WANT MORE INFO? SET UP AFREE CALL!
SET UP A FREE CALL!

blog

SOFTBALL IS 90% MENTAL

LET'S COACH LIKE IT

 

Periodizing Season  Deliberate Practice  Quality At-Bats

Get to Know Girls  Use Time Wisely


training 1

PERIODIZING YOUR CALENDAR
Click here for video

This training is all about planning out how you’ll implement the mental game in a strategic way. The concept of periodization is used most often in regards to strength training, but it can be applied to any season-long activity that requires you to peak at a certain time. To periodize, you segment the season into phases. We go through these phases, starting from the bottom of the pyramid and building to the top:

The establish phase is all about learning and takes the most time (plan for about 40%). In this phase, you’re laying the groundwork for a winning culture by communicating the team’s values and expectations. This is the time to get to know what makes each player tick and what they need to be mentally strong. It’s the time for team-building and mental fundamentals.

Once everyone is more comfortable with one-another and understands what it takes to be mentally strong, we have to develop their mental toughness. This phase accounts for about 30% of the season. You can do this by putting your players in pressure situations, implementing challenging drills in practice and testing your players with tough opponents. You’ll know each player’s best strengths and which they need work on, so you’ll be able to give them feedback and coach them to improve!

At this point, you’ve done about all you can to improve your team’s weaknesses. Now it’s time to focus on and refine their strengths. For the next 20% of the season, focus on what each player brings to the table to make the team stronger. If you put all of your effort into what you do best, it will overshadow your weaknesses.

Finally, in the last 10% of the season, it’s time to let go, trust, and believe. You’ve put in the work, you’re playing to your strengths, and now is the time to shine! Use this time to remind your team of how they got here. Have fun at practice and enjoy the final games!

HOW TO

Map Out the Season

The first thing you need to do is put all of your practices and games on your calendar and segment your season into discover (40%), develop (30%), refine (20%) and believe (10%)We use Google Calendar (and all Google products, which we’ll talk about throughout this workshop) because it is easy to update, keep track of, and the whole team can access it from your phone. Here is a quick tutorial:

Google Calendar Tutorial

Next, you must decide what characteristics you believe the best teams exhibit. What is it you want to develop in your players this season? Do they need confidence? To be able to focus for all seven innings? It may be slightly different for each team, each season. It all depends on what this team needs. Choose 5-7 topics you want to cover. 

We believe the mentally toughest teams exhibit the 7Cs. We call these mental strengthsCommitted, Competitive, Confident, Composed, in Control, Courageous and Consistent. This is the order we have found to work best in our experience, but they are all interrelated so as long as you touch on them all, it’s not a big deal what order you go in.

To improve those strengths, we teach mental skillsconnecting to your why & goal setting, developing a mastery mindset, positive self-talk, energy & emotion management, focus, imagery & routinesWe pair these skills with mental strengths simply for the convenience of teaching the concepts, but again they are all helpful for each mental strength.

Once you have your list of topics you want to cover, it’s time to assign them to the calendar. You should teach your girls about each topic in the discover segment of the season and cover no more than one topic per practice. For example, in a 10-week season, spend the first 4 weeks teaching about the 7C’s. With two practices per week, you can cover one C each day, using the 8th day for a recap. If you have fewer days than topics, select the topics that are most crucial for performance first. Here’s what that could look like:

We suggest planning out only the discover segment, to begin with. Afterward, you can decide a topic each week depending on what your girls need. They’ll have the foundation of mental skills to draw from, so you can zone in on specific topics like getting ahead early, bouncing back after failure, and using positive momentum. 🙂

Prepare Each Week

You need to have flexibility in the calendar to adjust to whatever pops up as an issue for your team, but you have to plan the time to figure that out! So come up with a time each week to talk together as a staff, and put it on the calendar. We suggest not doing it immediately after games when emotions are running high and energy is wearing out. Have a quick conversation the next day to decide on a topic or two for the upcoming week.

Recap

With just a little time spent planning, you can incorporate multiple mental game topics right into your practice plan! You can still cover the physical skills you need to practice while adding in the mental skills simultaneously.

Here is a chart to help you lay out your topics based on the principles of periodization. Start by numbering your weeks and writing in the dates of your practices. Then assign your topics in the establish section only. When you get to the develop and refine segments, you’ll fill them in week by week based on the team’s needs. Remember at the end to do what your team needs to help them realize how far they’ve come and believe in themselves as they go into the final games!

EXAMPLE

Print this PDF: Periodizing Your Practice


training 2

DELIBERATE PRACTICE
Click here for video

In this training, we’re discussing how to practice deliberately. The concept of deliberate practice came from researchers wanting to find out how the best athletes in the world became so good. It wasn’t purely about their talent, and it was more than just putting in a lot of hours: it came down to how well they used the hours they did have.

Everything in deliberate practice directly affects your performance. By focusing on specific and well-understood tasks, you don’t waste any time or energy. It’s about quality over quantity and working both harder and smarter. It will be exhausting if you do it right, so be sure to incorporate rest when needed, too!

To practice deliberately, you have to have a system and purpose for every practice. The system we use has these four parts:

First, we help the girls relate to the topic we’ve selected by giving examples to improve their understanding and having them reflect on their own experiences and capabilities. The next phase is when they actually learn and practice the skills/fundamentals in an isolated environment. We make it more difficult in the grow stage by challenging them to perform certain tasks under pressure. Next, the girls must learn to adapt in game-like situations that are unpredictable. Using this 4-step process will help you get the most out of each practice!

HOW

Outlining Your Practice Plan

The first step in being deliberate is to outline your practice plan. Below is an image of how you can structure your practice based on our Relate-Learn-Grow-Adapt method. You can plug in any drill or mental skill you want to work on and still keep this framework.

Before you begin filling in practice plans, we suggest creating a drill bank to draw from when you need it. It helps you keep track of which drills you’ve already done and helps you decide what you want to work on when you’re exhausted later in the season 🙂

To save you some time, we’ve created a Google Sheet for you to use that includes a practice plan RLGA template and a template for your drill bank. Assuming you have a Google account at this point, simply click the link and it will prompt you to make your own copy!

Click here: Deliberate Practice Plan

Relate

In the first 10 minutes or so of practice, we go through this process to help the girls check mentally into practice. This is when you talk about what you’ll be working on and can even include a motivational quote or video.

When the girls have a good idea of today’s topic and drills, we have them pair up with goal buddies to set goals for the day. Their goal buddies are there to help refine their goals, encourage them when they’re doing well, and push them when they need it. We use this document to help our girls keep track of their goals each practice.

Daily Goals Sheet

Learn

Now your girls should be focused and ready to improve! In this section of practice, we focus on fundamentals and individualized drills. Utilize stations, partners, and small groups so you can give them a ton of feedback. This is the time to break things down and work on improving your physical and mental skills.

Grow

In this segment, we still work on one specific skill or situation, but we level-up the difficulty. You can add a physical consequence, set a time constraint, use a point system, or even increase the difficulty by using different tools like baseballs or tennis balls. If the girls are starting to get the hang of the drill, level-up the difficulty again! They should be uncomfortable here so they can learn how to deal with it and grow.

Adapt

The final part of practice is all about creating a more game-like environment where your girls have to be decisive, deal with failure, and move on to the next play. There should be consequences like there are in the game, but it should also be fun. This could be full-team situations on defense or an offensive game where they’re divided into smaller teams.

Recap

After this drill, it’s time to recap what went well and what didn’t. You should have already given them feedback for their mistakes in earlier drills, but this is a good time to reflect on the lessons learned from the game. Then recap what else they improved upon through the rest of practice. Set aside time for this to make sure they actually remember what they worked on 🙂


training 3

TRACKING QUALITY AT-BATS
Click here for video!

In this training, you will learn how to track Quality At-Bats (QABs) just like you would traditional stats. But first, what qualifies an at-bat as quality? You have had a quality at-bat when you have done something productive to help your team. Unlike tradition stats, these things are within the players’ control. Because of this, QABs give you a more accurate picture of whether you’re helping the team or need to make an adjustment.

The following outcomes are what we consider QABs for pitchers and hitters. You may want to adjust some of them, but make sure they’re within your player’s ability to control.


 

HOW

Charting During the Game

Below is an example of a complete-game QAB chart. If you want to watch a side-by-side of me charting an actual game, check out the video! Or you can just jump in and learn by printing the charts and going for it 🙂

Pitching Chart Example      Hitting Chart Example

 

Keeping Track After the Game

Tracking these stats can both help you create your lineup and help your players see how well they’re doing. For more info on how I enter and track QABs, see the video! Here is your template of the QAB Google Sheets 🙂

Click here for your templates: Hitter QAB Sheet Pitcher QAB Sheet


training 4

GETTING TO KNOW YOUR GIRLS
Click for video!

This training is all about fostering a positive relationship with your players. We know intuitively that teams work better with coaches players respect and trust. But what aspects of performance are actually affected by the coach-athlete relationship? Research has proven that a positive relationship can improve team confidence, motivation, performance, and team cohesion, and it can decrease burnout and players feeling uncertain about their role on the team.

As you can see, having a good relationship with your players is crucial if you want to develop successful players who are confident and passionate about the sport. The issue is that most coaches don’t often focus on this aspect, most likely because there isn’t much information out there telling us how to do so.

Sport Psychologist and Professor, Sophia Jowett created a model in 2009 which identified four C’s that make up a positive coach-athlete relationship:

Closeness refers to how much the coach and athlete respect and like each other. Commitment speaks to our ability to maintain that relationship through the good and the bad. Finally,  Complementarity is achieved when the coach is aware of the power they have and use it only to help an athlete who is coachable. They later added Co-Orientation, which is how much the coach and athlete perceive their trust in the other person and likewise the other person’s trust in them.

If this sounds like a lot, it is. But we don’t build a relationship in a day! There are strategies you can use each day to build this strong relationship with each of your athletes, and we’ll talk about them below.

 

HOW

Personality

There are many great personality tests out there, but we recommend AthleteTypes. The assessment itself is free and gives you a ton of info. You can learn each player’s strengths and weaknesses, who they work best with, and tips for coaching their personality. Here’s my report as an example- I thought mine was very accurate.

 

You can see how this information can be very helpful for coaching an athlete, and also important for your athletes to know about you (but we’ll get to that later). Click below to learn more about Athlete Types or to go directly to the assessment!

 

Strengths & Weaknesses

After you get to know your players’ sport personality, dig a little deeper and find out their mental strengths. We created our own quiz with softball-specific examples to help your girls discover where they stand with the 7Cs. Send them the link below and ask them to enter your email to send their results to. Then you’ll see what their best strengths are and which could use some improvement.

mentalsweetspot.com/quiz

To figure out how to use those strengths, check out the Mental Game Strategy for Coaches. You’ll be able to

  • discover the team’s mental strengths through the quiz,
  • create individual and team strengths profiles,
  • make a game plan for using those strengths and
  • track your progress through the season.

Examples of those documents plus the link are below!

 

Individual Needs

After you have a good grasp on their base mental strengths, you have to get to know what they need from you. Based on their goals, why they play, and personality, you’ll have to approach each player differently. This doesn’t mean you have to change your coaching style. You have your own mental strengths you bring to the table. But you do have to adjust your communication style.

To get accurate info about what your girls truly need, all you have to do is ask. We ask questions like “What do you need after you’ve failed?” “Who is your go-to person?” and “What type of feedback do you need between pitches?”

To keep track of all this info, we use Google Sheets. The players can easily enter their responses right from their phone, as can you! Simply create a sheet with your question at the top and give each player a spot to write their answer. When everyone has entered their information, print the sheet and add it to your (and your players’) folder or post it in the locker room for future reference.

Get to Know Each Other

If you really want a tight-knit team who understands and supports one another, you have to share this information as a group! Use these exercises as team-building activities. Have everyone get into small groups to discuss their personality, strengths, and needs. Coaches should share too!

The more you know about what makes a person tick, the better you’ll be able to get through the tough times together. We know every season comes with its fair share of tough times, so let’s be more prepared and armed with a strong team. 🙂


training 5

USING YOUR TIME WISELY
Click for video!

In this training, we will cover four strategies for using the limited amount of time you have wisely. We will also show you (shamelessly!) how our program can be your solution for all of these things! If you want to see examples of what we’re talking about regarding our program, watch the video where I show you screenshots directly from the program!

Common Language

When you’re limited on time and speaking to 10-20 unique individuals, a common language is a must. It makes communication efficient and ensures everyone is on the same page.

You’ll also waste less time if you have a framework and theme for the season like we discussed in previous workshops. Deciding 5-7 topics to cover throughout the season will keep you focused and get the most done. When you have all of this setup, you can save time and mental energy because it’s already done.

Our framework is Relate-Learn-Grow-Adapt. We apply this to the season as a whole when we periodized our calendar, and we apply it to our plans for each practice. We insert our language, the 7Cs, into everything. Our girls know what it means to be competitive and courageous because we’ve woven it into every conversation!

Have the girls become micro-coaches

When everyone is on the same page, you can trust your players to take on some self-instruction. Team-building activities aimed at helping the girls learn about each other can teach them how to coach each other. That way, you can focus on a small group of players and give them a ton of attention, while trusting that the other girls are getting feedback from their teammates.

In our program, we provide reflective activities throughout each course for players to fill out. They can easily be used as a team-building activity if you have the girls share their responses with the group.

Take the team building a little further with the fun challenges we’ve included in each course! These challenges are quick, low-maintenance games that challenge that particular mental strength. They’ll have to use their newly-learned mental skills to excel at the task.

Combine mental and physical drills

We touched on this a little bit already, but it’s worth mentioning again. If you plan ahead, you can turn every drill into a mental game drill. Figure out what skills your girls need to work on and then find a way to challenge their mental skills at the same time. Typically, it involves adding pressure by way of a time limit, consequences, or point system.

If you don’t have time to do all that, we’ve got your back! We’ve come up with fourteen drills that you can mix and match and adapt for any physical or mental skill! As a reminder, if you want to see an example, check out the video above!

Do work outside of practice

Though I do not advise requiring your girls to do too much in addition to practice, there is certainly a benefit to asking them to complete a couple things on their own time. This could be watching a TedTalk, listening to a podcast or even watching a short video.

You know what else they can do on their own? Access our program! For less than the cost of a few lessons, your players can access all 7 courses, any time they want, with lifetime access. Each course will take them about an hour, not including drills or any team building you incorporate later. They’ll see it’s worth their time- everyone I’ve taught has!


So what do you think? Are you interested in purchasing the Mental Training Foundation to use with your team? If so, click the link below to learn more and purchase!

FOUNDATION


Thank you so much for joining us! We hope you enjoyed these trainings! If you have any questions, please join us in the Mastermind or shoot us an email!