Softball is a complicated sport and the game itself is full of failure. In a sport where athletes are always forced to be thinking one play or one pitch ahead, mistakes are going to happen. It’s part of the game and in this sport, there will always be a team on the winning end and one that comes up short. It’s essential that coaches and parents instill confidence in their athletes at a young age. Errors are going to be committed in the field; pitchers are going to give up hits, batters are going to strike out, base runners will run themselves out of innings from time to time, signs will be missed, the mistake list could go on and on.
It’s easy to remember the mistakes because they often occur less frequently than the executed plays. Instead of dwelling on the errors or the mishaps that happened during a game, use it as a learning experience. Coaches are encouraged to hold team huddles after every game, win or lose. This is an excellent opportunity to go over some of the critical moments of the game. It is also a great time to address the team as a whole, on the things that need to be improved on. If a player missed a sign during the game, take the time to revisit the signs with the whole team afterward. Teams should always be working together to improve because at the end of the day, even though one player missed the sign, the entire team can learn from it.
Softball players can’t play scared. Fear is a softball player’s worst nightmare. Once you let the thought of fear into your mind, especially when you are on the playing field, it will consume you. If you play scared, your chance of failure increases. If a hitter steps into the box and all she can think about is “don’t strike out,” the chance of this player striking out is high. If a pitcher is on the mound and is facing off against a power hitter, if the thought “don’t give up a home run” crosses her mind, she is more than likely going to give up the home run. Instead of thinking about the adverse outcomes and trying to avoid them, the mindset needs to be changed.
Instead of saying “don’t” to yourself, mentally tell yourself what you are going to “do.” If the same hitter from the previous paragraph steps into the box and says “I am going to make contact with the first strike I see,” she is more likely to succeed. If the pitcher who is facing off against the power hitter steps on the mound with the mindset of “keeping the ball low and hitting corners,” the batter she is facing is more likely to ground out or commit an out.
It’s easy to get caught up in the “don’ts” in softball because everyone wants to succeed, for themselves and their team. You can’t play scared in our sport because the second you show weakness; your opponent will capitalize on it. If a pitcher gives up a home run, encourage her to shift her mental focus to throwing a strike on the next pitch. That one strike will be critical to the momentum shift and will put the control and tempo of the game back into the hands of the pitcher.
You can’t play scared in softball; you just can’t. Players need to understand and accept that failure is going to happen over and over again. Softball is a team sport, you win and lose as a team. Games are rarely lost because of one mistake a player made. Even if this does happen, the team could have done something differently throughout the entire game to avoid the outcome being determined by a mistake. If you find yourself playing scared, push the fear aside and focus on your role and what you are going to do to execute that role. Play free, have fun, and you will set yourself up for a higher chance of success.