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

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