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.
Competing Against Yourself
In my mind, this is the form of competition that drives a player the most and is the deepest form. This is the competition that actually drives the other 2 forms of competition (competing for a position and competing against other teams). As important as it is to have drive to go out and compete against another team and to beat someone out for a position, it all comes down to a player competing against herself. The drive for the other 2 forms of competition comes from pure competition against your own self.
What does it mean to compete against yourself? You can answer that question by answering what are you doing when no one is watching? When no coach’s eyes are on you, who is pushing you? When there are no other players around at practice, who is pushing you? The answer to this must lie internally that you become your own coach and your biggest motivator to compete against yourself. True passion comes out when no one’s eyes are on you. This includes not cheating the number of reps and not always looking around to make sure that your coaches aren’t watching you. Nobody should be having to make sure you are doing the right thing at all times other than yourself. Take pride in being your own coach and your biggest motivator. If someone is constantly pushing you to try to get you to compete and to be motivated, maybe it’s time to re evaluate whether this is the sport for you.
These moments of competition come by trying to become a better player with every swing you take or every pitch you throw. It’s this internal motivation that will push you to become a great player. When you’re competing against yourself, you don’t even need anybody else to push you. This is something learned at a young age. I believe it’s important to try to teach players the want to practice on their own. The more they are forced, the less competitive with themselves they will be since they were forced to be out there in the first place. An internally competitive person will ask the dad to go out and catch her pitching, instead of the other way around. An internally competitive person will take the tee outside on their own to hit in the backyard with no one prompting her to do so. When you compete with yourself, you can’t wait to practice to get better and work hard to see just how good you can really get.
“I’m Amanda and I am a pitcher. I know that the more I practice, the better I get. Every time I go out to practice I feel like I get better and have good command of my pitches. I look great in the bullpen. When I go out to a game, I walk a lot of people, give up a lot of hits and I feel like I am letting my coaches down. I am letting myself down, too. So I might as well not even practice, because if I am going to let people down anyway, maybe it will look like I’m not trying as hard and that’s why I don’t have good game results.” The fear of letting someone down is greater than the drive to compete, and it takes over mentally. Being a girl myself, and a former player, I know for a fact that girls think this. It might sound crazy or fake, but it’s a well known fact that girls are pleasers and want to make everyone happy. So this absolutely goes through their head. The less a player feels like they are going to let their coach or parent down, the more their inner competition will be able to thrive. The only person a player should play for is herself and the rest will fall into place.
Creating a positive atmosphere with coaches and parents will actually increase a player’s ability to compete with all of her heart. It’s important as a coach and a parent to communicate that no matter what happens or how a player performs, your relationship will be okay, and nothing from the softball field possibly the end of the world. When a player is surrounded in this atmosphere, she will push herself the most and be the most competitive player. Always remember happiness is beautiful.
You have to compete with yourself first before any competition can happen with anybody else or any other team. When you learn to compete with yourself, the sky is the limit to what you can achieve.
COMPETE EVERY PITCH.