Try this: think of a word that has more meaning to it than the word itself. For example, you might say “game” which might mean re-focus back on the field and listen for sounds of the game and your opponents or teammates to stop the things outside of the game from distracting you. You might also use cue words for skill execution. “Quick” might be a word that you could use to remind yourself to get a good jump on a lead off when base running. You might use the word “snap” to remind yourself to snap your wist at the end of the throw to improve the velocity.
Most people are talking to themselves more than they realize. Consciously talking to ourselves can even be helpful in softball and can then even transfer over to daily activities as well. How many times have you been in a tense situation at work or amongst friends and said to yourself, “it’s ok,” which might mean to take a breath and put things in perspective.
Using Cue Words
You use cue words sometimes without even knowing it. You may use a word like “keys” to tell yourself to make sure you put them in the same spot all the time so that you always know where to get them when you need them. You can do the same thing here.
Using a single word to remind you of a few things you want to remember in a softball skill is helpful during competition and training. They can also be used to help you with relaxation. You might use a word like “breathe” to remind yourself to relax your shoulders and take a big breath and let the air out slowly to calm yourself. You might also use a word to help when you are learning a new technical or tactical skill to remind yourself of what you have to do during the execution. Something to remind you of your posture or having your weight on the balls of your feet in your ready position for fielding, could be very helpful as well.
Cue words don not need to be actual words only. They can also be images that represent a cue word such as a stop sign or a green light. I have for example used traffic light colours to help athletes learn about their emotional control and to be able to change their emotions based on the colour of the traffic light. This worked great during games when I could just say the colour to remind them to breathe and calm down during an important game.
After an Error
It’s common to experience negative self-talk after an error. You can devise cue words though, that will help you to get back on track and to get rid of the negative feelings that comes with negative events. There are many words that players use such as “STOP” if they are thinking of bad things, or alternatively seeing a stop sign. The idea of flushing a negative thought is another common tool that many athletes use after making an error. Practice with different words or images and set one that you can use anytime that you need to change your thinking.
For Learning Skills
Sometimes it is hard to learn a new sports skill, especially complicated ones such as batting where there are many parts to it. By creating cue words for remembering a specific part of the skill, you can remind yourself of what to focus on in the skill during a drill at practice. It’s important to keep the word simple and not complicated, especially if the skills are complicated.
You might find that you are nervous or anxious before a big game. This anxiety can be even stronger if it’s an important game. A cue word can help you to relax and put everything into perspective even before leaving for the field. Taking a deep breath and just saying something like, “relax” or “it’s all good,” can help you to calm yourself and enjoy the moment instead of being tense and uneasy.
Cue Words for Youth
Youth need to have simple words with simple meanings. Observe the actions and reactions to see how they are responding to potentially stressful events and guide them through the finding of words that help them to relax and calm themselves. It’s very important to remember that it is their process and they need to build it instead of adults building it for them. This will help to develop their abilities to work with cue words on their own later in softball. This sense of empowerment will also motivate them in their journey through sport and life.
Cue Words for Adolescents
As we know, many adolescents have their own language. Allow adolescents to use their own language in developing their own cue words. Help them to become aware of how words can affect their energy levels and ability to control their emotions. It’s a growing process and adults need to allow them to achieve results individually.
Cue Words for Adults
As an adult, you may have already developed cue words over the years. Try to catch yourself using a word for something and see how it makes you feel. You might find that you need to make some changes to them so that they are more effective for softball. Being able to adapt is the best tool that any adult can have for any sport.
Practice Makes You Better
You might change your cue words or you might find some that work right away. Use them in softball and learn how to give them the effect that they are designed for.