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
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.