‘Knowing When to Push’, a piece based on personal experience and the athlete perspective.
The discernment of when to push and when to back off is decided by your athlete. You want to know when she can handle a little tough love and when it will push her to want to quit. And why would you need to push her if she was already performing the way she wants to or you want her to. Why would you need to push her if she was already welcoming the work with open arms? Our capacity is directly related to how much we’ve prepared for.
In order to “push” ourselves, we have to have room for growth. The only way we can have room for growth is if we have made the room and we welcome it. The way we make room and welcome growth are by consistently managing the stress in our lives. Let me explain the definition of stress because we all have our own idea of what it is in our own lives. Stress is anything outside of your environment - controllable or uncontrollable - affecting the way you think and perceive situations.
Changeup? Stress. It’s making you uncomfortable because you’re expecting something fast. So instead of just training to learn how to hit a changeup, we need to also simultaneously be training not to have that quarter second of panic when the ball isn’t coming at the speed we want it to. Do you see how managing stress is also practical and not just theoretical? As stress builds up, we break down unless we have done the work to know that the game (and life) is going to consistently bring different types of stress and that we can prepare our minds to be able to deal with that.
This is what mental training is all about. Mental training is not a matter of reacting, it is a matter of responding. When things aren’t going our way, we are not left panicking as much as we are responding with a game plan. I’m not saying mental training makes you perfect, it doesn’t. But it does prepare you for those unknowns and for the times when you think you can’t, but you can. Mental training helps to stretch and grow that capacity to handle and manage stress. And the beauty is that this is life stuff too. Yes, we start out learning about how to be a better softball player, but we end up learning how to be strong women.
- Janie Reed