There is always a player on every team who has a negative mind. Most athletes have experienced negative thoughts or have expressed negative actions at one point or another. Does that mean we all have a negative mind? Maybe. Some negative minds are more dominant than others. There is a difference between having negative thoughts and a negative mind.
Negative thoughts usually occur after something doesn’t go the way the athlete intended it to. This may be something said to oneself after a bad at bat, giving up a home run, booting a ground ball, etc. We all have self-talks to ourselves when we are between the lines. They occur inside our own heads and often times others don’t even know when they are occurring.
Negative minds are completely different. These often times start with a negative thought after making a mistake, an out, a bad pitch, but they don’t shut off. One negative thought often leads to another negative thought and then another, until finally, the string of negative thoughts causes the athlete to spiral mentally out of control. When an athlete begins to spiral, that’s when the negative thoughts become more than thoughts and turn into negative body actions.
Some of the most common negative body actions that athletes show are angry faces, shrugged or slouched shoulders, shaking of the head, clenched fists, rolling eyes, throwing arms in the air, tossing of equipment, stomping, tears, etc. Everyone shows their negative body language differently but many of us have experienced this form of emotion before.
Negative thoughts can lead to a negative mind. The negative mind is a place no one wants to be. Once an athlete finds themselves in a negative mind trap, it’s tough to get out. A negative mind consumes the athlete. The word fun will lack meaning and even cease to exist in some circumstances. The day you stop having fun in the sport you are playing, is the day you need to hang up your cleats.
There are ways to escape a negative mind once you have entered that mental state. Time away or a break from the game is the best option. It could be a few days away, months, or even a season. If the athlete starts to miss the game, then they are ready to be brought back in. If they don’t, give it some more time and if that doesn’t work, maybe it’s time to step away.
Athletes fall into a negative mindset for a reason. If stepping away isn’t an option, the root of the problem or the cause of the negative thoughts needs to be identified. It could be caused by expectations set by the athlete or the coach to succeed. Find ways to keep the game fresh and fun physically and mentally. Winning is fun, but athletes need to understand that losing is part of the game too and individual failure is inevitable in softball. We play a sport where succeeding is getting three out of 10 hits, let that sink in.
The game of softball is a journey and should be fun. Remember, the day you stop having fun and enjoying the journey is the day you need to hang up your cleats.