MPM Podcast

Making the mental game of baseball part of your daily coaching process

by Brian Cain, MPM

Todd Whitting is the Head Baseball Coach at The University of Houston.  In his carer he has been a part of teams that have won 21 conference regular-season and tournament championships, competed in 17 NCAA Regionals, six NCAA Super Regionals and one NCAA College World Series in 2010 as an assistant coach at TCU. He also worked closely with over 100 MLB draft picks including six first round draft picks and 17 Major Leaguers including nine at Houston.

Since returning to his alma mater at Houston in 2010, Coach Whitting has led the Cougars to the American Athletic Conference Championship in 2014 and in 2015 and to an NCAA Super Regional in Austin, Texas, in 2014.

I first started working with Coach Whitting when he was an assistant coach at TCU in 2006 and have had the honor of working with him each year since.

As an assistant, Whitting was instrumental in helping build TCU into a national powerhouse, and he has quickly brought The University of Houston back into national prominence.

In this video above we break down how as a head baseball coach you can make coaching the mental game of baseball a simple and powerful part of your daily coaching process.

Coach Whitting and I will also sat down for a podcast where we break down how there is a process but no cookie-cutter approach to helping players be successful and to building a winning program.  There is no cookie cutter approach, yet there is a process, and within that process you must be adaptable and flexible to reach maximum success.

In this podcast Coach Whitting also shares his system for developing all aspects of an individual, including a significant emphasis on the mental game.


After listening to this podcast and watching the video above, please comment below on your biggest takeaways from this post so that we may all grow and learn together to better serve those who call us coach and win.  NOTES FROM THE TODD WHITTING PODCAST

  • The mental game has to become a part of who you are as a coach and a program. 
  • He “gets” to be a college baseball coach. Doesn’t have to.
  • “Next 200 feet” – car driving at night with headlights on. Can’t see left, right, behind you. If you have this mentality, it keeps you focused on what’s ahead of you – the task at hand, the next pitch.  Last thing they do at practice is a 200 foot run, to remind the team about the next 200 feet.
  • PETE = Process, Enthusiasm, Trust, Excellence
    • Process – every day is about the process. DO a little a lot. Process has to be good and adjustable if needed. Nutrition, hydration, academics, sleep, etc are all part of the process.
    • Enthusiasm – surround yourself with enthusiastic people. There has never been a winning dugout that is a quiet dugout. Think about all the successful people you know in your life…they all have enthusiasm.
    • Trust – you need to trust your training, your teammates, your coaches. Don’t worry about how you’re playing today, just trust the coaches to prepare you. Coach needs to be able to trust players to play them.
    • Excellence – everything we do, be excellent. Academics, baseball, character, etc Represent cougar baseball.
  •  Qualities/Attributes of professionals he has coached:
    • They had unbelievable routines. They understood breathing.
    • These guys were NOT always the best players. The common denominator is that they were extremely resilient and their mental game was at a very high level.
    • He believes they were trained in those mental skills. People are not born with toughness but you still have to teach it.
  • In Coach’s program, the mental game is pounded into the kids every day via the group chat, the facilities decoration, it is everywhere. It becomes part of the lingo of the team and their daily lives.
  • In Todd Whitting’s clubhouses, tv’s are everywhere but they aren’t showing video. They are billboards for the mental game. They use Apple TV to upload graphics, program highlights, dog piles, all positive things. They’re in the equipment room, locker room, weight room, etc.
  • When it comes to the mental game, do a little a LOT. It cannot be like drinking out of a fire hose.
  • Mental minute is used EVERY DAY at practice. Has a “phrase for the day” that he talks to the team about before practice. Keeps the talk to one minute. Sometimes has players come up and dictate the topic to the team.
  • This allows you to INSPECT what you EXPECT.
  • Coach went from not believing in it to inviting Brian Cain to his first team meeting as the coach at Houston.
  • Believes we spend far too much time on the mechanical aspects of the game. As the head coach, he is a mental coach. His assistants are the positional and player coaches. 
  • You NEED to walk on the field and believe you are gladiator. Mental game first, execution/mechanics are second.
  • By nature, we are all result based. Got to try to get players out of that. 
  • Bigger the moment = bigger the breath
  • Shadow Bullpens – must have buy-in from players. Important routine.
    • Five things: body language, tempo, visualization, pre batter routine, red/yellow light release
  •  Signal lights: in practice, coach wants to get players into red lights often so they can figure out how to get out of them.
    • Yellow lights – not comfortable, leads to red light
    • Green lights – ball looks like a beach ball, pitcher hitting spots, etc
    • Ability to get from red to green is huge. Sometimes you have to fake it. Act different than you feel.
  • Do not listen to your body. Talk to your body. 
  • Jake Arrieta – when he puts the uniform on, becomes a different person. He has the ability to change his role on the field. Uniform on = go time. 
  • Best coaches have always taught mental game but haven’t always known they’re doing it. Look at Wooden, Saban, Garrido, etc
  • As the head coach you are the captain of the ship. As soon as something goes wrong in that dugout, everyone will look at the head coach. You must remain stoic and maintain your swagger. 
  • No reason to go bonkers over a physical error. Lack of effort? Sure.  Practice is the time to fix the physical errors.  Practice is for the coach, the game is for the players. Use practice to help them be their best on game days. Every day is a learning opportunity! 
  • Don’t want to have a great team…want to have a great program. Teams come and go. Programs do not.

How to Master the Mental Game of Baseball?

If you enjoyed this podcast with Todd Whitting, you should join my FREE 60-minute mental game of baseball masterclass video and start developing the winning mindsets, routines, and habits you need to compete one pitch at a time and perform at your best.