September 28, 2016
TUCSON, Ariz. — Conquering mental demons in baseball is just as important as being physically skilled.
University of Arizona Head Coach Jay Johnson is one of the top coaches in the nation at molding his players into mental razors.
In his first season as skipper of the Wildcats, he led them to a second place finish at the 2016 College World Series as Arizona finished with a 49-24 overall record and wins in 17 of their last 21 games.
The previous two years as Head Coach at Nevada, Johnson guided the Wolf Pack to a 72-42 record.
In 2015, Nevada posted a 41-15 record and captured the school’s first-ever Mountain West title.
Before his stint at Nevada, Johnson was the associate head coach at the University of San Diego from 2006-13. He was part of Torero teams that made six NCAA post-season trips and captured four West Coast Conference titles.
Previously, he coached at Point Loma Nazarene, serving as an assistant from 2002-04. He then took over the program as the head coach in 2005 and led the Sea Lions to a 37-16 record.
At every stop in his coaching career, his players have been students of the mental game and excelled.
“I have had two superb mentors during my coaching career,” said Johnson.
“My first was Scott Sarver at Point Loma Nazarene and the second was Rich Hill at the University of San Diego. Both made the mental game a priority.
“I learned early in my coaching career how to get players ‘minds right’ for lack of a better term so they could achieve more peak performances.
“You hear all the time about baseball being 90 percent mental. If that’s so, why don’t we try to train the mind better? At Point Loma Nazarene, San Diego, Nevada and now Arizona, we have made mental training a high priority.”
Johnson said there is a an overall program-wide approach that his players will not focus on what they will accomplish. Instead, they focus on how they will do it.
“Essentially, it is process over result. The mindset we try to instill is getting one percent better each day. Then over time, you will have a compound effect of having a much better player and team.
“As far as mind discipline, we train through a lot of reading and relaxation. Our players do a ton of visualization, seeing themselves execute skills in their mind before they actually go out on the field.
“Our players perform a very simple 3-5 minute routine prior to leaving from the hotel on a road trip or in our own locker room prior to a home game that does a couple of things. No. 1, it allows each player to flip a switch. It allows them to put their personal life behind them which includes school, family, girlfriends, etc. They now flip the switch to being a baseball player.
To read more of this in-depth article on the mental game, purchase the Oct. 1, 2016 edition of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.