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sports psychology

Softball Tips: 3 Ways to Bounce Back From Mistakes


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 – The Pre-Game Pep Talk


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

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


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 Performance Tips – Are You Enough?

By Stacie Mahoe

“If you are not enough without it, you will never be enough with it”

softballtips - mental gameI love quotes. I just absolutely love quotes. Whether they are about chasing dreams, building confidence, working hard anything that I can use to inspire me. So I love watching some of the all time classic sports coaching movies. The ones where at just the right time emotionally the well respected old coach delivers the perfect motivational saying. The one that rallies the troops to come back from an insurmountable score, the one that sticks with you the rest of your life and you just wait for the right time to share it with others and pass it on.

One of the lines that has stuck with me for 18 years now actually comes from one of the most unexpected places. The comedy classic “Cool Runnings” which is about the Jamaican Bobsled team. The coach in the movie is played by John Candy and throughout the movie he is the exact opposite of what you would expect from a “great coach.” He’s not very disciplined. He doesn’t even try hard. As the move progresses you learn that he got kicked out of the sport he loved, bobsledding, for cheating. Clearly not the kind of person you would want leading your daughters … right?

After rolling on the floor for over an hour at the rib splitting humor in the movie, it finally transitions to that pivotal moment. The central character in the movie finally has that “heart to heart” talk with the coach and asks him “Why did you cheat?” The laughable, fool hardy, undisciplined coach finally opens up and shares “I let the pressure get to me. I felt like I HAD to win. Don’t let that happen to you. If there is one thing I want you to know” and here is the line I’ll never forget “If you are not enough without it, you will never be enough with it.”

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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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