Gosh, I tell ya what! My first two years of college ball were some of my favorite years as a player.
Our team was VERY business-like, and we got it done, to say the least! Going undefeated in the regular season for both years, our team was a powerhouse in our conference. Everyone was out to beat us.
That meant we had to stay sharp. Our practices were fast-paced and tough.
Coach pushed us to our max to teach us how to push through the hard. She got on us when we weren’t going full speed.
And I can recall a few practices where the weight of the day or a contagious attitude from one of my teammates got us all down.
It spread like wildfire! And that is when Coach sat us down as a whole and reminded us: “If you’re 99% in, you’re 100% out.”
That hit me harder than a wayward pitch at home plate; if I wasn’t willing to give it my all – I shouldn’t show up, and neither should my teammates. Coach reminded us that hard work and being a good teammate are the true measures of success.
We eventually got it together, and by the end of the season, we had an unstoppable team – all thanks to a coach who valued each player and the process over the stats.
I’m willing to bet that if you’re a coach reading this, you’ve met a few grumpy gills players yourself.
If you ever wonder how to transform your most negative player into a team leader, keep reading; this is for you!
How many times have you noticed a bad inning turning everyone on your team into a negative Nancy? Right?! It happens to everyone!!!
That’s because attitudes – both good and bad – are contagious, thanks to mirror neurons.
According to an article published in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine, mirror neurons are nerve cells that “discharge both when an individual executes a motor act and when he observes another individual performing the same or a similar motor act.”
In simpler terms, mirror neurons offer a reciprocation of energy. It helps explain why babies instinctively smile when their mom or dad smiles. It’s why you yawn when you watch your friend yawn.
And it can help you understand why a few negative mindsets can have a huge impact on your ENTIRE team.
So what can you do as a coach to stop the spread of negative energy? Let’s start with a ground-breaking phrase I was taught by my performance coach: “I am not defined by this.”
A few months ago, I coached an athlete who didn’t believe she was an asset to her team thanks to her position on the batting lineup – she was batting last.
As her mindset coach, I reminded her that she still had an important role on the team. And no matter the position she has been assigned, that one role she played for a game didn’t define her as a great or weak player.
While she believed she was the worst hitter in the lineup, I told her that coach put her there for a reason. The last hitter in the lineup plays a vital role in getting the lineup to turn over. It holds significance and opportunity.
I reframed her circumstances and asked her to tell herself, “No matter where I am put, I still have a vital role. I can still be hungry. And when I’m hungry, I’m more likely to do what I need to do to help my team succeed.”
Bottom line? Don’t let your players define themselves by their position on the team. Instead, praise the qualities that make them great players. (Their teamwork, their process, and their work ethic.) They are the average of their experiences!!!
In 2018, the Seattle Mariners introduced a new, simple team slogan: “Good.”
With signs posted at both entrances of the clubhouse, the goal was to remind players to find an opportunity for growth in every circumstance.
“You can’t harp on the negative,” pitcher Chase DeJong told Seattle Sports reporter Shannon Drayer. “For me, it’s you get sent down to Triple-A? Good. Get yourself back, you have got a job to do here. You are in a long relief role? Good. Do your job. There is so much in this game you can’t control, but your attitude you can control.”
How can you translate this mindset to your team? Remind your players that there is an opportunity for positive change – for good – in every game, play, practice, injury, strike-out, dropped ball, etc.
Focus on the good, leave the rest behind, and watch your negative players bloom into team leaders.
I know it’s tempting to be a results-driven coach. It’s easy to get lost in the stats.
And while there’s a place for data and statistics, choose to prioritize the process.
Try not to discuss batting averages, RBIs, and stolen bases, and instead focus on which players are putting in the extra reps. Who is displaying a great work ethic? Which player is a good team player? Recognize those players for their hard work and dedication – especially the ones who aren’t star athletes (yet).
Imagine you have a player who is constantly striking out and feels pretty down about it. If you choose to focus on her performance instead of her hard work, you’ll likely end up with a pretty negative athlete.
But when you praise the process – not the results – you can transform that athlete into a positive thinker and a team leader. And that positivity will spread throughout the team.
A negative player or two can have a toxic impact on your team, so how can you transform a Debbier Downer into your team leader?
Start by reminding your players that they are not defined by their position, their failures, or their successes. Next, encourage them to find the good in every circumstance. And lastly, praise their process, not their results.
These tips are sure to set a positive tone that will create a team of positive players.
But if you find you still need more help, book a Team Mindset Session before prices go up in August! I can’t wait to help your team succeed on and off the field!
Your Mindset Softball Coach,