Performers who are mentally tough are usually skilled at controlling what they focus on as well as what they don’t focus on.
Aspects of Focus Critical to Mental Toughness:
Ability to focus on one’s own performance when experiencing off-the-court issues
These are things like the stress of homework, an upcoming test, being grounded, parents who have made it clear to you that they are disappointed or mad at you, boyfriend/girlfriend problems, even bullying issues. I can’t expect you to magically forget all of these things, but I am asking that you allow the sport be the escape from everyday realities, and you do your best to focus on the task at hand.
Ability to maintain focus after both success and failure
This one is HUGE!! And is often a topic I have to discuss with many of my players. If you take a quiz at school and get a 3 or a 4 out of 10 questions correct, did you pass?? No!! You failed. But in softball a .300-.400 batting average is considered pretty darn good. Heck in baseball, it’s Hall of Fame worthy.
Know that you will be faced with many failures along your career. But it’s all in how you perceive those failures—just because on paper it doesn’t show you got on base, did you have productive at bats?? ie. Did you have several foul balls, indicating you were on the ball, you just needed to make an adjustment in timing? Did you sacrifice yourself to move a runner over? Did you get deep into the count?
The same can be said for successes. You have another two-ish at bats after or before you hit a home run, can you still focus and get your job done in those other at-bats, or are you too focused on having the same successful home run outcome?
Ability to recover from unexpected, uncontrollable, and unusual events
Rain delays, poor field conditions, crummy umpires, or I don’t know...a viral pandemic affecting all of our lives?!?! How will you come back from all of this, and what type of player are you going to be when all of this is over…?
Ability to ignore typical distractions in the performance environment
Softball girls are notorious for their loud, repetitive, chants and cheers…do you let them bother you? How about that parent in the stands who likes to remind you of every last detail you guys practiced while you are in the on-deck circle? Cow bells, hoots, hollers, walk up music…can you block it all out and do your job?
Ability to focus on one’s own performance instead of being concerned with an opponent’s performance
This one for some girls is a big one. The comparison game is a slippery slope that can prove to be so detrimental to a players ability to preform. For me, working towards being “better” than someone motivated and drove me to work harder more than anything else. But you also have to know when to separate from your competition and start focusing on your own goals. In a book titled Relentless, the author talks about being so unapologetically relentless towards your end goal (winning) that you don’t even have a chance to be distracted by what those around you are doing. Recognize which kind of player you are, and what motivates you to preform at your best.