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softball mental training

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 – You Need to Replace to Improve

By Stacie Mahoe

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 – Control Your Attitude

By Dalton Ruer

If you’ve read any of my former posts you probably realize by now that my writing is meant to encourage athletes, coaches and parents alike. I try to string together words that perhaps you have read before, in a way that makes them sound fresh. Recently one of my batting students made me realize how cliché some of our sayings can be at times and yet how critically vital they are to continue to repeat.

One of the things as a coach and an instructor that I realized a long time ago is that anyone can look good when everything is going there way. But how you react when you are in the batter’s box and the umpire made that strike call even though the ball bounced is what really separates the average players from the great players. What I’ve found is that average players allow the “happenings” around them to determine their “happiness.” While the players with the ability to win long term, and throughout life, are able to maintain control of the 6” between their ears despite the circumstances around them going against them.

That’s so profound right. Just follow that advice and all the weeds in your life will turn to roses. Well on paper everything sounds profound, but when you are a 14 year old girl like my student Jessie how does that work when you are in a big tournament and the coach benches you 2 games in a row for no fault of your own, 2 tournaments in a row. How do you control that 6” between your ears then? That’s kind of where the “rubber hits the road” as they say.

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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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How to Attack Your Softball Training for Maximum Success

softball training

By Stacie Mahoe

Two things you have to understand about softball training is that there are no “small things” and that often times boring = important.  How often do you see teams to baserunning drills and actually see players run in an all out sprint?  There may be 1 or 2 that actually run at their best speed during these daily baserunning drills.  How many times do you see players do routine fielding drills and just “go through the motions” giving their bare minimum to get through the drill?  It happens quite often wouldn’t you say?

But what kind of preparation is this for competition?

How many times have you heard a coach yell, “You gotta get down!” after a player gets tagged out going into a base standing up…and yet when this team practices, players are allowed to wear shorts or show up with no sliding pads?  They are never required to “get down” in practice and yet coaches expect it in games?

“Practice how you play” they say.  What does this mean?  Is it something you really do?  If you want to perform great consistently…Guess what?  You must train that way.  You must attack your softball training with your 100% complete and total effort in EVERYTHING. Every drill, no matter how “boring” or “small” or “simple.”  Make your full intensity, determination, and concentration when executing skills a HABIT by training that way every drill, every day.

You can’t go up to a bunt station and just stick out your bat for 5 straight pitches, bunt some fair, bunt some foul, and miss one then expect to be able to put down a perfect bunt in a one-shot opportunity at game time when you have an opposing pitcher standing at the other end of the pitch throwing at you with everything she’s got.

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Softball Performance Tips – Choose NOW

softball dive for the ballBy Stacie Mahoe

You’ve probably heard that saying, “It’s now or never.” With every day that passes we get closer and closer to the end of the softball season and that statement becomes more and more relevant.  But the truth is, you NEVER know when your last game, your last inning, your last at bat, or your last play will be.

Don’t treat your opportunities to practice and play this game as if there’s always “another day” because no one is promised tomorrow.  Make each opportunity count.  Every chance truly is “now or never.”  No matter what situation you’re in, you will never get another chance to make that play, that pitch, or that hit ever again.  Make the most of it!

No one likes to think about season ending injuries or illnesses but they DO happen.  Just this past weekend my catcher broke bones in her left hand.  She’s out for the rest of the season!  Ouch!  Now or Never.

It happened to a friend of mine in high school: last pre-season game-broken arm.  Senior season gone.  As an underclassmen you always think you have more time, but you just never know.  Now or Never.

I know a junior who was kept off the field this year due to family issues.  She played not one out of softball this entire year.  She was expected to do big things, but now her junior season is gone.  She’ll never get it back and no one knows if she’ll ever have the opportunity to return to the field later.   As a sophomore it’s probably something she never thought would happen.  If it happened to you, would you be left wishing you’d done things differently in the time you had?  Now or Never.

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3 Softball Pitching Necessities

Youth Softball Pitcher PitchingBy Stacie Mahoe

There are 3 things that can help softball pitchers a great deal.  In fact, these 3 things are practically necessities for great softball pitchers.  No, I’m not talking about speed, a great change up, and movement, though those things are most definitely beneficial to pitchers.  I’m actually talking about 3 things that are completely unrelated to the physical task of pitching a softball.  What are they?

Selective Hearing

One of THE most talked about players on a team is the pitcher.  When they do well, they can get a lot of credit.  On the flip side, when things go badly, they can often get the blame for a lot of it (even if it’s not necessarily from teammates or coaching staff). People will definitely talk and if a pitcher hears it all and focuses too much on the negativity that can surround that position, it can be detrimental to their confidence, their focus, and ultimately, to their performance.

Also, pitchers tend to have at least one parent who will try to “coach” them from the stands in some way shape or form.  While, as a parent, I completely understand that this parent is really, truly trying to help, I also know, as a former player who was on the receiving end of those “helpful” tips, that the good intentions of parents are not what comes through on the other side.  Too often I see pitchers (and other players too) who lose focus on what’s important, get frustrated, or lose confidence in themselves because of their parent’s “help.”

So having the ability to filter out the “noise” or distractions as a pitcher is critical to your success.

Tunnel Vision

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Softball Pitching: The Panic Face is Not Allowed

Fastpitch Softball PitcherBy Stacie Mahoe

Have you seen that look on a softball pitcher’s face before?  The panic look?  I know I have…and when I’m on the other end of that look (in the batter’s box) I KNOW I have that pitcher beat!  I KNOW I’m going to hit the ball and make something happen.

One thing great pitchers know how to do is avoid that panic face at all costs. Great pitchers know how to keep “bummed out” feelings from showing on the outside.  Great pitchers can keep the same demeanor and just keep throwing even when all hell is breaking loose around them (in other words, when their defense is making errors left and right).  Whether they just struck out the side and are feeling confident or it’s the middle of the longest inning ever and they have reason to be frustrated, they look the same on the outside.  This is such a powerful skill to master, but it’s not always an easy thing to do, nor does it come easily to everyone.

So how can you get better with this?

Well, it starts with awareness.  Some pitchers may not even be aware of the signals they are sending with the look on their face or the change in their body language.  This is something that coaches may need to point out and work with their pitchers on.  If you’re a pitcher, get some feedback from your coaches or even our teammates about what they notice about you when you throw a mistake pitch or when you get frustrated or upset during a game.  What do you do?  How does your body language or facial expression change.  Knowing what you are currently doing or how you are weak in this area is the first step to making improvements.

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Mental Game: There Will Always Be Critics

fastpitch softball baserunnerBy Stacie Mahoe

If there’s anything I learned during my experiences with softball as a player, as a coach, and as a parent is that there will ALWAYS be critics and people who try to bring you down.   Just remember, the more time, attention, and energy you spend on those people the less time attention and energy you have to focus on improving yourself!

I’m not saying you can’t ever get upset by it or ever get mad or frustrated about it.  Those feelings are natural reactions. It’s part of being a human being. However, if you let this type of “outside” influence affect you day in and day out, you are never going to reach your full potential.  You have to have enough faith in yourself and what you do and in where you’re trying to go to in order to stay focused on what’s really important vs getting distracted by the obstacles and challenges that most certainly will arise as you progress through your season and your career.

This is why it’s so important to sit down and really think about what you want and where you’re going.  Doing so makes it even easier to see things that are taking you away from that direction.  Without a focus and directions it’s very easy to get off track and actually end up moving farther from your goals.  Mental game training is not something to be taken lightly. It’s a very important part of any athlete’s performance, yet often times we spend most, if not all of our time on only training ourselves physically.

Don’t forget to train your brain as well as your body. It’s definitely a critical element in softball performance and can be difference between being a good player and being a great player.

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