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Softball Mental Training Skills

Softball Mental Training SkillsWhat are softball mental training skills? Essentially it is the ability to do ordinary things under extraordinary circumstances. When the score is close late in the game is when your mental training skills will generally be tested the most. It’s the 6th inning in the championship game and your team is down by 1 run. It doesn’t matter what level you are playing at… the effects are generally the same unless you are able to remain focused and calm.  Here are some mental training skills that you want to be aware of:

Softball Mental Training Skills

Goal Setting

Goals are what we strive toward. How we attain those goals is determined by our planning process and the steps that we take in that planning. They must be attainable, measurable, and must be periodically evaluated to determine if you are on the right track. If you set goals that are simply out of your reach it will not only affect your ability to achieve the goal but will also effect your confidence as your work will be endless and bring less than ideal results. If you cannot measure your goals, you cant tell if you are on the right track through evaluations or if you perhaps need to revisit your goals and their priorities. In the Progressive Psychological Performance for Softball workbook, I have broken the goal setting down into physical, technical and mental goals to allow you to be specific and to break down your training into smaller parts. Be sure to be specific with the dream goals, pre-season goals and season goals so that you can prioritize your training in the appropriate training phases.

Dream Goal(s)

What would be the most perfect outcome that you would like to achieve from softball. If you could achieve anything you wanted, what would it be. Write this down as your dream goals. How do your physical, technical and mental skills need to be in order to attain your dream goal. Remember that this training may take longer to attain depending on your current skill level and where you need to be.

Season Goals

Using your dream goals as a guide, what do you want to achieve this season. Being able to break down your skills that need to be perfected for your dream goals, you can focus perhaps on one thing at a time without being overly concerned about your dream goals because you know you are working toward the goals but don’t have to do it all in one season. Does that make sense?? 🙂

Pre-Season Goals

What do you need to do in order to attain your season goals. This is the time to perhaps work on your physical skills while maintaining your technical/tactical skills while at the same time using your mental training goals. This is preparation time where you can again break down your season goals and know that you are working on those goals without feeling the need to be training everything all at the same time. Having an idea of what you are attempting to achieve during your season will help you to map your pre-season.

Communication

We communicate every day and most times in every hour of the day while we are awake weather we know it or not. The ability to consciously communicate with intent and with a goal in mind can be effective and it can be dangerous depending on the situation and the relationship we have with the person or sometimes even animal we are communicating with. The tendency most times is for us to communicate with everyone the same and to believe that everyone knows what we are saying. This could bring many questions and confusion if the person you are communicating with is not able to understand what you are trying to say. How many times have you heard “What am I….. a mind reader?” lol. Knowing the intended receiver and being aware of our verbal and non verbal cues in communication will go al long way to ensuring that the message that you want to get across is the message that is received. The ability to listen and hear a message is critical to ensuring that we are participating as effectively as we can in the conversation. Listening with an open mind will also contribute to success in the exchange. Use this section of the workbook to explore the different aspects of communication in your environment on and off the playing field. Observe others communication strategies and their effectiveness and then record your own thoughts on the communication.

Great Communication Resources:

Effective Communication Fun Communications Test

Concentration / Focusing

The ability to maintain focus on a specific task or object is concentration. The ability to move that concentration depending on the activity and task at hand is focus. They go together and are equally important to success in softball. There are 4 types of focus and they all work together depending on what is happening around you. Internal Focus is focusing is sort of kin esthetic. Actually feeling the movement in your muscles or, concentrating on how you are feeling is internal focus. External Focus is focusing on what is happening around you and not inside. The play that is happening, the spectators, the field, the runners. Narrow Focus is focusing on something specific such as the ball only, the player you are throwing to, home plate as you are sliding in safely. Broad Focus is focusing on more than one thing at one time such as focusing on the base runners when throwing to first base or watching the base coach as you are rounding first base. During softball, you will generally be using 2 types of focus at one time. Narrow – Internal, Narrow – External, Broad – Internal, or Broad – External. Take some time and experiment with the different types of focus and see if you can identify them.

Distraction Control

The number of potential distractions during a softball game are enormous. Opponents, officials, parents, friends and even team mates can take our attention away from the task at hand. You can also be distracted by something that might have happened during the day or maybe you are feeling nervous about being new to the sport. From the beginner to the elite, the potential for distractions are the same even though the magnitude and potential consequences might not be.

If you are a beginner athlete you are perhaps distracted by your skill level. What if I screw up? Now how can you refocus that thought process back into the game that you want to enjoy with your friends. The use of mental skills like cue words and relaxation can be very useful. The elite and competitive athletes might be dealing with an international competition in which the results will determine of they will qualify for the Olympics. Wow…. a different level however the effect it can have is many times the same. Focusing and refocusing is a skill that when mastered can be one of the best tools for staying “in the game”. Someone calling your name or the sound of a child crying because they are hungry or tired in the stands can take you right out of your zone pretty quick. Having skills such as looking at a spot on the playing surface and re zoning your thoughts into the game is a simple and effective tactic. Picking up the ball and tossing it in the air will allow you to focus on the ball and regroup your thoughts. Talking to a teammate is also helpful. Acknowledging the distraction and then consciously re-directing your focus will decrease the potential of that distraction returning.

A review

There are different types of focus. There is broad focus which means focusing on more than one thing at a time. Seeing the whole sheet of ice as you are skating up with the puck and looking for a teammate to pass to. Narrow focus is focusing on one exact thing. When shooting the puck you are focusing on the wiring on the back of the net behind the goalie. Knowing the difference can allow you to consciously focus on what you need to during your execution of your skills and tactics. Take a look at the game and see where you might use narrow or broad focus. How can this work in your daily life? Lets say you have something coming up that you are worried about. Maybe a meeting with someone or you are going to be applying for a promotion at work. But you are also working on a task that needs to be completed on a deadline and it must be done well. The broad focus in this case would be that you are thinking about the appointment or meeting while you are attempting to complete the task at hand. A narrow focus would be acknowledging that there is nothing at this moment that you can do about the interview and consciously refocusing on your task taking that pressure and anxiety away.

Concentration

How do you use concentration to alleviate distraction? Now that is a loaded question. How many times have you heard someone say to just concentrate. Well you surely have experienced sometimes that is easier said than done. What is concentration? It is almost the same as focusing but it is for a specific task. Precision sport is the easiest way to describe it….. as a cyclist, moving through the pack takes concentration because you need to look for cues that are going to give you information about the most efficient path that you will need to take to get ahead of the rider. If you miss one of those cues you could crash or miss an opportunity.

Concentration can be even more difficult for a recreational athlete depending on your skill level because there can be so many factors that can distract you. Then add the confidence level and you may find it even more difficult. If you are confident in your skills it is much easier to maintain your concentration than it is if you do not have confidence.

Cue Words

Try it now….. think of a word that has more meaning to it than the word itself. For example you might say ….. “game” which really can mean…. re focus back on the field and listen for sounds of the game and your opponents or teammates to stop the elements outside of the game from distracting you. You might use cue words for skill execution. “quick” might be a word that you could use to remind yourself to get rid of the puck quickly if there is a defender checking you as you receive the puck from your teammate. A softball player might use the word “snap” to remind herself to snap her wrist at the end of the throw to improve the velocity of the throw. A 10 year old soccer player might use the word “follow” to remember to follow through on their striking the ball at the net. Most people are talking to themselves more than they might realize. So consciously talking to ourselves can be helpful in sport and can then even transfer over to our daily lives. How many times have you been in a tense situation at work or amongst friends. Using a cue word as simple as “breathe” can allow you to take a second and put things into perspective. We use cue words sometimes without even knowing it. Making sure we remember to do something we will use a word like “keys” to tell ourselves to make sure we put them in the same spot all the time so that we always know where to retrieve them when we need them. We can do the same thing in sport. Using a single word to remind us of a few things we want to remember in a skill will be helpful during a competitive or training situation when we are solidifying them during our season. They can also be used in assisting us with relaxation. We might use a word like “breath” to remind ourselves to relax our shoulders and take a big breath and let it out slowly to relax.

Self-Talk

Are you aware of how you talk to yourself during competition and training? Are you aware of how you talk to yourself in your daily life? Self-Talk is the way we tell ourselves if we are doing well at a task, if we feel we are doing poorly at a task and sometimes even to remind ourselves of something. Most times the difficulty with self-talk is the negative aspects of it where we are telling ourselves how incompetent we are and how we are never going to get it right. The side effects of that discussion with ourselves is generally disastrous. With those words we can crush our confidence all on our own without any assistance. The goal of the workbook is to assist you in changing the negative self-talk into positive self-talk. For example changing a sentence like “I am an idiot” to “I am going to get this right no matter what” The change of focus to a more productive one that is designed to have you moving forward in your progress is not only more productive but its funner too 🙂 Use the self-talk sheet and the record sheet to change any negative statements to positive ones and then record your progress with those statements. Look for the positive. We might use a word to help when we are learning a new tactic in our sport to remind ourselves of what we have to do during the execution.

Relaxation

Relaxation skills can be simply taking a deep breath and letting all of the air in your lungs out and consciously feeling your shoulders relax as you tell yourself its aaaaaaaaall goooood. Keeping things in perspective meaning that there are other things in life besides this one moment if this one moment happens to be what is causing you the most anxiety. Simply playing the game and going to the game can be stressful for participants if they are new to the sport. Butterflies are sometimes a part of the game regardless of the level you are playing at. The ability to relax and calm yourself will be an important skill as you are preparing for competition. Weather we feel it or not, If we are anxious or tense, it will effect our physical actions enough to have an effect on our skill execution. Not to mention the psychological effect it can have when a quick decision needs to be made. The ability to calm those nerves during an event or a training session or at any time will enhance not only your performance but also your enjoyment of your sport. From experience I know that being anxious and tense during competition can be just simply chaotic and not very enjoyable. Try the relaxation exercises as you feel comfortable and then record some of your experiences with the tools. You will find that as you gain experience with the tools you will find it easier and easier to find relaxation in the times when you need it the most.

Ideal Performance State

The state which we feel that we perform at our best with confidence is our ideal performance state. Also refereed to as “flow” or “the zone” this state is almost like things happen so smoothly that you even lose track of time. Nothing is going to distract you and you are ready for anything.

Emotional Control

With so many potential stresses in sport the ability to control emotions is crucial. Getting to the finals is very exciting and being able to maintain your composure as you are preparing for the competition can be a difficult task. The first thing that needs to happen is………. stop! Look around and see where you are….. how did you get there and what needs to be done for success in the situation….. now time to relax, refocus and use your cue words to stay focused and believe in your abilities knowing that you are going to use your mind as well as your body for success.

What about that official you see arriving to the site that you know has missed calls in the past and does not always have control of the game. AAAAAAARRRRGGG!!! Well its the same thing. Stop…… look around and see where you are….. how did you get there and what needs to be done for success in the situation…. now time again to relax, refocus and use your cue words to stay focused and know that this is something you have no control over and you will do what you have control over and execute.

Game Readiness

Game preparation is crucial to game execution in softball. The ability to arrive at the playing field feeling confident and ready to compete will play a big role in the results at the end of the day. this is where your Ideal Performance State comes in.

This can include making sure you have all your gear in your bag and making sure you have eaten before you leave the house. You would be amazed at how often that is forgotten. Your mental training components of readiness are a little more specific though.

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Softball Mental Training Skills
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Softball Mental Training Skills
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When two teams are equal in ability its the Softball Mental Training Skills that will make the difference in the outcome.
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Softball Tutor
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