Written By Shannon Murray
Everyone’s been hit by a pitch, shed some blood, or gotten hurt in a game at some point in their careers. Most of us shake it off and get right back in the game, as we should do. You slap on a band aid or walk it out and you can move right on back into the game from there. But there is one injury that is tougher than your average scrape on the knee to shake off…the mental ones.
From high school back, if I had a dime for every time I kicked myself for walking a batter in a game, striking out at the plate or fumbled a ground ball I’d be a millionaire by now. Looking back now, would all those riches have been worth it for all those times I was beating myself up? Absolutely not. What I didn’t realize was not only was I hindering my own playing, but that of my teammates as well. I needed to develop some mental toughness.
What does being mentally tough even mean? Basically, you have to find the band aid that goes inside your head to get over whatever scrape you just made for yourself. Mental toughness isn’t something that can be learned in a book. This form of art is one that has to be mastered in the mind on your own. It is also different for everyone. How you make yourself mentally tough is personally designed to you. Holding onto what happened in the past can’t change the future. Staying mad at yourself for missing that easy pop fly in center field won’t help you catch the next one. It’s about moving on. Holding on to the negative can even affect your attitude toward yourself and your teammates.
On a team, attitudes are contagious. You want to have a positive, encouraging and winning attitude with your team. Holding on to the screw ups we make will hold us back from that. If you have a bad attitude about yourself it can transfer to your teammates. Saying to yourself, “Well great, I just walked two batters in a row and now we’re going to lose” doesn’t help you or your team. You don’t even have to say it out loud. Your facial expressions, actions and perhaps lack of voice will say it all for you. Well here’s how you’re going to fix that… GET OVER IT! It’s not the end of the world, I can 100% promise you that. You make one mistake and your life is not over. So here’s where you help yourself become mentally tough.
Players, if you find yourself holding onto the mistakes that you make on the field, design your personal mental toughness plan. Personally, to keep myself from falling in the hole, I would keep my teammates in mind. That’s why I picked this photo for this week’s blog. Going onto the field and thinking about these girls kept my head held high and encouraged me to stay strong when it was toughest on the field. I knew that I wasn’t alone and we were in this together. They looked to me for leadership and if they saw me fall apart, I knew they too were sure to do the same. One of my phrases I took with me on the field was “Play for Her”. If I struck out, I held my head high jogged back to the dugout and told the girl on deck to pick me up with her at bat. That showed my teammates that I made a mistake but wasn’t going to let it affect me. Giving yourself a 3 second maximum to get over a mistake can help too. After the play is over from a ground ball that went between your legs, give yourself 3 seconds to be annoyed and snap back. It’s over, it’s done with, now move on because you have plenty of more plays and chances to make up for the last one. No matter what your personal mental toughness plan is, always remember to have a poker face. It doesn’t matter what mistake you made, don’t let anyone know how you feel about it. Keep an encouraging attitude that is sure to pull you up from the hole that you fell in from making that mistake. As a coach, I always encourage my players to keep their poker face on and to move on from the mistakes they make. We want the ships of success to sail not sink.
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