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Mental Toughness - born with it or teachable?

Dec 12, 2008
39
0
Albany NY
some kids seem naturally hungry and confident - no phased by the other team or opposing pitcher. Others let their opponent get into their heads and they lose before they play. What resources are out there to help them develop an attitude of "You're mine!" and not the opposite?
 

Jan 15, 2009
585
0
Kelly Ford was at the NSC in MPLS last weekend talking on this topic. Her advise is to get the kids to "Fake it until you make it" She said that telling kids to get in the batters box (or in the field) looking confident, even if they aren't she said that if you "fake it" looking like a confident player eventually you become that confident player.

Obviously as a coach the same applies you need to project confidence in your players even when you're doubting internally that they are up to the task. Same thing applies, eventually that "faked" confidence becomes real confidence.
 
I have found that each athlete responds different with this predicament. Snocatzdad advice works well, more so when walking in blind without a scouting report. Heres my take..
I always like to allow each kid create their own way of "mentally stepping up", without fear. Its all based on confidence. I remind them that they have beaten overwhelming odds many times before in life, whether it be in school, another sport or with relationships, so its really nothing new to them. For this to sink in and for them to relate, I pull out of them a spacific experience in which they overcame and succeeded. Then I create excitement. I pound confidence in them, telling them to trust thier ability, act natural and just play. They've hit thousands of balls....this moment is giving them one more to hit. The only true loss is when effort doesn't show up....
 
Jan 20, 2009
69
0
Had a project once that was so afraid to get in the batter's box she was near tears. I suggest she go in, look at the pitcher, spit and say "Bring it, Creampuff!"

It helped a little.:eek:
 
Dec 28, 2008
393
0
Confidence has to come from within. But I do think we can do drills that challenge them just beyond their current expectations and get them to reshape their internal image of themselves through a series of successes. I ask girls/parents all the time what they think practice is for and the answer is always "learn something." That is about 1/10th of what practice is for to me, the rest is about using practice to build muscle memory and establish confidence through repetishiss success. Have them read stories of others who made and realize they started out just like them. Start a "CONFIDENCE JOURNAL" where you have a blank journal and you the coach put in 5 quotes about confidence. Each week you pass the book on to the practice player of the week or something who has to research and find 5 more quotes about confidence that haven't already been used. As they turn the book over they have to share 1 from memory or read 1 that was most meaningful to them and perhaps share who on the team it reminds them of either in the book or out loud. It is a reward each week that inspires them to work hard, and they also end up doing the work for you in finding more and more quotes about confidence, and they also build other players on the team up. All for the price of a small journal.

Secondly in practice there are lots of focus drills you can do like having her hit off of a tee while you are squirting her with a water gun, blowing a noise maker, dancing really stupidly right in front of her, yelling at her that she can't hit the ball she will miss for sure etc. We set girls up to be distracted in most cases by creating pristine practice environments that our perfect and sound proof and then wonder why they can't focus with parents screaming, dugouts screaming and coaches barking orders at them. Create the environment at times in practice that you want them to succeed in for hitting and fielding.
 

sluggers

Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
5,752
48
Dallas, Texas
Mental toughness means "consistently playing at the top of your game all the time." Coaches and parents condition their kids that they don't have to be good to play the game.

Softball is just a game. We play/coach for enjoyment. Yet, coaches/parents treat sports like it is some kind of religious experience that will open a pathway to Nirvana. So, coaches/parents end up destroying the players ability to play the game.

What do I mean?

Suppose your pitcher walks two batters in a row.

Do you (A) walk out to the mound, pat the pitcher on the back, do a little mental therapy, and then gently says that the pitcher has to be removed from the game or (B) do you stand in the dugout, "suzy, you're out. Ellen, go pitch."

Coaches routinely do (A)--apparently, the pitcher is a mental cripple who will commit suicide if someone point out the "pink elephant in the room" that walking batters is bad.

It is like that throughout this whole game. Suzy lets a ground ball go through her legs at SS, but the coach leaves her in the game. Sally swings at a bad pitch, but so what? God forbid someone point out that the ball was 2 feet over her head.

And then, at the end of the game, there is that idiotic "group cry" with the coach explaining the loss and that they need "more mental toughness" to win. (My DDs last 2 years of college, when the coach started doing the "we didn't give 100%" speech, my DD would hang her head--mainly so the coach wouldn't see her giggling.)
 
Jan 15, 2009
585
0
Slugger I think your starting to blur accountablility and mental tourghness. Kids have to be held accountable a mistake is a mistake, but removing them from the playing field isn't necessarily the way to toughen them up.

To me mental toughness is the ablility to continue to play to the best of your ability despite adverse situations. In other words you don't necessarily see mental toughness until something adverse happens (i.e. can a pitcher recover after walking two batters, can that short stop field the next ball after booting one earlier) Usually I see the least mentally tough players are the ones who can't maintain their ability after something adverse happens to another player. ( i.e. short stop boots a ball because she's stewing about pitcher walking two batters, pitcher walks two batters after SS blows an easy out)

I think that you can re-enforce toughness by blending positives with the negatives "Suzie that was a rough start but great job sucking it up and getting us out of the inning." "Sally, your team was here to pick you up when you stumbled, now it's your turn to do it for your teammates."
 

sluggers

Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
5,752
48
Dallas, Texas
I don't advocating taking players out in the middle of an inning, but:

I guess if your pitcher walks four batters in a row, you leave her in, right? Pitchers are removed all of the time in the middle of an inning because they make mistakes. Yet, somehow the other eight players on the field are immune from getting pulled because of mistakes. Is the pitcher somehow superior to the other kids?

In fact, most coaches will never pull a player other than the pitcher at any time during the game. Then the coach will cry about the team lacking "mental toughness".

You teach mental toughness to your players by letting them actually compete for a position *every game*.
 
May 5, 2008
358
0
Definitely something that you can help a player improve - sometimes it's simply a change in environment (things, thoughts, concepts, beliefs that the player is constantly surrounded by).
 

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