We’ve all got habits – some are good, like brushing our teeth, while some are not so good, like not making our bed, or biting our fingernails. Either way, if you know how to change the habits you have into new and better habits then you’ll become a better player.
Ok, first of all, what’s a habit? If we’re going to try and change them then it would be good to first know what they are. Think about it for a minute and see what you can come up with. When I do this with players they’ll usually say, it’s something you do a lot, which is true, but that answer’s not complete. Any guesses?
Basically, a habit is something you do over and over without thinking about it. We have good and bad habits. We tie our shoes when we put them on, we brush our teeth, we brush our hair, we fasten our seatbelts, we raise our hands to talk in class. These are all habits since we weren’t born knowing how to do them. Sure, they’re good habits, but they are still habits.
We have sports habits as well. We might always swing at high pitches, or rush in-between pitches when we get tired, or never step on the chalk line, or take our eyes off the ball when we have an easy throw to make, or always sit in the same place in the dugout, or never remember to carry our equipment bag, or always watch the pitcher in the on-deck circle. Softball habits are an important part of playing softball – especially when they’re good habits.
So the question is, how can we change a bad softball habit into a good one? Let’s go back to the definition of a habit – something we do a lot without thinking about. So, in order to start to break, or change a habit we need to start thinking. When we just go through the motions without really thinking about what we’re doing we’re more likely to use our habits. So, if you’re trying to change a bad habit you’ve got to keep your brain involved so you can focus and give your body new thoughts.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re a catcher and you’re trying to drop to your knees to block pitches that go in the dirt (instead of just using your glove to catch those balls). Ok, the habit that you do without thinking is to use your glove to catch the ball, the change you want to make (that will involve thinking is) to drop to your knees to block the ball. So here’s a simple way to start changing this habit – as the pitcher starts to pitch the ball give yourself some instructions that will help you change your habit. Keep them simple and short. So something like this – “if ball toward ground my knees are down!”. That one helps because it rhymes which means it will be easier to remember. But your instructions don’t have to rhyme. What’s important is that they are:
- Short – just a few words
- Specific – tell what part of your body to move where and when. In our example we told our knees (what) to move to the ground (where) when the ball was down (when).
- Beforehand – say your instructions just before your body starts moving. If you say them too soon you won’t use them and if you say them once you start moving it’s too late.
- Review – how’d you do? Don’t get mad at yourself if you didn’t do it, just try to quickly review what you did do that was good, and then a quick mental reminder to fix what you didn’t like, then go again. Be kind to yourself!
This simple 4 step program will work to help you start to change any habit you have so try it next time you get frustrated. And good luck!
For more help with this topic check out our eDrills!