Here is a great technique to help players keep their menal focus while playing defense. Whether you're in the outfield or handling duties behind the plate, here's a guide to making sure you put yourself in the best defensive position possible.
Softball Mental Training Step No.1: Create Your Bubble
When a player goes out onto the field, they should draw an imaginary circle in which they stand every time the pitcher goes into her wind-up. This is the "bubble".
While in this bubble, you are totally focused. Your entire attention is on the play at-hand. Your bubble is a vacuum, totally void of all outside distractions. These distractions could be, but are not limited to:
- Other team's dugout
- Pain or discomfort of an injury
- Thought of a mistake you just made
- Thoughts about family problems, a big test in school, your driver's exam
- Thoughts about the great play you just made
- Thoughts about what could happen two plays from now
Softball Mental Training Step No.2: Controlling Your Self-Talk
So, just exactly how does this bubble work? After each pitch take a step backwards--out of your bubble--and do the following:
- Consider the baserunners and the outs and ask yourself; "If this ball comes to me, what am I going to do with it?"
- Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
- Talk to yourself about how to prevent repeating an error you just made.
- Shake off any other annoying thoughts or distractions.
- Repeat step one.
You've got about 10 seconds to do all of that, making sure that the first and last thing you do is consider the situation and ask what you're going to do with the ball.
Softball Mental Training Step No.3: Focus
Once your "self-talk" is completed, start the following process right before the pitcher goes into her delivery:
- Take a step forward, into your bubble.
- Set up in the perfect 'ready' position.
- Completely eliminate all distracting thoughts from your mind.
- TUNE IN AND FOCUS.
- Fielders: focus only on the batter. Catcher: focus only on the pitcher's release point. Pitcher: focus only on the catcher's target.
The key here is FOCUS. You've just spent the last 10 seconds talking to yourself. Now you focus. Tune EVERYTHING out and just focus.
Once the pitch is thrown, the play is over. Now step backwards, out of your bubble, and do it all over again. This cycle of de-focusing, self-talk and re-focusing will greatly improve your concentration. It's a quick way of fine-tuning your mind during the game and could be just the key to help take your game to the next level.
Note: While this exercise has been described as a defensive exercise, every player on the field can benefit from it. That includes batters, baserunners and coaches.