In today’s blog post, I am going to talk a bit about softball mental conditioning, the fear and nervousness that goes along with making the play, the effect that it can have on your hitters and how they can overcome those feelings.
The realization that fear and nervousness can lead to success is critical to successful athletic performance. Great athletes turn fear into anger and attack it. They use the energy from fear to defeat their opponents, allowing them to play at a higher level.
Softball Mental Conditioning Tip #1: Use Positive Visualization to Relieve Fear
Positive visualization is a technique that can relieve the hitter of fear. It is a picture in the hitter’s mind of what he wants to happen, as opposed to a fearful or negative vision. The last thought or picture in his mind before an action takes place is the thing that most likely happens. The power of suggestion or imagination is a strong tool in fighting fear and negative thinking. Visualizing what the hitter wants to happen before stepping into the batter’s box can lead to positive outcomes.
A player’s fear may be the result of something that happens away from the field. I had a player who feared facing their parents after games, especially when they did not perform well. They would criticize the player, punish them, or ridicule them for their poor performances. They were often ridiculed by their parents in front of others. I witnessed this and realized where the player’s fear originated and why pressure situations were difficult for them.
We had a player-coach meeting and I helped the player to recognize how that fear affected their performance. We discussed the fact that the parents loved them, wanted them to be successful, and how we could help them understand the players fear. By the player realizing that the parents cared and wanted them to succeed, but didn’t know how to show it, helped the player to turn fearful situations into positive ones, thus receiving more positive responses from the parents after the game.
I also met with the parents and helped them work through their problem. When they began to love their child unconditionally, regardless of game success, the player began to perform at their absolute best. Parents must be careful not to make the sport a life or death situation. Living through their child’s athletic experience causes undue pressure for the athlete. It affects their ability to play at their very best. Love your child unconditionally, regardless of their performance, and allow them to have a positive experience, free from fear of disappointing you. Encourage your child. Do not criticize them. Do not coach them. That is not your job.
Fear can be dealt with from a team perspective as well. The coach that works on team chemistry and the importance of supporting one another will help alleviate fear in his players. If a hitter knows that the dugout is full of supporters, regardless of the outcome of his at-bat, it can reduce the fear of failure, give him self-confidence, and lead to future successes.
Poor past performances can also lead to fearful situations for players. A hitter must realize that the past cannot affect the present if they don’t allow it. They cannot let one poor at-bat affect the rest of their game. The hitter has to play one pitch at a time, one at-bat at a time, and one game at a time.
A hitter who has a hitting routine is more likely to stay in the present. The hitter with a routine concentrates on a series of personal preparatory actions, allowing them to play one pitch at a time. Outside the batter’s box, they visualize and go through some preparatory action, then settle into the box using self-talk, and before the pitch, the player takes a deep breath and slowly releases it to achieve relaxation. The best concentration can be achieved by sucking a small amount of air in as the pitcher reaches their release point. This sends oxygen to the brain, which increases mental functioning.
Staying in the present by using their hitting routine and knowing the player has prepared for this at-bat through proper practice gives them additional confidence that can overcome fear.
Proper practice must include putting the hitter into fearful situations and allowing them to have success. This is an excellent way to rid players of fearful thoughts from past performances.
For more softball mental conditioning techniques, be sure to check out my Softball Drills and Practice Plans program. It is packed full of video deomonstrations, practice plan tips and drill suggestions. And don’t forget to Become a Fan on Facebook, where I will share more great softball mental conditioning tips, and you can talk to other coaches and players about other important practices!