Great article on mental toughness
Read an interesting article today in Baseball the Magazine, the sister (brother?) publication to Softball Magazine. It was on the secret to mental toughness and was written by Jack Perconte, a former MLB player (LA Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox) who is now coaching youth athletes.
In the article he goes through all the usual suspects — confidence, love of the game, aggressiveness, etc. But what he ultimately comes back to is strong fundamentals.
In the article, Perconte says that mental toughness isn’t in the head — at least not entirely. It’s really driven by knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. If you can execute the correct skills without thinking or hesitating you’ll be known as being mentally tough. One example he gives is the hitter who stands in the box and fouls off pitch after pitch. That hitter most likely has very strong fundamentals, which is what is enabling her to continue fouling off pitches until she gets one she really likes and can hit well. She’s not worried about whether she’ll hit the ball or not. She’s just relying on her strong fundamental to carry her through.
Coaches are often in a hurry to get past the fundamentals in order to get to the “good stuff.” Yes, there is a lot to learn in the game of softball and sometimes it feels like there simply isn’t enough time no matter how hard you work. But if a player can’t throw the ball 60 feet and hit her target it doesn’t matter whether she knows which base to throw the ball to. It just means she’ll be making an error at the right base. If she doesn’t know how to hit, having great baserunning skills won’t matter a whole lot.
It’s a great article. Baseball the Magazine is available on newsstands everywhere. I recommend you pick it up, give it a read, and pass it out to your team. It may help them understand why you’re spending so much time on fundamentals skills.