Thursday, December 29

10 Tips to Make 2012 Her Best Season Yet

It's January...the start of a new year when all things seems possible. Whether you are basking in 75 degree California weather or the wintery 20's in Detroit the 2012 softball season will be here before you know it (my first practice of 2012 is in two days).

As a coach the beginning of a new season is always exciting because every team and every player starts off with a clean slate, with thoughts of championships and .500 batting averages dancing through our heads. And the truth is that phenomenal success for your team or athlete is entirely possible...it really is.

It all gets down to what level of effort, dedication and attitude she brings to her game. After coaching for over a decade and having played ball through college I know that any player can expect to get out of the game exactly what she puts into it. You see the harsh truth is that "the game" doesn't care who wins. The game doesn't care who gets a hit and who makes an error. The game will giveth and taketh away without regard for who the players or teams are. The definable variable for success in a difficult game is personal choice.

Here are 10 surefire ways to turn the new season into a memorable one for your athlete:

1. Inspire yourself and others with your effort. Bring 110% effort each time you step on the field and stand out from the crowd.

2. Work harder than everyone else. Put in the time for more grounders, more swings, more pitches. To be great you have to be willing to want it more.

travel softball hitter
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3. Work equally as hard in your mental skills training. Question your assumptions and beliefs about yourself that may be limiting your performance.

4. Trust yourself more. If you are trying a new position, new hitting or pitching mechanics, or advancing to the next age level be willing to step outside of old comfort zones and embrace the opportunity in front of you with a "can do" attitude.

5. Set measurable goals you can track during the season. When you are tired or mentally fatigued during a game or long practice remember your goals and push a little harder.

6. Understand why you play the game. What motivates you? Find the underlying motive as to why you play and you will unlock the true secret of success.


7. Play the game with passion and joy. Once you know why you play and you trust yourself enough to give 110% have fun playing. Playing with passion brings great energy, focus and joy. Play the game with a pep in your step!

8. Be a relentless student of the game. "ABL" (always be learning). Greatness comes from understanding the game on the path of mastery. You can learn from playing or watching. It is always the little things that make the different between good and great.

9. Focus on your effort not the results. It is easy to get caught up in the results in such a numbers oriented game. However, know the factors you have control over (effort, attitude, focus) and the ones you do not. The irony is if you work hard at the things you can control the results you desire will come!

10. Support her unconditionally. This last point is aimed at parents. Remember that your athlete's journey towards mastering a very difficult game will take time. Be patient with her, celebrate her efforts, and be sure you help her to keep the game fun by keeping her perspective balanced.

Your athlete will get out of this great game what she is willing to put into it, with stellar physical and mental training and effort. She can truly be as good as she wants to be because the game doesn't care; the game does not play favorites. It will give her every opportunity for greatness whenever she is willing to accept the challenge!

I wish you and your family an awesome 2012. If your athlete can embrace these 9 tips (and you the last tip) she will be well on her way towards creating her best season ever!


 Watch John Kelly explain how to skyrocket your athlete's game day performance HERE.

Don't leave her 2012 success to chance! The game is 90% mental. Give her the gift that will change her game forever...The Game Changer Program: A Mental Skills Blueprint to Make Her the Best She Can Be!

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Wednesday, December 28

Focusing On Her Results is a Recipe for Disaster

Let’s face it, we live in a world today that is OBSESSED and consumed by RESULTS.  Never before in human history have our results been so micro-focused on and made so public so quickly.  With cell phone cameras, mobile Internet access, You Tube, Facebook, Twitter and other rapidly emerging technologies people’s actions are recorded, publicized and robustly judged within a matter of mere minutes of an event…worldwide.  WOW, talk about pressure!  


If you are a fastpitch softball player at the high school or travel level it is likely that your coach reports game statistics on MaxPreps.com or Game Changer, so the whole world can see your individual RESULTS, even college coaches. Softball, like baseball, has become a game driven by obscure statistics measuring things like On Base %, WHIP (walks + hits/inning pitched), RISP Average, Strikeout to Walk Ratio, Fielding %, ERA, Slugging %, Quality AB Ratio, and a few dozen more obscure ones.


Over and above the keeping of statistics in fastpitch softball is the moment by moment scrutiny of players’ performances by their coaches and parents. Fastpitch softball is a game of individual battles within the team game. As a result each player will be judged on her individual performance over and above whatever her team does that day. As we cover elsewhere in this book, a fastpitch softball player may have 6-10 plays per game that she will be judged on as good or bad, as a success or failure (more if your athlete is a pitcher). A coach, parent or player will absolutely keep score of the performance that day guaranteed.  


With this much scrutiny and pressure the KEY for your athlete’s developing a healthy and successful approach to playing the game of softball is in SHIFTING of her focus AWAY from the RESULTS or outcomes of her performance and, rather, focus on the PROCESS or effort involved in the event or action.  This is perhaps the single most important factor in producing confident, successful, happy athletes.  



LET ME REPEAT THAT…focusing on an athlete’s RESULTS only is not only a bad idea, it’s a confidence killer that will do more to harm an athlete’s potential to become a consistent, peak performer and her love for the game that any other single factor!

That being said, as a player, coach or parent, how do you make the shift away from results thinking to process thinking and why?


Here’s the why: it is super important for an athlete to recognize the factors she has control over and those factors she does not have ANY control over.


As you can see the player, coaches and parents could view the athlete’s effort as a failure or as a success.  If the athlete views it as a failure a “negative” file is stored away in her brain for future use.  However, if the athlete perceives the effort as a success a “positive” file is stored away in her brain for future use.  Which one do you think will do more good to insure success in her future at bats, and which one may cause to sabotage your athlete’s future efforts? An athlete has total control of the effort she puts into her training and preparation for a game.  And because fastpitch softball is a game of ultra specific skills and mechanics within those skills it is the execution of these skills or PROCESSES that the athlete should be concerned with, not necessarily the results or outcome those processes produce.


Why? Because an athlete has 100% CONTROL over the process and tasks necessary to get better as a player. Putting the focus on the process allows the athlete to use a game situation as an indicator or litmus test of how her skills process is progressing. It also allows her to frame each game as an opportunity to learn how to execute her skills (tasks) better.


In short get your athlete (and yourself) to focus on her effort, her attitude and her mental focus…the factors she absolutely has control over, and let go of the rest! Neither you nor her can control the results so why focus on them? I guarantee you that she will get results commensurate with her effort, attitude and focus.

(This post is an excerpt from John Kelly's new book, How She Thinks is How She Plays. Read more about this "must read" book HERE.)


Sunday, December 25

Winning the Confidence Game

For most any athlete, even professional athletes, playing with confidence is essential for success to occur. But for young athletes inadequate self-confidence not only damages an athlete's performance but it can also seep into other parts of their lives as well.

Of all the subjects I cover on mental skills training I get the most interest and feedback on the area of self-confidence, and for good reason. For a teenage girl playing softball confidence is almost as important as oxygen (and texting!) to insure her success and happiness!

In a game as challenging as fastpitch softball self-confidence is the elixir of champions. Without it the game can eat a young athlete alive. With it  a young athlete can achieve greatness far quicker than you can imagine. Here are 5 tips for winning the confidence game:

1. Believe It - if your athlete has conviction that she will succeed she is well on her way to massive success. Self-confidence is a result of "can do" thinking, which emanates from a powerful belief that a task or goal can be achieved. If, on the other hand, your athlete questions her ability to succeed her core belief is telling her that she "can't do" it. Limiting thinking always starts with distorted beliefs. Once she truly believes it can can achieve it.

2. Don't Expect Perfection - Let's face it, in softball your athlete is going to make errors, mental mistakes and have poor at bats; it's simply an inevitable part of the game. As such your athlete cannot expect to be perfect. No one who ever played the game or will ever play the game has been or will be PERFECT. Your athlete's ability to frame her failings as a learning opportunity on her path to game mastery will allow her to maintain her self-confidence in the face of adversity.
high school softball hitter
Give Her the Gift that Will Change Her Game Forever!

3. Parental Support - this may seem a non-issue for you, but first consider the expectations you place on your athlete for her on the field performance. Excessive expectations can cause her difficulty because she so wants to please her parents, and any perceived "failure" on the field can increase her stress and anxiety levels causing further declines in her performance. Even worse if she hears negative comments during or after the game from you about her performance it will serve to erode her self-confidence even more. She needs your 110% unconditional support to build and maintain the level of self-confidence it will take for her to succeed at a difficult game.


4. Leave Her Comfort Zone - for your athlete to be her best and develop the rock solid self-confidence necessary to become a consistent peak performer she will need to abandon her comfort zones and trust herself enough to grow in the sport. This is why so many players look great in practice, particularly batting practice, but can't seem to perform at the same level once they cross the white lines. Practice is typically low stress, while games are higher stress. Building self-confidence in game situations requires that your athlete trust herself enough to try new things, new mechanics, new approaches...and understand that in the short run she may experience a few bumps in the road until she is more comfortable with the new way of doing things. Softball is a game of adjustments and unless your athlete is prepared to leave old ways of doing things she will never advance in the game and her self-confidence will sputter too.

5. Expect It - today most young softball players put an enormous amount of time into the game. Your athlete should consider that time an "investment" in her game. And like any investment she should expect to get a "return" on her investment. Expecting success on game day means believing she is worthy of success. So often players do not feel worthy of success. They feel they aren't fast enough, strong enough, athletic enough or simply good enough to succeed. They feel inadequate in relation to teammates or opponents. This inadequacy looks like lower self-image, lower self-esteem and, of course, lower self-confidence. Once your athlete begins to expect that her hard hard should and will yield positive results on the field she will begin to cultivate greater self-confidence.

Remember, winning the confidence game is a process that may take some time. For youngsters self-confidence can be a "here today, gone tomorrow" proposition. To be sure she is on the right path guard against feelings of frustration and anger when things don't go her way on the diamond. Have a serious conversation with your athlete to discover what her core beliefs are about herself and softball. You might be surprised!

Review these five tips with her often. If she can properly frame the game and herself in the game she should be okay. However, if she starts developing distorted thinking (the result of distorted beliefs about herself and the game) you will need to step in as this kind of thinking will absolutely limit her self-confidence and game performance.

As a self-confident athlete the sky is the limit for her. I wish your athlete success in winning the confidence game!


 Watch John Kelly explain how to skyrocket your athlete's game day performance HERE.

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Thursday, December 22

She's Just One Thought Away from Success

Success...we all want it for our kids, don't we? Whether it be in the classroom or on the athletic field we do all we can to insure that our daughters have every opportunity to succeed. And yet the secret to her success may be far simpler and far closer than you can imagine. Let me explain.

Every human being carries within him or her self a dominant thought pattern. This dominant pattern of thinking is the result of many internal and external factors. However, the most important determinant of someone's dominant thought patterns is his/her belief system. In the case of your athlete what does she believe about herself? What does she believe herself to be capable of?

For most of us our beliefs limit our potential, it's that simple. As I say often, "Either you think you can or think you can't." But even within that statement are varying degrees of success and limitation.

Now you may say..."John, are you crazy...of course my daughter wants to be successful," and I don't doubt for a minute that at the "conscious" level of her thinking she does. However given that she, like all of us, has over 50,000 unique thoughts swirling through her head every day ultimately it's what her "subconscious" thoughts say that will determine her fate. These subconscious thoughts are, again, a byproduct of what she believes about herself.
"The Thinker" by Rodin

As a game coach, as well as a mental skills coach, I see young athletes struggle on a weekly basis with self imposed limitations -- all as a result of their beliefs about their abilities and their potential. Much of this limiting belief may come from thoughts, and the emotions that accompany them, of past mistakes or failures. This "past focus" can ship wreck your athlete's performance before it even gets started.

A single positive thought about herself, her abilities and potential can truly hurtle her towards levels of success she never thought possible. If she can start to believe greater success is possible (and ultimately, with enough "right" thinking, believe her success is "probable") this will trigger a subtle shift in her subconscious mind and empower her towards an avalanche of positive thoughts that become her new dominant thought pattern.



As she takes this new approach to the field her successes will mount and those old negative files (thoughts) will be deleted forever from the hard drive between her ears! And it all starts with a single thought.

Your athlete's thoughts are powerful enough to make or break her level of success on the athletic field and in the classroom. The good news is that she always has a choice of what she thinks. After all, who else controls the inside of her head?

Is this process easy...no. It takes a recognition of what her current beliefs about herself are, and a commitment to changing those beliefs and the thoughts that ensue. It also takes having access to the proper mental skills tools and training.

A majority of elite amateur and professional athletes throughout history at one time or another struggled with limiting beliefs about themselves. However, with enough hard "mental work" over time they overcame these limitations and soared to greatness. Your athlete can do the same.

It all starts with a just a single thought. What could be simpler?

On Tuesday, December 27 we will be having a one day holiday sale of all of our Mental Skills training products at a whopping 40% discount. Look for the banner at the top right of the blog to get your one day savings. Give her the gift that will change her game in 2012 and forever...give her the Winner's Edge!

Tuesday, December 20

The Perils of Coaching Your Daughter

For those of you who dare to coach your own kid(s) in whatever sport they play or played know that coaching your own child is the greatest joy yet most treacherous journey any parent can take. I liken it to walking on a narrow path on a cliff high above the ocean. The views are spectacular but one false step and boom...down the cliff you tumble! 

Perhaps I am being over dramatic but the dynamics between the parent/coach and child is usually both a blessing and a curse (particularly with daddy-daughter), but it doesn't have to be if you follow these steps:

1. Treat Her Like Every Other Player - Meaning don't expect more from her and be harsher in your assessment of her performance, or be easier on her because she's your daughter. Her teammates are watching how you treat her (as are the other parents)...believe me! Your daughter is likely self-conscious that her mom or dad is the coach, so be careful to treat her like the rest of the players. Don't favor her in the lineup unless she deserves it. It took me about 7 years to figure this one out. 

2. Remember Why You Coach - As a single parent the time I spent coaching my daughter over eight years was always a privilege and an opportunity to share my passion with her while watching her play the game I love up close. As a parent it was so cool to watch her successes from the bucket (when she pitched) or in the 3rd base coaches box (when she hit). Years later your daughter, hopefully, will remember and be proud that her dad or mom volunteered to be her coach and that she learned many life lessons from "her coach."
My darling daughter and I in '09

3. Leave It at the Field - The minute you walk off the diamond with your daughter you need to turn back into mom or dad. The 24/7 coach as dad or mom can cause friction in the relationship with your daughter so beware. Enjoy being her coach for every minute you are on the field with her, but enjoy even more being her parent when the practice or game is over.

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4. Communicate - Too often when I coached my daughter I made a few poorly timed comments during the game that upset her, causing us to to be silent in the car on the way home. Please don't let that be you. Know that your verbal and non-verbal communications deeply affect your daughter. If she is younger she may not know how to cope with her feelings of sadness or anger with you (as all kids desperately want to please their parents). If she is older she'll just be pissed off at you! Make it a point to communicate with one another; explain the coach-daughter dynamic with her and encourage her to let you know when you cross the line. If you messed up, apologize to her. I was one of the worst offenders ever and once my daughter starting call me on my actions our relationship as coach and daughter improved dramatically! The bottom line is for her to enjoy the game.

5. Employ "Big Picture" Thinking - The chances are you will not be coach your daughter forever, so please don't do anything to spoil the game for her. I see countless parents at the travel level who simply can't let go once they stop coaching. They continue to coach their daughters from behind the backstop or dugout. They are always lurking somewhere, second guessing her coach and poisoning the well with the other parents. Please don't let that be you. I know first hand how difficult it is to be on the other side of the fence watching someone else coach my daughter. At first I felt like a caged lion as I paced back and forth during each game. Finally I realized that it was a positive for her to have someone other than me coach her, for better or for worse. In truth my daughter enjoyed the game more once I stopped coaching her.

6. Have Fun - As always your role as coach will be what you make of it. If you expect perfection from 12 year olds, including your daughter, you will be in a state of perpetual frustration as a coach. Remember, no matter what age your daughter is...she is likely not going to play the game the same way you did, and may not make the same decisions you would on the field. Allow her to make mistakes so that she can learn from them. Encourage her and smile often, for all too soon these special days of coaching your daughter will be gone. Do all you can to make the memories for her and you great ones.

Now on the positive side the coach's daughter usually learns to understand the game better from being around "the coach" all the time. Most coaches daughters tend to be students of the game and their game reflects that.

The experience you can have coaching your child can be an outrageously positive and successful one, bringing you two closer together. However, on the flip side it can be a source of constant aggravation and frustration for both of you, damaging the relationship in the process. Following these five steps will help your outcome to be a more positive one.

As you walk the slippery slope of coaching your daughter always make decisions that put the team first. Your daughter will feel more comfortable and likely perform better if mom or dad just looks like "coach." The best evidence of this is when parents or coaches from the other team have no clue who the coach's daughter is!

The foundation for every athlete's success is confidence, isn't it? I've created a surefire way for your athlete to both and maintain "rock solid" sports confidence, with tools that will allow her to overcome any softball adversity and play her best when it matters most. It's called The Sports Confidence Blueprint Program. Check it out!



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Monday, December 19

How to Win the Tryout Game

This past weekend our travel organization held tryouts for our 12u, 14u and 16u spring 2012 teams. We had about 120 girls come out over two days hoping to make one of the six teams. The competition was pretty stiff and in choosing the teams last night we had to make some really tough decisions, including cutting some girls already in the organization.

As is always the case in a tryout scenario many girls are nervous and don't perform their best with the many coaches, peers and parents watching their every move. As coaches, unless we watched them play on another team or got a good report from a reliable source, all we have to go on is their tryout effort.

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As I observed these many young athletes I could instantly tell who was anxious. They would hurry their approach to the ball or the throw, and would have timing issues hitting off the machine. I could just see in many of the girls' eyes and body language how disappointed they were in their performances.

Now ours is one of the best organizations in southern California and it takes being a pretty good player to join us. However, I can't help but wonder if nerves cost several of these girls a shot with us.

Whether your athlete is trying out over the next few weeks or not until spring here are some tips to get her ready to play her best when it counts most:

1. Relax - this may sound easy, but in many ways tryouts are more stressful than games; particularly if it's for a team your athlete really wants to play for. Taking occasional deep breathes can help tremendously. Try to keep the conversation light on the drive to tryouts; do not set excessive expectations on your athlete as this will only serve to increase her anxiety and reduce her performance.

2. Monitor Her Thinking - it all starts between the ears. If she can focus on positive thoughts the moment she wakes up in the morning on tryout day, and maintain those thoughts all day long she will reduce her stress level. If she can recall a particular success or successes she has had on the field in the past she will increase her confidence level. If she thinks she "can" she will be more relaxed, allowing for a higher level of concentration and focus.


3. Expect Success - like #4 below if she expects herself to do well it will likely show in her body language and her performance. Expecting success is the result of self-confidence...which is the result of thinking right. If she tells herself she's gonna kill it at tryouts and can take the time to visualize her tryout performance, in advance, in as much detail as possible (using all her senses) her chances for success will skyrocket! If she works hard at the game she is entitled to success!

4. Look & Act Confident - one of the things coaches look for during tryouts is attitude and effort. A player who looks confident, is diving all over the field and just demonstrates a swagger of success gets our attention. If she looks like she belongs we will see her that way. Be verbal with the coaches and other girls...make us notice you...STAND OUT! Every coach wants to add a "difference maker" to the team. Show us leadership skills as well as athletic skills.

5. Have Fun - No matter what the competition level have fun! Playing the great game of fastpitch should first and foremost be a joy. Do your best, expect success and let it do what it's gonna do. In a tryout situation the player never knows what is going on behind the scenes; which positions the coaches are most interested in, if they need speed or power or defense. Therefore as a player take care of the factors you absolutely have control over: your effort, your attitude and your mental focus.

The bottom line is that a relaxed, confident and focused athlete will perform her best more often than not. Do your best to work with your athlete on her "tryout plan" to insure she brings her "A" game. Coaches love to see how an athlete performs under pressure and tryouts are a great opportunity to gauge that.

Nothing is sadder than a young athlete performing below her potential at a tryout. It's usually a one shot deal (like a job interview), so work diligently with her to prepare herself mentally for the big day. Just remember...this is a journey. If she doesn't do well at the tryout look at it as a learning experience for her. There is always tomorrow (sounds like a good theme for a song)!


 

Saturday, December 17

How Your Athlete Limits Her Success & Why

How good can your athlete be? How good does she want to be? These questions are simple yet powerful beyond your imagination.

You see I am of the belief that your athlete can be as good as she wants to be. But ultimately all that matters is what she believes, not what you or I believe for her. Your athlete's beliefs about herself will likely limit her success to a great degree. Let's find out why.

Any sport requires preparation and effort to be successful at it, and fastpitch softball is certainly no exception. To attain a level of mastery that will allow your athlete to be her best takes time and a special mental attitude to overcome the adversity, fatigue and pressures the game throws at her. All too often players limit themselves because their thinking acts like an invisible harness holding them back.

Limited thinking sounds like this:
  • "I'd like to be good;" "I'm too tired to practice any more" 
  • "The game is too hard;" "I'll never be as good as she is"
  • "I'm not sure if I'll succeed;" "Goals...I don't need goals"
  • "I'm not fast enough; "I'm not strong enough;" "I'm not good enough"
Deep down inside either your athlete believes she can or cannot achieve the goals she sets for herself (or the goals you or her coaches have set for her). If she believes she can't she will hesitate on the field believing she is not capable or worthy of success. She holds the key to the level of success she achieves. If she can capture just a glimpse of her future greatness and buy into it she can remove the shackles of her own limitations and begin the journey towards greatness.

Let's look at behaviors of a "No Limit" player that truly has no boundaries to her success:

1. Attitude - she believes she can be the best if she works hard enough. Moreover because of her "no limit" belief in her ability and herself she actually expects to succeed at a high level. She sees mistakes as part of the mastery process and pushes through adversity with a smile.

2. Work Ethic - because she believes she can be as good as she wants she has a crazy work ethic, and is driven to be her absolute best. She challenges herself to work harder physically and mentally each time she steps on the field, in the cage or gym. She pushes herself beyond fatigue and the limitations of others. She defines what is possible for her, and no one else.

3. Passion - she loves the game and as a result has no time reference to her training. She'll workout all day because she loves playing. To her mastering the game is a blast! This player is diving all over the field and is a perpetual sponge when it comes to learning the game from her coaches or through her own observations. Her desire and passion propel her to greatness!

4. Goals - the "no limit" athlete has specific goals that challenge her to get better in all parts of her game. She uses these goals as benchmarks to gauge her progress. These goals include conditioning, strength, mental skills and physical skills training. She is laser focused on her mission to be the best and nothing stands in her way.

5. Thinking - it always begins with her thoughts about herself and her self-image of what she believes is possible. If her thinking is distorted and limited so too will be her results. If she truly possesses "no limit" thinking she will "see" her greatness far in advance and expect that success as firmly as she believes Sunday follows Saturday. To her unlimited success is a mathematical certainty.

Ultimately if your athlete can summon the "no limit" belief system there truly is no limit to what she can achieve on the field. Will it be easy...absolutely not. But when she is tired or fatigued, or has just struck out or made an error that little voice inside her head will dictate what comes next. Either she will see it as a challenge and work harder, or her limiting beliefs will win out and she will be content to play at the level she is at.

As always...it is her choice for how much success she achieves.

The game is 90% mental. How much do you and your athlete invest in her mental game? Give her the gift this holiday season that will massively change her game in 2012 with The Game Changer Program: A Mental Skills Blueprint to Be the Best She Can Be.

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Thursday, December 15

Parent vs. Coach...10 Tips to Make it Work

Whether you are a parent or a coach reading this the volatile and sometimes hostel relationship between parent and coach has a dramatic impact on both players and team, usually to the detriment of both.

Having coached over 1,000 fastpitch softball game I have pretty much seen and heard it all, as a coach, parent and fan. As we all know...it gets ugly sometimes! The real question is why does it get ugly and how can parents and coaches get along better?

In competitive or travel softball parents always have a choice as to which team they place their daughter on; in high school or rec softball you're kind of stuck with whomever is coaching. In either scenario there are definite ways to make the relationship work...here they are:

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1. Better Communication - Whether parent or coach the best way to resolve any issue or concern is with one-on-one communication. Take the initiative to approach the other party calmly with suggestions. Don't assume the coach or parent knows what you are thinking and that your point is "obvious" to him/her. Go to the source and work it out. As a coach I always appreciate a parent who takes the time to seek me out to address an issue. I want what is best for my team and each player, and if any parent can help towards that end I'm open to it.

2. Lower Expectations - In my experience many softball parents have astronomical expectations for both their athlete's and team's performance. As a coach I can tell you that most teams are a work in progress; particularly if they are a new team or a team jumping to the next age group. I recognize frustration occurs when players or teams don't perform well, but if your athlete is under 16, believe me, she has yet to master a very difficult game. Give it time.

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3. More Patience - Which leads me to more patience! We expect a lot from our kids today and sometimes they have a difficult time handling everything we throw at them. Allow them some time to get better. No coach is a miracle worker. A good coach sees the big picture for his/her athletes and the team. Do wins and losses really matter at 10, 12 or 14? Look for the baby steps of progress.

4. More Trust - Parents need to trust their athlete's coaches more. In my experience parents assume they know exactly what is going on with the team at all times. However I can assure you they do not know about injuries, keep track of playing time (for 12-14 kids...which can be hard), work with the players in practice, know their strengths and weaknesses as well as those of the opponent. If you have committed to a team trust that the coaches have a plan.
angry sports parents

5. More Respect - Along with trust comes respect. No matter what you may personally think of your athlete's coaches they are volunteering their time (or being paid slaves wages at best) to help your athlete and the team. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they are doing the very best they can and respect them for their effort. It's easy to criticize from the other side of the fence.

6. Be Realistic - How good is your athlete, and how good is her team? Being realistic is a by-product of expectations. If your athlete is not yet a consistent peak performer try to see her through the eyes of her coaches. They have to manage 12+ players and do their best to develop them all while making every effort to win. Maybe your athlete isn't good enough to crack the starting lineup, but she is learning a ton about the game and is benefiting being exposed to better competition.

7. The Embarrassment Factor - If your athlete is a teenager you should be aware of how embarrassed she get when you are yelling at her, at the coaches, at the umpires, at other parents, etc. First of all it isn't helping the team one bit and it is likely embarrassing the heck out of your athlete and hurting her performance as well. Remember...we can hear you through the fence!



8. Don't Stir the Pot - This is my biggest pet peeve as a coach...when a parent talks about the coaches, a player or another parent behind everyone's back. This "stirring the pot" of discontent can become a cancer on a team (making a coach's job even more difficult) and may ultimately be grounds for not inviting your athlete back to play on the team in the future. I've had parents on my own team almost come to blows because one player is playing more than another, or because of remarks made about a player after an error or bad at bat. Really? Read #1 through #7 again if you don't get this point!

9. Focus on Effort...Not Results - A common source of discontent between players and coaches stems from being obsessed with the results of the game and minimizing the effort or progress a player or team is making. No athlete or team has ever or will ever be perfect. Do we strive for perfection...yes. But to expect that 10, 12, 14 or 16 year old girls are going to win every game or not make mistakes is creating unnecessary frustration. If you, instead, focus on the effort being given and the slow but steady improvement your athlete and team are making you might see the coach in a different light.

10. New Team - If you've tried points 1-9 and still have issues with your athlete's coaches then maybe it is time for a change. There are times when a player and parent are better off in a new environment, with a new culture and attitude. If your current team has a negative or critical vibe, your athlete isn't getting legitimate playing time she deserves (see #6), or her coaches don't really seem to be helping her to get better a new team may be the answer. But I caution you against "team hopping" where the grass is always greener mentality prevails. Maybe you should ask your athlete what she wants to do? Is she happy? Does she enjoy her teammates and coaches? Moving her to a new team will mean new teammates, new coaches and new culture. How will she fit in?

As a coach and softball parent I know all too well that parents and coaches don't always see eye to eye on strategy or lineups. However, if both parties can respect each others' position there can be individual and team harmony. Remember, we're all out there at 7am on a cold or hot Sunday morning for the girls. As I always say...would you rather be right or be happy (because sometimes you can't have both)?


**Give your athlete and his/her team the gift of self-confidence and peak performance with The Sports Confidence Blueprint program! On sale for only $49...full of a ton of mental performance resources!




 
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Tuesday, December 13

The Tim Tebow Effect and Fastpitch

By now most Americans have, not only, heard of Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow but also know of his amazing comebacks over the past several weeks that have transformed a bad Denver team to one likely headed for the NFL post season. Yet Tebow has the lowest completion % and fewest yards passed among all starting QBs. What he does have is 11 touchdown passes to just 2 interceptions and, most importantly, is 7-1 as a starter. The experts can't seem to explain how he and the Broncos are doing it with no less than seven consecutive 4th quarter or overtime comeback victories (around one loss to Detroit). Is it smoke and mirrors or loaves and fishes?

Here is what I think is the reason for Tebow and Denver's success and how it relates to your athlete and her team on the fastpitch softball diamond. With the Broncos and any team in any sport it all comes down to one thing...BELIEF. Belief is a powerful thing that can propel or destroy a player and a team's performance. As I write about often either you believe you can or believe you can't.
Tim Tebow

Since most games, particularly in softball, come down to a handful of key at bats or plays in the field which decide success or failure it is the athlete and the team that BELIEVES they will succeed and prevail that usually does. In the case of the Broncos not only do they believe they will come back and win every game their opponents believe it too! It is amazing how powerful positive thoughts and energy are, and how quickly they can cause a monumental shift in momentum; and it all starts with a firm belief that it is possible.

We know how strong Tim Tebow's faith is, and at some level that faith has solidified his belief in himself and his team. Tebow's teammates see and feel his belief in himself and in the team's success and they have now bought into it. A team that possesses good talent and great belief can beat anybody.



As I tell my team all it takes is one person to decide she will do what it takes to win; to pump her team up, to dive for balls, to maintain positive "can do" thoughts for a shift to take place.  If one person on a team truly believes the game isn't over yet and keeps competing "miracles" can indeed happen. Tim Tebow is living proof of that.

Sports are overflowing with great and improbable comebacks on amazing plays that defy logic. But behind every great individual and team performance is an individual or individuals who believe it is possible, who transform the energy and momentum of the game by a single act (Dave Roberts' stolen base against the Yankees in the ALCS during the Red Sox' improbable '04 World Series win).

Success is a choice and it always begins with a belief that success is possible and (in the case of the Broncos and Tebow) probable-- no matter what the situation looks like.

Your athlete can be a game changer in many ways, but the easiest and most powerful way is for her to up her game in the "belief" department, being the Tim Tebow on her team that refuses to accept defeat or failure, that leads by example, inspires others to be great simply because she expects success for herself and her teammates...by a relentless drive to compete.

It's the holidays, so give your athlete and yourself a softball gift that will truly change her game forever: The Game Changer Program: A Mental Skills Blueprint to Make Her the Best She Can Be. For less than the cost of a one hour hitting or pitching lesson you'll get over 6 hours of powerful mental skills audio lessons, plus John Kelly's hot new book, How She Thinks is How She Plays, and many more valuable bonus products!

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Saturday, December 10

Success is a Choice. Find Out Why

In a previous post I talked about how success leaves clue, and it does. But the far bigger consideration for your athlete is that success is a choice. You may say, John...of course my daughter wants to be successful in softball. Well she may well "want" to be a success, but does she makes the choices that it will take for her to truly be a success...to become a consistent peak performer on the field? Let's find out.

These choices will determine whether your athlete will be average, good or great. Ultimately these choices must come from her and the results, her performance, will absolutely reflect those choices. So here are five areas in which your athlete's choices are critical to just how far she will go:

1. Effort - certainly effort is always a choice. To a coach nothing is more disappointing and frustrating than seeing an athlete unwilling to leave it all on the field. Good players work hard in practice, taking 25 ground balls. Great players stay late and ask the coach to hit her another 50 grounders. To be a success requires maximum effort all the time. There is no guarantee in the results but her effort will always put her at the top of the list.

2. Attitude - attitude is always a choice and the proper "mental" attitude is necessary to overcome the inevitable adversity the game with throw at your athlete. An attitude of success is also engaging in the right thoughts, expecting success and doing the mental work to come ready to play. The right attitude looks like acknowledging that mistakes are a natural part of the game and an opportunity to learn and get better. The right attitude looks like being a leader and always supporting teammates and respecting the game.

3. Desire - desire is not commonly associated with success, but deep down having a high level of desire is what motivates your athlete to make the right choices that will all but guarantee her success. Desire looks like digging deep after a long day of practice or games to continue to give 100% effort. Desire means loving the game, playing with a smile on her face, with passion, with hustle. Desire becomes infectious on a team and any coach loves any athlete that plays with a high level of desire. Desire is the fuel for the intensity it takes to become a champion.



4. Focus - this can be a hard one for young athletes; particularly girls who love to chat it up early and often on the field. However, your athlete's ability to understand and implement laser focus and concentration is the single biggest choice she will make as an athlete. The game of fastpitch softball is too hard and too fast to not demonstrate focus. And this choice of focus starts in practice. If your athlete and her team are not exhibiting focus during practice my guess is they won't be able to during games. Focus is the ability to block out the world and have the present moment awareness necessary to successfully complete the task at hand.

5. Goals - goal setting and creating a definitive "plan" for success is absolutely a choice. For younger players this choice might look like committing to a certain number of hours of practice, or swings in the cage, or pitches per week. For older players it looks like setting specific goals for both physical and mental training, and writing in her softball journal to measure her progress towards achieving her goals. Success is not an accident. having a plan and goals means approaching success by design and not default. Having a clear road map is both smart and necessary to become great.

The path to success is easy to identify, as I have given you a glimpse of in this post. It is, however, much harder to implement. It takes making the right choices, which may be difficult for your athlete some days or all the time. However once she recognizes that she does have the power to dictate her softball destiny through the choices she makes your athlete will be empowered to seize her opportunity for greatness! Carpe Diem (seize the day).

The game is 90% mental. How much do you invest in her mental game? Give her The Game Changer Program...it will change her game forever!

Wednesday, December 7

How to Build Rock Solid Self-Confidence

It's no secret that a self-confident player performs better on the softball field. In general a self-confident person is far more effective performing any activity. For a young person, however, the task of building rock solid self-confidence can be a challenge and a frustration, particularly when it comes to fastpitch softball.

Softball is a game built on failure and adversity where self-confidence is like the chicken and the egg analogy; what comes first self-confidence or success? Certainly once an athlete possesses a solid foundation of self-confidence while playing the game consistent success is more likely to follow. However, without a track record of success self-confidence can be extremely difficult to attain.

As a coach and softball parent it is most frustrating to see self-confidence come and go in young athletes like a mirage in the desert. In this game success can be fleeting in the face of the inevitable kicks in the stomach the game is guaranteed to administer to your athlete.

So how can your athlete develop and maintain a high level of self-confidence that will act like a shield against the game's adversity and allow her to become a consistent peak performer?

high school softball base running

1. Change Her Beliefs: What does she believe about herself and softball? Her beliefs will determine her level of success. Does she believe she is a good hitter or not? Does she believe others are better and more worthy of success than she is? Does she believe she's not fast enough, or strong enough, or quick enough to succeed? If a pitcher does she believe she doesn't throw hard enough to succeed? These limiting beliefs will rear their ugly head after adversity and failure hit, reinforcing her distorted beliefs and leading to more failure.

2. Change Her Perceptions: How does she perceive the game and her results? Is she effort driven or results driven? Does she judge her performance harshly? Does she expect to be perfect? Does she spiral downward emotionally after one mistake? Distorted perceptions of performance will kill future performance. If she recognizes that adversity is part of the game and can frame every mistake as a learning opportunity to get better she will free herself from self-judgment and begin the process of greater building self-confidence.


3. Change Her Thoughts: Her thoughts are a direct result of her beliefs. She has over 50,000 unique thoughts each and every day. Does she tell herself she can or she can't? Distorted thinking can lead to fear, anxiety, frustration, anger and sadness. Self-confident thoughts are empowering and energizing while un-confident thoughts are destructive and energy draining. Building rock solid self-confidence happens one day at a time like building a brick wall. If she can re-align her beliefs and begin engaging in "can do" thinking her self-confidence will slowly but surely grow strong.

4. Change Her Actions: Once her beliefs and thoughts are properly aligned with her goals of success in the game she now needs to demonstrate her self-confidence on the field, at practice and games. A self-confident player looks the part with positive body language, positive self-talk, running on and off the field and to and from the batter's box. Self-confidence is definitely a state of mind, but it must ultimately translate to successful actions on the field.

Ultimately building rock solid self-confidence starts and is maintained by proper thinking. Beliefs and perceptions must be questioned for their accuracy or distortion. Right thinking then will lead to a more relaxed approach for your athlete, yielding far better results. You see, a relaxed and calm athlete is a self-confident athlete. A relaxed athlete can exert 100% mental focus because she does not have negative and fearful thoughts bombarding her head.

As one success leads to another your athlete will steadily build her self-confidence. That combined with continuous mental skills training will keep her confidence rock solid --able to withstand even the toughest on the field adversities. Remember, mental toughness is a choice.

Self-confidence isn't a switch your athlete flips on like the light in her bedroom but rather a process that takes time and concerted effort to develop and maintain. With proper thinking she can become the best she can be and love playing the game!


Watch John Kelly explain how to skyrocket your athlete's game day performance HERE.


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Monday, December 5

Wanna Get Better? Change Your Approach

There is an old saying that defines insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results." This line of thinking definitely applies on the softball field.

Success in a difficult game like fastpitch softball requires that teams and individual players make adjustments in every aspect of the game if necessary. And, as always, it starts with her thinking.

Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:

1. The pitcher keeps throwing the ball on the outside corner (or inside corner) but the batter refuses to swing the bat,  finding herself in an 0-2 and 1-2 count all the time, leading to a ton of strikeouts. Unless she makes a conscious effort of adjusting her thinking she will likely continue getting the same results.

CAUSE: Likely she won't swing at that pitch because she believes she can't hit it (little if any confidence in doing so). She fears failure and the embarrassment of looking bad swinging.

SOLUTION: Trust herself to start swinging at the outside pitch, each time increasing her comfort level in doing so. At a certain point (with much practice) she will welcome the outside pitch as her self-confidence soars.

2. The player who refuses to dive for a ball, causing her coaches to question her commitment and desire; not to mention it costing her team runs.

CAUSE: Again, fear and lack of self-confidence win again. She is either afraid of making a mistake and missing the ball (incurring the wrath of coach or parent), looking bad in the process (embarrassment), or hurting herself (because she's never gotten comfortable with the proper diving form).

SOLUTION: Recognize her fear(s) and the fact that most coaches will reward the effort regardless of the results. Embarrassment must be overcome and the pain of diving can be solved by practice and increased mental toughness.

3. The pitcher refuses to throw a certain pitch on a certain count (maybe a changeup behind in the count) even though her coach reasons the hitter is swinging early and will likely never hit that pitch. She shakes off the catcher, throws something different or executes the pitch poorly.

CAUSE: Again, lack of self-confidence in throwing a certain pitch, fear of the pitch being hit, the embarrassment of looking bad throwing that pitch. Maybe a touch of stubbornness thrown in for good measure.

SOLUTION: Obviously more practice mastering the pitch, but also a willingness to step outside her comfort zone and trust herself to execute. If she thinks she can't she likely won't.

Most failure on the softball field is caused by two things: hesitation due to lack of trust or self-confidence at key, pivotal times of the game; whether batting, fielding, pitching or base running...or due to lack of mental focus and concentration (being distracted or spacing out too much).

To become a consistent peak performer your athlete must be supremely focused in the present moment allowing herself to react without hesitation. The game of fastpitch softball is too fast for her to think about whether she should or shouldn't in the split second she has to react. Her thinking must come well in advance to the moment of truth, cultivated in practice and in her mind creating a solid foundation of self-confidence which makes reactions quicker and results better.

As coaches and parents we get frustrated watching players and teams seemingly make the same mistakes over and over again. Unless she makes the mental adjustments that will improve her self-confidence and her performance the same results will keep showing up like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day!

If your athlete lacks the rock solid self-confidence to make the adjustments necessary to become the consistent peak performer top coaches want on their team the best place to start is The Game Changer Program: A Mental Skills Blueprint to Make Her the Best She Can Be. This multimedia fastpitch softball specific program contains over 6 hours of audio lessons, plus John Kelly's new 174 page ebook, How She Thinks is How She Plays and many other bonuses...all for less than a one hour hitting lesson. The game is 90% mental. How much is your athlete investing in her mental game?

Thursday, December 1

Impatient Parents: Success is in the Journey

I decided to throw a little "zen" at you today as we start a new month. But don't worry...this is still a fastpitch softball post!

I was at our travel organizational coaches meeting this week for our eight teams and a common concern among the coaches was the parents who were constantly complaining about x, y, z. You know...questioning their daughter's playing time, their daughter's position, questioning the batting order (why "lesser" players were batting higher), questioning the coaches' strategic moves during a game, questioning pitch calls...

Our travel organization is among the best in the nation at creating champions and getting our girls athletic scholarships into big time universities, according to the Triple Crown Sports/USA Softball polls, and still some of our parents aren't happy.

The question our General Manager asks these parents when faced with criticism or complaint: "Is your daughter getting better?" Invariably the parent has to admit that she is.

You see mastery of a very difficult game like fastpitch softball takes time; it is a journey that cannot be completed overnight. For parents of athletes who are 10-14 years old, don't worry...there is still plenty of time for your daughter to develop her game and the right college coaches to find her. Being impatient about her development isn't the answer. In fact it is probably hindering her development through the added pressure she feels from you; not to mention alienating yourself with her coaches can't help her either.



To be fair to all parties concerned the first question you need to ask yourself, as objectively as possible, is whether or not your athlete is playing on the right team. Here are a few issues to consider:
  • Are the coaches qualified (not just their skill level but are the practices challenging and efficient)?
  • Does the coach possess a positive attitude that gets the most out of his/her players?
  • Is your athlete getting playing time (or is not showing clear sign of improvement)?
  • Is the team competitive with players that challenge each other to get better?
  • Does the team play in competitive tournaments against better teams?
Ultimately the team your athlete plays on must be a good fit with her skill level, her motivation for playing the game (and goals), and your "feel" for the big picture of her team and how you think she is progressing. My only suggestion is to be patient and not expect perfection or miracles tomorrow.

The bottom line is that if you truly believe your athlete is in the right place to further her softball development then chill! Remember, good things come to those who wait, right? Your athlete will master this game on her own timetable, not yours. Trust your athlete's coaches and her own efforts to make her a better player. Like we tell our 100+ players, "just strive to get a little better each day."

Impatient parents who heap massive expectations on their kids are really causing just the opposite of what they want from their athlete. The loud parent who is always critical of the coaches, the umpires, their child, and the hamburger from the snack bar will create high levels of anxiety in their athlete which will diminish performance in a nano second. Players either become embarrassed by their parent's behavior or cower to the impending ass chewing out they will get after a sub-par performance. Either way being impatient with your athlete's development will lead to less focus, less success and less joy for playing the game.

As well, parents comments during the game to other parents, coaches, umpires and players can great serve to undermine the team and overall parental chemistry and harmony. If you want to coach then sign up...otherwise please just enjoy the game.

Remember, the success for your athlete is truly found in her journey; you are just along for the ride, and to cover the expenses of the journey of course!

The game is 90% mental. How much are you and your athlete investing into her mental skills training? Change her game forever with The Game Changer Program: A Mental Skills Blueprint to Make Her the Best She Can Be. Over 6 hours of mental skills audio lessons plus John Kelly's new 174 page ebook, How She Thinks is How She Plays and much more for less than the cost of a one hour hitting lesson!

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