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Concentrating on a High Velocity Ball

by Ron Kurtus (revised 10 June 2005)

In games where the ball is moving at a high velocity, it is important to focus and concentrate on the ball. Variation in velocity and the effects of spin increase the importance of concentration.

Some sports where ball concentration is advisable are baseball, racquetball, handball, tennis and ping-pong. Methods include positioning yourself and watching the ball movement.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Concentration important

Concentration on the ball is important to be able to hit the ball or to return a shot effectively. The faster a ball travels, the more difficult it is to hit.

Speed and spin increase difficulty

Sometimes the ball is going faster than your reaction time, so its location must be anticipated. Eye-hand coordination decreases when there is not enough time to make adjustments, as what happens when the ball is at high velocity.

Another problem occurs when the ball is also spinning. It may curve in the air or take a hop when bouncing off a surface. This also makes it difficult to hit.

Focus needed

In such situations, it is important to completely concentrate and focus on the ball. The increased focus allows you to not only follow the motion of the ball but to be able to anticipate its path. In some cases, you may be able to see the spin of the ball or to react quick enough if the ball curves or hops.

Intense concentration can actually put a player in a state of "flow" were reaction times are much better than in normal situations. you are totally absorbed in the play, such that there are no distractions.

Needed in certain sports

There are a number of sports where the ball travels at a high velocity, such that it is important to concentrate on the ball movement.


In baseball, some pitchers can throw the ball at speeds up to 100 mph. They can also put sufficient spin on the ball, causing it to curve or even flutter in its trajectory to the batter. It is necessary for the batter to be able to react to the speed and position of the ball, in order to hit it with his bat.


Top professional tennis players can serve the ball at speeds in excess of 125 mph. The server can also spin the ball so it will curve or take an unusual bounce and aim the ball at different locations in the serve area. The person attempting to return a serve must be able to react to the speed, spin and location of the serve. Although the speed is not as great in the volley, there still must be concentration to react effectively.

Handball and racquetball

In four-wall handball and racquetball, the ball can not only travel at a high velocity, but the spin of the ball can cause it to hop or bounce at an angle off the floor or a wall.

Table tennis or ping-pong

In table tennis, the ball can be hit forcefully, requiring concentration and quick reflexes. Also, spin can cause the ball to curve or change directions when coming off the table to the paddle.

Concentration factors

The first part of concentrating on the ball is simply to watch it. Then you have to follow the ball without distraction.

Baseball examples

Some baseball greats are good examples of  ball concentration.

Watching the ball

Legendary baseball manager Casey Stengel told how he used to concentrate on the ball when batting. He would watch the ball when it was in the pitcher's hand, well before the ball was thrown. He would follow the ball as the pitcher did his wind-up and as he threw the ball. When Stengel was a manager, he taught this method to his players.

It is not certain how many followed his method, but I have found it to be very effective in all high-velocity ball sports.

Focus when hitting the ball

There is a great picture of baseball great Stan Musial hitting a ball. His eyes are focused on the ball as the bat hit the ball. On the other hand, there is also a picture of baseball great Ted Williams looking straight ahead, as he hit the ball. But Williams still concentrated on the ball and said he was able to tell how the ball was spinning as flew from the pitcher's hand.

Danger in court games

In court games such as racquetball and handball, the opponent is often behind you. It can be dangerous to watch the ball, especially if you made a poor shot that your opponent can really blast a return. You should position yourself, so that you can readily see the ball being returned, but yet won't get hit in the face and are able to return it.


Speed and spin can make it difficult to hit a ball in such sports as baseball, handball and tennis. Closely following the ball, focusing to ignore distractions, and properly positioning yourself are ways to enhance your ability to hit the ball.

Concentration helps build confidence

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