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Cathi Aradi

NFCA Coaching Tip Of The Week

While playing at the higher levels of college softball, there are many players who have the physical ability to make it through their four years of eligibility. However, it takes a player who has the mental ability to stay in the game when those physical tools fail them. They need this mental ability to dominate and thrive at the highest level. Visualizing success takes precedence over being the strongest player, or having the most dominating rise ball. If a player can see herself achieving success in a game, she possesses the power to control the game.

Keeping control of yourself when things are not going your way is what makes a player great. Pitchers are prime examples of players who must visualize success throughout a game. If she thinks her best pitches are not working that day, she needs to rely on her mental toughness to carry her through the game. Pitchers can lose the game before they even walk on the field if they are not visualizing success.

For example, if a pitcher realizes her best pitch isn't working during warm-ups, how she responds to that will set the tone for the game. If she panics and visualizes that she has nothing to give, she has lost her self- confidence and probably the game. If she visualizes that she has good pitches and that she does have the ability to battle against the hitters, she will have the mental toughness that will produce a successful outcome. A pitcher can pitch the best game of her life and still lose, but ultimately, winning is the result of a playerÕs mental approach to the game.

As coaches, we must teach our players how to relax and focus on the game before them. Teaching them to visualize success one pitch and one play at a time is the difference between winning and losing. One practice technique could be playing music during hitting practice. This makes the hitting session more relaxed and in turn, more beneficial to the players. Another practice technique is to simulate tough situations, like a 3-0 count on the batter. Put pressure on your pitchers and have them make adjustments and perform at their maximum level as in real game situations. Deep breathing is also another important relaxation technique.

When players are completely relaxed, they are more prepared to visualize what they have to do in the game. If things are not going your players' way, being relaxed will allow them to visualize what they need to change in order to win. Coaches cannot expect their players to do this when the season starts unless they have been reinforcing a regular routine of visualizing success all winter long. Teaching your players to visualize success, relax and focus is supplying them with the tools to control themselves and the game.