By STEVE KRAH
The 2018 NCAA Division I baseball season has been groundbreaking for the field of mental skills.
For the first time ever, a D-I baseball program — Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio — has brought on a full-time mental skills coordinator.
WSU head coach Jeff Mercer (a graduate of Franklin Community High School in Indiana) brought Diamyn Hall in to help his players with this sometimes-overlooked aspect of athletics.
“My goal is to continue to push the field of mental conditioning to a point where every college baseball program eventually has a mental skills coach, a mental skills coordinator or something along those lines,” says Hall. “Because it is one of the most important facets of the game.
“There has been a lot of success, a lot of growth and a lot of development but we still have a lot to do to reach our ultimate goal of reaching a championship.
“Players are always looking for ways to get better. That comes from the types of players that Mercer recruits.”
Hall, who was born in Dayton and went to Centerville High School, explains why the plan has worked and continues to work.
“We’ve gone about implementing the mental game in a multitude of innovative ways,” says Hall. “We have provided systematic approaches for each individual player to continue to grow and unlock their potential through their minds.
“Our players have taken persistent accountability in improving their mental game and using it to their advantage on and off the field.”
Hall says that having all Wright State coaches — Mercer, Nate Metzger, Matt Talarico, Alex Sogard and volunteer Jacob Burk — on-board truly creates a dynamic learning experience and reinforces the importance of the mental game within the culture of the baseball program.
Mental skills training is extremely valuable whether a player is red-hot or in an 0-for-the-month slump.
“The mental game has the ability to enhance your performance no matter where you are at that point in time,” says Hall. “The preconceived notion that most people have about the mental game is that it’s only needed when you’re struggling. That’s false.
“The goal should be to continuously work your mind as much as you work your body.
“Having intentional focuses on an individual basis with each player who does want to get better at that point in time. That’s the key.”
The roster that Mercer has created calls for every player to be ready to play every single day.
“Our guys who are not playing everyday, we still want them prepared when their name is called,” says Hall. “If you’re a guy who is not playing everyday we still want to have you focusing on a certain set of things that allow you to be ready when you do get your opportunity. One thing I say a lot to these guys is: ‘be prepared before your name is called.’
“Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.”
A big part of the mental game is maintaining laser focus.
“Therefore, all of our players need to be focused every single day,” says Hall.
How do you stay ready?
“You have to make sure you’re taking quality and mindful repetitions in whatever it is you’re working on,” says Hall. “Make sure you’re doing everything on-purpose with purpose.”
Hall notes that the baseball season is long and it’s easy to catch yourself going through the motions.
“It’s a matter of minimizing those times you go through the motions, making sure everything is intentional and with a purpose,” says Hall. “We want the guys who are not playing game-ready every single day.”
Hall breaks down the WSU team into three groups of players: superstars, stars and X-factors. He says most teams have stars, X-factors, role players and guys who have no chance of getting in the game.
“Every guy on our roster has a chance to get in the game,” says Hall. “This is the beauty of our roster. I’ve never seen a roster so stacked from head-to-toe.
“That’s the true definition of depth.
“It’s being focused at all times regardless of the situation. In my opinion, we have two full Division I teams within one team. Any of our guys who are not everyday guys could go to another Division I baseball program and start right now.”
Hall, just a few years ago, was playing against elite level competition such as LSU, Ole Miss, Oregon State, Arkansas and more.
Just three three years ago, he went 5-for-5 on MLB Network with a home run shy of a cycle. It was the day before he tore his ACL.
Hall stepped off the field last spring. In his last three college season, he played two at Grambling State University (2015-16) and one at Georgia Southwestern State University (2017).
Hall sees the merits of having a mental skills coordinator for an entire athletic department, but the numbers are more favorable if they integrated into a particular program.
“If a school has a mental skills person who works with every team they can be successful, but mental skills are so important that they need to be integrated on each staff — in my personal opinion,” says Hall. “It’s a manageable ratio. I can be more impactful with 35 people than I can with 300.
“I can build true relationships with 35 players versus building true relationships with 300 players.”
He has been kept busy being wherever players are working on their baseball skills as much as possible.
Hall also makes himself available to them 24/7. He is just a call or text away.
“These guys are learners so they’re using these opportunities to the best of their abilities,” says Hall.
By building relationships, Hall can know how best to get his message across.
“Every guy learns at a different rate,” says Hall. “Every guy takes in information a different way.
“I have to understand that. How do I deliver this to him to make it impactful?”
Hall is always striving to answer these questions: How can I be the most efficient? How can I be the most effective?
He also doesn’t want to engage in information overload.
“I believe it’s more effective to give a little information at a time while giving them the best information that I know from my experience,” says Hall. “I strive to give them the best information so they will remember it and it will stick.
“It’s about effective information implementation.”
So far, so good in this groundbreaking year.
“But we still have a lot more progress to make in striving to reach the ultimate goal of reaching a championship,” says Hall.
For more of Diamyn’s stories and podcasts, click here.
Diamyn Hall is the mental skills coordinator for the baseball team at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.