In my opinion fielding slumps are as real as hitting slumps. I’ve lived ’em, breathed ’em and agonized about ’em. THEY ARE REAL and I still get goosebumps thinking about them! The cause of fielding slumps can differ from player to player or even slump to slump, and hopefully the slumps are few and far between.
What is a slump?
Webster’s Dictionary defines a slump, among other things, as “a sudden severe or prolonged fall in the price, value or amount of something” and in this case it’s our defensive performance. That’s great but how do slumps happen?
How does a slump start?
If you think about an offensive slump, the most popular slump in the realm of slumps, the batter can either be off with mechanics, timing, or focus (thinking too much). The longer those flaws are present it begins to affect the players mental state. The same can be said for the defensive slump.
A defensive slump can start with poor mechanics stemming from a bad habit acquired over time, like flipping your glove for example. They can start by poor footwork or even something as simple as not focusing on the ball. No matter how the physical, mechanical, or mental flaw begins it will more times than not affect the timing of the fielding process leading to misplays or errors. As in the offensive slump, the longer these flaws linger the bigger the toll it takes on the mental psyche of the fielder often leading to a lack of confidence. If the mental psyche is not nurtured the slump can last quite a while; weeks, months or seasons.
Feel a slump beginning?
Physically the best thing we can do to battle slumps is to keep everything simple and get back to the basics. Focus on the hops of the ball, establish rhythmic footwork, and eliminate unnecessary glove movement. Making those three things a priority in a pre-practice, pre-game or drill setting will undoubtedly help right the ship. This is where your daily prep work can come in handy. Doing your daily prep work on a consistent basis with those points of emphasis is the best physical combatant to slumps. Sometimes it’ll take a short drill or extra work session to get back on track but other times it’ll take multiple.
The easiest time to break a slump is early on. Try to prevent it from growing a mind of it’s own. Righting the ship in the midst of a slump starts with having a good routine and strong mental game. A good routine is a way for you to get back to neutral and return to a form of normalcy. It’s important to have routines for every facet of the game; offense, defense, pre-game, pre-practice, error recovery, you name it and a solid routine can make all the difference. Routines mixed with a short term memory and positive outlook/self talk can prevent us from heading down a rabbit hole of emotions that can take a slump from a few days to a few months.
A deeper dive into routines will come in a future post.
Fielding slumps are real and sometimes there is no way to avoid them from starting. The best course of action on the physical side is to take quality, purposeful reps and attack the slump head on by getting back to the basics and fundamentals. Mentally combat slumps by having a tough mental game. Have your routine and stick with it. Remain positive and attack the slump head on.