Becoming A Mentally Tough Pitcher
Believe it or not, pitching isn't just fastballs, mechanics, and raw power -- in fact, the mental aspect of pitching just as important to consider. You need to be confident in your abilities when you’re on the mound, because any doubts will cause your performance to suffer. Most often, pitchers receive heaps of praise for a team’s success, but all the blame for a team’s downfalls. Mental preparation needs to start long before the first pitch of the game; you need to learn to get yourself into the right frame of mind, so that when it’s your time on the mound you are poised and ready. Mastering the mental aspect of pitching can be one of the toughest aspects of softball training and can often take pitchers years to fully master. Whether you're a seasoned veteran or a beginner, CoachUp has provided some pointers that will help you master your emotions.
You will make mistakes
This is a tough pill to swallow for many athletes—but the sooner you accept that you'll have off-days, the sooner you'll become a mentally tough player. Beating yourself up for making a mistake has a time and place, but that time is not during a game. In addition, you need to be constructive in your criticism, don’t make blanket statements such as, “I should have struck that batter out” --instead, understand what went wrong and tell yourself what to do next time in order to avoid the same mistake.
Live in the present
You'll need to have a short-term memory! Don’t dwell on your past errors, instead, think about how you'll improve in the future. Thinking negatively on the mound is an absolute mistake. If you let up a run, you must move on immediately. You'll be tempted to think about what you should do differently, but you need to think about how you'll get the next batter out. Leave the strategy changes to your coach -- during a game, use your previous softball training to help you succeed.
Forget about your homework and other needless distractions, those can wait! In addition, try some visualization and imagine yourself throwing strikes, painting the corners, and fielding ground balls over and over. Undoubtedly, this will put you in the right frame of mind to perform at your highest level.
Develop a routine
Set routines can help a pitcher get in the right state of mind. Once you begin your pre-pitch preparation, your brain should understand that it's time to focus. For some people, this means listening to certain music to get your adrenaline going -- but for others, it might mean sitting in a quiet place and clearing your head. In order to be the most effective pitcher possible, you'll need to figure out what works best for you and develop a consistent routine.
Master Your Emotions
For good or for worse, learning to control your emotions is essential -- never get too high, never get too low. Remember that, frequently, your very best and worst games are simply outliers in the grand scheme of things. For example, on one day you might throw five innings with no hits and six strikeouts. It's important to realize that you won't pitch like that every game, re-focus and start preparing for the next appearance.
On the other hand, you have to be able to just simply let stuff go. Every pitcher will have a bad day -- in fact, you'll probably have multiple of them every year, but you cannot let that destroy you from the inside. For example, you might have a poor game and giving up three home runs over two innings with a couple of walks definitely isn't great, but a good pitcher will recognize that giving up so many big hits isn't something she frequently does. Additionally, a pitcher might give up four runs, but a few of them might be unearned thanks to errors in the field. The best pitchers will take the good and the bad with a grain of salt, just use it as motivation to get better the next time out.
(Related: Read about the five most popular pitches in softball here.)
Whenever you are doing some form of softball training you should try to use it as an opportunity to improve your mental toughness -- force yourself to thinking positively! The best way to develop a stronger mental game is through experience. The more you're faced with a certain difficult and hazardous situations, the better prepared you'll be to deal with it when it arises again. However, if you're still having trouble with the fundamentals or becoming mentally prepared, consider booking one of CoachUp's private trainers to set you straight. What are you waiting for?