June 1, 2023
As you prepare for camp, it’s important to be prepared mentally for your time in a showcase setting. Although you’re still playing softball – the game you love and that feels familiar – there will still probably be some nerves that come up at Honor Roll, given the situation and the college coaches’ eyes on you.
That’s not to make you more nervous. To find success in high-pressure situations, the best first step is to acknowledge the environment – not deny it. Recognizing how you feel and understanding that it’s natural to have some butterflies in this type of situation is key – as is moving past it to the stage and tool of “reappraisal” that they covered on the Learner Lab podcast.
It’s ok to be nervous. In a high-pressure situation – like, for example, taking your defensive showcase groundballs with college coaches watching – telling ourselves to simply “calm down” can actually impair performance. “Calm down” works to deny and suppress the emotions you’re feeling.
Reappraisal though can help not only get you back to your peak performance, but can actually enhance performance in key stressful moments. So, when you’re at Honor Roll, about to step onto the showcase field, remember: all those things you’re feeling – butterflies, heart racing, hands a little shaky – are not only natural for the situation, but are actually the physiological responses your body has to prepare you for high performance.
You are ready for this! Even though this is a more pressurized situation than you usually play in, it’s still softball. It’s still the game you’ve worked hard at for years – and now is the time to trust all the time and effort you’ve spent to develop your game.
As ballplayers who have put in the hard work to be successful in this situation, trusting that effectively means:
There are a lot of things in softball that we can’t control. You might hit a ball square but right at someone. As a pitcher, you might throw the perfect curve on the outside corner, but the hitter gets the barrel to it for a double. But trusting your game means that you’re able to control what is in your control, and then when things don’t go your way, to come right back at it with your best effort again. Coaches are looking not only at your on-field performance, but also your attitude and approach, and how you deal with failures.
Honor Roll is the easy part. All the hard work on the field, in the weight room, running sprints, late night studying – all of that was the work. That was the hard part. Your two days at Honor Roll are the fun part, and the time to let all that hard work shine for the coaches watching you.
If you haven’t, listen to the Learner Lab podcast episode “Being Better When You’re Nervous”!