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'!
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.