Today we are going to talk about preparing for the softball championships. Even though some might consider every game a big game, there are some that really are big games.
The importance of a game can have a debilitating effect on a player if they have not prepared for that emotion. This is why I don’t like to put too much emphasis on every game during the softball season. It’s a matter of preparation. We spend enormous amounts of time on technical and tactical and even on physical skills for some reason, not as much on the mental game.
I have said numerous times that when you are playing a team that is of equal or similar talent, it’s always the mental skills that will determine the winners at the end of the day.
So how do you prepare for the big games such as the softball championships. The first thing to do is practice the situation. Chose a game or a tournament during the season and make it a “big game” tournament. Everything must be perfect or as perfect as you can make it to have success. Set up the environment as if it is the big game. A starting line up based on player performance, checking in with the team on their preparedness and even getting people out to the field to watch as you might have during the tournament. Eating meals the same, and having team meetings the same way and using your full bench as you would to win games.
If you are an athlete, what is your best performance state to be in? How do you like to feel during a game to have the best performance that you can. How do you feel about your abilities? Are you going to be able to put everything that has happened and all of your performances up to this point aside and play to your potential using the skills you have developed up to now.
The fact is that at this point, there is nothing more that you can do to improve. You are done. Now is the time to perform all the skills that you are capable of. The ones you are good at. If you are going to do visualization before playing for example, don’t visualize double plays and home runs. Visualize base hits and putting down the bunt successfully if called on to move a runner. Visualize clean fielding and good throws and playing your position perfectly. That is what will give you the confidence to be a great softball player executing the fundamentals of the game.
You can even visualize making an error and how you handle the error. What cue words are you going to use, or what are you going to say to yourself to get back on track. This is preparing for the big games. Everything is not going to be perfect. There’s a chance that you will not make every single play and you need to prepare for that so that if there is a miss, it doesn’t take you out of the game.
Coaches need to prepare as well. What is your team realistically capable of and what can they do if all cylinders are firing as they say. I can tell you this for sure. The best way you can assist your team is to believe in them and to enable them to play to their potential without expecting more than that. It’s when our expectations are not aligned with the team’s potential that neither has the best chance of happening.
The trick for this though is to still be able to focus on the process while setting up for the outcome. Setting the lineup, calling the defensive and offensive signals and using your tools while allowing things to happen will help to keep the pressure off and the confidence and focus on task.