The Secret Step to Building a Confident Player and Team

Every coach wants to get the most out of his or her players in an effort to give his or her team the best opportunity for success on the field of play.  And every coach knows that consistent performance is absolutely necessary for a player and team to win, particularly in the close games against the best competition.  These points are a given.

So here are a couple of questions for you, “What makes the most successful teams successful?  What is their secret ingredient for consistent performance and execution?”  Here are two more critical questions for you…”Do you ever get frustrated when your player(s) or team fails to execute during a game? And what is the root cause of the breakdown in execution?”

The answers to these questions are all inter-related in a crystal clear cause and effect relationship and will be covered in detail in this article so read on.

To get the most out of your players and to build a confident, competent and happy group of players requires that you as coach become an excellent communicator.  Your players look to you for direction as to how to play the game mechanically as well as how to play the game mentally; which includes the why of the game; why the game works the way it does and why you want them to do the things you ask them to do.  As a coach when you combine the elements of how and why into your teachings you begin to build a solid foundation of competence and confidence.

The question that I posed earlier as to “what makes the most successful teams successful?” is certainly a combination of factors: talent, coaching, team chemistry, luck and more.  However at the root of any team’s success is confidence and the ability to play with 100% effort and 100% focus all of the time.  I firmly believe that champions are made, not born and I have personally experienced that on my teams in the most amazing ways!  But, again, in order to get your players to perform their best game in and game out you, as coach, must instill within each of your players the mental “trigger” of belief and confidence.

It is widely believed in sports psychology circles that confidence is the essential foundation for any athlete to possess in order to perform to his or her optimal level.  Without a solid base of confidence a player’s performance is likely to be inconsistent; a roller coaster ride of ups and downs.  This is particularly true with youth athletes where high levels of expectations can make a young athlete’s confidence fleeting and fragile.  As a coach it is your responsibility to understand the dynamics between the physical and mental/emotional aspects of the game and how they affect each of your players specifically in the following areas:

  • How they deal with perceived failure
  • Their individual level of expectation for performance
  • Their overall enjoyment of the game
  • Team morale and relationships between players and coaches
  • Each player’s mental preparation for each game or at bat
  • How you as a coach react to their mistakes and “failures”
  • How your players’ parents react to their child’s performance
To me, as a coach, the most important elements of building confident and competent athletes are:

  1. The expectation level you set for the team and each player for their performance and, 
  1. Your response to the mistakes and failures of your players during the game.
On my teams I have developed a coaching philosophy that has done wonders to keep my players confident and happy, as well as minimize the individual and collective downtime experienced after a “mistake” or “failure.”  On my teams we never stress the importance of any single mistake or failure.   We don’t even really focus on the score.  It’s what I call Effort Over Outcome coaching.  You see if you as a coach or parent micro-manage every mistake your child makes during a game you are going to live in a world of constant frustration.  And, believe me; your frustration makes the game a whole lot less fun for you and your child.  

The last thing your child needs to hear from the stands or right after the game is their parent’s critique of their performance; it’s just totally counter productive because your child will shut down to it, or worse, it will act to affect their game negatively.  Children have an innate desire to please their parents, particularly daughters and their fathers, so be very careful as parent and coach to monitor excessive intrusion by parents, especially during the game.
So, more to the point, what specifically is my Effort Over Outcome coaching philosophy?  Well I cover that and 21 Mental Performance Killers in my book, HowShe Thinks is How She Plays, but I’ll share the foundation of the philosophy here and why it is so vital in producing the confident and competent athletes you so desire.

We live in a society obsessed with results and outcome and judgment over such.  Nowhere is that more empirically present than in the sports of baseball and softball where statistics and one-on-one battles are interwoven into the fabric of an otherwise team game.  Early in my coaching career I can admit to being a coach that put far more emphasis on outcome.  I wanted to win and that is how I kept score.  I would critique every mistake and would become visibly frustrated often.  As you can imagine my players quickly picked up on my energy and began to play tight after a mistake (either in the field or a less than stellar at bat), and it only led to the dreaded snowball effect when one error would lead to four or five and one strikeout would lead to a half dozen.  

The sad thing was I had some pretty talented teams that never won consistently.  Why?  I believe it was because I, as a coach, and we, as a team, were far too focused on outcome.  We rarely came back once we were behind and we lost countless games in which we led.  The worst effect of this style of coaching was a lot of tears from my players.

Fortunately I had an epiphany and discovered a different coaching path that has made all the difference in the world to my players and my teams!  About two years ago we started letting go of mistakes and scores and outcomes in general.  I know that may sound crazy in a game that is built around stats and scores, but keep reading!  Instead we focused on each girl’s and the team’s effort.  We only had three goals: give 100% physical effort on each play, give 100% mental focus on each play, and most importantly have fun playing the game.  We told the girls that if you do these three things during each game the results (outcome) would take care of themselves.

Think of it like cause and effect.  If the cause is effort and focus and fun the effect will likely be a good one.  And even the close losses are easier bounce back from because we gave our all and had fun.  The end result was far fewer physical and mental errors, higher quality at bats, much quicker bounce back from mistakes (so no snowball effect) and…many more wins; now imagine that.  And the really cool thing is that my players began to play with soaring confidence because they weren’t afraid of being scolded for every mistake and we truly started playing in the moment instead of fearing a future failure or lamenting a past failure.  And their mental focus enabled them to become more competent players.  

Finally, all the tears I used to get during and after the games turned in to smiles. So you too can build a team of confident and competent athletes ready to win and have a whole lot of fun doing it!  

Thanks for reading!  --John Michael Kelly

Check out my latest book, Loving the Game, here!


The Comeback Mindset

The “comeback”…one of the great elements of sport, when momentum shifts and player or team overcome the odds and prevails in dramatic fashion. After all what’s more exciting than the walk off hit to win the game or the clutch hit, pitch or play that forever changes the course of the game!
But what is the genesis of the comeback, and when do the seeds of that comeback take root and why?
As well, we’ve all seen athletes or teams stuck in prolonged hitting, fielding or pitching slumps.
What are the causes for the slump, why is it so hard to break the bondage of such a slump, and how can athlete or team get back on track with brimming confidence and dynamic performances?
Finally, why is hitting or not hitting “contagious?” Meaning why is it that when a few players start to hit the entire team joins the fun, and (think the 2014 San Diego Padres) when key players don’t hit the virus of not hitting spreads like wildfire on a team?
It all comes back to the “Comeback Mindset” (or lack of one), the “cause” of all “effects” on the field. And here is the really good news: any athlete or team can acquire and possess the “Comeback Mindset,” as it is always a CHOICE. Let me explain:
1. It all starts with the human mind; the most powerful thing on the planet! Each of us creates and experiences over 50,000 unique thoughts each and every day. This amazing fact, along with the knowledge that these massive thoughts tend to “clump together” into “thought patterns,” leads us to understand why athletic highs and lows can come so frequently and so dramatically. Because at the core of it all, how you think is how you play! Doubt can be as strong and powerful as a freight train if left unattended. It can grow deep roots that steadily undermine sports confidence and derail game performance. This is the mind’s power at work. The goal is to first recognize these limiting thought patterns, then shift the thoughts behind the emotional state to effect performance levels.
2. For a team, from my experiences on the field, there is no denying that the more energized, loud and focused team will carry or shift momentum. This collective energy, all focused on the comeback (a common goal), is not only palpable in the dugout but to the other team as well. On the other hand a team with divided energy (some “can do” and some “can’t do”…and this includes coaches) will never mount a comeback. Great players and teams often “will” themselves to overcome the odds to achieve success.
3. For an individual player the same applies. If one’s energy and expectancy for future at bats, plays in the field or next inning in the circle is for SUCCESS their body and mind should be in a corresponding calm, relaxed, focused and confident state allowing her to play her best. However, if this same athlete is bothered or awash in DOUBT her body will experience corresponding anxiousness, confusion, hesitancy in action and fleeting confidence at best. In this emotional thought state she can never perform her best and her slump will likely continue.
4. For athlete or team the development of the “Comeback Mindset” is always a CHOICE. Can the athlete/team cultivate the “belief” that their luck can change, or do they resign themselves to only what they see? This leads me to the Zen paradox of “I’ll see it when I believe it,” instead of the typical Western response, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Looking at game adversity as a challenge and opportunity to prevail is at the heart of the “Comeback Mindset.”
5. It’s all “cause and effect.” If you want to change the result, change the cause. Sounds simple (and it actually is to one who practices the process) but it takes some time to fine tune your mind and thought process to be able to make the necessary shift (minor or major). Perpetuating the same beliefs and thoughts will only bring the same results. As such, limiting beliefs must be challenged and thinking must be “by design” instead of “by default.” You always have the power to program your mind to direct your thinking, even in the toughest of times, to the “green zone” instead of the accidental “red zone.”
Here are five “action step” strategies your athlete and team can implement IMMEDIATELY to “activate” their “Comeback Mindset:”
1. Recognize that the “Comeback Mindset” is always a choice. Be the one to set the tone on your team. Be the leader who gets vocal, gets dirty and chooses to keep competing. Adopt a “never give up and never give in” attitude and spread it throughout your dugout and on the field! Your personal energy can ignite your entire team and change the outcome of the game. Remember prior successes and BELIEVE that if you have done it before you can do it again!
2. Stay in the present moment. Present Moment Awareness (“PMA”) is crucial for an individual athlete and team when trying to overcome a slump or turn the tide for your team in a game that looks hopeless. Being bothered by a past failure or mistake (“Past Focus”), or worrying about failing in the next inning or next at bat (“Future Focus”) will insure your outcome will be the same as before. In a game where the hitter has less than 4/10th of a second to decide pitch velocity, movement and location the inability to harness 100% of your mental focus in the present moment will spell predictable disaster!
3. Be aware of your own energy. I firmly believe that female athletes need to “feel good” to play well. As such be mindful of how you feel and work hard to keep those “can do” thoughts going. Run on and off the field and make noise. I have found that the simple act of making noise on the field or in the dugout can elevate focus and performance for both individual and team. Try it…you’ll feel better!
4. Understand “Controllables;” those factors you do and do not have any control over. Things like the umpire’s strike zone, field conditions, teammates play, coaching comments, hitting the ball right at someone, bad hops, etc. are out of your control. To let these things get into your head when you may already be fighting yourself mentally is a really bad plan, as it will surely only serve to accelerate negative, doubtful thinking.
So what factors can you as player or team control?
Your ATTITUDE (see #1 above)
Your level of PREPARATION
Your mental FOCUS (see #2)
5. Have a super short memory. Hey, let’s face it…tough things happen to all players and teams in softball. It’s just the nature of the game. Prepare yourself for the adversity the game will inevitably throw at you by devising a mental game plan to overcome and bounce back from the bad things that happen. This preparation will enable you to build more resiliencies. If you are in a slump or your team is having one of those days let go of what happened bad and look forward to the next “opportunity” the game gives you (again, see #2)! A great way to do this is to focus more on the “process” and your “effort” than being obsessed solely with the outcome or results you get. Be mindful of your inner conversation (see #5 above) and choose “green.”
The bottom line is the “Comeback Mindset,” once cultivated, is a super powerful weapon for any player or team. A determined, enthusiastic player or team is hard to stop. And, again, activating this mindset is always a choice that can be triggered in any given moment by a shift in thinking (which in turn triggers a subtle then powerful shift emotionally).
The challenge, of course, is to be able to implement these strategies when you don’t feel great, or are having one of those days. This is why physical AND mental preparations BEFORE you step on the field are crucial to reversing slumps and turning games around for teams.
To comeback or not comeback, that is the question…that is the choice!



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 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"

6 Proven Tips to Keep Your Athlete Motivated!

One of the challenges I hear from parents and coaches frequently is how to keep their kids motivated. This task has become even harder now that so many athletes are playing fastpitch virtually year around.

At the younger ages of 8-12 athletes most often play because they like the sport and don't really need much motivation beyond that. They also enjoy the social aspect of the game and that can be a main motivator as well. In my travel organization we often call kids at this age "little robots" because they will virtually do whatever mom, dad or their coaches tell them to do!

Once the child gets to 13-14 she plays because she's played the game for years and mom or dad drive them to practices, lessons and games. They are still in the "robot" stage, but not for long. Sure the child usually wants to play but often the social component now shifts to friends and activities outside the game. This is normally when the first signs of grumbling and not wanting to get out of bed for those early Sunday games.

At the high school age often burnout can set in unless the athlete truly has her goals clearly in sight and her motivations in high gear. At this age the social sacrifice being made is tremendous and the obsession and pressures of achieving a college scholarship can accelerate burnout.

Here is one of the main challenges with lack of motivation: depending on her personality type your daughter may not tell you she is tired of playing (as my daughter didn't tell me for over a year) for fear of disappointing you. Since you probably aren't a mind reader I have some help for you!

Here are five tips to keep her motivated and fired up for those 8 am Sunday games!

1. The Conversation - Sit down with your athlete at least every six months to reassess her commitment for the game and all that goes with it. Don't "tell her" rather "listen to her," and be open to her feelings about where she is at and what she wants to do. At the heart of all motivation issues is your athlete, at some point, has to start playing for herself instead of for you. The sooner she makes that shift the better.

2. Internal Motivations - Ideally your athlete has internal or "intrinsic" motivation; meaning she is "self-motivated." Her goals are clearly defined and she is fired up every day to achieve those goals. Whether it is to make her varsity team as a freshman, play for a better travel team, make the All Star team or get an athletic scholarship to play ball in college. When these motivators are clear and present your athlete should maintain her fire in the belly; although there will be times when you will have to remind her! Keeping visual reminder of her goals is a great tool to help her as well, like pictures of college softball players, or of her dream university!

3. External Motivations - If the internal fire isn't burning as brightly as you would like try external or "extrinsic" motivators. This is the classic "carrot and the stick" method. Create tangible incentives or disincentives for her; meaning create a reward for playing or working harder or a penalty for not. I've heard of parents offering iPhones, or cash for achieving athletic goals (or something as simple as ice cream after the game for swinging the bat for the younger kids!). A penalty might be no sleepover, taking away phone privileges (ouch!), cutting out private lessons, etc.

The best motivators ultimately are perceived as either bringing pleasure or pain. As humans we naturally seek to avoid pain at all cost. So I'm either motivated to "do" something because it brings me something I really want or it brings too much pain by not doing it (physically or emotionally). Or I'm motivated to "not" do something because I perceive it will cost me in time, pain, embarrassment, etc; or it will bring me pleasure (more time with friends, sleeping in, etc). It's simply a risk versus reward assessment.

4. Explain "The Why" Behind It - Part of the conversation you need to have with your athlete to keep her motivation going and, more importantly, make it as personal to her as possible is to talk about "the why" behind it all. Meaning why does she play the game; why are her goals important to her; why everything she does (or needs to do) will prepare her to achieve her goals; why would it matter to her two years from now (pick your time frame) if she doesn't achieve her goals? The more you can get her to buy into the "why" the more invested and engaged she will become. This is her life, so the deeper she understands the implications of her actions towards the ultimate achievement or failure in reaching her goals the more she will embrace "the journey" it takes to get there.

5. The Takeaway - As parents our job is always to "frame" the situation and explain how her decisions will impact her future. Often I hear of an athlete being burned out after a long, hot summer season and wanting to quit the game. I always counsel the parent to sit down with the child, determine what she likes or loves about playing the game (leave the negative stuff out of the conversation) and whether she is truly prepared to walk away for that. Often what comes up is how much she will miss playing with her friends, the thrill of competition, the feeling of a big hit, big strikeout (as a pitcher), or big win (Personally I miss the smell of freshly cut grass). If you can get your athlete to see what she might be missing by leaving the game it will likely motivate her to work harder.

The other ultimate takeaway and external motivator is no college. With the cost of college spiraling up by 10% each year securing an athletic scholarship may legitimately be the only way your athlete is going to college. Don't be afraid to use that card (not at 12, but certainly by 15). A little dose of truth and reality can do wonders to ignite motivation!

6. Detachment - Ultimately, as I had to do with my daughter, you must let your athlete do what she wants to do; you must let go and detach yourself from the way "you" think it should go. Now this is not to say you don't spell out her options and help her to make a rational, well thought out decision. But, by all means, include her in the conversation. After all, it's her life!

I have found, though, if you employ "big picture" thinking, keep things positive and connect the dots for her she will be motivated to work harder. Often, emotionally, a younger female athlete doesn't believe enough in herself and, thus, does not think she is capable of reaching her goals so what's the point of trying. Continue encouraging her, without criticism.

Remember, we ask a lot of our young athletes these days, especially for a teen. Part of her maturation is being able to make her own decisions, so let her. In my daughter's case she finally found the courage to tell me she no longer wanted to play the game when she was 15. She wanted to focus on her academics. It was hard for me, but I supported her. The end game for her...getting into a great private east coast university with ample academic aid. It's all good!

Thanks for reading!  --John Michael Kelly


Does She Believe She Will Be Successful?

After coaching girls' softball for over a dozen years I have found the female athlete to be amazingly determined, wildly passionate, fiercely loyal yet emotionally fragile.

This emotional fragility is heightened by parents and coaches who don't understand the uniqueness of the female athlete.

A young woman's self-esteem, self-image and self-beliefs need to be nurtured and respected, particularly as athletes in a game as difficult emotionally as fastpitch softball can be.

For an adolescent female athlete her self-belief on the field is everything. I marvel at how many players I see, work with and coach have issues with their self-confidence. I have come to realize that it's just not easy being a young woman in a world obsessed with physical perfection and often expectations for flawless behavior.

In truth your athlete or team will only go as for in their skill development and on the field performance as they believe they will. These often limiting self-beliefs can greatly impact her motivation and desire, for if she really doesn't believe she is good enough why is all that extra work really worth it?

On the field I witness an epidemic of "self-doubt;" athletes afraid of making mistakes for fear of letting down parents, coaches, teammates and self. I see so many young ladies searching for their identity on the diamond and having to cope with the inevitable emotional roller coaster ride that fastpitch is.

Then I see parents, usually Dad's, and coaches berating an athlete or her entire team after a mistake or poor game and I cringe knowing the damaging they are doing to their athletes' self-esteem and self-confidence.

In the world of sports psychology it's called "self-efficacy;" one's belief in their ability to perform a task successfully. From psychologist Albert Bandura:

People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:

--View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered
--Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate
--Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities
--Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments

People with a weak sense of self-efficacy:

--Avoid challenging tasks
--Believe that difficult tasks and situations are beyond their capabilities
--Focus on personal failings and negative outcomes
--Quickly lose confidence in personal abilities

So how can you help your athlete or team to build up this self-efficacy, the self-belief that "she can" be successful?

1. Support her and nurture her self-esteem, confidence and sense of self; particularly after a tough day on the field (or classroom).

2. Suspend your judgments, criticisms and need to be right around her. Step into her shoes and her world for a few minutes. I assure you that the amount of pressure she feels today in ALL areas of her life to excel is far greater than you experienced at her age.

3. Respect and honor her for her effort, her talent, her loyalty, her love for her teammates and the game.

4. Listen. As adults (yes I am often guilty of this with my daughter) we feel the need to talk too much when often all our daughters want us to do is put our arm around her and listen!

5. Continue to challenge her limiting self-beliefs and always encourage her to get better on the field (as in every area of her life). Start seeing her as having unlimited potential for greatness and watch her start to believe the same.

In truth the greatest gift we can give our daughters and those young ladies that we coach is the gift of confidence that propels their self-esteem, self-worth and their own belief that they can do anything they set their minds to in a sometimes difficult world!

Thanks for reading. --John


Top 10 Lessons You Don’t Want Your Athlete To Learn!

After finishing 11 tournaments in 12 weeks in various venues around the country in June and July one sad truth I saw that continues to plague the great sport of softball is bad behavior by both parents and coaches.

This bad behavior is damaging to your athlete, her team, and the organization. It cheapens the game in front of parents, other teams and college coaches.

So, here are 10 lessons you absolutely do not want your athlete to learn while on the softball field:

1. Not playing when a college coach is there to watch. I saw this in Colorado and I couldn’t believe it. The coach knew the athlete had a coach coming to scout her and he still did not play her in a meaningless pool game. Unforgivable! (The lesson: “My coach doesn’t care about me.”)

2. Putting a single athlete above the team. You know, “It’s all about my kid…scr** the team.” Pointing out your athletes statistics compared to her teammates.This kind of selfishly is becoming more and more prevalent. (The lesson: “I matter more than my teammates, and my stats define me.”)

3. Ripping your players. I saw this every weekend…coaching yelling and belittling their players. Really? You expect female athletes to respect and play hard for you when you embarrass them and rip into their confidence? These teams were usually eliminated early in the tournament. I wonder why? (The lesson: “My ego as a coach is more important than how you feel or how you play.”)

4. Bad mouthing coaches in front of everyone. I realize national tournaments mean more $$ spent, but rein in the emotional outbursts and act like an adult. If you don’t like the coach or his/her strategy then change teams at the end of the season. Just don’t poison the well DURING a tournament. Also understand there are game and tournament strategies you don’t understand that involve how a roster is utilized. (The lesson: “I never need to respect my coaches because my parents think they’re idiots.”)

5. Talking to college coaches. College coaches do not want to (and, in many cases, are forbidden by NCAA rules) talk to parents about their kids. Give them room and let your coaches and official team representative speak with them. Pimping your kid really only hurts her chances. College coaches know you embellish the truth, so back off. (The lesson: “My parents embarrass me in front of the coaches.”)

6. Quitting on your team. I saw it a few times whereby a player wasn’t getting playing time at Nationals and the parent pulled their kid, packed up and went home. Or, after approaching the coach about it the coach cut the kid. Yikes…can’t we all just get along! (The lesson: “I don’t have to honor my commitments because it’s all about me.”)

7. Being habitually late to games. There always seems to be one or two kids on a team that ALWAYS show up late to pre-game warm ups. Why? Plan it out, use Google maps or your cell GPS. Set the alarm earlier. Do whatever it takes. Don’t make your coaches have two sets of rules for the team. (The lesson: “It doesn’t matter if I’m late.”)

8. Talking to your athlete DURING the game. This is a major “no-no” in my book. Give her plenty of water or Gatorade BEFORE the game. Do not approach the dugout to talk about the game. I even saw a mom walk right into the dugout during the game to give her kid nachos. Seriously? Let the coaches coach, and the players play. You can do your mom or dad thing AFTER the game is over. (The lesson: “I don’t have to follow team rules, nor do I have to grow up!”)

9. Hopping teams. I see (back to the “me first” myopic mentality) too many players changing teams each season without a legitimate reason. In truth the green isn’t always greener. With the explosion of travel/club softball comes elevated competition to recruit players. Many coaches will tell you exactly what you want to hear so beware. Not to mention hopping teams yanks your athlete from friends and a comfort zone she may have been thriving in. The one caveat to this is a truly bad situation, in which leaving is the logical option (The lesson: “My princess deserves better because she is the best player on the team.” translation to the athlete: “My parents don’t trust me to succeed on this team. They just keep pushing me. I don’t want to change teams again. I like it here.”)

10. Yelling at umpires. Man, at national tournaments this was at epidemic levels this summer! Please honor the game and respect all those who make it happen: coaches, umpires, the opponent and every player on your athlete’s team. (The lesson: “I don’t need to respect the umpires, and I can always blame them for my failures.”)


Tony Gwynn's Message to Fastpitch Players

I met the recently departed Hall of Famer Tony Gywnn for the first time on the field in our college days when he doubled off of me into the left centerfield gap merely days removed from the conclusion of his basketball season at San Diego State.

I met Tony off the field decades later at a charity function, when he chuckled with that infectious laugh of his upon hearing my recount of his success hitting off of me, then reassuring me that I wasn't the only pitcher he did that too in his career!

Tony Gwynn was the epitome of consistency; a "pros pro" who never took his success for granted. Gwynn was, in fact, one of the last of a breed of ballplayers (along with fellow HOF inductee Cal Ripken, Jr.) whose Herculean work ethic and drive to better themselves pushed them to the limits of their God given talents, while serving as sterling role models to all who observed their relentless pursuit for perfection in a game built on failure.

Gwynn pioneered the use of video, endlessly studying his at bats after every game looking for the smallest flaw he could correct with more work. Gwynn was also known to be at the ballpark by noon for a 7 pm game, again working on perfecting his craft with countless swings in the cage and off the tee.

In his obit to the now "late" Tony Gwynn, "In a .338 Lifetime Average, Every Day Counts," the New York Times Tyler Kepner writes:

"In 1994, while on his way to the fifth of his eight National League batting crowns Gwynn spoke passionately about the attitude of the modern player. 

"They just feel like stuff is supposed to happen to them," he said. "They're not going to have to work for it. And that bugs me because I know how hard I had to work to get where I got. Sometimes they sit there in amazement at why I come out (so early) every day. But I cannot let their way of thinking into my head."

Unfortunately in 2014 I see the same thing in fastpitch softball Tony saw twenty years ago in baseball; a lackluster work ethic and a growing entitlement mentality where "getting better" often means doing the bare minimum despite an increasingly ultra-competitive softball landscape, all in the quest for college scholarships.

I have had several college coaches tell me the same: that their job description does not include baby sitting or having to deal with the endless drama and emotion that many "thin-skinned" athletes bring with them to college.

I'm confident that if Tony Gwynn were to speak to your athlete or team, as I'm sure he did often to his San Diego State baseball teams, he would say the following:

  1. Challenge and push yourself to be better. You'll never know how good you can be unless you try.
  2. Have pride in your game. Take your weaknesses and work tirelessly to transform them into strengths because, as a competitor, you care deeply about how the quality of your play.
  3. Focus on the little things. Look for ways to get better by becoming a relentless "student of the game."
  4. Don't let the team or your friends dictate your effort or performance level. Be a leader and set the example; raise the bar of excellence for yourself and others.
  5. Never let anyone tell you "you can't" achieve any level or goal you set for yourself. In the end it's "you versus you." GO FOR IT!
When Tony Gwynn began his professional career his outfield skills were below average. But as with his hitting Gwynn worked his tail off to improve his arm strength, his footwork, and developed a quicker release on his throws. The end result of all his hard work...five Gold Gloves to go along with his eight batting titles, fifteen All Star appearances, two trips to the World Series and immortality in Cooperstown.

Closer to home the summer after my high school graduation, prior to commencing my college baseball career, I spent an hour every day taking a hundred swings in the local batting cage, working on hitting the ball up the middle and to the opposite field. My thinking was I would see better pitching in college and trying to pull everything and hit home runs against mostly mediocre high school pitching wasn't going to fly at the D1 college level. Turns out I was right and all that hard work paid off for me in college.

As summer is upon us your athlete and team has no excuse not to work hard and smart to improve their game. Like I always say, "How good do you want to be?"

Like Tony Gwynn, develop an expectancy for success and build that rock solid sports confidence that only comes as the result of countless hours of quality preparation through a work ethic forged from desire, dedication, determination and passion.

Tony Gwynn both expected and achieved monumental success in his 20 year Major League career. He did it the hard way, through relentless effort. It's the only way he and Cal Ripken, Jr. knew how to play the game.

Plant these seeds in your athlete and team as greatness is always available to the player and team willing to go after it and do whatever it takes to be their absolute best!

6 Must Tips for Finding a Great Travel Team

Whether you are contemplating the jump from rec softball to travel, or you are a seasoned travel family picking the right travel team can be the difference between your athlete loving the game and maximizing her skills (at the younger levels) to reaching her goal of playing at her ideal college with a fat athletic scholarship or not.

Picking the ideal travel team or organization requires extreme due diligence and some very clear steps and components that you must be aware of and follow to increase your odds of landing your athlete on the right team. Travel softball requires a tremendous investment in time and money so why not match your athlete with her best travel fit to insure the best return on your softball investment!

Having coached at the highest level of travel softball in southern California for the last five years I’d like to offer you six tips, strategies, “must do’s” for any parent looking for a travel softball team:

1. A good fit talent wise – The most important consideration if your athlete is younger is playing time. Be wary of rosters above 12 players as playing time can be uneven. Find a team that is a good fit for your athlete’s talent and competitive level. You want to find a team that she will see plenty of playing time, yet be challenged by slightly better competition both on her team versus the teams they play. If your athlete is overwhelmed her confidence will slide and her performance will suffer (as well as her desire to play). Be realistic about your athlete's talent and potential. If need be seek input from several qualified coaches.

2. A good fit age wise – If your athlete is 9-14 years old you need to look for a team/organization with a great track record for teaching and developing players. Don’t get caught up in the winning. In fact, RUN from the team that only cares about winning! At the younger ages you want your athlete to get better in all facets of her game. Beware the rabid “dad” coach who wants to win at all cost, and likely with his/her daughter and her friends playing every inning and batting 1-5 in the lineup! If your athlete is in the older 14u age group or older development now turns into “college exposure” as the most dominant factor in choosing a travel team/organization. Look for a team/organization that has had great success placing their players with quality colleges with substantial financial aid (whether athletic/academic scholarships or academic grant money). Read tips 4 and 5 for more on recruiting and exposure.

3. Track record on the field – Check to see how the team has played before. Speak to current parents as to their experiences. They likely will only speak positive since their kid still plays there. Therefore you need to ask some very specific questions in order to bring the truth to the surface.

a. Find out of the coach’s daughter plays on the team and what position she plays and where she bats in the lineup. Ask if the other team coaches have daughters and where they play. Ask about playing time for their daughter.

b. Ask subtly how important winning is to the team and coaches. If the parents start bragging about how much they have won be wary. Hey, as a coach, I like winning too—but remember, if your athlete is younger developing skills is far more important than winning. And often in developing skills winning has to be sacrificed for the good of a player or team’s future.

c. Ask about practices. How are they run? Are they efficient and does the coaching staff seem to be competent in teaching the full array of softball skills (hitting, defense, base running, mental game)? Have they noticed their daughter getting better while playing on the team?

d. How do the girls on the team get along (any bad apples)? How do the parents get along (any parental poison)?

4. Track record in recruiting skills – As your athlete reaches that tipping point age of 15 (14 for a pitcher) skill development takes a secondary position to the execution of your college softball “recruiting plan.” At this stage your travel team/organization becomes vitally important. You’re close to the “payday” so look at the team’s/organization’s track record of placing their former players into college programs.

If you are looking for maximum financial contribution from a university then D1 and D2 schools should be your target, as D3 schools cannot offer athletic scholarships. Ask the prospect team where their “graduates” are playing? Look on their website to see as well. Ask what percent of their seniors get athletic scholarships and what is the average % of scholarship given (25%, 50%, 75%, 100%)? Since the maximum number of scholarships any D1 school can give is 12 and D2 7.2 very few athletes get “full athletic rides.”

5.  Exposure – This is where the rubber hits the road. What showcases does your prospect team/organization attend? Are they in the “invitation only” mix to top showcase events? Are they scheduled on the main fields or relegated to the back fields (which fewer college coaches go to watch)? Does the team/organization have a quality website with individual player profile pages that college coaches can view and download, with links to skills videos on YouTube? Can the coach or administrative head pick up the phone and call target school coaches for you (and will those college coaches take the call)? Do the travel coaches on your prospective team nominate their players for top college showcase camps and all star games like the Fireworks Showcase in Colorado and On Deck?

6.  The Big Picture – Of course from the mental standpoint you want your athlete to continue her love for and dedication to the game within the bigger picture of selecting the right travel team/organization. Let me interject, however, the perils resulting from switching teams too often. I call it “team hopping,” and in southern California it’s a full blown epidemic! For your athlete to play her best she needs to “feel” her best, so team hopping can rip her away from a comfort zone into a new environment that may challenge her sports confidence. 

Now if she isn’t getting playing time or the coach is a jacka** by all means change teams. But to bail on one team for another based on promises being offered or the chance to wear the cool name on the jersey or play for a winner may not be what is best for your athlete.

The second half of "big picture thinking" is assessing your athlete's motivation and desire for playing. As travel will require a much bigger time commitment and a likely lessening or near abandonment of her social life be sure she is in sync with her athletic goals and is "all in." She much find the self-motivation to work hard and make the self-sacrifices that come with travel softball (as all members of the family must buy into). If your athlete is still playing to please you that dog won't hunt much longer...believe me!

In my experience if you really want to find the truth their are always plenty of places and plenty of people to help you in the softball community. Good luck with your search. Let me know how it goes!


Here are a couple of key takeaways for you from this article:

1. Be patient and be prepared to exercise due diligence in finding the best match for your athlete. Ask questions and do plenty of research online, including team track record, roster sizes and coaching bios.

2. Be sure the team is a good fit for your athlete in regards to her talent level, commitment level and age. Remember...younger ages it's all about DEVELOPMENT; older ages it's all about RECRUITMENT.

3. Try to pick the right team and stick with it so your athlete can flourish within their system. Team hopping can result in diminished confidence, performance and enthusiasm for the game.

The Confidence-Performance Connection: 6 Pivotal Strategies

I imagine since the days of the early Olympics in ancient Greece athletes, coaches, families and fans have contemplated the impact self-confidence has on athletic performance.

More recently behavioral psychologists have proven a correlation between how game performance impacts self-confidence.
In other words sports confidence and sports performance are attached at the hip for EVERY athlete. One drives the other in an inescapable "cause and effect" relationship.

It is undeniable, then, that self-confidence is the single most consistent factor and predictor of the level of success any athlete will achieve.

Adding to the degree of difficulty for any younger athlete is the reality that sports confidence can be strong one minute and fragile the next; leading to the inconsistent play we know all too well as coaches and sports parents!

Confidence Definitions

Here are some of my favorite definitions of confidence for you to ponder:
  • A feeling or belief that you can do something well.
  • Sure of oneself; having no uncertainty about one's abilities.
  • The state or quality of being certain.
And, as always, more hitting or pitching lessons often isn't the answer to building stronger confidence and elevated individual and team game performance; that answer usually lies between the ears and takes the powerful form of thoughts and emotions. As humans we all have over 50,000 unique thoughts every day that create countless emotional states we can slip in and out of quickly or be stuck with for days.

So with that...let's move on to the strategies!

6 Pivotal Strategies

Here are 6 pivotal strategies for parents, coaches and players to both understand and maximize the confidence-performance connection:
    1. "Trait" vs. "state" confidenceThis refers to macro ("trait") and micro ("state") conditions of confidence; meaning does your athlete have an overall self-confident mindset as a person? Does she possess a high level of overall self-esteem? Does she see herself, overall, as a good and competent softball player?
    In the "state" condition of confidence does she have self-confidence in the moment; immediately after adversity strikes on the field? Can she summon a high level of sports confidence with the game on the line? This is "state" confidence.

    As parent or coach it is essential to recognize the difference between "trait" and "state" confidence in an athlete. As coach you may not be aware of home or childhood issues that could be a foundational cause for low self-esteem or self-confidence levels. Trying to focus on her "state" confidence may prove less than successful if her dominant "trait" confidence levels are low.

    Likewise she may have extremely high levels of "trait" confidence yet still get overly anxious before or during a game or pivotal moment. Her high levels of "trait" confidence may allow you to push different buttons to activate her "state" confidence on the field.
      2. The role thoughts and emotions play - The ultimate cause and effect relationship exists for every athlete with how she thinks and feels before, during and after a practice or game. Thoughts give birth to emotions, and emotions propel thought patterns.

      Simply stated limiting/negative/"can't do"/resistant thoughts lead to the elevated emotional states of frustration/anger/sadness/embarrassment/fear/anxiety (all of which tear away at confidence and performance levels).

      While expansive/flowing/"can do"/positive thought patterns lead to the steady emotional states of joy/happiness/excitement/anticipation/calmness/focus (all of which propel confidence and performance levels).

      The thoughts and ensuing emotions/feelings are a constant battle for younger athletes; particularly female athletes in my 12 years of coaching experience.

      As parent or coach you have the opportunity and responsibility to help your athlete(s) to recognize that they control their thinking and have the power to "manage" (not CONTROL) their emotional states. There are many techniques to shift thought patterns, including proper breathing, positive trigger statements and the use of mental imagery among many others.
        3. Physical/mental mastery - Confidence and performance will absolutely improve with the proper physical and mental preparation. The more competent a younger athlete is the more confident she will feel and play. In a sport as difficult as fastpitch softball every athlete must become proficient, then ultimately master both the physical and mental skills necessary to succeed.

        Physical and mental mastery of their sport allows an athlete to extend their sense of "certainty" and belief that she can and will succeed on the diamond. This underpinning of physical/mental mastery is a huge predictor of game day sports confidence and performance.

        As parent or coach the monotony of practice reps in softball can wear on a young athlete, yet it is the slow and steady mastery of these skills and the mental IQ of the game that ultimately builds the rock solid sports confidence every coach and parent seeks for their daughter and team. If she has successfully executed a game task or skill hundreds of times on the field (and in her head) she will play with confidence, void of the hesitation and doubt that kills game performance.
          4. Environmental comfort zones - For any athlete her environment plays a huge role in the stability of her sports confidence. A stressful environment full of elevated performance expectations from parents or coaches can leave an athlete with a very fragile "trait" confidence condition; making her game "state" confidence equally shaky.

          And yet growth can only occur for a younger athlete when she is willing to risk leaving the security of her comfort zone for a new unknown environment (new team, new coaches, new age level, new competition level). It is a vexing paradox for sure.

          As parent or coach your role in growing your athlete(s) sports confidence is to be mindful and sensitive to her environmental comfort zones. This can include changing routines; changing positions on the field or even her spot in the batting order. The key here is ALWAYS good communication; giving the athlete as much advance notice as possible of any planned changes in her comfort zone so that she can mentally prepare herself without puncturing her sports confidence balloon and with it tanking her game performance.
            5. The Impact of Coach or Parent - Strictly within the context of confidence and performance any adult role model or authority figure will have an enormous impact on any younger athlete.

            As a coach your players, particularly teen girls, will be constantly evaluating your leadership skills. Are you fair in how you treat each player? Do you possess the tactical and strategic skills to put each player and team in an optimal competitive position on game day? Are you a good communicator? Can you motivate and stick by the team through thick or thin, or do you give up on a player or the team when things on the diamond start going ugly? Whether or not your players respect and have confidence in you as a coach goes a long way to build or undermine their sports confidence; particularly after adversity strikes a player or team.

            For parent your unconditional support of her on the diamond will go a long way towards building her sports confidence and elevating her game performance. Unreasonable expectations, constant judgment and criticism of her performance will absolutely serve to systematically destroy what ever sports confidence she has and will likely also do damage to her self-esteem as well.

            Younger athletes, by definition, want to please the adults around them in order to be accepted. Show praise, support, respect and appreciation for the hard work, effort and sacrifices your athlete gives to her sport. Simple praise over criticism can do wonders to build both "trait" and "state" confidence in any younger athlete. It's your choice, so do the right thing!
              6. Accomplishments - In a sport with so much failure inherent within it fastpitch softball can tear into an athlete's sports confidence and submarine her game performance in a nano-second. I teach my athletes to remember every little success they have achieved on the diamond (both in games and in practice); to pat themselves on the back as much as possible. Certainly not to get a swelled head of "over-confidence"...but, rather, to acknowledge and feel good about the progress they are making.

              If all the athlete focuses her thoughts and energy on is how she "failed" or on her mistakes she will have no shot at cultivating a healthy dose of sports confidence and, thus, her game performance will always fall woefully short of her potential. Fixating on results only will never be a recipe for elevating confidence and performance...NEVER!

              As parent or coach help your athlete(s) to focus her thinking on the process of getting better. Remember, the road to softball mastery is a journey that will not be accomplished over night! She and you should be solely concerned with those factors she has 100% control of as an athlete...her effort and her attitude, not the outcome of one at bat or one game. In the big picture of developing as an athlete and woman are the results of a single game really that important; especially if the athletes involved are 10, 11, 12 or 13?

              Hopefully you can embrace the exactitude of the confidence-performance connection and will commit to applying the strategies and suggestions I have made in this post.

              Sports confidence is a fickle thing. It requires nurturing, patience and understanding. It also requires that the parent or coach take a pro-active role in his or her player's well being; her self-confidence, her self-esteem and her joy for playing the game.

              Unfortunately there is no magic pill you can give an athlete to miraculously transform her sports confidence and game performance levels. It is a long process of growing up as it was for the athletes in Greece in 776 B.C.
                I have developed 12 pivotal strategies for building rock solid sports confidence and optimal game performance in both players and teams that will be covered in detail at my upcoming FREE webinar: The Mental Game Playbook Series: 12 Pivotal Strategies to Skyrocket Sports Confidence and Game Performance!  Sign up for the FREE webinar here.

                Thanks for reading!
                John Michael Kelly

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