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Softball Tips: 3 Ways to Bounce Back From Mistakes

bounce-back

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 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 Tips – Factors that Affect Your Performance

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

factors that affect your softball performance - sunThe other day at practice we were talking about the factors that can affect the success of a play. Our players were tossing out ideas, and we built a list on a blackboard that included things such as the sun, field conditions, umpires, parents yelling, speed of execution, focus, etc. The list included more than a dozen different items, and could’ve been even longer if we had more time.

Once the list was made, I handed the chalk to one of the girls and told her to cross off anything that she couldn’t control. When she was done, she handed the chalk to the next girl who did the same, and all the way down the line.

What was left was a series of factors that our players can control. It was a considerably smaller list to be sure.

What that list came down to in the end was our marching orders for practice. It told us the intensity level we needed, the speed we needed to practice at and the amount of focus required to be successful.

It’s really an eye-opener. It’s easy to run through a series of drills, giving a decent but not excessive amount of effort. It’s also easy to get distracted and lose focus over the course of a couple of hours.

But if you have your list made you can remember that what you do today in practice has a direct effect on how you perform in games down the road. You know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.

There are a lot of things in our game that you can’t control. That’s why it’s important to make sure you take care of the things you actually can control.

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Softball Performance Tips – Way to Improve Your Mental Game

By Stacie Mahoe

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about athletes and mental game skills.  I didn’t even know the WSJ had a section for sports.  Wow!.

softball mental game tipsAnyway, in this article they talk about some very interesting things including one of THE simplest ways to improve your mental game – deep cleansing breaths.

That’s right.  If you’ve ever paid attention closely enough, you’ll see that a lot of professional and collegiate athletes use this technique.  Actually I’ve seen a lot of high school aged athletes do it too now that I’m aware of the fact that it’s a great mental game trick!

I can’t tell you enough how much this ONE strategy can help improve your mental toughness and your performance.  Most recently I noticed that Danielle Lawrie does it before every pitch.

Seriously, if breathing techniques can help you remain calm during something as miraculous as giving birth, trust me, it works in softball too.  😉

If this is not something you already do.  Give it a try.  Also, try observing athletes and see just how many use this technique to stay calm, confident, and focused during competition.

Is this something you’ll try?  Or something you already do?

Leave me a comment here and let me know!

~ Stacie Mahoe

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Softball Performance – You Can Build It or Destroy It

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softball coachingI have to say that my favorite compliment to receive as a coach isn’t about how much better a kid hits, pitches, plays third base, etc. It’s when a parent says, “You’ve given my daughter so much confidence.”

I know this is going to sound all sunshine and puppy dogs, but what better contribution could you make as a coach than to help a kid go from shy and uncertain to bold and capable? After all, even for top-level players careers are short; they’re only going to need those skills for a little while, relatively speaking. But confidence in themselves is an attribute that spills over into their daily lives today and will serve them well throughout their lives.

Yet there’s a dark side to that compliment: why is it the player needs her confidence boosted in the first place? Lately I’ve been hearing it because someone else (read: some other coach) destroyed the player’s confidence first. That’s just sad.

Yet it happens all the time. Why is it that some alleged adults feel it’s okay to say anything they want to a kid, as long as the end result is winning a game or league or tournament? Why is it they feel it’s okay to put down a kid who won’t help them get there? Or (as in the story about the coach telling the 10U player she’ll never be a pitcher) why do some coaches feel it’s necessary to destroy a kid’s dreams before they’ve even had a chance to take flight?

I have my own theories. I’m sure the reason in some cases is that the coach thinks his/her only job is to win games. He/she doesn’t know very much about the game, and so by browbeating the players — especially the ones whose skills haven’t developed yet — he/she can cover up the fact that he/she is unable to help anyone get better.

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Softball Tips – Must Do Before Next Season

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softball tips Now that fastpitch softball has pretty much become a 12-month sport, it’s amazing to look back on how much work and preparation goes into such a short season. Whether you’re a high school coach with a spring season who gets his/her players from the end of February to the beginning of June, a travel coach with high school players whose season goes from early to mid-June to the beginning of August, or a travel coach with younger players whose season starts around mid-April, it seems like you wait forever to get things going then it’s over.

If you’re a player it probably goes even faster. There’s dragging yourself to practice day after day, weekday games and weekend tournaments, thinking it will never end. Then one day you look up and it’s time to say goodbye to your teammates one last time. Where does the season go?

It’s a lot like they say about parenting — the days are long but the years are short. Sometimes it seems like a tournament day lasts forever, especially if you’re not doing too well. Yet before you know it it’s time for tryouts once again.

Before you move on to 2011, though, take a few moments to reflect on 2010. Did you achieve your goals? Not the “win a tournament” or “become state/national champion” stuff, but your personal goals as a coach or player.

If so, that’s awesome. Congratulations on some great work. If not, however, now is the time to think about why not, and what you can do to change it for next year.

As a coach, did your team work together and support each other, or did they suffer from in-fighting and bickering? If it was the latter, perhaps it’s time to pick up some books or DVDs on team building.

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Softball Tip: Are You Putting Your Socks On Right?

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softball tips - how to put on your socksAbout a week and a half ago, one of the all-time coaching legends, former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, passed away. He was known both for his success — 10 Division One college championships — and the class with which he conducted himself.

One other thing he was known for was his focus on doing the little things right. That’s a lesson that cuts across all sports at all times.

In our sport, attention to the little things is critical because so much of it is mental, and so much of it has such fine detail. Softball is often called a game of inches; that makes every little detail important.

Think about softball hitting. There’s only a fraction of an inch between a line drive and a pop-up, a hard-hit ground ball through the infield and a soft roller back to the pitcher.

For pitchers it’s just as fine. The plate is only 17 inches wide. If you’re trying to catch the edge of it, an inch here or there is the difference between a ball and a strike.

But that’s just the visible part. The real small stuff comes in your approach to the game, either as a player or a coach.

For players it’s taking ground ball after ground ball so that the mechanics become automatic. It’s working on backhand and forehand techniques to make sure you know exactly how to position the glove to get the ball to bury itself right in there.

It’s pitchers working on their spins and locations until they know how to put that ball on or off the plate when the circumstances require it. It’s also learning when to throw each pitch, how to set up a hitter, and how to recover from a mistake.

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