It's the bottom of the 7th inning with two outs and runners in scoring position and a base hit will win the game. A player steps up to the plate who is 0-3 on the day. There's a lot of loud cheering. Her mom yells, "C'mon baby. You can do it!" A teammate shouts, "You're due kid!" While looking at the player clapping his hands the 3rd base coach says, "Get this done like you can!" One of the many softball experts behind the back-stop blurts out, "Don't dip. Drive the ball!"
And all of that happens before the girl has even gotten into the batter's box for the first pitch. Ask yourself this: What do you suppose she's thinking about as she steps up to the plate?
Now that she's in college I've realized how much I miss the countless hours we spent driving to and from softball.
I Remember Like it was Yesterday
We were on one of the countless lengthy drives home from a summer tournament. I had long since stopped giving the coaching sessions on those trips, which was replaced with jamming to our favorite music and listening if she wanted to talk. Sometimes I'd ask a question or two, but knew when I reached the limit it was time to turn up the music for the rest of the trip. Now that she's in college I've realized how much I miss the countless hours we spent travelling to and from softball.
I don't hear anything when I'm up to bat.
All the coaches in the club informed us early on that it was Hayley's hitting that would give her the opportunity to play college softball. On the first weekend of our summer schedule with many of the coaches from the major colleges in Michigan watching, Hayley's bat was on fire. That would prove to be the beginning of a very long recruiting process and the last time that she'd ever play summer softball without coaches watching.
She continued to stand out hitting the ball that summer. One day I complimented my 13 year old daughter on the drive home with something like, "Girl. You were in the zone this weekend!" She said, "Dad, I just get ready when I'm on deck. I know the situation and what I need to do. From that point on I relax, focus and block everything out. I don't hear anything when I'm up to bat."
Yea, that's when it hit me. I thought to myself, "She's got this dad." I thought a lot about what she said. Beginning the following weekend I just watched her play without uttering a single word to her during the games. You couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I noticed things I was blind to before. Whether she was in the field, the on deck circle or up to bat, she was absolutely mentally locked in.
It was then that I started to develop a different way of cheering and watching her and her teams play. "Let's go ladies" or "Here we go team" are some of the things I shout out now and then, while of course cheering and clapping after a nice play or big hit. I've since tried to help other parents learn what I learned. I also coach my players to try to focus and block out the noise. And I've explained this to other coaches as well. I firmly believe an athlete's ability to focus and block out the noise is one of the greatest determinants of their success.
Each time a player steps up to the plate they should know the situation, check the signs and then block everything else out, while only thinking the following: See it. Like it. Swing.
Watch the best hitter on the planet do it....