To all of the softball players out there today I know that the most important thing that you would work on over the winter is gaining strength and endurance. I am a firm believer of this. I feel that whatever effort you put into your workouts is what you will get in return. The harder you work the better the results. It doesn't matter if you lift weights or like to run a lot as long as you put your best effort into the workout. Remember the bottom line is we are looking to win ball games. So if you feel that you are 100 % physically prepared then you are ready for the most important part of the game, and that is the mental part.
You know a long time ago a fellow by the name of Yogi Berra said that the game was 90 % mental and the other half was hitting home runs and base hits. So what if he couldn't count. I can relate to this because like I said before if you have done your homework (weight training in off-season and cardio) then you will be ready for the big test. The first thing you should do is take a look at the field that you are playing on. Check out the lighting, check and see which way the wind is blowing. Is the wind blowing out? With the wind blowing out you know that if you just get a good piece of the ball you should have great results. If the wind is blowing dead in your face, now you are going to have to really concentrate to make sure you make that good contact. I have always felt that a home run into the wind is far more impressive than the home run with the wind. Let me give you an example.
It was in 1984 at the Milwaukee, Wisconsin 4th of July tournament. My Steele's team was playing Lilly's Air Systems. We were in a real dogfight. The score was changing back and forth. Now I was not having a great tournament but I was happy because we were still in the winner's bracket. It was the bottom of the 7th. We had the last at bats. In today's softball it means a lot to have the last ups. If we had our last at bats or home team I always felt we had a shot. Anyway there were two outs and we were down 3 runs. I was hoping someway that we could get some hits so I would get a chance to bat. My wish came through and before you know it we get the first batter on and Phil Higgins hits a home run to put us down one run and I'm up. Now I have been thinking about this at bat for a little while now. Like I said before I have done my homework so I should be ready. The player batting after me (Steve Blanchette) has been killing the ball all weekend.
So I know this guy will pitch to me because I wasn't doing all that good. I knew that if I could help my team out at this point the weekend would have been a success. So I stepped to the plate and promptly hit the home run to tie the game and give Steve a chance to win it. He hit a hard line drive to the 3rd basemen. Now both teams don't score and we get back to me in the 9th. Well my friend T-bird, who was still doing the pitching, was still shaking his head from the last home run. I stepped into the box and hit another home run to win the game. The reason T-bird was shaking his head was that the wind was blowing in so hard that he didn't think anybody could hit it out. Now this is the point of the story. I have always told myself every time I stepped into the box that I was the best. And if you feel that way then you will have all of the confidence in the world. POSITIVE THINKING.
If you know that you are mentally prepared to do the job then you are ready for the situation. Your physical part of your approach will come naturally. You should always be thinking 3 batters ahead for your at bat. BE PREPARED! Make sure everything is right. If you have a lucky thing that you do before each at bat, DO IT. I don't think there is anything more important than to feel comfortable at the plate. Every time you step to the plate be POSITIVE. If you are thinking negative you are not giving yourself that chance. A friend of mine named Johnny Neale once told me " Mike when you go to the plate think that you are the best". I used that thought my whole career and it paid off. So every time you step to the plate be prepared to excel and 90 % of the time you will. The most important part of mental preparation is having the confidence to succeed. Knowing that you are going to give it your all every time you step on the field is a big advantage. Like Yogi said it's 90 % mental.
Another good term for concentration is focus. Whenever you are at the plate you want to focus in on what is at hand. You don't want to have cobwebs in your head. So what ever it is you need to do to be focused then do it. If your head is in the right frame of mind then you will do great. I don't know how many times Rick Weiterman or Dirk Androff would say in the beginning of or in the middle of a game " lets stay focused". There are times when you will be talking to someone in the crowd or maybe just not up to snuff and that is when you have to regroup and get focused again so that you can take care of the matter at hand.
To me one of the biggest challenges and mental aspect in the game is how well you handle adversity. This is where the mental part comes in again big time. When the situation arises where the other teams will jump out to a big lead. How you handle this situation is adversity. Do you get rattled and fold or do you work that much harder and try and change the tide. Remember the game is played for seven innings so don't let it bother you if they score a bunch of runs in the first or second inning.
I use to tell my teammates this is just a war, and to me those are the best softball games. I know a lot of teams out there that when the chips are down they are going to get that much tougher. There once was a team called Howard's Western Steer. These guys are my all-time team when it comes to handling adversity. No matter what the score was they would just sit there and when it was the persons time to bat they would go and get a hit and just keep hitting. Don Arndt and Stan Harvey used to just sit there and smoke cigarettes. You couldn't rattle them if you tried. I guess they were just so confident that it didn't matter. How you handle the situation will separate the winners from the losers. So remember, you want to be prepared mentally, physically, and concentrate on the job ahead of you. If you do your homework ahead of time you will be ready for that big test. I am going to call my ball game the big test. All I know is that I want to get that A on my next test so good luck with your next softball game. Have Fun.....