(This month’s topic will be broken down into 3 parts, 1 in each of the next 3 weeks.)
One of the words I most frequently heard at Texas A&M from head coach, Jo Evans, was “COMPETE.”
Competition fuels desire. Competition adds drive. Competing has become somewhat of a lost art for this generation of softball players, and one that I hear from many college coaches that is a characteristic they are searching for in their future athletes. Nowadays, more often than not,competing is a quality that is having to be taught, instead of being innate.
When I use the word “compete” I am referring to that inner fire that burns to go out on the field and beat the team in the opposing dugout, to compete for a position and to compete against yourself to see just how good you can really be.
Competition is one of those lessons that sports builds in you, if you allow it. However, being around the softball fields at the select and college levels, I see fewer and fewer girls who are showing up and just flat out competing when they are out on that field.
Competing is one of the biggest things college coaches are looking for in players right now. Many times, they are claiming that it is a quality that is missing In recruits across the country. Some coaches will even take that desire to compete over a player who has better talent. It’s that competitive nature that makes you a great teammate and allows you to be a player that other coaches and teammates would want to go to war with. It’s not always about the player who has the most talent; it’s about the player who has talent and has a fierce competitive drive that runs deep inside of her.
1) Competing Against Other teams
The ability to be competitive against other teams…
…sounds easy right?
Who would’ve ever thought that you would have to teach/motivate a player to just competeagainst another team. This is your most basic form of competition a college coach is looking for. This kind of competing involves stepping out onto a field and knowing that at the end of the game there is going to be a winner and there is going to be a loser, and dreadfully not wanting that loser to be you. It’s these people who are the upmost competitive on the field who hate to lose more than they like to win. Competing on the field against another teams means having an inner fire and inner desire to beat whoever is in the opposing dugout. Most players will show up for the “big” game to compete, but it’s the most competitive players who will show up for the game against a team they know they SHOULD beat. This kind of competitive player knows that at this time that all stats are out the window, and you compete knowing that anybody can beat anybody on any given day no matter who you’re going up against.
Even though this is the most basic form of competing, and some people take it for granted, I find that sometimes it has to be brought out in young girls playing today. The mere idea that if there is a game being played, that you should want to beat the other team more than anything else going on in that moment at that time. It comes out as a passion to win. A passion to win should not just come out when there is a lot at stake for the game (ie. playoff games, nationals, championship games). A passion to win should just come out because there is an opponent standing on the other side of the field in a different uniform. A passion to win for those uber competitive players shines so much that it glows on other players on the team in attempt to lead the team and get everyone focused on the same goal.
One theory I hear all too often deals with the fact that nowadays, “everybody wins”, and “everybody gets a trophy”. This is not how life really is when girls get older and are in the “real world”. There are parents who are too overprotective and want to make sure that their daughter feels like a winner, even though she may have lost the championship game. I am all for making a player feel better after a big loss, but there also has to come the honest truth and realization that there IS a loser. By teaching a player that she lost, it makes her that much more hungry not to ever feel that feeling of losing again, thus creating that inner fire to go out and win that much more when she steps out onto the field the next time. More importantly, it pushes her work harder and get mentally tougher in game situations. The idea that everybody wins is not realistic when you get to the “real world” and players are all grown up. Build your desire to compete now, so that it pays off later even when sports are over.
In any type of game there will always be a winner and a loser, which is what makes sports so interesting to watch from the outside and from the inside, builds character. It is that internal drive of simply not wanting to lose that makes the most competitive players stick out to college coaches when they are at the games. College coaches are looking for more than a player who can hit a homerun or throw 68 mph. They want heart, passion, drive and internal motivation so that when you get to their program, that is one less thing they have to teach. Plus, if you are that player who is competitive, it can rub off on the other players on the team. Lead by being competitive.
Part of that inner drive deals with playing through injuries, sicknesses and being tough. Competitive players compete through minor physical setbacks because they love to play so much and want to help their team win. Players who are not as competitive look for reasons to get out of playing in games – a cough, a runny nose, bad weather, a broken nail. Players who love to competeFOR their team and AGAINST other teams will do whatever it takes to be out on the field and play the game they love.
Are you competitive? Are opponents scared to play you? Do your teammates look to you as someone they want to go to war with? Answer these questions truthfully so you know if you need to reevaluate your outlook and passion for this amazing game.
COMPETE EVERY PITCH.