The Mental Game Of Softball

Focus, Toughness And Mental Preparation Win Games

How would you rate yourself on mental toughness among your softball peers? Is your mental game helping you, or hurting you? What are you doing to improve your mental approach to softball?

I've been the mental game coach to local and national level and State Championship softball players, and to players on NCAA Division I collegiate softball programs. I've done this mental game coaching in over 75 sports. I have noticed a few common mental areas where many softball players need help. Softball players tend to be great team players, but sometimes they need assistance on specific individual mental factors.

Here are four mental strategies you can use that will show you just how strong your mind can become.
  1. Know What To Focus On, And What To Avoid: When you are fielding, what are the visual cues you utilize just as the pitch is about to be released? Are you watching the pitcher? Her arm? The ball? The catcher? The batter? Are you trying to figure out whether the pitch will be a ball, a strike, or if the batter will swing? Are you rehearsing in your mind what to do once the ball is hit? I'm sure you don't do what some players do, hope the ball is not hit to them! As homework, take some time to figure out exactly where your eyes should be at every stage of the pitcher's actions. Consult your coach and determine the exact visual sequence you will use to be a great fielder.
  2. Loose Hands Are Fast Hands: Too many softball players lose bat speed in a game as compared to practice because they tense up. All coaches know this. But why does it happen? There are mental reasons. Perhaps the player thinks her usual swing speed won't be good enough in a game. Maybe the player is trying to hit a homer every time up. Maybe the player is afraid, and she is unaware that her grip has tightened. Regardless of the reason, you want to calibrate your proper grip tension in practice. Take some swings that you deem to be excellent. Are they tight, more toward a 7, 8, 9 or 10? Or are they looser, more like a 4, 3, 2 or 1? Once you determine the ideal number for you, dial that number in at game time. Then swing away!
  3. Own The Plate: Having strong, confident body language at the plate is important for a number of reasons. First, you will send the message out that you are a batter to be respected. Perhaps the pitcher and fielders will react accordingly. Next, your breath control will be better. A tall stance allows the lungs to operate more freely as compared to a crouched over position. Finally, you will feel more confident. An aggressive, athletic posture gives you a feeling of being in control. Stand tall and your mental powers will rise.
  4. Know Your Rituals: You want to have a pre-batting ritual, an at-bat ritual and post-batting ritual. These three rituals give your mental approach a consistency that can't be found with random rituals, or with no rituals at all. Only you can know what each ritual should have in it, so test these out in practice. Get them set and then stick with them in games. Rituals give you security that you have a process to follow. Players who rush or who drag out their rituals are exhibiting some inner turmoil or changes, so keep your rituals consistent and you will feel better, focus better and hit better.

Since you now know more about the mental game of softball, and of how to manage your own mental approach, you can look forward to improving your effectiveness and enjoyment in your favorite sport, softball. Remember, know your visual focus cues, keep your hands loose, monitor your body language and sharpen your rituals. Good luck!