, Kyrgios had the positive mindset, self-concept, and confidence necessary to accomplish something pretty special. On July 1st, that just so happened to mean defeating the world’s #1 seed, despite sitting at #144 himself.

Nadal was not the only man to see his Wimbledon hopes come to a halt uncharacteristically early. Defending champion Andy Murray, the #3 seed of the tournament, lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals. And while the result for the two tennis greats was the same, seeing the early exit, the circumstances of their losses were quite different.

Simply put: Nadal was outplayed. Kyrgios did what he needed to in order to win. Murray, on the other hand, was guilty of blunder after blunder before succumbing to Dimitrov in straight sets. Finishing the game with a pair of double-faults, Murray appeared to be a shadow of his former self–certainly nothing like the man who had surged past Novak Djokovic in the final the year before. Murray’s body language gave away the true story of the match. Fighting added pains from a back surgery in September of 2013, Murray was down on himself and his abilities from the start. Never once did he seem confident in what he was doing. While he never said outright if something in particular was bothering him–or what it was–he seemed to be waging an inner-war against his own thoughts and confidence, taking himself away from what was happening on the court. This culminated in him collapsing disconsolately into his chair following the match. He rose minutes later only to pay his respects to his hometown fans.

What is there to takeaway then, from these two matches? There seems to be one clear theme: how big a role the mental game can play. We saw it at its best as Kyrgios fought his way to the match of his life, mentally strong and confident through and through. We also saw it at its worst, with Murray collapsing in under the pressure of his own thoughts and ruminations, paving the way for his defeat.

So no matter the stage–Wimbledon or your local tennis courts–keep in mind how significant mental strength is and the impact that it can have on your performance. Practice it each and every day, giving it the same kind of attention you would your physical training. Work to maintain your focus on the task at hand while playing, staying positive each and every step along the way. You never know what might happen. Maybe you will be the next big star breaking onto the scene.



Al-Samarrai, R. (2014, July 1). Rafael Nadal sensationally knocked out by Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios in Wimbledon 2014 fourth round. Retrieved July 3, 2014, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/tennis/article-2676959/Rafael-Nadal-sensationally-knocked-Australian-teenager-Nick-Kyrgios-Wimbledon-fourth-round.html

Andy Murray Loses Wimbledon 2014 Quarter-Final To Grigor Dimitrov. (2014, July 2). The Huffington Post UK. Retrieved July 3, 2014, from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/07/02/wimbledon-andy-murray-loses_n_5551383.html


As world views alter, acceptance for those who contrast our own appearance and ideologies steadily increases. Why is it then, that the thought of being mentally unhealthy is so frightening? The mind is undoubtedly complex. Complications with the organ that is responsible for so many aspects of our body should not be a monumental bombshell. Perfection is impossible, resulting with everyone’s brain being slightly different. Of course, some people pose a greater risk in developing a mental illness – not excluding athletes. The vulnerability that mental illness creates is not an image anyone wants to elicit – especially not an athlete whose whole being is to be stronger than their competitors.

Mental illnesses in sport are often overlooked. Part of that is a result of societal expectations. “Mental health has a stigma that is tied into weakness and is absolutely the antithesis of what athletes want to portray.” Stated by Dr. Thelma Dye Holmes, it shows that many athletes are idealized for their work and are placed into positions as role models; they are people who physically go above and beyond what others would do (Vickers). To be labeled as anything less than the perfection they aspire to be is damaging. But why does seeking help have to be viewed in this way? Sport psychology is tailored to athletes – even those who are no longer competing. At every level, athletes should understand the fundamentals of mental health and know how to implement coping strategies when necessary.

Stress, anxiety, and depression are all felt to some degree by athletes, particularly during competition. When they are put in high pressure scenarios and then expected to perform at their peak each time, relying on the physical aspects of the body is not enough. Training the mind and body together gives a competitive edge that is more powerful than the body alone. Four-time Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington discusses with CNN how her mind is the greatest tool in her arsenal. “The brain is the master computer of the body. Even when we are working on the efficiency of the peripheral components – the legs, the arms, the butt cheeks – we can recruit the seat of all power to enhance the effectiveness of our work.” (Wellington). She goes on to say that there is an obsession with log books and data, to track how far the athlete has come, but the body can only handle so much discomfort until the brain has to take over. When it becomes overbearing, a sick mind won’t be help the athlete strive to their peak. Doubt will be created, and with that, the athlete will falter.

In addition, when the body is under stress, so is the mind. Fatigue, depression, and anxiety stem from this stress, which in turn increases cortisol levels. Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkley have found that chronic stress and cortisol lead to damage within the brain. Their research has uncovered that the fatty tissue surrounding axons, known as white matter, increases in number the more exposed a person is to stress. The severity of this phenomenon is not fully understood, although it is agreed that an increase in white matter decreases the efficiency for communication in the brain leading to problems with memory, decision making, and emotions. They are now looking into how white matter affects such brain disorders as schizophrenia, autism, depression, ADHD, and PTSD (Bergland). A future goal for psychologists and scientists alike is not just to treat these disorders, but to provide information to the public on how to prevent them. Despite opinions of mental illness, getting help when needed is without a doubt the best option for improvement.

The stigma society afflicts on seeking help, whether it’s from professionals or a trusted person, prevent people from reaching their full athletic and mental potential. A sound body needs a sound mind to operate it; avoiding treatment will never fix the problem. There are resources out there to help those in need. Utilizing them doesn’t lessen a person’s worth or abilities, it simply helps strengthen them.



  1. Bergland, C., (2014, February 12). Chronic Stress can Damage Brain Structure and Connectivity. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201402/chronic-stress-can-damage-brain-structure-and-connectivity
  2. Vickers, E., (2013, December 19). The Stigma of Mental Health; is it Increased for Athletes?. Retrieved from http://www.thesportinmind.com/articles/the-stigma-of-mental-health-is-it-increased-for-athletes/
  3. Wellington, C., (2012, July 13). Ironman Champ: Your Mind Matters More. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/13/health/mind-over-matter-wellington/index.html