My name is Kurt and I'm in my second year of college. I play baseball for the college and had the most frustrating season last year. I played 3rd base and did fine up through about the first 10 games. Then I had a throwing error high over the first baseman's head. Every game after that, each time I received a grounder I would throw the ball into the dirt about 3 feet before reaching the 1st baseman. It's like as soon as I get the ball, I think too much and can't make the throw. I'm guessing this all occurred because I didn't want to get benched or make the coach angry by not being able to make the play. It's like my confidence has gone out the window, and I am struggling to get it back. However, I can make the play during practice, it's in a game when there is an actual runner when I choke. And this is really getting to me. Futhermore, my teammates would tell me not to think about it, which does not help me at all because then I would tell myself not to think about thinking about it. I hope you can see my problem and maybe generate some advice that could help me climb out of my whole.
What you are experiencing is not uncommon among athletes. I worked with one athlete, a young girl who played third base for a Divison I Fast Pitch College Softball team, who suddenly began throwing badly to first. In her case, her coaches were trying all kinds of behavioral techniques with her - like putting a spot on the first baseman's glove, having her throw to first blindfolded, videotaping her throwing to first, etc., etc. When I met with her privately, I found she was very religious and had created a belief that she was being punished by God. (I won't go into the reasons why.) I asked her if she had ever discussed this with her minister and she said no. So I suggested she do so the next Sunday when she attended church. When she discussed her issue with her minister, he assured her she was not being punished by God and the next game, she was back in her normal groove, which, by the way, was excellent. I make this point, not because I believe you are having a similar religious experience but because often times, there is some activity or event that takes place off the field, not even related to sports, that can affect your confidence and your performance on the field. I encourage you to ask yourself if there is anything going on in your personal life about which you are "withholding." That is, keeping your feelings and emotions bottled up? Did you do something dishonest or tell a lie or a half-truth? Is there a particular issue that is hanging over your head like a dark cloud that you have yet to resolve and keep putting off its resolution? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, I would encourage you to have a meeting with your coach, or an assistant coach, or someone who you trust who will not be judgmental when listening to you. On the other hand, if none of the above is true, you might consider using some "experiential" way of ridding yourself of this "self-limiting belief." One technique I've used with basketball teams when one of the players (generally a 3-point shooter) believes that he can't make a three-point shot because every time he tries, if he misses, the coach will pull him out of the game and bench him. Now, I know what I'm about to write may sound ridiculous but I can only tell you it does work. Write your belief on a small piece of paper (such as: "Every time I throw to first, I throw the ball into the ground because I'm afraid the coach will bench me") then crumble the paper in your hand, drop it on the floor, then get down on your hands and knees and push it along with your nose. Do this for about 5 or 10 yards in front of some of your teammates. Then stop, pick up the piece of paper, and throw it past your teammates into a trash basket. You can also do the same by taking it outside and burying it, again with some of your teammates watching. Good Luck.