Her ability to bounce back from failure and adversity, to be resilient, is the key. But how does she learn to do that on a consistent basis? It's vitally important for you as the adult to help her to frame the game and her performance in a way that will encourage her to use her power of resiliency.
In my team's games last Sunday one of my players was having a difficult time adjusting to a slower pitcher. My player kept lining the ball foul, like five times in a row. She could not wait long enough to hit the ball fair. I could see her frustration mount with each pitch. I was telling her to "stay back," but her body would not comply. In one at bat, after maybe eight or nine pitches she grounded out to 3B. All she could do was shake her head all the way back to the dugout.
Before her next at bat I continued to work on her to mentally slow the game down, to experiment with her timing a bit, and mostly to have fun with it. On her next at bat she hit the first pitch way foul again. She looked at me and I just smiled back at her. She smiled at me and proceeded to line the next pitch right at 2B for another out. When she got to first base I smile and congratulated her on a great at bat. She made the difficult adjustment and waited long enough to hit the ball but a foot away from being a hit.
If your athlete, like my player, is only concerned with the results (making an out), without realizing just what a great at bat she may have had (by making adjustments, making the pitcher throw 8-9 pitches, by laying down a perfect sacrifice bunt, hitting behind the runner to advance her, or hitting the ball right on the screws right at somebody) she may be inclined to see her results as having failed.
Here are five sure fire ways you can help her to frame her performance in a way that will build up her resiliency:
- Reaffirm that the game of fastpitch is a difficult one in which no one is perfect. Mistakes and poor at bats are going to happen; they happen to every player.
- On the days when the game gets her she needs to view it as a "learning" or "investment" day to help her get better. Inevitably all mistakes provide an opportunity for growth.
- Have her focus on her effort and not the outcome or results. In this way she can focus on those factors she has control over...her effort and her attitude.
- Practice non-judgment of her performance. If she feels that you are down on her game it will be much harder for her to bounce back. Be supportive and re-read points 1-3.
- Have a discussion with her about expectations. Expectations her parents, coaches and she has for her performance, and determine how realistic these expectations are. Again, no one is perfect, but if your athlete truly believes she has to be her resiliency to bounce back from adversity will be slow forming.
Building a strong, resilient athlete requires a short memory, self-confidence and highly supportive parents and coaches. Like everything in sports resiliency will take time to cultivate on her journey to mastery.
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