There is much more that goes into teams being ready to go on game days than just showing up to the field. Teams who show up and expect to win often will come up short. The teams who practice their skills and craft throughout the long off-season months, who focus on the mental part of the game, and who become a close-knit unit off the field, are more likely to find success when they step between the lines on game days.
Team prep for games can be much easier to achieve than individual prep. There are nine positions on the softball field when a team is on defense. Each position is going to require different amounts of practice and skill reps by the athletes. Pitchers are going to need more work in the off-season to improve and maintain skills and pitching endurance. Infielders may require extra work on short hops when they get back out on the dirt. It can be hard for athletes to find space and time to practice the amount they need to be successful on game days.
Then there is the offensive side of the game. It’s crucial that hitters put in additional time and practice on their swings, bunts, and slaps in their time away from the diamond. Don’t forget about conditioning, strength, and endurance training. Even though you may question your sanity while you are dripping sweat in the weight room or on the cardio bike, challenging off-field workouts are designed by coaches to help you mentally prepare as well.
Champions aren’t necessarily made on game days, but rather in the off-season months. If you find yourself unmotivated to head to the batting cages for some extra reps, think about your competition. Imagine your rival team and picture all of the hard work they are putting in during the off-season months so they can be prepared when they play you again. If your team came out on top in the head to head matchup, never settle. Softball players are fiery, competitive, and hungry for redemption matchups when they come out on the losing end.
If you are gearing up for your softball season, it’s common to have butterflies in your stomach. Butterflies are often associated with nerves and excitement. It’s okay to be nervous because it means that you care, you just can’t let the nerves consume you and take you out of your element. It’s also okay to be excited, but again not to the point where it overcomes you. Often when players are high on nerves and excitement, little mistakes are made.
When you step on the field for your first game of the season, take a deep breath and take it all in. This will likely be the first of many games of the season to come, but the first and last game are often the ones we remember the most. If you feel the nerves taking over the excitement, remember to breathe. Even if you are mentally and physically prepared and put the work in, in the off-season months, you may still find yourself to be nervous, and that’s perfectly normal.
It’s important that softball players trust all of the work they have put in leading up to the first game of the season. The quality of the practice and work is important. If you find yourself hitting balls off the tee without focusing on a specific part of your swing, you are likely just going through the motions. This doesn’t benefit the player and bad habits are likely to form.
The softball season is quickly approaching. If you find yourself not feeling ready, there is still time. If you find yourself feeling unsure that you did enough, look back on the off-season months and reflect on the time, work, and energy you put in on and off the field. If you spent quality time and reps on your craft, you are more prepared than you think. Even if it’s been a while since seeing live hitting or feeling dirt under your cleats, your muscle memory will take over and you will adjust. Also keep in mind that it’s not necessarily how you start, but more importantly how you finish. Have some fun, trust yourself, your teammates, coaches, and support system surrounding you, take a deep breath, and let’s play ball!