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#AnythingButSoft: How Mental Toughness Can Set Your Players Apart

We believe that softball is more than a sport - it makes players #AnythingButSoft on and off the field. This season, we'll be sharing tips and insights from leading coaches, nutritionists, and parents alike and talking about how softball makes athletes #AnythingButSoft.

Competitive Softball is not an easy game. It requires skill, speed, power, athleticism, agility, and a great deal of mental focus. Often we focus on drills and conditioning, but we ignore the mental aspect of this intense game.

I see many incredibly talented athletes fall prey to lack of self-confidence, pre-game or in-game angst, performance anxiety, the burden of sky high expectations (both internal and external), the inability to focus, poor concentration, and difficulty overcoming failures. These can lead to inconsistent and/or poor performance from highly talented players. The addition of mental toughness training would do these athletes worlds of good, both during their season and for the remainder of their lives.

Mental toughness is the ability to do what needs to be done right now. It requires quick thinking and decision making above and beyond raw physical talent. I have coached many players that are not superior physical athletes, but their mental focus and toughness raised them to far superior levels over their more talented counterparts. 

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Mentally tough competitors enjoy both practices and games more than others because it brings them joy. They don’t look at practices and games as work, but as an activities that they love to participate in. Their mental toughness makes them trustworthy and consistent teammates, as well as some of a coach’s most dependable performers.

Because of this important trait, they become consistent, reliable, courageous, and team leaders. They don’t get frustrated; instead, they stay positive, cool, calm and collected during the most stressful of situations.

The key difference that sets these mentally tough athletes from their teammates is that they never give up, they fight until the end and they realize the connection between their mind and body. 

How do softball players acquire mental toughness? Ask them these questions:

  1. Do you know the specific job of your position on the field?

  2. Do you take short cuts?

  3. Are you willing to put hard work into your sport to improve?

  4. Do you see challenges as set backs or as opportunities?

  5. Are you willing to do things that most other girls simply are not willing to do?

Sports performance is not simply physical. It's a combination of both physical ability and mental skills. In addition to practicing speed, strength, endurance, and agility, athletes also need to practice mental skills in order for the physical skills to shine. Sports performance is highly affected by attitude, focus, courage, teamwork, strategy, imagery, and confidence.

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles, MS RDN CSSD, is a former softball player, coach and parent. 

Softball, #AnythingButSoft, Softball Player Development

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