Here’s How Softball Players Can Get in the Zone
We hear stories about how athletes get into “the zone” all the time, and for many, achieving this level of optimal focus where nothing else matters is crucial to their success. For a game that involves as much failure as softball, being strong mentally and getting to that point is necessary. Just as much as the sport is physical, it’s also mental.
One of our favorite sports movies, For The Love of The Game gives us an idea of exactly what it’s like. Check out the below scene:
How cool was that? It was as if he was just playing pick-up baseball in his backyard once he blocked out all the noise. Softball players know how lonely it can get while standing in the pitcher’s circle – just imagine what it feels like at Yankee Stadium with a bunch of screaming fans. Billy Chapel did a pretty good job of ignoring them most of the game.
That level of getting into the zone takes years of effort. How can you start your journey on achieving that kind of optimal focus? Here are three steps you can take:
Create Your Zone/Bubble/Quiet Place
Everyone has a different name for getting in the zone. Whatever you want to call it for yourself, find a spot on the field that is your area to stand prior to every pitch being delivered. When you’re in this pre-determined area, nothing can distract you, not the weather, fans, things that don’t pertain to softball (school, exams, friends, etc.), or the other team.
There aren’t many “safe” places on the field, but this is yours. If you made a mistake – whether it be mental or physical – you let it go upon stepping into this area.
Be in Control of Your Thoughts
Once each play is complete, you can take a break and step out of your safe spot to reassess the game situation in front of you. For instance, you need to know exactly what to do with the ball if it comes in your direction – are you trying to turn a double play? Cut down a runner heading for the plate? Where should you look if you catch a line drive?
Take a very slow deep breath, and if you made an error earlier in the game, don’t think about the error, think about how you’re going to be successful this time around. If there are any other lingering negative thoughts, get rid of them as fast as you can, and then remind yourself of the situation before stepping back into the zone.
Maintain Your Focus
After you go through this process outside of your safe spot on the field, it’s time to step back into it as the pitch is getting delivered to the plate. Upon getting into your safe spot, get ready to field a batted ball and simply focus – get rid of any thoughts that don’t concern the play that’s about to happen.
Instead of looking around, keep your eyes locked on one spot – fielders should be looking at the batter, pitchers should be focusing on the catcher’s target, and catchers should be focusing on where the pitcher is about to release the ball.
When the play is over, go through the whole process again. As you can see, this is quite the mental exercise, but once you get this routine down, it will end up feeling as if it’s second nature.