How Brady Neal Stays Focused: Tips from a College World Series Champion

Brady Neal, a freshman catcher for LSU Tigers, credits mental performance techniques from IMG Academy for his focus on and off the field.

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It was February 2023, opening day for the Louisiana State University Tigers, and freshman Brady Neal was behind the plate getting ready to catch the first pitch.

“I was definitely nervous playing in front of 13,000 people for the first time, but I knew I had to be 100% locked in and focused on the game,” says Neal, 18, a 2022 graduate of IMG Academy. “As the catcher, you’re the only player who can see all the other eight positions, and everyone is feeding off your body language. You have to be mentally strong.”

The Tallahassee, Florida, native says he learned many of the mental performance techniques he uses both on and off the field while he was a student-athlete at IMG Academy. “Mental performance training was something I took seriously at IMG [Academy] because it’s a really big part of the game. I knew that it would help me get better and make it to the next level and the level after that.”

The techniques have helped him cope with the challenges of playing college baseball in the high-stakes Southeastern Conference (SEC) and not be derailed by setbacks. “It’s a tough league — you have pitchers who are throwing 100 [mph] every single pitch, and you’re gonna strike out sometimes,” Neal says. “But you can’t let that get to you. You have to walk up to your next at-bat like nothing ever happened.”

How Brady Neal Keeps His Eyes on the Prize

One strategy Neal uses when he’s at bat is something he learned from Leadership Expert, Coach Diamyn Hall: “If I swing at a bad pitch in the dirt, I find something in the stadium to focus on for a second, like a sign on the scoreboard, and it’s kind of like a reset button. I just let it go, I don’t even worry about it. I just look at that reset, take a deep breath, and I’m ready for the next pitch.”

When he’s in the catcher’s box, Neal says, he takes a quick look at the logo on his glove to remind himself to focus on that moment. “You can’t have a divided mind. If you’re trying to catch someone who’s throwing really hard and your mind is still on that strikeout you made from the last inning, it’s not going to go very well,” Neal says.

How Mental Performance Coaching Has Helped Brady Neal in Life

As a Division I athlete, Neal says the skills he mastered at IMG Academy have also helped him transition from high school to college and successfully juggle his athletic and academic responsibilities.

“College is different because you can get away with skipping class if you want to. There’s no one there to make you go,” he says. “You just have to tell yourself, ‘Don’t skip workouts, get up and go to class, and be ready to sit in the front and participate instead of sleeping in the back.’ It’s all about being mentally tough and having a sense of pride in everything you’re doing.”

With his sights set on the big leagues, Neal says that feeling of pride is something he thinks about every day. “Our coaches often say, ‘There’s no have to, there’s only get to,’ and it’s very true. I get excited every time I walk on the field.”

Brady’s Advice for College Athletes

1. Be Coachable

“When you go to college, things are going to be different, so be open-minded and open to doing things differently. If your teacher or academic adviser tells you to do something, then do it.”

2. Let Go of the Failures

“When you’re playing at the college level, you have to accept that you’re going to fail sometimes. Definitely go in there and try to win every pitch, but realize that you’re gonna punch out sometimes. If you do, then just let it go, move on, and focus on what comes next.”

3. Don’t Have a Divided Mind

“Playing a sport can be difficult, especially when you’re still a young athlete, and you can’t have a split mind when you’re trying to do something really difficult. You have to focus on one thing.”

Looking to build confidence in your student-athlete? Sign up for IMG Academy's Confidence Course.

Want to learn how to improve your ability to handle pressure, focus better, and become more resilient? Explore IMG Academy+ mental performance coaching.

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