A lot of the time, we tend to just concentrate on how to make yourself better as an individual softball player. Another important aspect of being recruited is how well you fit into the team atmosphere a coach has created. To become a great softball player you also need to be a successful team player. As individualized as softball may seem, it has a huge team aspect that’s important as well.
— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) April 6, 2018
Always strive to get better. Softball is a culture that changes throughout the years in techniques and teaching styles, so don’t get left behind. Coaches are continuously attending coaching and softball conferences to be informed on the new changes coming to the game and how to properly handle those changes. If a coach is instructing you to make a certain change it is crucial to trust your coach is making these changes for a reason. No one is “too good” to improve and that kind of attitude will not get you far in the softball world. It’s very important to not only know how to receive constructive criticism but also give that criticism in a respectful way. Part of being a good leader is knowing your role and what your team goal is, so you can help those who are still struggling to buy into the plan. Once you get to a high level of playing such as college, you gradually start being more and more responsible for your own success. Your teammates are your biggest resource and are all in generally the same situation as student-athletes, don’t be afraid to get better as a team.
There are a bunch of cliché’s around this self-motivation aspect of the game that I’m sure you’ve all heard: “practice makes perfect” or “stay ready so you don’t have to get ready”. However much those phrases are overused, they do make some good points. The off-season is where athletes are made, this is the time where you need to work hard when there’s no one around. Stay in proper shape. There’s nothing more frustrating to a coach than when they see an athlete at the end of their last season making some great strides of improvement, to returning in the new season out of shape and unprepared. Staying ready is the key to improving as an athlete, so if you don’t have that inner drive and motivation it’s harder to get to where you want to be physically and mentally. Being self-motivated helps yourself and sometimes it helps other teammates realize they might need some motivation themselves.
— Oregon Softball (@OregonSB) April 4, 2018
I think this could be one of the most important pillars to be a great teammate. Nothing is more distasteful to a team that sees one player only get excited when they perform well or upset if they personally make a mistake. Being part of a team, you should be just as excited for a teammate to hit a home run, steal a base, or strike as if you did it yourself. Everything that your team does is a reflection on you and everything you do is a reflection on the team. Be selfless and always think about how you’re contributing to the team. Once that jersey is on, nothing else matters but that team name. Even when you’re not playing it is a crucial part of the game to encourage teammates from the bench. Cheering and getting excited can completely change the moral of the game and also shows if the other team can handle pressure situations.
As we grow as softball players, it’s hard to avoid finding a spot on the field you like and specializing in that position. However, it’s important to keep an open mind when considering joining a new squad. Don’t discount yourself from trying new positions, a new coach might see a certain skill set in you that a previous coach didn’t. If you take a minute to check out the college softball websites for the Division I schools, you’ll see a lot of the players are listed as “INF” or “OF” except for the pitchers. This type of tactic gives a team versatility and plenty of options depending on the opponent they’re facing. Having an open mind also means being coachable. Trust the process and trust your coach, they are making decisions to benefit both yourself and the team.
Accountability might be the number one struggle I see for athletes in today’s sports, not just softball. There seems to be a culture of putting the blame on other people or making excuses for an unsatisfactory performance. One thing I learned as I was growing up playing sports, is that no one is going to change anything for you. You can talk about what you should be doing but until you take the initiative of doing it, it will remain unchanged. Taking responsibility for your actions has never been more relevant than it is today. Whether it’s a parent, a coach, or an official, it seems like everyone is doing something wrong besides the child learning the sport. We have to take our kids off this high pedestal and let them realize no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how you deal with those mistakes that shows what kind of a person you are. Blaming others will not help you get better, so it’s best to take a step back and try to evaluate yourself as an outsider looking in. Self-realization will make you a better all-around athlete and can also help give you realistic results.