A pitcher’s confidence is not black and white. That would be too easy. You all message me so often and I can feel your helplessness and your worry about your little pitcher and her confidence, or lack thereof. You want the answer from me so badly. Without knowing, you are in a gray, undefined area and it scares you to death because maybe for the first time in your life you don’t have an exact answer for your daughter. It is unchartered territory. The answer takes time and it takes growth….
Mainly because as Americans we want an end result immediately, and we want to be able to verbalize exactly where we are in life. It’s the gray area that makes things interesting. That grey area is the divider between a pitcher who is going to make it and those who might not make it.
We are used to getting concrete answers in this world….all…the…time….
You’re confused? Google it.
You’re hungry? Go through a drive thru for quick fast food.
You’re sick? Here’s quick medicine to help you.
There is no fast answer or fast acting prescription to find confidence and “fix” the mentality of a pitcher. It is thousands of times slower than anything you do on a normal, every day basis. It’s the thing that keeps parents and coaches up at night. They all want answers, but the answer is TIME. The other answer, is that their confidence, or lack thereof, started before they even knew what softball was. How they were spoken to as a young child, what they were allowed to do, if they were kept from adventuring/taking risks, what personality characteristics they were BORN with – all of it goes into a pitcher’s inner confidence, her inner dialogue and what is going to either propel her career or end her career. The list could go on and on about what factors INTO someone’s confidence on and off the field.
PHYSICAL ABILITY + CONFIDENCE = EXECUTION
A pitcher’s physical ability has the potential to grow every day with every experience she goes through; the same goes for her mentality. The more you experience something, the better physically you get at it because it means you have more physical repetition, but it also means you’ve experienced the EMOTION behind it as well. Combining the physical hard work with the growth of a pitcher’s mentality (confidence) is what leads to EXECUTION in the game.
Sometimes, physical traits grow faster than mental. Sometimes, mental grows faster than physical. It would be too easy if they grew at the same speed and at the speed YOU wanted them to. As parents and as coaches YOU have to help define and navigate the gray area. Too many families get lost in the gray area as if it’s the black hole. Sometimes, I won’t lie to you, it’s going to feel like it. Some families never return….some families find a flashlight and the roadmap to get them out. In the gray area, there is lack of a definition about who their daughter is as a pitcher, and it scares them to death. As humans, we fear the unknown. Because we are so fearful of not being enough in the FUTURE, we fail to see small areas of growth RIGHT NOW. We want answers so fast, at times we can look over the main source of the current problem.
|Find SMALL SUCCESSES|
No matter how old you are as a pitcher, there is ALWAYS going to be something you can work at, aka, something you are FAILING at. So imagine every time you are pitching on your own, with your parents or with your coaches, more things are probably being pointed out to you that you are doing WRONG than you are doing RIGHT. It can absolutely wear on a pitcher. (It would wear on anyone, no one likes to fail). SO you have to be able to balance the failures with finding small successes instead of the scales leaning more on the failures. Talk about BAD for a pitcher’s mentality!! That is DRAINING. Are you ALWAYS pointing out to your daughter or player the things she needs to get better at? Or are you also combating it with the things she is doing well with mechanics, in game strategy, her body language, presence and her leadership abilities?
Notice none of those things deal with basing success off of balls and strikes. If you are basing success solely off of balls and strikes for your pitcher, it’s going to feel like a long road for everyone. Find success in her adjustments in the game. Find success in the way that she went at hitters and threw off the plate when she was ahead of hitters. Focus on how she LOOKED in the circle. Did she look confidence and poised? Focus on the way she LEADS on the field and in the dugout. All of those are ways to find small successes to fuel your pitcher so that she can stay positive. Positivity leads to confidence. Confidence leads to strength. Strength leads to longevity. Longevity leads to a pitching career.
| Pitch like no one’s watching GROWS to pitch like everyone’s watching. |
Most of us want to dance like no one’s watching… pitchers can feel the same way. Then we have those friends (who usually we envy), who love to dance. The spotlight was made for them. A pitcher is either going to have one mentality or the other – she would like to imagine no one is watching OR she wants to pitch, thinking that EVERYONE is watching.
Some pitchers will feed off of the fact that they are in the spotlight on the field with all eyes on them watching their every move…their every pitch. In their mind, they have the hitter beat before they even throw the first pitch. Often times these pitchers pitch better in games than they do at practice. They love the feeling of eyes on them and feel like they get to “show off.” (I do NOT mean show off in a bad way – I mean it in a way of they get to show everyone what they’ve got). These pitchers can also be called “gamers.” They might have had the worst practice two days ago, but come game time, they pitch better than they had all week. It’s a phenomenon.
Then, you have other pitchers don’t want to think about ANYONE watching them. In games, they can feel every eyeball on them and it weighs on them. They don’t want to let those people down. They are scared to make a mistake in the public eye. They want to believe that it’s only them and their catcher on the field – that’s it. This is the category I strongly feel the majority of pitchers fall under. These are the pitchers who have to find a way to fight through that feeling of letting everyone down and not being perfect. I do not believe this feeling ever truly goes away, but you find ways to fight through it and push it aside. You get used to it from the experience of competing while under what may feel like pressure.
You have to figure out which type of pitcher your pitcher is. I truly believe to be a successful pitcher there has to be a part of you, even if it’s the smallest part inside of you, that at times WANTS to feel like everyone’s watching. I am NOT saying you boast or are cocky or even say out loud, “Everyone look I’m going to throw this great pitch!”. It’s something that you feel on the inside where you think to yourself, “watch me throw this pitch, it’s gotten so good.” I know FOR A FACT from experience, that feeling of wanting to show everyone your best stuff is a feeling/emotion you feel DEEP down, and it has the potential to grow with you. It’s THAT feeling that you build off of. It has the potential to start as a small snow ball and tumble into an avalanche.
If you are 100% of the pitcher who does not at all want anyone to be watching, you will have a tougher time succeeding as a pitcher, and it may not be for you. Maybe you secretly want it. Maybe you secretly want nothing to do with it. The pitchers who deep down want nothing to do with it are the pitchers who are doing it for the wrong reasons. You can’t make a pitcher want it. You have to listen to your heart, gut instinct and all the signs to be able to tell if a pitcher REALLY wants to be a pitcher, or if the parent wants the pitcher to pitch more than SHE wants to.
|Working against pressure grows to working with pressure.|
You HAVE to learn how to work with pressure, not against it. To work WITH IT, you have to feel it and NOT instantly panic at the first feeling of it. Think of it in a real life situation – the calmer you stay, the more likely you are going to be to figure out a plan of execution to get out of a jam. The more frantic you are, the less likely a mental execution can be performed. It’s like in the movies when someone is being chased and they fumble their keys to the door and can’t get in. They feel the pressure. Their mind is moving faster than their body. But I would bet you, if that person had experienced that exact same situation 10 times, each time they would get better at it because their body would be able to handle the fear and the pressure.
How does your daughter watch you perform under pressure? You are setting the example for her every day with how you deal with every day things that come up. How do you make decisions? How do you handle every day problems? She models you. You are her every day teach for problem solving and being in the pressure cooker.
How has she dealt with pressure since she was a little girl? Have you always protected her from pressure? If she has never had to feel pressure before, then everything is a new feeling. She has to experience it to learn how to deal with it and work out of it. It takes TIME. When she was little, did everything have to be absolutely perfect for her? Did SHE have to be perfect? Perfection and pitching do NOT go together. So if she was raised that way, this will be soething much more difficult for her to overcome and her fear of NOT being perfect will start in her young career and she will have to learn to work through it.
These are perfect examples of why so many coaches stress “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” Have you heard that saying before? You’re GOING to feel uncomfortable so many times within ONE single game. And no two games are going to feel exactly the same. High stress situations are going to start to weight on ANYONE, but the more comfortable you are at dealing with them, the longer it takes to get to you. The more you PRACTICE feeling that uncomfortable feeling and finding yourself work through it, the easier it gets and the more you work with it instead of against it. Breezing through a game with no problem RARELY happens. If it’s happening more times than not, my biggest advice to you would be to get on a more competitive team. If your pitcher is not being pressured, then it is an unrealistic situation if she is wanting to go and play at the college level. Those situations of having your back against a wall are the moments of experience TEACHING her how to play with pressure and adversity.
By the way – It does not matter what age level you get to, your body knows when you are under pressure and a pivotal moment in the game. That feeling of pressure is either what keeps you coming back to the mound or it scares you away. Pressure is a real thing and it’s a divider of who is going to make it and who is not going to make it. What does pressure feel like? Your heart starts beating faster. Time starts moving quicker. Your body may feel heavy. Your finger tips may go a little bit numb. Pressure can literally be paralyzing, and a pitcher is faced with it almost every single inning.
| “I hope I throw a strike”* grows to “I’m going to throw a strike.” |
A pitcher may begin hoping to throw strikes – I guarantee it. They see that’s what they are supposed to do as a pitcher, and they hope that they are going to do it, too. Eventually that hope becomes KNOW. It grows to “know” by believing in your mechanics by practicing your tail off over and over again. You put your pitcher in uncomfortable situations AT practice so she can gain some experience in working through it. You hope, that after enough times, she can gain some confidence through those experiences. In the time of pressure, she can reflect back on the muscle memory and the positive reflection of achieving greatness at practice. Strikes come from consistency in mechanics. It’s much more difficult to have that consistency in your mechanics if your body feels different at practice than it does in the games. CREATE the same feeling at practice. You build an atmosphere of quality hard work that turns your hopes into knows.
Pitcher’s who “hope” to throw strikes will get fed to the wolves when they are older. Hitters end up smelling blood and picking up on the pitchers who “hope” they throw strikes.
|Thinks TOO much vs FORGETS To Think|
Often times our brains get in the way. The pitchers who are making good grades in school are the ones who seem to pay more attention to the game and have more body awareness. They often times psyche themselves out because they realize more what’s at stake or maybe when their body feels a little bit off warming up. That alone causes pressure and the inability to perform to the highest potential. For the people who think too much you have to find a trigger word or phrase to calm them down. The pitcher who thinks too much, you have to find time in between innings to be guiding and laying out a plan.
ALL of these things build a pitcher’s confidence and mentality. It doesn’t get better in a day or in a week, sometimes even in a year. It gets better over time once you realize how to talk to the pitcher and work with her on and off the field so that she can feel the most PREPARED physically and mentally going into the game. When you combine the physical preparation with the mental preparation/confidence, that’s where you want to be and grow even more from there. When these two things collide, that’s when a pitcher either a) grows and grows and grows or b) figures out that maybe pitching is not for them.