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mental game

Softball Tips: 3 Ways to Bounce Back From Mistakes

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By Stacie Mahoe

One of the most powerful traits a softball player can have is the ability to bounce back from mistakes, overcome obstacles, and keep pushing through adversity. Of course, this is often easier said than done. How do you bounce back when you just cost your team a run on defense or stranded the tying run in scoring position after you struck out looking with two outs?

While there are various sports psychology tips and tricks for improving your mental game, here are 3 simple tips you can start using today to help you bounce back from your softball mistakes:

Accept: Accept that you made a mistake and that you’re upset about it.   If you feel mad, frustrated, embarrassed, sad, upset or any other negative emotion because you messed up, that’s OK!  It just means your human and means you care about what happens on the field.  Don’t fight that or beat yourself up for feeling that way.  Allow it for a moment, accept and acknowledge that you felt it, then side it aside for the rest of the game.  There will be lots of time to evaluate it further later.  Right now, you need to reset your mind and body for the next play!

Remember the big picture: No game ever comes down to just one play or just one mistake. Even if your mistake stands out the most, chances are there were many, many, many other missed opportunities during the game that could have made a difference in the final outcome.  If every player on a team did exactly what they were supposed to do in every given situation, your mistake wouldn’t be such a big deal.  Unless everyone on your team went 3-3 in the batter’s box today and did everything perfectly on defense, you’re not the only one who could’ve done better.  You’re not the only player that had an opportunity to make a difference in the game and failed to do so.  Remember that the entire fate of the team does NOT lie upon your shoulders only.

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Softball Tips: Simple Trick to Help You Perform Like a Champion

softball tips - play like a champion

By Mike Tully

My 4-year-old grand-daughter put her arms around me, kissed me goodnight and then said, “Your hair smells like beach house.”

One sniff of my newly washed hair took her mind to memories of our family vacation.

Her train of thought is one that can take you to greatness in sports, with a technique called anchoring.

It’s based on a principle so simple that even a 4-year-old noticed it. As mammals, we are wired to associate physical sensations with emotions. For instance, you probably have a song that reminds you of some person, place or thing. Tasting a certain food may bring to mind some memory, like grandma’s kitchen. To this day, the smell of the sun hitting a telephone pole on a warm day takes me back to my childhood, when we spent our summers sitting around a big wooden picnic table.

You can use this principle to lock in all the good things you do in sports. All you must do is perform some action every time you do something you would like to repeat.

Let’s say you’re a softball pitcher working on a change-up. When you throw one that makes you happy or confident, perform some physical action. I’ve seen athletes bite their lip, snap their fingers, brush their hand through their hair, or scratch the inside of their arm. Whatever your action, if you anchor often enough you will soon associate the action with positive emotions.

When you get to that point, you can anchor even before you try the skill. It’s almost like typing in a request on your computer. You can order anything you want. You bite your lip, you feel strong and confident, and then you throw your change-up when you’re in a tight spot.

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Softball Performance Tips – Beware of Confirmation Bias


By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

Last year just for fun I downloaded a book onto my old smartphone that had nothing to do with fastpitch softball. While I quickly discovered that reading a book on a smartphone is not an easy task for someone of my age, the book itself was quite interesting.

It was called “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” and its purpose was to give people the tools they need to decide if global warming is real and what (if anything) should be done about it. What the author, a fifth grade science teacher, was trying to do was give readers the tools to make their own decisions.

In the very lengthy discussion leading into the tools, the author talked about something called “confirmation bias.” The basic principle of confirmation bias is that when you are trying to prove a point, you will look for evidence that proves your point and ignore evidence that goes against it.

Sound familiar? It’s something most of us do naturally and sub-consciously. We have certain beliefs about the game of fastpitch softball and the skills required to play it, and we don’t want anyone telling us different. So if someone challenges us, we immediately look for “evidence” to support our position, usually in the form of video.

Here’s the problem. If you have sufficient time, energy and access to video you can prove or disprove just about anything. If common sense says you should do X, by golly there’s going to be someone who can come up with a video of a high-level player doing Y instead.

Some do it because they actually believe in Y. Some do it just because they like to “prove” other people are wrong. And some do it so they don’t have to consider changing their long-held beliefs.

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Softball Tips – Upping Your Focus Level Pays Off

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softball-hitting-tips-mental-gameTonight I was working with one of my top hitting students, a girl named Amy who always draws oohs and ahhs when people watch her swing the bat. She’s a very good hitter, better than she herself realizes, I think, and really turned some heads as a varsity starter last year when she was a freshman.

Her normal swing is a good one, but tonight while we were doing some front toss I noticed something. At one point you could just see that something had changed with her — and changed for the better.

I had to stop and ask — did your concentration level just go up? Yes, she answered. She told me that the last swing, where the ball just jumped off her bat in what looked like it would’ve been a 300 foot home run if we were at a field instead of in a cage, she just totally blocked out all other thoughts and just focused on the ball.

What a concept, eh? We often tell hitters to “see ball, hit ball,” but how often do they actually accomplish it? There’s always some nagging thought getting in the way, whether it’s an instruction, a consequence (such as I need to get a hit so we can score the runners on base), a fight with a parent or teammate, a fielding error from last inning or something else.

Yet what you really need as a hitter is that pure concentration. When you are totally focused, the ball looks bigger and gets slower. You’re right there in the moment, just you and the ball, only you have a big ol’ bat in your hands.

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Softball Coaching Tips – Teaching Game Sense

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softballtips-thinkingThis past weekend I was watching a 16U game when I saw something that made me shake my head. With one out and runners on first a second, a routine ground ball was hit to the shortstop, who fielded it cleanly — and then proceeded to throw it to first for the out.

Never once did she consider throwing it to third to get the lead runner. Nor did she consider flipping it to second for a possible double play. In her mind, the play was to first, as though there were no runners on base.

In the meantime the runners on first and second became the runners on second and third. The next batter cracked a long single to left center and two runs scored. Final score? 2-1 in favor of the team that was at bat at the time.

I was shaking my head, of course, because the situation seemed pretty obvious to me. I couldn’t understand how a 16U shortstop wouldn’t just know instinctively where the play was. Apparently, however, no one had taught her game sense.

This is an issue that often comes up with teams and players these days. There is so much focus on the mechanics, both with teams and private coaches, that sometimes coaches forget to teach this critical aspect of the game.

In the situation described above, in a 0-0 game, you want to get the lead runner. It’s a short throw from SS to 3B and should be a fairly easy play. Yet if the player doesn’t understand how important that lead runner is, you can see why she might just go with the play she’s practiced the most.

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Softball Performance Tips – The Pre-Game Pep Talk

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By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

If the movies have taught us anything, it’s the importance of the pre-game pep talk. Whether it’s Knute Rockne telling the boys to win one for the Gipper (played by former President Ronald Reagan, by the way, in his second most famous role) or Herb Brooks telling the US Olympic hockey team they could beat the Soviet Union in 1980, we see that the big, inspirational speech is the key to victory.

Or is it? That kind of rah-rah speech may work in football or hockey, where you pretty much have to get yourself amped up to a fever pitch in order to take and dish out the hits, but in fastpitch softball it may not be such a good idea.

Softball is a game of precision more than adrenaline. Getting over-amped can cause you to rush, break down your mechanics and actually under-perform. It can cause your heart to race and your breathing to get more rapid, taking away the calm sports psychologists recommend for most precision activities.

But the real point is, as a player, you shouldn’t need a pre-game speech to get you ready to play. If you feel you do, you might want to re-think your choice of activities.

The opportunity to play fastpitch softball itself ought to be all the incentive you need to play. Sure, there may be days when you’re not 100 percent, especially as a long season grinds on. But once you hit the field and the umpire calls “play ball!” hopefully the excitement will return.

I know for me as a baseball player I never needed anyone to get me “up.” I loved the game and couldn’t wait to hit the field. If any coach tried to do the Big Speech I probably would’ve wondered why he was wasting time when there was a game to play.

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Softball Performance – You Need to Replace to Improve

By Stacie Mahoe
softball-thoughts-mental-game

Being in the right frame of mind when going into softball competition is a big factor in your success or lack of success. There may be thoughts floating around in your head that stop you from performing at your best. If you can replace these negative thoughts with positive statements, you’re likely to perform better on the field and be a bigger part of your team’s success.

The first thing you need to do is recognize some of the negative thoughts you have. Here are some common ones that pop up for most players at some point or another. Just because lots of players have these thoughts, doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to allow them to hang out in your head. Any negativity you can replace with more positive thinking will go a long way to making you a better softball player.

17 Common Thoughts That Can Hurt Your Softball Performance

  • I hope I don’t strike out.
  • I hope I don’t bean this batter.
  • Why is so-and-so playing?
  • I can’t play in rain/wind/sun/etc.
  • This umpire just doesn’t like me.
  • I hate this field.
  • I hope they ball doesn’t come to me.
  • I hope I don’t throw the ball away.
  • Why do you want me to bunt?
  • The pitcher is sooooo sllllooooooowwwww.
  • The other team’s cheers are so irritating.
  • These umpires are so unfair.
  • I don’t want to play INSERT POSITION HERE.
  • These tournament rules are so stupid.
  • This game doesn’t mean anything.
  • This is the biggest game of the season.
  • Wow, the other team is so good.
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Softball Performance Tips – Coaches Make Prior to Game Time

By Jen Croneberger

The top 5 mental mistakes coaches make prior to game time…

1. Expectations. Perhaps the number one killer of confidence, expectations are deadly. If you have expectations, you set your athletes up to fail. With expectations, they are in a succeed or fail mindset. If they don’t meet your expectations, they automatically see themselves as failures. This does not bode well for the rest of the game if they make a big error or strike out with a runner on third. By no means am I telling you to lower your standards. I am simply saying, use process/mini goals, or “manageable objectives” instead.

2. Putting too much emphasis on the outcome. When we focus on outcome instead of process, it causes us to not play in the present. We have to remember that we play this game one pitch at a time, anything else gets overwhelming. As a coach, it is our job to make sure our players stay present. Every at bat is a new game. Every play in the field is a new game and has no bearing on what they did in the previous inning or out. When our team is laser focused on one pitch at a time, amazing things happen. Don’t talk too much about winning or what you want the outcome to look like. Let them focus on a process goal for that game instead. So instead of a player making a goal to go 3 for 4 when the game starts, have them focus on having good at bats today.

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Softball Performance Tips – Coaching Game

softballcoaching

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

This past weekend was the first tournament for the 14U team I coach. We’d spent a lot of time drilling, preparing, running game-like simulations, studying our playbook and otherwise getting ready. I was absolutely convinced we were ready to come out gangbusters.

Then came the first game of pool play. I swear it seemed like my well-drilled team had been replaced by look-alike aliens who had never seen a fastpitch softball game in their lives. We couldn’t hit (despite working on it all winter), we threw to the wrong base or at the wrong time, we missed easy fielding chances, it was just a disaster. Definitely not what I was expecting.

And that’s what’s so humbling about our game. I’ve had a pretty good run with players I instructed individually the last few months. I heard glowing reports about their performance, saw their names in the newspaper, was proud of them for their post-season awards. Then the day I go out to coach my own team I wind up feeling like the worst coach in the world.

The only consolation is knowing I’m not alone in that. I’ve spoken with Cindy Bristow about this phenomenon and she said she’s felt the same thing. Cindy is a far more accomplished coach than I am (or ever will be) so to hear her say she once got to the point of feeling like she was a bad coach gives me some small measure of comfort.

It can happen to all of us. We prepare our teams to the best of our ability, applying whatever store of knowledge we have to the situation. But still, it’s the players who have to play the game. And when you’re talking about adolescents who have a million things going on in their lives you just never know what will happen. It’s a crapshoot.

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Softball Coaching: Your Number One Job Is…

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

As A Coach, Your Number One Job Is…

 

softballcoachingjob

It’s always interesting to ask a group of coaches what they think their number one job is. Some will tell you it’s to teach their players the game. Others will say to get their players in shape. Still others will say it’s to get their players scholarships, win State or Nationals or this weekend’s tournaments or some other similar goal.

Me? I believe your number one job as a softball coach, especially a coach of female athletes, is to get your players to feel good about themselves. If you do that, most of the other stuff mentioned above is a lot easier to attain.

I’ve seen Coach Mike Candrea credited with saying “Boys have to play good to feel good, but girls have to feel good to play good.” I don’t know if it actually originated with him, but there’s a lot of truth to it. While it may not be true for every girl — yes, yes, I’m sure your daughter is the exception whose game is not affected by how she feels at any given time — in my experience it’s true for most.

If that’s the case, then it stands to reason your number one focus should be on getting them to feel good. If they feel good they will be more receptive to instruction, play harder, be more focused and be more successful. If they do all that, winning can’t be far behind.

Yet it’s surprising how many coaches don’t really get that. They watch the movie Miracle or Remember the Titans or some other macho sports flick and decide that the way to coach their team of 12 year old girls is to yell at them, scream at them, punish them for any minor indiscretion and otherwise make them “mentally tough.”

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