The mental state where you feel you can perform at your best with confidence is your ideal performance state or the softball zone. This is also commonly referred to as “flow” or “the zone.” This state is almost like things happen so smoothly that you even lose track of time. Nothing is going to distract you and you are ready for anything.
What is in the Softball Zone
With so many possibilities for stress in softball, being able to control emotions is very important to success. Getting to the finals is very exciting, and being able to keep your composure while preparing for competition can be a hard. The first thing that needs to happen is, you need to stop! Look around and see where you are, How did you get there
and what needs to be done for success in the situation. Now time to relax, refocus and use your cue words to stay focused and believe in your abilities knowing that you are going to use your mind as well as your body for success, and you are as prepared as you are going to be at that moment.
What about that umpire you see arriving to the field that you know has missed calls in the past and does not always have control of the game. AAAAAAARRRRGGG!!! Well it’s the same thing. Stop, look around and see where you are, how did you get there and what needs to be done for success in the situation? Now time again to relax, refocus, use your mental training skills and stay focused and remind yourself of what you have control over.
Game preparation is crucial to success. Being able to arrive at the field feeling confident and ready to play will have a big role in the results at the end of the day. This is where your “Ideal Performance State” comes in. Having a pre-competition routine will give your mind and body a path to getting in the zone no matter what happened during the day leading up to the game. It takes practice to build this path and to be able to maintain it but you will find it very useful once established.
A pre-competition routine can include things like, making sure you have all your gear in your bag and making sure you have eaten before you leave the house by having your meal prepared the night before. You would be amazed at how often that’s forgotten. Prepare mentally using visualization in the morning or on your way to the competition site while listening to music if you are not driving. Even your pre-game warm up is part of your routine. Use that time to transition into your “Ideal Performance State” leaving your day behind.
Get to know the things that distract you and disrupt your preparations and learn how to deal with them so that they will not be a distraction. This will go a long way in your game preparedness and will be one of your best tools for the most important competitions. Plan and refine your ideal performance state and then use its to set up your routines. Then you can use your other mental training skills that you previously learned to keep and get back to that state and you are all set.
The ability to control your emotions during training and competition is critical to performance success. There are so many ways to get distracted and many ways that external events can affect your emotions. A bad call, a rivalry with a local team, or even something that happened with your coach. All of these things have the potential to disrupt your ideal performance state or zone. Relaxation, cue words and focusing strategies will help you to put the event into perspective and to focus on what you have control over. You are the one that can affect your process and how you respond to your environment.
Using your concentration and focusing skills, it will be easier with practice to focus and refocus on the task at hand when your mind has been taken away from it. Keeping in mind that where your mind goes, your body will follow. Practice with specific situations that are common in softball so you will be ready for them when they appear during a game.
Rest, recovery and good command of mental training skills will contribute to stress management. Being aware of what causes you stress during training or competition will give you insight into how the skills you learn will help you through those situations as they come up. Experience with the stressor is one of the best ways to prepare. This is also why having as much information as you can about an event and everything surrounding the event will be important in your preparations.
The following are some things to consider when preparing for competition:
- type of food you will be eating;
- information on opponents
- information on officials
- expectations of performance
- and importance of competition.
Ideal Performance State for Youth
We want youth to enjoy their sport experience. Small introductions to some level of ideal performance state will help them to begin the process. A piece of information such as knowing where they are competing, who they are competing with and that their focus for the competition will help them to prepare mentally. Asking how they feel before a competition and how they would like to feel will be a good start to the process.
Ideal Performance State for Adolescents
There are lots of things in the day that will be distracting for teenage participants. Having a pre-competition preparation plan will help with the transition from school or hanging out with friends to training or the competition. These types of activities will help the mind to prepare for even if the body is not yet ready. Using the mental training skills learned up to this point, it will not be hard to prepare a plan and to return back to your ideal performance state if you get distracted.
Ideal Performance State for Adults
We have so many responsibilities in our day. Employment, family, perhaps children and friends. With that comes many distractions to prevent us from being prepared for competition. By completing the exercises and by following a pre-competition routine, the transition will be easier and you will be able to move smoothly from your day to the
Practice Makes You Better
By writing down notes after competition, you can begin to compile useful information and tips for improving your ability to remain and get back to your ideal performance state at any time. This is one of the most difficult mental training tasks in softball. With practice and by using your learned mental training skills it will get easier and will eventually become natural.
The purpose of the softball zone activities and focus in your mental training skills is to give you a tool so that you can have fun and enjoy the process. If you are moving along to more elite mental training this information will give you a great foundation to build on.