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Mental Training – Tips to Keep Your Head in the Game

By Bill Bruce

 We have all seen it happen, a “senseless” play.

Example #1: There’s a runner on 2nd base with one out. The batter hits a fly ball to centerfield. The runner takes off at the crack of the bat hoping to score, if the fielder doesn’t make the play. The center fielder catches it and throws it in to 2nd to get the runner at 2nd out as well. When the coach asks the runner why she was running, she explains sheepishly, “I thought there were 2 outs already.”

Example #2: Bottom of the last inning, your team is winning by 1 run (you are the visitors). There are runners on 1st and 2nd, with 2 outs. The batter, who is extremely fast, hit’s a routine grounder to 3rd base. The 3rd baseman fields it cleanly and she makes a rushed throw, to first, which goes over the 1st baseman’s head and allows 2 runs to score costing your team the game. When the coach asked the 3rd baseman why she didn’t just step on 3rd base for the final out instead of throwing to 1st, she replies with a look of astonishment, “I forgot about the runners.”

I could list pages of examples that we have all seen, examples where players just didn’t have their “heads in the game”.

When you step on the field to play you need to focus on the task at hand, and that’s playing softball. There are plenty of things that can distract you if you are not concentrating and focusing.

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Things like: the other team, the people watching the game, games going on other fields, the weather, fatigue, pain from an injury, thinking about problems at home, thinking about the bad officiating, thinking about the last play, the last inning, the last game, etc….You need to shut these “distractions” out and focus on softball.

When you’re in the middle of a softball game you should only be focusing on softball. “How do I do that,” you ask.

When you’re on defense, in the field

1) First and foremost expect every ball to be hit to you.

2) Clear your mind of any distractions. Before each pitch/batter ask yourself a series of questions.

3) How many outs are there? What’s the count?

4) Are there any base runners? Where? How fast?

5)How does this batter usually hit? (pull it, grounder right side, long fly ball, etc..) Do I need to adjust where I’m playing?

6) Based on the outs and base runners, when the ball comes to you what are you going to do with it? (Decide before the pitch so that when the ball gets hit to you, you don’t have to think, just react.)

7) Take a big breath and get ready to field the ball.

Note: You need to do these steps before every batter/pitch. Eventually, you will do it automatically without even thinking about it.

When your team is up to bat

1) Pay attention. (Watch and see who the weaker fielders are, which outfielders have cannons for arms and which don’t, etc.)

2) Know how many outs. (This seems so obvious, but we’ve all seen it time after time where the base runner forgets how many outs there are.)

3) Watch the pitcher. (Watch for tip offs for different pitches, what is her strikeout pitch? When and how often does she throw her change? Etc.)

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