|Overcoming the Mental Challenges of Softball
All hitters become aware of the challenge of softball hitting at some time in their career, and many have to rebuild confidence as they move up to higher levels of competition. The hitter must remind herself that her swing is the same regardless of the level of play, and place trust in her abilities to perform. The quality at-bats will come if her physical abilities are good enough to perform at the next level.
Softball is a game of performance. The hitter versus the pitcher. A one-on-one spotlight. Success may require having information that the hitter can recall and rely upon. The successful hitter has the ability to be a positive, aggressive thinker before the at-bat, and then rely upon her physical skills and muscle memory in the batter’s box. It is a thinking girl’s game only up to the time of the physical performance; then her instincts and athletic abilities must take over.
Knowledge is not meant to bound up the hitter to the point of affecting the physical performance. Each hitter must be handled differently in this respect and a good coach will assist the player in realizing what is too little or too much information. As Yogi Berra says, “You can’t hit and think at the same time. When it is time to hit, let’s swing it.”
The challenge of softball hitting also involves slumps; those times when a hitter is having few or no quality at-bats. Slumps can be caused by mental and/or physical fatigue, a poor mental approach, lack of trust and confidence, or a mechanical problem. It requires going back to the basic fundamentals.
Seeing the ball right out of the pitcher’s hand, hitting it right back up the middle, and making sure your swing is mechanically sound are fundamentals that are helpful to the slumping hitter. Reviewing video of her successful swings and comparing them to the slumping swings provides good information. Hitters often help themselves by changing their environment and getting away from the game altogether, or by practicing less. They need to re-energize and relax.
The factor of physical fatigue must be seriously considered, especially for a player who is not physically holding up to a season that is longer than she is accustomed to. Most players want to practice harder during slumps when their body and brain needs just the opposite. The hitter must acknowledge the slump and know it is real just as she deals with her fears. They are a natural part of softball and inevitable because of the nature and the difficulty of the game. However, she must not give into the negative thoughts associated with a slump. She must establish a strategy and set goals to overcome the slump. The player that takes responsibility for the slump and gets away from alibis moves towards the correction of the problem.
Taking each swing in practice and in game situation with the proper mental approach, showing patience, and getting good pitches to hit are keys to recovery. The importance of contributing to the team in other ways, through good defense and supporting other players, keeps the hitter from dwelling on her problems and gives her a lift psychologically. She should look for other ways to get on base. Bunt for base hits, run every ball out hard, showing her teammates and coach that the slump is not controlling her. The player who has a life other than softball allows her to keep it in perspective. The hitter with a slump-buster plan does not allow slumps to disrupt her career and makes a quicker recovery.