Most players and coaches can say that they have experience with softball hitting slumps. This frustrating decline in performance at the plate can happen to any player no matter how high a level they play. If a slump is not dealt with positively, it can actually lead to anxiety in other areas of the game. As coaches we need to consider a few things before we plan our strategy in helping the player that is already stressed.
Softball Hitting Slumps
There are a few tactics that coaches can use to take away some of the pressure on players having a tough time at the plate. The way that the coach handles it will have a direct effect on the players ability to get through it and how long it takes. If the coach responds by taking her out of the lineup or telling her to just focus harder, it can compound the pressure and the player begins thinking more about the coaches displeasure than recovering from the slump.
If you review the players hitting mechanics, and they are find, leave them as they are. Often as coaches we go immediately to the mechanics and start tinkering with them because maybe that will help. There is a term that is useful in many areas besides softball. It is called paralysis by analysis. This is the over analyzing of skills such as hitting to try and find that one thing that is going to enable her to hit it out of the park. That is not always the answer. If there are modifications to be made, be sure they are to done to solidify their mechanics and not to “try something”.
It may not be the hitting mechanics that are causing trouble. It might just be that she closes her eyes as the ball is approaching or watches the ball with her head rather than her eyes. Her timing may be off or her positioning in the batters box might not be right for the situation. It might even help sometimes just to use a different bat.
The player may be feeling low confidence, which might be effecting her performance. It may simply be that she needs to be reminded about a good performance or the coach can show her the batting statistics if they are better than her current stats. This is a good reason for keeping records and keeping them for each athlete. By having a record of their performance, you can help them through a psychological slump if they had been previously performing well.
The amount of anxiety that the player feels will often depend on how how she feels the slump will effect her team or her position on the team and within the offense. By asking her about it and how she may be thinking about it, the coach can open the door to explore possible psychological contributing factors.
Get Over It:
Many coaches and supporters will tell softball players to simply get over it and move on. That is so easy for us to say but for the player it can be the worst thing to hear because it invalidates the difficulty she is having, and can lead to and extended slump. Coaches might also disregard the slump and keep sending messages like “you can do it” or “just keep trying” hoping that they will eventually just start hitting. Helping the player feel better is not such a bad thing however it is more productive to use constructive methods that can give the player some direction and hope that it is going to get better.
Sometimes bunting can help to get a hitter out of a batting slump. Just by getting the bat on the ball and feeling the contact, she can regain some of the confidence she might have lost. It will add to her confidence in her offensive ability if she is successful. This is a good reason to make sure that every player can at least sacrifice bunt successfully.
Sometimes just a slight change will tweak a batter out of a slump. Changing the bat for example will give the player a feeling that at least she is trying something to get out of the slump. Coaches could also use a batting tee during practice to help the player to get the feel of the mechanics and the solid contact of of the bat on the ball.
Another consideration might be to get the players vision checked. There have been athletes that did not know that they could be helped with visual aids. If the hitter can not see the stitches on the ball when at bat, it might be a good idea to get a checkup. Coaches can also talk to an optometrist to find out the signs that a batter might need to have her eyes checked.
It may be that the player needs to take a break. Either from hitting or from the game itself. By having some time away from hitting, she can break the sometimes daunting psychological grip that has taken hold on her. Focusing only on defense can help her to build some confidence and be reminded that she is not a bad softball player. If the coach does take her out of the lineup, the player needs to know that it is to facilitate breaking of the slump and not to punish her because she is not performing well.
Keep A Journal:
Players should keep a journal from the beginning of the season and even all seasons if she can. It is a great tool to use when she is doubting her abilities and having a hard time with her confidence. It is also a great tool for determining what she needs the most improvement on. This will help her to stay focused on the process so that the outcome does negatively effect her softball experience. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure they say.