Baseball Magazine

Mental Toughness - Cliff Lee

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
About a year ago I conducted a seminar for teachers about how concepts and strategies within sports psychology can help underachieving students in the classroom.  One thing I talked about was mental toughness.  To give an example of mental toughness, I used an ESPN clip of Cliff Lee speaking after his phenomenal 1-0 win over the Yankees in Game 1 of the 2009 World Series.  The link to the interview is below.
2009 World Series Post-Game Interview
Here are some of the main points young players can take from the clip:

Mental Toughness - Cliff Lee

Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee


  • Staying calm under pressure is in large part a result of putting in the work beforehand.  If you practice correctly, both physically and mentally, there is no need to be nervous.  You know that you have done everything you can do to prepare for the game.  Players that have not prepared correctly are many times the ones that get too nervous because they know they are not fully ready to perform at their best.
  • Don't try to do too much.  Pitching is about changing speeds and location, avoiding patterns, getting ahead of hitters, and pitching to contact.  It's not really that complicated.  Even on the biggest stage of all. 
  • Understand that things will never be ideal.  His number of days rest and therefore his preparation routine was screwed up because of the extra days between starts.  Did it faze him?  Nope.  Almost a complete non-factor because he didn't let it be.
  • Mental toughness does not necessarily mean an aggressive, rah-rah, in-your-face type of personality.  It can simply be remaining calm under pressure and eliminating any distractions.  It's the quiet confidence Cliff Lee showed throughout the short interview.
  • The final point involves what he didn't say.  Think back to that game.  Do you remember the weather in Philadelphia?  It was in the low 40's and drizzling.  Quite possibly the worst pitching weather there is.  What's very telling is that it's never even mentioned in the interview!  Too many players would have just complained about the conditions and allow it to impact their thinking and performance. Not Cliff Lee.  Another complete non-factor because he didn't allow it to be.

All valuable lessons for players looking to go from good to great.
Below are some of my previous posts that involve the mental side of the game.
Mental Game Resources
The Mental Side of the Game
Show up, Suit up, Shut up, Play Hard
"Make-Up"
Thanks for reading!

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