This week we are focusing on one of our ALL-TIME FAVORITE words-- GRIT!
A word that is near and dear to us as we often have been described by coaches as "gritty" in our careers -- a trait that we attribute much of our success to as former athletes. Even today, one of the best intangibles that we've taken from the game is how to be "gritty" in pursuit of our goals.
We sure know our paths to our success weren't always pretty; but by being gritty, we were able to dig deep, work harder, overcome obstacles and setbacks in order to develop the toughness & resiliency needed to reach our goals.
Our athletes read this amazing article by Lesley Rotchford on Shape.com (CLICK HERE for the full article) Rotchford gives a list of ways to "Grow Your Grit" and we've attached them here so we can all help our athletes become grittier!
How to Grow Your Grit by Lesley Rotchford; Shape.com
Whatever your starting point, you can build more grit anytime. "When properly exercised and trained, grit can be strengthened just like a muscle," Stoltz says. Try these six key strategies to help fortify yours.
1. Find a goal that you're truly passionate about.
2. Be clear about What you want.
3. Surround yourself with gritty people.
4. Give yourself permission to fail.
5. See setbacks as opportunities.
6. Define yourself as someone who doesn't give up.
What an awesome focus for our athletes as they head into a busy schedule of summer tournaments and league games!
One of our most obvious goals at 360U Softball is to improve our athlete's physical abilities on the diamond. We spend hours breaking down film, sharpening up mechanics, adjusting swings, blocking and framing, hitting location on pitches, etc. etc. We know that in order to achieve a high level success, you need to have sound (notice, we didn't say "perfect") mechanics.
That being said, we know that this type of training is just simply not enough. We could never expect to hit, field, catch or pitch with an athlete for 30 or 60 minutes and send them on their way to their next game because as their instructor, we would be failing them. We always knew the value in mental training, hence our business name 360U Softball - implying comprehensive, 360 degree development. However, after over 2 years in business with thousands of hours spent instructing, we have a much deeper appreciation for just how much time and energy mental training deserves.
When we spoke with our girls about MENTAL TOUGHNESS this week, we were reminded of just how many challenges and adverse situations these girls face in most, if not all, of their practices, game and tournaments! In this sport, it is very unlikely that you will play an entire game without being faced with some sort of adversity. Our athletes gave example of situations they've found themselves in this summer that they said were difficult to deal with -- everything from being in 2 strike counts, to feeling pressure from coaches/parents, to being up to bat with runners in scoring position near the end of a game. THIS is real. They are no longer in a controlled environment like they are with us, or at practice. Our job is to prepare them and EMPOWER them to respond well in these types of situations. We would love to be there with them during every game to guide them through these "pinches" they face, but in reality, our ultimate goal is to give THEM the tools to be mentally tough, resilient and confident enough to handle them on their own!
Every athlete who left our facility this week came up with their own, unique MENTALLY TOUGH phrase/approach to take with them and use the next time they come up against any type of adversity, small or large. Once they begin practicing how to respond correctly to adverse situations, they will start doing it without even thinking and it will become their natural response. What sets apart the very best softball athletes from very good softball athletes is their ability to stay mentally tough through the unavoidable adversity that the sport itself presents.
If we as their instructors, parents, and coaches can help them start to celebrate their positive response to failure, they will know how to recover quicker, stronger and more confident the next time they come up against that same challenge.
Is your athlete truly passionate about the sport of softball? Do they LOVE jumping in the car to head to practice? Do they smile, laugh and enjoy the time with their teammates? Do they live for the next at-bat, or is the pressure we put on them stripping the fun out of the game for them?
I can relate. I have had times in my life where all I wanted was my next at bat, and for the next game to finally be 'today'. If I wasn't at practice or games, I was playing pick up whiffle ball in the neighborhood where wins and loses meant JUST as much as any league game. I also very clearly remember days where I absolutely dreaded getting dropped off for practice because I was too afraid to make a mistake, or felt like I wasn't as good as the others. I dreaded the embarrassment of not knowing how to do something, or seeing my name as a back up....again.
Thankfully, I didn't totally resent the sport by the time I was 13 so I decided to try out for the high school softball team (with some encouragement from my family). Turns out, I wasn't as bad as everyone always told me I was and I ended up starting on Varsity for 4 years, and continuing my career at Wisconsin for another 4 years. I am SO grateful my parents knew how to cultivate a passion for competing and playing the sport I loved so much, enough to help me withstand the difficult times. Without them, there was no chance I would have given the sport another chance.
You can't teach passion, but you can take it away. Don't tell them their batting average, they don't care unless you do. Don't analyze every pitch after games with them on the car ride home. DO buy them ice cream after loses. DO celebrate their failures. And DO continue to say what they need to hear after games, you can never go wrong with positivity. After all, it's still a game and if we can keep it that way these girls will continue to play the game with passion the way it's meant to be played.
We kicked off summer with our "Word of the Week" being GRATITUDE. We wanted to take time to remind our athletes just how lucky we are to be able to compete and grow in the sport we love! If we all begin to encourage our girls to play from a place of gratitude -- rather than expectation, pressure and entitlement -- we can begin to renew their true love for the game. This will help them see the big picture and give them the freedom to let go of their fears, and just simply PLAY!
The girls responded incredibly well to this message, and were able to quickly identify the people and opportunities they feel gratitude towards in their lives. When athletes were asked what they are grateful for, we had answers from "the ability to play softball," to "coaches and teammates who stick with me," even some as simple as "a safe home and shelter."
We then applied the concept in a different way that can relate to our mental game. Our instructors and athletes discussed how having this "attitude of gratitude" can help us persevere through times of struggle or adversity in our game by being thankful for each weakness or flaw that is exposed. Without that failure, we would literally never learn how to grow or progress along in our journey. We are conditioned to view difficult situations (such as a slump or mechanical flaw) with frustration and panic, and we tend to lose the foresight and patience to understand that success is NOT a straight line to the top, but rather an upward slope with lots of peaks and valleys. Having the perspective to find those moments to be thankful can make the difference between our athletes giving up, or pushing through whatever challenge they're facing.
Our #be360U challenge was to find a coach or teammate and express gratitude to them in some way. A hand written note, a phone call, or better yet a face-to-face 'thank you'!
THE NEXT SENTENCE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT SENTENCE YOU’LL READ IN THIS BLOG. The response of an athlete to a good or bad outcome WILL DICTATE their future as an athlete.
If you’ve had the chance to watch the most elite softball players in the country playing in the D1 NCAA Tournament over the last few weeks, you’ll notice something striking; they NEVER show negative emotion. A pitcher will give up 6 runs in an inning, and their body language and demeanor remain poised and controlled. A hitter will strike out for the third time during the game, and she’ll hustle back to the dugout, with a pit-stop to tell her on deck hitter what pitches to look for. On the contrast, when a hitter leads off the inning with a gap shot double, she can’t control her excitement, jumping for joy at 2nd base engaging her teammates and igniting the momentum of the game for her team. She isn’t just going thru the motions, she truly is pumped that she put her team in a position for success.
How many athletes that you’ve seen in any sport control emotions in this way? The top tier athletes do, and that is no coincidence. So how do we get our athletes to do this now at the youth and high school level? Well that is easy, we start celebrating success as coaches, parents, and of course as athletes rather than continuously focus on an athletes’ weakness.
When we are finishing up instruction with our athletes, we ask them what they did awesome, and what they want to work on. If it’s an athletes first time with us, 99% of the time they start their sentence, “What I need to work on is…”. We stop them right there in the middle of their sentence and make them restart the sentence repeating after us, “What I did awesome is…”. Then they will try to replace the word awesome with “good” or “okay”. We stop them again and make them repeat after us, “What I did awesome is…”. At this point they let out a big smile and timidly tell us, emphasizing the word awesome, what they did good during the session.
For some reason today, athletes expect people, (especially coaches and parents) to want to know what they did bad first, or what they need to improve on. This tell us two things...#1 These athletes put an enormous amount of pressure on themselves to please the people close to them if they’d rather focus on something that makes them feel bad versus good. #2 Somewhere down the line these athletes have been conditioned by those close to them to feel that they want to know the negative before the positive. Don’t get us wrong, it is critical for athletes to be able to identify their weaknesses and figure out how to improve them. That is the name of the game, figuring out how to get better. The concerning thing we have seen from this response is that athletes are focusing most of their energy and emotion on their weaknesses, which ultimately wears on their confidence and pulls from their strengths!
If you are a coach or parent, think about this question. How often does an athlete smile, or do a fist pump during batting practice in the cage after they hit a hard ball or make a great adjustment? We know from our experience that when an athlete rolls over on a ball and hits a weak grounder, they reset for the next pitch focused on making a change. They do this 3 more times before smashing a ball up the middle, and instead of smiling and showing any excitement, we often see a sigh with a little bubble caption over their head “ugh, finally”. As coaches, parents and influencers, situations like these are PRIME examples of opportunities to change the process around how our athletes own and experience success!
Ultimately, our goal at 360U is to empower athletes to be successful beyond their softball careers, because lets be realistic, these careers will be a small portion of their lives. We focus our energies on helping our athletes embrace their strengths while being mindful of their weaknesses. We have stations where our athletes write down what makes them an awesome, unique person. They have stations where they write down how they make other people better, and why they are good teammates. As coaches, parents, influencers and athletes, it’s time we make the shift to empowering ourselves and our athletes to own and celebrate success rather than simply expecting it.
Words that we wish would be banned from the vocabulary of girls. Here's why.
So far in 2018, we've had just shy of 85 first-time 360U softball athletes walk through our doors at The U for hitting sessions. From Stevens Point, through the Fox Cities, down to Brookfield and everywhere in between, we've been so impressed by the talent, skill-level and character of the young girls we've been working with the last few months. They speak well in front of groups, they are incredibly coach-able, and they radiate the most contagious, genuine energy of any group of people we've ever been around. Our 360U Team raves about how fun work is and how it's impossible not to leave happier than when we arrived. You parents must be doing something right!
We started a new practice with our first-time 360U athletes that has revealed a very interesting pattern to us. Before an athlete gets to her 'live hitting' station in the batting cage with an instructor, we talk to them one-on-one and say, "Tell me your greatest strength in softball" Then we wait for their response...and wait...and wait. Then finally, they quietly respond with one of the following: "Uhh. I don't know. Hmm. I'm not sure?"
All of the sudden, that same dynamic, smiley girl we described above starts shrinking right there in front of us. We watch it happen before our eyes - their body language and facial expression drop and we can see them wrestling with this simple question. We're not talking about a handful of girls answering like this, we're honestly talking like 85-90% of them. That is a shocking number! We couldn't believe when girl after girl would answer the exact same way! We've almost begun to assume that their answer will be somewhere along the lines of "I'm not really sure?" Or, if they do give us an answer, it will be followed with "I guess", "I think", "maybe" or "kind of."
If they have trouble articulating what they are confident about or why they should believe in themselves, how can we expect them to step into the batter's box against a live pitcher in a game and experience any success at all? BUT, as their women instructors we can definitely relate - we've been there before too. In sports, work and life we've found ourselves having the same self-doubt and trouble speaking about our strengths without worrying about coming across as "arrogant" or "cocky". It's something we've realized we need work on, too.
We see this pattern as a huge red flag; however, we also see this as an incredible opportunity and responsibility. We need to start giving these girls permission to talk openly about their strengths, their talents, and why they're proud of themselves. We need to tell them it's okay to be 'really good' at something and help them figure out what those things are! Let them know when they do something awesome, or when they've made progress. They know their weaknesses, believe us. To them, it seems as though everyone is always pointing those out. And quite frankly, that's the easy thing to do as an adult when they're young, learning the game and making obvious mistakes - that's why so many people do it.
But just try this. Be someone who relentlessly helps them find the positive and you WILL see a shift in their confidence, approach, and results!
We kicked off small business week a bit early by attending an all-expenses paid business trip to Reno, NV for the 2018 American Small Business Championship Training and Networking Event - huge thanks to SCORE, Sam's Club, and our supportive 360U family! The event was at the Atlantis Casino and Resort with 102 other #bizchampion start-ups from around the country (and no, sadly we didn't win any jackpots in case you were wondering...but we did give it a shot). We spent 2 full days networking, training and collaborating with other entrepreneurs from around the country, and learning from some of the industry's best in digital marketing, human resources, legal advising, public relations, team management and much more. We left with SO many new ideas and we can't wait to get the (soft)ball rolling on some of them!
On Wednesday, we cleared our evening calendar to attend the SBA Celebrate Small Business dinner with our favorite SCORE mentor Jim and other local small business owners and area entrepreneurs! Five area businesses were honored as "Success Stories" for their growth and excellence in their company and in their community. Talk about an amazing local community we live in here in the Fox Cities! We feel so supported, motivated and encouraged by this group of smart and talented neighbors. We connected with a few other women entrepreneurs, family businesses and even had the opportunity to meet Wisconsin Senator Robert Cowles who attended the event.
Thursday started with an early morning, sister's brainstorming breakfast/coffee at the Copper Rock Cafe on College Avenue before we attended the Fox Cities SCORE Chapter meeting at the Fox Cities Chamber office in Appleton. We met a number of the SCORE mentor volunteers (a very talented business-minded group of individuals) and presented to them on our latest 360U business plans.
If you would have asked us 5 years ago if we would be celebrating National Small Business Week the way we are now in 2018, we may not have been so sure. This week has taken on such a new meaning for us in our 3rd year of business with 360U Softball. We are learning that what we do is SO much bigger than ourselves. Through a lot of learning, networking and growing these past 2 weeks -- we continue to come back to one, very distinct fact: the reason we do what we do is 100% for the athletes we work with and the passion we feel towards making a difference in the lives of these young women we're blessed to encounter. One swing at a time.
#femaleentrepreneur #startups #freementoring #business #consulting #businessconsultant #freebusinessadvice #womeninbiz #entrpreneurlife #doit #supportlocal #sba #smallbusinessweek #girlsinsports #womenempowerment #womensupportingwomen
‘YES’ people empower.
‘YES’ people encourage.
‘YES’ people teach.
‘YES’ people build on your strengths.
‘YES’ people hold you accountable.
‘YES’ people are process-oriented.
‘YES’ people challenge you to be better than you were the day before.
‘NO’ people direct.
‘NO’ people degrade.
‘NO’ people react.
‘NO’ people unconstructively criticize.
‘NO’ people do things for the wrong reasons.
‘NO’ people are results-oriented.
‘NO’ people expect perfection, rather than someone’s very best.
There’s probably a few people that pop into your head when you think about these two types of people. We’ve all experienced YES and NO people – in life, work, sports, school – everywhere.
I encountered plenty of NO people in my sports career early on. I vividly remember sitting on the bench (where I spent most of my time) during the first summer playing travel ball around age 12 or 13, which was uncommonly late to be joining that party. I was pretty good. I played rec league and was better than average. Like any KID, I was figuring things out. I didn’t have all the pieces put together, not even close. I was athletic, positive, hardworking and LEARNING the game. I heard a lot of indirect NO’s during that developmental stage, like checking the line-up card to find a lot of 7, 8 and 9's (offensively and defensively) next to my name. One tournament I exclusively pinch ran.
At that point, I had enough of the NO people convincing me I wasn’t supposed to be there. I truly believed I wasn’t as good as the other kids, and it made me hate the sport for a long time.
Luckily, I was surrounded by YES people at home. My parents, amazing. My unconditional YES people (besides when it came to PG-13 movies, owning a cell phone and boy/girl parties - but now I’m starting to think they were probably onto something with those parenting decisions!) My sisters and brother, total YES people. My eventual college coach at Wisconsin, one of the best YES people in my life still today.
The only real thing separating me from any other kid wasn’t how good I actually was, it was how good I thought I was.
How true is this for so many kids today?
The kids we work with are unbelievably talented. It’s amazing what a kid can do with a bat these days. Seriously, you go try to do it. We see a sickening number of kids each week who’s perception of their talent level comes from what they’re hearing from someone else (directly or indirectly) – a coach, parent, teammate, whoever. That perception of themselves is directly correlated to their confidence and self-esteem. which is then the determining factor of the success or failure they experience in games. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s something that’s a real problem in youth sports today.
This idea that we can determine the best kid from the worst kid at any age between 8-14 is ridiculous. Yes, there are kids who are more naturally gifted than others, we get that. But aren’t we, as their coaches, parents and instructors, supposed to be empowering all of them with the correct tools, skills and confidence so they all have a fighting chance? If not, we need to review those job descriptions.
When you’re lucky enough to find yourself having an opportunity to influence our youth, especially through sports, be their YES person.
Negativity kills, expecting perfection is poison, screaming is demoralizing, playing only to “win” rather than to “develop” is backwards.
We are 100% about holding kids accountable, we live by that at 360U. That’s called tough love and it comes from a place of genuine care for our athletes to grow into the best-version-of-themselves. Standards are great, as long as they’re built around attitude and effort – two completely controllable traits. If the young athletes we all work with aren’t confident, that’s a reflection of US - not them.
Now, this is not meant to be passive aggressively ‘shared’ around to point fingers at people you believe to fall into the ‘NO people’ category. It’s to remind all of us to take a look in the mirror and make sure we’re being the best YES people we can be for others – for our kids, families, friends, co-workers, etc. It also reminds us to surround ourselves with YES people. Surround your kids with YES people.
We see an incredible amount of YES parents, coaches and adults every day and are so inspired by how they treat the people and kids around them. These YES people are the majority and are exactly who today’s youth sports need more of.
Take some time to thank your YES person, and try your best to be a YES person for someone else. Softball is a drop in the bucket, we’re talking life here.
As your daughters journey along their softball careers, please help them keep perspective of what's really important.
Wins and losses? Sure, those mattered....then. Batting average? Hasn't helped us much since we've graduated. The game ending strikeouts, dropped flyballs, or routine groundballs right through the legs? Terrifying at the time (yes, we cried too) but now slightly humorous...well, kind of anyways 😉
Are those things important at the time? Yes. As athletes, we work our butts off to compete, to get better, and to win for each other. But do they define you for the rest of your life? Absolutely not.
Each of our 20+ teammates and the millions of memories we've made during our athletic careers at Wisconsin and Stevens Point are 100% the most cherished stat we are left with -- the bus rides, the thousands of hours at practices together, early morning lifts, volunteering at the children's hospital, team dinners, late night ice cream runs, hotels, black eyes and bruises, roadtrips, Saturday football games, the hard times and the relationship problems -- the list goes on foreverrrrrr.
These are the memories that follow us into adulthood and life after softball. Now, spanned across the country, we stick by each other's side through long distance friendships, group chats, and reunions not because we hit .300, had 1.000 fielding percentages or stole a certain number of bases, but because of the support system we built by getting through LIFE together.
Make sure you stop every now and again to remember what this GAME is really about, and help your athletes do that too.
Time flies, right? Days fly by, weeks fly by, years fly by. Suddenly you're looking back at your life wondering where did the time go. I wish I would have spent more time studying. I wish I would have spent more time with my kids. I wish I would have visited my grandparents more often. I wish I would have found more time for prayer. I wish I would have pushed myself to be a better player, took more swings. Why do we have all these wishes? Why does our life seem to be dictated by things that we don't necessarily value. It's not a simple question, and there is not a simple answer.
As I think back to when I was little, I don't remember having so many wishes. My priorities were so much clearer. Faith, family and friends. Get my homework done, try not to get grounded, and play with my brother and sisters and friends in the neighborhood.
As I've gotten older, and especially recently, I've found that it's been very easy, inevitable really, to get pulled in different directions. I have a family, a mortgage, bills for cell phones, cable, and groceries, and until recently, a demanding career. My weeks and months have been flying by. The only time I slowed down enough to notice the passing time was when I'd pack up my son's clothes as he grew out of them. Packing up newborn, then 3 month then 6 month outfits, amazed at how fast Will's grown.
The things that are most important to me, spending time with family, focusing on my faith, and being a good friend were definitely on my radar, but amidst many other things. It was time to TAKE BACK THE CLOCK. Rearrange my radar.
I am now a stay home mom, have started a business with my family to give back to kids and help them develop their softball skills, more importantly their life skills, and have focused on finding more time for faith. For myself, these three fundamental things encourage the best version of me.
I know that when I grow older, I'll still look back at my life and wish that I would have done certain things differently. But for now, I am going to focus on spending my minutes carefully and enjoying them slowly and often.
Maria Van Abel & Laura Beyer
When we started 360U Softball in 2016, our goal was to help softball players get better. We found a lot of athletes needing instruction, and wanted to help them bridge the gap between where they were, and where they wanted to be as softball players. VERY quickly, we found that the grand opportunity in front of us was not just to teach mechanics to these young women, but FAR more importantly, to help them understand how truly amazing each and every one of them are and to find their best self.