Nothing Like Starting with a Clean Slate
Fall ball is beginning to ramp up, at least in my area. A couple of teams I know played last week, and a whole bunch more are scheduled to play tournaments and/or round robins this weekend.
(That’s fascinating to an old coach like me, by the way, since for most of my coaching career fall ball meant playing a friendly or two on a couple of Sunday afternoons. Now it’s a regular part of the overall softball season.)
For players who stayed with the team they were on in the previous season it’s probably no big deal. They know the coaches and (most of) their teammates, and the coaches and teammates know them. It’s a pretty comfortable situation.
For those who are on new teams, however, it’s an incredible opportunity. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, players on new teams can create a whole new impression of who they are and what they can do. That new impression will be how the new team sees them.
Take a hitter who had a rough summer. She struck out a lot, and when she did hit it was mostly popups and weak ground balls.
Then toward the middle of the season she took some hitting lessons and started driving the ball. Unfortunately, her coaches already had a picture of her as a hitter in their minds, and didn’t trust that what she was showing was what she had become. So she stayed at the bottom of the batting order.
With the new team, however, all bets are off. They liked something about her at tryouts, which presumably is why they took her. Those are their only preconceived notions about who she is as a player.
All she has to do is what she was doing at the end of the last season – hitting consistently, with plenty of extra base hits – and she’ll be at the top of the batting order on her new team. Because these coaches’ impressions of who she is will be based on today forward instead of her far less productive past.
The same is true for every position. If she was a pitchers who struggled with control early on but got it together later, the starting point today is a pitcher with control. Error-prone fielder? Not anymore.
The only ones on this team who know she struggled in the past are the player and her parents. And hopefully they’re not saying anything!
It isn’t often in life that you get a real, live do-over. But this is one of those situations.
If you’re starting up with a new team, leave the past in the past. Forget about any struggles you may have had before, and play the way you’re capable of playing today.
Now go be awesome!
New Year, New You
I know the headline sounds like an ad for a diet product or a health club, but there really is something to taking advantage of the turn of the calendar to start making improvements in our lives.
As humans we tend to like to have a clean break from the old when we start something new. The most obvious example is most people like to take a little time off between the time they end their old jobs and the time they start new ones. That little space in-between, even if it’s just a couple of days, helps us decompress and let go of the past so we can focus on the present – and the future.
That’s what’s often magical about the start of a new year. While in reality it’s just another day on the calendar, it feels like the start of something different.
So how can you take advantage of this artificially imposed fresh start? By (dare I say it?) resolving to do one or more things differently this year.
If you’re a coach, spend some time studying new techniques or approaches to the game. Challenge yourself by looking into information that conflicts with your current beliefs – especially if you’ve held those beliefs for a while.
Attend a coaching clinic with an open mind. Watch a current video or read a new book. Not just on fastpitch softball specifically, but also on coaching principles in general. In short, look for ways to be better than you are now.
If you’re a player, think about what a great year would be for you, then think about whether you can get there with what you’re doing now. A good way to do that is to write a letter to your future self describing the awesome season you just had.
If the season you want to have isn’t achievable with your current approach, figure out what you need to change to make it achievable. It could be something as simple as practicing for five more minutes during a session, or finding ways to sneak in an extra 5-10 minutes of practice per week when you can’t get to a field.
It could also mean being willing to change something you’ve been doing for a long time to see if the new way will work better. After all, no one ever created an innovation by continuing to do the same old thing.
If you’re a parent, think about how you can be more supportive, both to your player and to the team. Hopefully you’re already one who cheers in a positive way. But if you’re not sure, maybe set up a video camera and record yourself during your child’s next game to see what you think. Would you want to sit next to you? Or be with you on the ride home?
You might even want to do the same for someone else you may know, assuming they would take the information in the spirit it is intended. Learning to relax and enjoy the game makes it a lot more pleasurable for everyone – including the person who usually gets so upset.
You can also try watching a game where you have no stake to see what you think of how the spectators are reacting. The compare that to how you feel during your child’s game. It can be an interesting perspective.
One other thing you can do as a parent is to educate yourself on what the latest thinking is regarding various skills and see if that matches up with what your player is being taught. Don’t just assume a coach or instructor knows what he/she is doing, or is keeping up with the sport. Learn what to look for so you know whether you’re investing your hard-earned money in the best way possible.
It’s a new year. Why settle for the same old same old?
Take advantage of the energy that comes with a fresh start and use it to create a new, even better you. Best of luck for the upcoming year!