If your athlete is of college showcase age (14+) or soon will be you'll want to read my top 10 tips on how she can stand out in showcase events (whether games or camps):

1. Know WHY you are there! This may seem simple but there is a HUGE difference in mindset between a tournament game and a showcase game/camp. In tournaments your team must shine; in a showcase YOU must shine.

2. Know "they" are ALWAYS watching! To a college coach you are an investment they will only make if they feel it's a safe and sound one. As such they have their "eagle eye" on you before, during and after the game. So pick up those empty water bottles in the dugout 

3. Keep your eyes forward and FOCUS! Dedicate your focus and energy on what you have CONTROL of. Let your performance speak loudly. Once your focus is on the coaches behind the fence you are DONE.

4. Do something special...STAND OUT! A showcase is an OPPORTUNITY to strut your stuff amid the sea of competition so make the most of each ball hit to you; each pitch; each at bat. Get dirty! Give maximum effort ALWAYS, and "effort" is always a CHOICE!

5. Play to your STRENGTHS! If you are a pitcher with a great change up SHOW IT...often. If you've got speed then bunt, slap, steal a base or stretch that single into a double. If you are a power hitter swing HARD. Give the coaches something to REMEMBER you by. Don't take pitches as no college coach will recruit you for walking!

6. Remember the INTANGIBLES! The easiest way to stand out is to do all the little things well. Hustle on and off the field; use your voice in the field or in the dugout; run out hits; smile and have great body language; encourage your teammates; make adjustments; play fearless; love the game. These are easy to do and will make you STAND OUT!

7. PERFECTION is not important. No college coach I have ever been with during a game has told me they expect perfection from pitcher, hitter or fielder. They expect mistakes. They are looking for potential, overall game and mental skills, plus athleticism...and all the things I listed in #6.

8. Would you recruit you? Remember this is a business for a college coach. If they recruit the wrong kids their job is on the line. Give them a reason to want you (preferably several reasons). They don't recruit "projects," kids who may not be coachable, or drama queens. They want leaders who are teachable; kids who will run through a wall and smile while doing it.

9. Negative EMOTION is not an option! The very quickest way to get your name crossed off the college coach's list is to show negative emotion. Showing frustration or anger after a strikeout, error or poor inning in the circle is a terminal cancer. Arguing with an umpire, shaking your head, kicking the dirt, loafing back to the dugout, hanging your head, dropping or throwing a bat or helmet will effectively ban you from 99% of college coach's "prospect list."

10. There is always a TOMORROW! Depending on your athlete's age there will always be another showcase or camp to shine. One bad showing doesn't usually doom a player as long as she does everything else on this list well. The sky will, in fact, not fall in! Often the first showcase or college camp is a scary proposition for a younger player, so a mulligan or two may be necessary. Look at each showcase as a LEARNING opportunity.

If your athlete or team can take to heart these 10 tips and put them into practice they will be well on their way to securing their college softball future!

Thanks for reading! --John Michael Kelly


6 Ways Fragile Confidence is Nurtured or Crushed

I like to compare a younger athlete's sports confidence to that of holding a new born baby. Of course extra caution is necessary due to how fragile the infant child is. 

How any parent or coach handles their athlete(s) is no different. In truth how you "hold" your athlete's confidence matters, for it too is exceptionally fragile. One wrong move and BAM her confidence can shatter, or at the very least develop a large bump on the forehead!

In any given moment with every word spoken, body language gesture or facial expression (after all 90% of our communication as humans is non-verbal, according to a recent UCLA study) your athlete's sports confidence, like that baby, is either being nurtured or damaged.

As a parent or coach you get to decide whether that precious cargo of "confidence" you are holding, and have so much power to shape, will grow steadily or erode steadily. Here are 6 tips to consider:

1. Are you really being critical or supportive? If you are harping on results or expecting her to do more than she is capable you will damage or stymie her confidence.

2. In the same way you speak praise and support to a toddler attempting their first steps, or a child's first bike ride your athlete's confidence needs praise, not criticism or judgment. Words can be very damaging to a young person's confidence, self-esteem and self-image. Use your words carefully!

3. So often I see and hear parents and coaches getting down on their athlete(s) after a mistake on the field, almost as if the athlete was trying to screw up. I can assure you that your athlete is likely doing her best to master a very difficult sport. Allow those mistakes to be the springboard for learning and growth; not events she is terrified of because of the nasty comments, looks and body language she expects from parent or coach.

4. In truth confidence and competence are tied together. As parent or coach work hard to help your athlete to get better in all facets of their game. Give them the constant encourage and time it takes to improve. The more competent she "feels" she is the more her confidence will naturally grow. If she knows that in your eyes making a mistake isn't the end of the world you will be amazed, and I say this from personal experience, how much better she will feel about herself...and how much better she will play!

5. Remember that confidence in one area of her game doesn't guarantee confidence in all areas. By on the lookout for cracks in her confidence and address them in the most supportive way possible. Remind her that she doesn't have to be perfect (no player is).

6. Enjoy the journey. Her softball days will end some day. Why not be more focused on the creation of great memories for both of you instead of making endless mountains out of mole hills that both erode her sports confidence and drive a wedge of frustration between you both.

My daughter recently left for college and I would do anything to take back so many of the harmful things I said to her out of frustration over the years of her playing softball.

Commit to being different. Focus on what you are "for" instead of what you are "against." Develop a positive, supportive, nurturing mindset and watch your athlete(s) blossom on and off the diamond!

**Download a free chapter of my new book, Think Right, Play Great!


Parent & Athlete: 5 Tips for "Big Picture" Thinking

The big picture. Sounds kind of cool, right? Today we all love "big," even outside of the great state of Texas! Bigger is always better, and the idea of big picture thinking usually brings with it positive connotations and expectations. You know, the big hit; the big play; the big game!

Today I want to use the concept of big picture thinking a little differently as it applies to you as a sports parent, coach or athlete.

You see I believe big picture thinking is one of the most powerful mindsets any athlete and their parent/coach can have to insure success on the field and success in college recruiting.

Here are five powerful tips to keep you and your athlete grounded and focused in big picture thinking:

1. For parents - The big picture means not getting caught up with micro-managing how good your athlete is today (if she is 16 or younger). Allow her development process to unfold. Yes, some days she may take two glorious steps forward and other days one agonizing step backwards. Accept it, support it and move on! She is not at 12 what she will be at 16. Your obsession with her play only causes her more pressure on the field to live up to your expectations.

2. For athletes - The big picture means remembering the game takes time to master and, thus, mistakes and game day failures should be viewed as opportunities and challenges to get better...to take another step forward on that stairway to mastery! To build the kind of "macro-confidence" it takes to experience consistent success in a hard game your mindset must be big picture to allow you to easily bounce back from game adversity. Big picture thinking also means keeping a single at bat, pitch or play in proper perspective. In a time when travel softball teams routinely play over 100 games each year is a single at bat, game or tournament really that important?

3. For coaches - The big picture means recognizing that at younger ages your role is "player development," and at the older ages it is "college exposure." No where did I mention winning being the top priority; particularly if it means sacrificing playing time for players to just win baby! Another part of big picture thinking for coaches is refraining from putting any of your athletes into a "box," as physical and mental talents can change and develop dramatically from one age level to the next. In the big picture any of your athletes have the possibility of being much better players than they are now. Be open to that and work hard to develop ALL your players.

4. For parents - The big picture means understanding the "process" from 10 to 12, from 12-14, from 14-16 and 16-18. At each stage of her development you will have to get involved to guide, not only, her athletic development but her academic development as well. If your daughter aspires to play ball in college her academic success may mean as much as her athletic prowess. Because if you are looking for $$ for college the higher your athlete's GPA and board scores the more recruitable she will be. Develop a big picture "plan" and stick to it!

5. For athletes - Remember that big picture thinking means knowing that you always have a "choice" as to how hard you work and how good you can be. Never let anyone out-work you, out hustle you, out prepare you, outsmart you. If you want to make that college team, varsity team, top travel team or all star team you must stand out from the sea of competition. And how do you do that...with BIG PICTURE THINKING! On and off the diamond you will succeed by design, not by accident. Ultimately the only competition you have is you, so challenge yourself with big picture goals and big picture thinking!

So there it is, five cool and important tips to engage in the kind of big picture thinking needed for your athlete and team to succeed in the...big picture of things!

Thanks for reading!

--John Michael Kelly, Softball Smarts

6 Very Cool Tips to Build Her Sports Confidence

6 Very Cool Tips to Build Her Sports Confidence!

Parents and coaches can often make or break a younger athlete's self-confidence. All kids seek to please their parents and mentors and, thus, seek approval for their performance. Criticism is the quickest way to damage self-confidence. Far too often parents and coaches expect too much from someone so young and inexperienced.

Once an athlete is allowed to blossom in the sport over time, often needing to take a step back before taking two steps forward, her confidence and game performance will soar. Unconditional support, not perpetual criticism is the answer to increased self-confidence.

Here are six tips to help boost her self-confidence when it comes to excessive expectations:

1. Stop obsessing with winning! Instead focus your energy on whether she enjoys the game, is giving maximum effort and is getting better on the field. Your athlete and her team are likely a long way from mastering the game so allow them the time ad space to do that.

2. Stop comparing her to your glory days or to another child. Your goal should be for her to be the best (insert her name here) she can be. Expecting her to be and play like an 18 year old (or someone she's not) when she's 12 is a recipe for disaster.

3. Communication. Don't assume she knows how you feel. Even with my own daughter as she got older she often "assumed" I didn't approve of her game performance as a result of all the criticism I heaped on her as a younger player. She never told me until recently and it brakes my heart than I didn't better communicate my pride and support of her as an athlete. Don't let that be you!

4. Frustration occurs for athlete, parent and coach when results fall short of expectations. Rather than focusing and yapping about the problem (results) only, work with her on finding a solution (the process) to her game inconsistencies. Maybe she needs help with her mental game or a new hitting coach, a few hundred more ground balls, or just for dad or mom to LIGHTEN UP?

5. She may well be making mistakes on the field because of the pressure she feels to please you and the fear of letting you down. And even though you may never say it she understands how much you are investing in her game and how the family may need an athletic scholarship for her to go to college; thus how important it is that she plays well.

This pressure will not improve her performance, so encourage her to chill and have fun. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. Focus her on maximizing her effort and preparation and she'll get there!

6. The surest way to destroy confidence in a younger athlete is to give up on her as a parent or coach. I've seen parents and coaches literally walk away from their daughter or team after a poor play. That behavior is a dagger to the heart and spirit of any young athlete and will surely puncture any shred of sports confidence she or they have.

Hang in there (even if you have to bite your tongue) and let her know by your actions that you're backing her AND her team 110%. She will surely thank you for it and play much closer to her athletic potential with a smile on her face!

Thanks for reading! --John Michael Kelly

**Be sure to register for my upcoming free webinar"The 4 Crucial Keys to Build Lasting Sports Confidence: How to Unleash the Awesomeness in Your Athlete or Team"