The Streaks and Slumps of Batting Inertia
An object in motion tends to stay in motion; an object at rest tends to stay at rest – at this point we are all fairly well aware of Sir Isaac Newton’s principle of inertia. Your kids may even be learning about inertia right now as well, whether or not they have reached that point in their school’s curriculum. Anyone who has ever played baseball or softball knows that the laws of inertia also apply to batting.
When a batter is in the midst of a hitting streak, it feel’s like they’re on top of the world. When you’re hot, nothing can stop you; it even seems like the longer the streak, the better you continue to swing. Maybe it’s not exactly how Newton defined it, but that’s inertia in action. That great feeling that accompanies a hitting streak will continue to get better, especially as the streak continues to grow.
However great a hitting streak may be, as Newton put it, an object will only continue moving at a set velocity until some force causes its speed or direction to change.
When it comes to a hitting streak in baseball or softball, that force usually comes in the form of a strikeout. All it takes is one less-than-perfect at bat to derail a long string of hits, and just like that, the direction of your streak has changed. Once a batter slips into a slump, it is just as difficult to break the habit as it was when they were streaking. This pattern might resemble Newton’s principle of inertia, but it’s not science that prolongs streaks and slumps; it’s all in the head.
A little bit of confidence goes a long way – when a hitter has already been doing well at the plate, they’ll see an improvement in their self-esteem and likely also an improvement in their hitting trend. Similarly, after several rough at bats a hitter will likely have less confidence in their ability to make contact with the pitch, and will then subsequently be more likely fail to do so. A self-fulfilling prophecy.
So when it comes to kids’ sports, how can we combat these head games that we are all guilty of playing with ourselves? The best option is to remind kids why they wanted to play baseball in the first place: to have fun. Winning and losing (and also hitting performance) take a backseat as long as everyone is having fun and putting forth their best effort. This philosophy should help put things in perspective for kids and parents alike, keeping everyone’s focus on what is really important about Little League.
However, that does not mean that a homerun or a good hustle to first base doesn’t warrant positive feedback and reinforcement. Always be generous about dishing out encouragement and high fives; just be sure not to let kids get down on themselves if it’s been a while since they last made it on base. All it takes is one hit to end a long slump!