Mind over batter: UW-L professor emeritus sets mindset for baseball, more

March 7, 2012

UW-La Crosse Professor Emeritus Jack Curtis

UW-La Crosse Professor Emeritus Jack Curtis

When Yogi Berra said, “Baseball is 90 percent mental; the other 50 percent is physical,” he was right — about the mental part.

UW-La Crosse Professor Emeritus Jack Curtis has worked for nearly four decades helping athletes get into the right mindset for winning. He’s worked on the “inner game” with college, national, and Olympic athletes. For the last 12 years, he’s worked mainly with professional baseball players.

Curtis says athletes making it to the big leagues have the physical skills. Where they can find trouble is mentally.

“Often their confidence levels aren’t as high as they appear,” he explains.

Curtis says when professional baseball players struggle, it’s often a sign they need to tweak their mental game, much like they do their physical game.

“It’s like re-booting a computer,” he says. “Something is off slightly and the re-boot can usually get them back to normal.”

That’s where Curtis comes in to play, most recently with the Philadelphia Phillies. As a Phillies’ Mental Skills Coach, he works one-on-one with players in the minor leagues who want to strengthen their mental came to complement their physical game.

Years of research have concluded that you can’t outperform your self-image, notes Curtis.

“The difference between a good baseball player and a great one is more in their mind than in their physical ability,” he says. “They must operate in a non-thinking mode. A good portion of success in baseball is developing the skill to clear their mind and trust their body.”

Curtis says the key to success in baseball is playing consistently. “Consistency comes from maintain an unshakeable confidence and a high level of concentration,” he explains. “All the great players are consistently good.”

Great players have learned to play consistently in the upper third of their talent level, says Curtis. Performance of average players fluctuates greatly. “Average players tend to play great for a week or two and follow those up periods with down periods that offset these great weeks,” he notes.

Curtis latest book is titled “Baseball’s 6th Tool: The Inner Game” and focuses on helping baseball players develop their mental game. It’s Curtis’ 12th book. His book, “Mindset for Winning,” published in 1987 and revised in 1992 offers skills for all sports.

Curtis doesn’t limit the mental skills to sports. “They can be used in any area of your life; to improve your professional life, health or even personal relationship,” he explains, “It works with absolutely anything.”

About Jack Curtis

• Native of Sussex, Wis.
• Bachelor’s degree from UW-L, 1969
• Masters from Northern Colorado-Greeley, 1971
• Ph.D. from University of Utah, 1974
• Taught in the UW-L Health Education Department from 1975-2002
• Currently a full-time consultant
• See more at: www. Baseballs6thtool.com or at amazon.com