Softball Emotional Control

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Softball Emotional Control

Today I am going to talk about softball emotional control.  How do you maintain your cool when things are either getting out of hand, or when you start losing the lead and errors begin to mount?  I will talk about it after the break.

Hi welcome back.  Emotional control is essentially the ability to maintain composure when things seem out of control. It might be a bad call, overzealous fans, opponents who taunt you, or an error that turns into a chain of errors.  This can occur as a result of external chaos which has to do with the game situation and internal chaos which usually has to do with your confidence and skill level.  This actually begins long before the event.  Now I am going to look closer at the two areas of potential anxiety which usually requires emotional control.

The things that usually create external chaos are:

  1. Playing against a close opponent

The history with your opponent can cause anxiety and tension within you and sometimes the whole team.  The thought of losing to them can be hard to swallow because you know on paper you can beat them.  You just need to have very few errors and hit the ball hard.  But what if you’re losing.  That means that maybe they are better than you.  Ouch!

  1. Playing against an opponent that you don’t like

This opponent might have historically been a tough game and may have players that engage in trash talk at school or on social media.  You might even be the only one effected by this relationship.  Maybe there’s someone that goes to your school who you might have had a disagreement with.  This can create the desire or need in some cases to out do her or the team and if it’s not working out, emotional chaos can occur.

  1. The importance of the game

It’s a qualification game and the score is close.  How are you feeling?  At times, you might be feeling anxious or nervous about the outcome.  What if you don’t win and advance to the final.  After working all year to get to the big tournament, losing is not an option for most.  It’s when the score is close that the chaos can begin.  If you’re ahead in the game by a favorable margin, things might seem easier to handle because you can anticipate the likely outcome.

  1. The score

A close score always seems to have more at stake.  One error can affect the entire outcome of the game.  This can create anxiety because of the unknown outcome at the moment.  It might also depend on if the game is an exhibition game or a game in the final of the tournament.

  1. The inning

The importance of the play can be considered more important near the end of the game than at the beginning.  This is simply because you still have outs left in the game to get runs and to get ahead.  Errors are generally felt to be less detrimental to the outcome of the game in the first inning.  Near the end of the game it most times will depends on the score which I talked about previously.  However, if your team is losing and have no runs, your goal might be to not get shut out or if you are winning it might be to shut out the opponent.  All of this can create different levels of anxiety which can affect emotional control.

  1. The coach

If you have a coach that promotes the process and performing to your potential rather than focusing on the win, your level of anxiety will be lower than if you have one who is constantly yelling out instructions and displaying displeasure with what’s happening on the field.  A calm coach who has a good rapport with the team will allow you to take risks and push yourself to play as hard as you can without being worried about making an error or striking out.

Things that can create internal chaos are:

  1. Your skill level

If you are a softball player who is experienced and feels confident in your skill level, you will experience less anxiety during competition when the skills are on display.  You will be less affected by negative and positive noise from the stands and by the outcome of the game.  If you are afraid of making a mistake or an error, you might be more hesitant during the play which will likely have an affect on the outcome.

  1. Your experience with the pitcher

If you are up to bat against a pitcher who you have not hit against before, you might be anxious or nervous at the plate.  The fear of striking out or popping up can have an affect on your at bat by decreasing your confidence.

  1. Your coach

A coach that has expectations for you that are above your skill level can create anxiety and nervousness.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s important to believe in your ability to excel in the game and in your skill level.  It’s when the expectation does not meet the abilities that the confidence can be affected.

  1. Your parents

The expectations of parents can sometimes have the same effect as the expectations of a coach.  A parent who coaches on the way home and critiques your skills, will likely create anxiety which can affect your emotional control during games.  A parent who allows you to direct the conversation about your performance will instill confidence in your abilities and encourage you to be self directed in your development.

One of the things that needs to be considered in controlling your emotions is your perception of the event.  How are you reading the event or what happened, and what real impact can the event have on your performance.  Often times, we react to something based on the intensity of the game.  If the score is close with an opponent that you have a close record with, there can be a reaction based on fear.  What if we lose this game, what if they get another run? These things can be taken care of before they even happen.

Mental training skills are a very good tool for handling emotional control.  One of the skills is a simple tool like breathing which can allow you to calm down and to re focus your thoughts and emotions on the next task at hand.  Another key tool is to consider the things you have control over and the things you do not have control over.  If you know you don’t have control over what your opponents do for example, you can work on not being affected by what they do and only focusing on your response to what they do.  There’s another and sometimes more difficult tool you can use and is something that I talk about often.  Guess what it is…. Yes, it’s focusing on the process.  If you are focused on the process and your skills and abilities as they are at the moment, you will be less likely to be affected by external cues that can deteriorate your skills rather than focusing on the task at hand and playing to your potential.

Episode 22  – Softball Emotional Control