Managing Emotions: The Hidden Secret To Softball Success Written By John Michael Kelly
It is often said that sports are 80% mental. As someone who played baseball through college and has coached over 1,200 fastpitch games I would argue that statement is far more TRUE than most parents, coaches and players know or care to acknowledge.
The sad truth is that the young softball players of today don’t spend 80% of their preparation time on their mental game. Heck, I would imagine that for most players, teams and coaches that percentage is a likely a dreadful 10% or LESS!
You see any athlete can take a thousand more swings in the cage or off the tee or into the net; throw a thousand more pitches or take a thousand more ground balls –and yes, this is essential to mastering the physical mechanics of the game. However physical preparation alone, without meaningful mental preparation, will always leave both player and team vulnerable to that critical moment when “the game” decides to whack you upside the head with a strong dose of ADVERSITY that changes the outcome of the game (or an athlete’s future in the case of a showcase game with dozens of college coaches watching!).
Even more critical in determining game success is the fact that, not only is mental game mastery essential, the mental and emotional actually proceed and direct the physical. In other words the “process” of playing the game –hitting, pitching, fielding, base running—all start with the mind’s ability to see, cognitively process and then take action in a fraction of a second.
Imagine the challenges a hitter faces when having but 1/3 of a second to determine pitch velocity, movement and ultimate location at contact before swinging. Wow! In order to successfully navigate an at bat the hitter must possess 100% PMA (present moment awareness) and a strong foundation of sports confidence to be able to execute their swing without hesitation or doubt. Past focus (regret, anger, frustration) or future focus (worry, fear, doubt) will surely sabotage the hitter. The harsh reality is that emotion will always win out over the physical.
Additionally the mental drives the physical in terms of the physiological impact an athlete’s emotional state triggers during periods of elevated stress and anxiety. These physiological changes look like an elevated pulse, sweaty palms, shorter breathes leading to reduced oxygen intake, tense muscles, reduced eye-hand coordination and even diminished eyesight. Yikes! As you can clearly see in this scenario what chance does a hitter have to put that round bat on the round ball squarely if her emotions have gotten the best of her?
In short emotion can make all the physical preparation invested by any athlete relatively worthless without attention to and substantial preparation in the mental side of the game.
Today in the world of fastpitch softball I see a huge disconnect between parents, players and coaches as to the mental/emotional component and consistent game performance levels. Yet these same parents, players and coaches wonder why their athlete/team looked so good in practice or with their hitting or pitching coach yet cannot seem to achieve the same success come game day.
If you want your athlete or team to step up their game the answer may just be found between her ears and not with her bat or glove. An athlete’s ability to manage her emotional state is crucial to being able to optimally perform the tasks necessary to succeed on the diamond.
In my next article article I’ll dish out five powerful solutions to help your athlete and team to win the emotional game!
John Michael Kelly: John Michael Kelly, America’s Sports Confidence Coach, is known for skyrocketing the self-confidence and game performance levels for thousands of youth athletes and teams from coast to coast by reducing the stress and increasing the joy for playing the game! John also coaches travel softball with the 18u and 18 Gold teams for The Next Level (“TNL”) organization in sunny San Diego. You can follow John at SoftballSmarts.com and Facebook.com/SoftballSmarts.
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