Softball, like most sports, is a difficult game to master and achieve consistent success in; however success does leave clues. As I told our two teams last night it's an easy game when you do certain things right and a brutal game when you don't. So how does your athlete and her team become consistent peak performers and what are the clues success leaves for them to discover?
1. Mental Focus - At my practice last night the girls had a hard time focusing and that was really the main cause for their lackluster performance. Being able to train one's mind on the task at hand is harder for some people than others. However the game doesn't care. If your athlete is easily distracted by other players goofing around or any external factor she will have a hard time being her best. Mental focus is always a choice and clearly a factor she has 100% control over.
2. Practice Intensity - For some reason it seems a common thing for players not to bring the same intensity to practice they do during a game. Perhaps it's the culture of the team or nature of the practice but your athlete is robbing herself of a valuable opportunity to get everything she can out of each and every practice if she is not playing with a high level of intensity. I tell my teams that they will play how they practice, so it makes no sense to me for them to bring less than their "A" game during practice. If they can't bring it for practice how do they expect to turn the switch on between the white lines on Saturday? Like its sister mental focus, intensity is a choice and fully within your athlete's control to exert.
3. Desire to Be Better - In my book, "How She Thinks is How She Plays" I talk about assessing motivation and desire in your athlete. Ultimately either she wants it or she does not. The game gets faster and harder with each level your athlete progresses to. Giving 110% all the time is what it takes to become an elite athlete top coaches put at the top of their recruiting list, and that mentality is employed ALL THE TIME; in practice as well as games. If your athlete has a burning desire to get better each time she steps on the field there is no question she has every opportunity to reach her goals.
4. Paying Attention to Details - This is a game of minute details of execution that will make or break your athlete and her team if not done the correct way. Fastpitch is a much faster game than baseball so mistakes are magnified. Your athlete must constantly be a student of the game and observe every little detail around her that will cause her to become a better player. Her mindset must be that of a sponge...always soaking in valuable information to give her the edge.
5. Enjoy the Game - This may sound obvious, but successful players and teams enjoy being on the field and being part of their team. This sense of excitement to go to practice or put on the uniform shows up in having a great attitude and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get better and help the team succeed. Playing under stress and anxiety, worrying too much about each result or playing to please mom or dad will also show up in a player's on the field performance. Again, attitude is a choice and 100% within your athlete's control.
In fastpitch softball success definitely leaves clues and most of them are things that your athlete has complete control over. Like I tell my teams...you are always at choice to what effort you give, what attitude you bring and what mental focus you exert each time you step on the field. Be sure your athlete understands these clues for her success and makes a conscious effort to elevate her game around them. When she does I can assure you her results will reflect her effort!
Thanks for reading! -- John Kelly