|Softball Smarts Tips #138:
Can She Handle the Pressure?
Having just returned from the 2012 USA/ASA 14u National Championship tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota I came away amazed at how well so many players and teams played under the pressure of weather, college scouts' scrutiny and the "big stage" of the Nationals.
And it got me thinking about Game Day pressure and how it varies in severity from game to game, from setting to setting, from season to season. And what are the specific factor that propel an athlete and her team to perform at an extremely high level (at full potential) despite these present pressures and pitfalls?
My team certainly felt the pressure as did many others I watched. In fact, I saw more dramatic shifts in momentum and energy that I have ever seen before in a tournament. My team came back from four to win 5-4, came back from 6 to lose 6-4, and lost a 3 run lead late to lose 5-3. I saw many other big innings, with walk off hits and back and forth scoring.
Sure the National Championship was on the line, but what really caused such swings in momentum...leading some players and teams to embrace the "big game" pressure and excel while other players and teams wilted under the pressure?
1. Game Preparation - Are the girls mentally prepared for the heat and humidity, the college scouts watching them, the duration of the game (a two hour or seven inning game)?
2. Crowd Noise - Because many more people are watching games in the biggest tournaments noise can be a factor to accelerate momentum shifts.
3. Parent and Coach Emotions - If parents and coaches get more hyped than normal in big games the players will feel it (or hear it). This can disrupt an otherwise focused team playing in rhythm.
4. The Prize - At a State or National Championship tournament great players and teams summon massive desire and a will to win. Leaders step up, shift momentum and refuse to lose!
5. Younger Teams - In the case of my team (a first year 14u team), playing on such a big stage against bigger, older, stronger teams can be intimidating. One small mistake can cause the whole team to lose focus and succumb to the pressure.
6. Elevated Expectations - Certainly in bigger games there is more on the line. In this case expectations for performance can become elevated beyond a player or teams ability to achieve them.
Ultimately it gets down to an athlete and team's ability to stay "focused" in the present moment. The bigger the stage the more distraction there are likely to be for the girls. Comfort zones can also shift dramatically and, thus, so can the performances. The team that is best able to maintain their focus and poise will be in the best position to play to their fullest potential and go deep in a tournament.
For your athlete and her team to excel, instead of fold, under the pressures of a big game, or big game situation she and they will have to really come into the game or tournament with great mental preparation and a solid mental game plan to deal with the inevitable distractions and pressure.
Like Olympic champions they must rehearse their Game Day success far in advance, in their minds, to come to the field ready to play their best when it matters most.
Remember, the more prepared your athlete is (both mentally and physically) the more confident they will be, the more fun the game will be, and the better they will perform!
So whether they are playing ball in the back yard or before 1,000s of noisy fans your athlete will play cool, calm and collected.
My ever popular Game Changer audio program, with over 6 hours of performance boosting audio lessons, is still as great as ever and now only $29.97!
The Game Day Domination online course (25 hours of one-of-a-kind mental performance recorded instruction) is on sale for just $99 through Friday, August 10! Then it will go back to the normal $149 price.
My goal is to help as many young athletes as humanly possible to reach their fullest athletic potential, while playing the game with more passion and joy than ever before!
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Thanks for reading,
Winner's Edge Softball
Winner's Edge Kids
Game Day Domination