The nature of a softball game gives players a ton of time to think, and usually they are thinking about the things they did wrong.
Girls in particular are hard on themselves so helping them learn to manage their minds is crucial to their softball success, and the good news is – it’s possible!
Softball is a VERY frustrating game because just like golf, you have lots of time to think, and it’s this “time to think” that really messes with our minds. Players struggle constantly with negative thoughts running through their brains, especially during games.
Keep the Noodles and Throw Out the Water
I try to talk in pictures anytime I can, and a great picture that seems to really get across this whole idea of positive mind management is that of a spaghetti sieve. The whole idea of straining spaghetti into a sieve is to capture the noodles (the good stuff) and let the yucky water (the bad stuff) go through the holes and get out. It’s basically separating the good from the bad.
That’s exactly how we need to manage our minds in the frustrating game of softball. We need to keep the good stuff and let the bad stuff go through and GET OUT! But too often our players do the exact opposite: They hold onto the bad thoughts and negative stuff, and they let the good things they did escape with the spaghetti water. So, in effect, they are keeping the yucky water and letting the noodles go out through the holes.
Sharing this example of the spaghetti strainer will help your players have a better picture of how they need to manage their minds. They need to let the water – which represents all the negative playing thoughts – go through the holes and they need to hold onto, or keep the noodles, which represent the good playing thoughts.
Once you talk with your players about this idea of Keeping the Noodles and Flushing out the Water it’s easier for you to simply say “hey Cindy, keep the noodles” the next time I bobble a ball, or “Cindy, remember to flush the water” when I give up a bomb off a bad pitch. It might also be a good tip for you to remember as well when I make that error, give up a walk or swing at a bad pitch!
To help your players rebound faster here’s a great 3 Step routine you can have them do following every play (good or bad):
- FIND the Good – Look for whatever they did that was good. Find it first and make sure you recognize it if you’re working with the player.
- FIX the Bad – I don’t really like the word “bad” so I say FIX what you didn’t like. It’s usually the most obvious thing and usually the only thing that other people will notice.
- FORGET it! – In sports this is referred to as amnesia. Players need to have helpful amnesia, which means they need to quickly forget their last play and move on to the next one. Players don’t get in trouble for making bad plays; players get into trouble by carrying around all their previous bad plays so they aren’t able to make good plays in the now!
For more ways to help your players with their mental game check out our book, A Coaches Guide to Creating Team Chemistry: Tips to Coaching Female Athletes.