Softball player emotions are a part of the game. It is easy to go from great elation after a home run to complete deflation as the opponents return the favor with 3 runs of their own after you just went ahead by 2. These emotions can be a result of events before, during and even after a game or practice. It could be something that happened or something that the player thinks is going to happen such as being substituted out because she made an error.
By being aware of those emotions and the way the body and mind respond to them, softball players can prepare and intercept some of the potentially destructive results. It is useful for players and coaches to know about the inner and outer responses to perceptions.
Components of Softball Player Emotions
A batter is arriving at the plate, with a runner on second base and 1 out in the bottom of the 7th inning and the team is down by 1 run. Is she aware of what is physiologically happening to her? The changes that occur are automatic or a part of the autonomic nervous system. Without having mental training skills to combat the initial signs of stress, the body will respond. Some of the signs of stress for the softball player include:
- increased heart rate
- skin conductance (or sweating)
- increased breathing
As a coach, we can see signs of stress in the way they react and respond to it. Some of the things we can watch for are facial expressions, continuous movement and a general tenseness in their ready position.
A fielder at third base clinches and turns away as the ball is coming towards her off the bat. This is a sign of course that she is afraid of the ball. Perhaps she got hit at practice or is new to the position. We see this often when a ball is hit and there is potential for contact with the fielder. Fly balls will see fielders turning away and moving their head back away from the ball or shrug their shoulders closer together in a protective motion as it is arriving. Fielders will crunch their shoulders together and straighten their arms as they lift their shoulders to avoid getting hit anywhere by the ball or you might see their head lean back on receiving a throw. We see this more in new fielders and fielders who are afraid of getting hurt or have gotten hurt before.
We might also see a player who has been substituted or does not start in a game that she thought she would who sits alone in the dugout because she is either angry or hurt that she does not feel a part of the game. Or a batter who is standing at the plate, holding the bat close to her body with her shoulders crunched in trying to avoid being hit. These responses often go deeper than a simple action and are a part of her core characteristics and personality.
Many players are aware enough about their emotions that they know how they are feeling at any given time during a game. The less common knowledge though, is that they are able to intervene if needed and even have the potential to capitalize on that feeling. What I am talking about is being able to deal with the stresses and feel the confidence that comes with feeling good and ready to go. This element is the most useful one as it can effect the other ones and the player has a level of control over how the emotions can effect their performance.
The Mental Training Connection
Even with minimal experience in mental training, softball player emotions can be managed at least to some degree. With practice in application during training, emotional control will become as second nature as throwing. Get your head in the game does not work for female athletes especially. It may give you a very short term result, like a few plays or even an inning but is not healthy at all for the long term.
By teaching your team about mental training skills and strategies, and giving them opportunities to solidify those skills, you are not only making their game better but their daily lives as well. Relaxation techniques for example will work wonders when auditioning for a play or entering a final exam. Communication skills will not only help inter team relations but relations at home, at school and in employment as well.
As you can see, these components do not only relate to softball or any sport for that matter. They are applicable for everything that we encounter and can be referred to in almost any situation. So, something you may start to improve your teams performance this season will solidify the game for seasons to come and give your players tools for life as well.