Jessica Verran and Coach Greg CruthersI recently challenged one of the players on my varsity team and in the softball club where I coach to write an article for the Softball Journey blog.  I told her she could write about whatever topic she desires.  What she wrote should be required reading for all coaches and parents of not only softball players, but athletes of all sports.  I am extremely proud of this young lady for accepting my challenge, taking the risk of being criticized and for having the courage to share her thoughts and feelings with the world!

I am my toughest competition and critic.

Her name is Jessica Verran and she is an aspiring young writer.  Jess is a freshman varsity player at Swartz Creek High School and member of the 14U Mid-Michigan Firestix softball team.  She is a talented pitcher, first baseman, outfielder and hitter who I am certain will someday realize her dream to play college softball.

My Journey to Self-Confidence in Softball

by Jessica Verran

My Coaches

I began playing softball at a young age.  I soon learned that I am very competitive and tend to put a lot of pressure on myself.   I desperately want to impress my coaches, please my parents and prove myself to my teammates. Through the years I have had the opportunity to be on several teams.  It is teaching me how to deal with the different personalities of not only the players, but coaches too. This is definitely a learning process that sometimes leaves you feeling either belittled and intimated or encouraged and empowered.

All of my coaches have had a tremendous impact on me both personally and as a player. They each seem to have their own style of coaching and interacting with the players. One particular coach was very intense and vocal on the field. The only thing on his mind was “the sweet taste of victory.” He wanted to win at all costs. He was quick to criticize and belittle his players if a mistake was made. On the contrary, I have also had coaches who were calm, encouraging and took the time to explain how situations could have been played better.  

My experiences with different coaches have impacted the way I see and play the game.  My confidence has been knocked down in the dirt so low that I feared I did not have the talent to succeed.  I have also had times where I focused on my strengths and conquered my weaknesses without losing hope.  I understand the difficulties of having numerous coaches over the years in softball.  

As I’ve grown older I have seen some coaches who are able to adapt their communication style to their player’s individual personalities and skills.  For example, some players may thrive with coaches who are very intense with pushing and yelling.  However, other players may perform better with a more relaxed environment where the coach is more soft-spoken and laid back.

jess pitching 2016

My Parents

My parents are the driving force behind my strong love for the game.  Knowing how much I love the game, they push me hard to be my best, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed.   At times I feel as though every day I have to be flawless, hitting every ball that is pitched to me, not throwing any bad pitches and catching everything that comes in my vicinity.  I hate the thought of disappointing them and MYSELF.  

I know after I step off the field from having a bad game, every play could become the topic of conversation on the car ride home.   I know they are proud of me no matter what, win or lose.  They just want me to ALWAYS perform as they know I can.  However, realizing that this is a game I play for myself……because I LOVE IT..... is what motivates me to push myself every day to be better than the day before.

Myself

I will admit that I am challenged with handling my emotions.  I am my toughest competition and critic.  I want to be perfect!  If I throw a bad pitch or miss a ball in the outfield, I get instantly down on myself. It’s difficult for me to let things go.  I try to over analyze what just happened thinking I can prevent it from happening again.  I tend to dwell on it (into the next play) and begin to think, “Maybe you aren’t as good as you think you are” or “Wow, you really suck!”  

When I get upset it seems to rub off on my teammates and the whole attitude of the team changes.  We are no longer cheering on other players and seem to make more errors in the field.  I am learning to let a bad play go, to be more positive and think to myself, “that won’t happen again!“  And as a result.....I have noticed that confidence is contagious too!

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