Playing "in rhythm" is the key to sustained athletic success!

Playing the Game in Rhythm...the Key to Softball Success

Have you ever been to a concert when one of the musicians is slightly off key, or the lead singer misses a note (or maybe your child's high school band!)?

Closer to home have you ever had one of those days when you just don't feel quite right, or something happens that irritates you and...BAM everything goes to ****? Back in the day we would refer to this as having our "bio-rhythms" being off.

In reality the human condition by definition is an ebb and flow, a yin and yang, a dance of being in and out of rhythm.

For younger athletes their sport requires being in a solid rhythm to insure a consistent performance. It matters not which sport you watch on the television or in person it is fairly easy to see which team or player seems to be playing in rhythm ("in the zone") and which one is clearly out of sync or rhythm.

For a younger athlete still in the process of mastering their sport playing in rhythm may not be something they are consciously thinking of, but they certainly know when they are playing out of rhythm because the game becomes less fun and their performance most definitely suffers.

What is worse for a younger athlete is they can be playing in rhythm one moment and then sudden get knocked off the rhythm horse after an error or game mistake that quickly shifts their mindset (how they think and how they feel) and, often, their performance for the remainder of the game or tournament.

Suffice it to say that watching a player or team play within the rhythm of the game can be a breathtaking thing. More often than not when an athlete is playing in rhythm their thoughts are positive, they are not over thinking EVERY little thing, there is a heightened focus, energy and joy for playing the game.

So let's look at some specific causes for an athlete being out of rhythm, how to increase the odds of playing in rhythm and, most importantly, how to stay in rhythm to drive performance and game satisfaction:


  1. Lack of proper preparation (pre-game or weekly...not ready to play).
  2. Factors outside of the athlete's control impacting focus.
  3. Fear - afraid of failure or being judged harshly by parents, coaches or peers (poor breathing).
  4. Self-judgment after a mistake or poor outcome.
  5. Lack of confidence; uncertainty and doubt in one's ability to succeed.
Playing in Rhythm
  1. Having a clear pre-game routine, physically and mentally, for optimal game preparation.
  2. Building mental toughness by blocking out those factors outside of the athlete's control.
  3. Proper preparation builds confidence and ability to quickly recover from mistakes.
  4. Recognition that mistakes are part of the game, minimizing harsh self-judgment.
  5. Developing realistic expectations for performance (both internal and external; parents, coaches, peers)
Staying in Rhythm
  1. Recognize when you aren't in rhythm and making mental adjustments to regain rhythm.
  2. Extreme "present moment" focus; not dwelling on a mistake or worry of future failure.
  3. Focus on proper breathing to relax the body and allow muscles and mechanics to flow.
  4. Develop "positive trigger statements" to help eliminate negative or doubtful thoughts and feelings.
  5. The recognition that you as the athlete always control your emotional state and thus your performance.
  6. Always maintaining "big picture" thinking; remain in joy for playing the game; always more opportunities.
Playing in rhythm is ultimately an automatic unconscious state, but it does require a serious initial conscious effort to cultivate consistent game rhythm. Once in rhythm your athlete's game performance will soar to both higher levels of consistency and the achievement of overall performance potential.

Be sure to check out the preview of my new book, "College Softball Scholarships: An A to Z Guide."

Thanks for reading and happy holidays!


John Michael Kelly

Softball Smarts
John Michael Kelly Sports

Winner's Edge Kids

John Kelly

As a sports parent, author, championship game coach, mental performance expert, former youth league Board member and former two sport collegiate athlete John Michael Kelly brings a unique perspective and voice to the world of youth sports. John has been coaching youth sports since 1996, including soccer and baseball, and exclusively fastpitch softball since 2003 at the recreational, All Star, travel and high school levels. John has coaches over 1,300 youth games.

New Year's

Look for a special email tomorrow for my best special offer yet! As always you will get something free under the tree to help your athlete develop the mental skills she needs to have her best season ever in 2014!




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