So often we are distracted at a time that we really need to focus. This is how mistakes are made. Losing focus or the mind wandering in a crucial moment can lead to errors in most everything in life. Same applies in your softball game play. If you are not focused on the moment, being in the present, how can you expect to put the barrel on a 60 mph fastball? Or, field a sharp ground ball hit at you? Focus comes from being in the moment and having your mind only on task at hand.
To understand how to best focus in a softball game or practice you need to use your mind to help instead of being a hindrance. Your mind has thoughts of all kinds of things. There are realms of thinking that we will call "thought zones" that come into the mind.
Here are three thought zones that the mind tries to process as relating to softball play:
1) The "Did" thought zone-
Why did- ump make bad call? Why did- I bobble the ball? Why did- coach put me in the outfield?
The "Did" is based on frustration. This thought zone has the mind thinking of past mistakes or problems.
2) The "Don't" thought zone-
Hope I don't- strike out. Hope I don't- make an error. Hope I don't- embarrass myself.
The "Don't" is based on Fear. This thought zone has the mind thinking of future outcomes.
3) The "Do" thought zone-
Focus on doing- making plays. Focus on doing- making pitches. Focus on doing- hitting the ball hard.
The "Do" is based on being in the present. This thought zone has the mind thinking of being focused and in the now.
Every player, in their mind, can experience all three thought zones and that is perfectly normal. The problem comes when the player is in 2 or 3 thought zones at one time when they need to be alert to make a softball play (hit or field a ball). Your mind wavering in the thought zones causes the mind to be distracted. This can be a giant factor for lack of success. To be successful, to hit a ball hard or make a defensive play, your mind needs to be in only one thought zone and that's the "Do" thought zone.
Ever have a coach tell you-
You're thinking too much
Don't overthink it
Basically what they are saying is- Focus on the moment. Be in the present. Get in the "Do" thought zone.
Mind wandering through multiple thought zones can become a really bad habit and negatively affect your game. Best thing is to do what you do to get better at anything- Practice! Practice at being in one thought zone- the present- the "Do" thought zone.
How to get into and stay in the present - The "Do" thought zone:
>Study the Situation- Know the count, know the game situation. Not playing, no problem. Practice by watching a softball or baseball game. Call out the game situation before each pitch as a defensive play. Say the number of Outs and where the play needs to go just like a middle infielder does.
>Breathe- Take a nice deep breath in with equal air out on exhale. This process of breathing will help to relax your muscles. And a relaxed muscle is better for quick and athletic reactions. Give yourself a mental reminder in games and practices to breathe whenever there is a moment of pause.
>Have a catch phrase- Say to yourself a catch phrase to keep or bring your mind back to being in the moment.
Good catch phrases are-
Clear the mind
Be in the Present
Get your mind right
Make up your own if you want. Whatever gets you to focus on the upcoming pitch or play. Use your catch phrase to get you locked in right before the pitch or play happens.
Don't expect to make the plays or hit the pitches with consistency unless your mind is right and focused. Work this part of the mental game just like you do for every other part of the softball game. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Get into the "Do" thought zone and make it happen.
Be well and Play Ball!