What does it take to jump off the page? To get a star penciled in next to your name at tryouts or practice? To be someone that coaches just need to find a way to get in the line-up?
Obviously, it takes a great deal of athletic ability, but at 360U we argue that there is much more than skill alone that determines what makes an athlete stand out. That's the reason we spend so much time on training our athletes on the mental side of the game, helping them develop the intangible skills to reach their full potential on the diamond (and in life!)
Coach Maria here! Being a walk-on at a Division I program at Wisconsin, I was surrounded by some of the best softball players in the country and I knew I had to do something different. Pure skill alone wasn’t going to get me on the field, because by comparison the others on my team had far more experience in the sport than I did. At that point, I realized that just showing up was not going to get me anywhere.
Here are the biggest takeaways I learned that helped me earn a scholarship and start for my 4 years at UW, all while preparing me for life after sports!
Be early and stay late. Be the one who shows up first to practice. Get thing set up. Hop on a tee. Get your glove work in. Grab a teammate who is struggling and hit groundballs or fly balls to them. There is ALWAYS a way to get better. Don’t always be the first person to take your cleats off and pack up your bag. Instead, grab a rake. Put things away. Get some more reps in. Extra preparation done on your own time works wonders for your confidence and approach!
Get dirty. Dive for balls. Slide into bases. Take pride in being gritty and tough. We’ve all played with teammates whose sense of entitlement gives them an “out” to these small acts of effort. A few scrapes, sore muscles and raspberries are battle scars that are well-deserved and a reminder to you that you can do really hard things. I’ll never be able to get the permanent “sliding” scar on my knee to go away – and I would never want to! It’s a cool reminder to me still today.
Put others first, and be a mentor. It won’t go unnoticed! If you think that you’re on an island and that only your statistics and success matters – you’re missing the point! But we’ve all been there and have gotten wrapped up in our own success and numbers, instead of the success of the team. It causes stress, anxiety and sucks the fun out of the game. So instead, spend time with the new girl on the team who is struggling. Help the freshman with the hitting/pitching signs. Go out of your way to do something for someone else and you’ll stop focusing so much on your own weaknesses, shortcomings, and insecurities. It’s empowering to yourself AND others! That’s one of those life-lessons you’ll thank sports for when you move on to the next chapter of life.
Own your confidence. When you make a mistake – own it. When you do something great – own it. Learn from it and let it make you better. Be sure to note the difference between arrogance and confidence and work on having the self-awareness to know how others perceive you. This is SO important in your role as a leader or team captain. If you do point #3 above, no one will ever mistake your confidence for arrogance and people will strive to follow your lead.
And through all of these things, hold your head high and remember the highs aren’t so high and the lows aren’t so low. Remind yourself that you are capable of so much more than you think! Prioritize these 4 reminders and your coaches will notice the extra effort you're putting in, and your teammates will respect you as a leader on a whole new level!