It was another record-breaking year for the Women’s College World Series on the field and in the stands! Record wins, record attendance and new individual records set all while amazing athletes showed their best on the field, on the mound and at the plate. GOOD STUFF!
As with any championship, there are lessons to be learned as we watch the best in the sport through trials and triumphs. Below are a few things that caught my attention as I soaked up every pitch possible…to the point that I hid my eyes and ears from all results until had time to watch the final out of every game!
Observation #1: Routines reign supreme!
I bet most of you didn’t time the pitchers between pitches or count the number of times athletes made certain movements, but I found it fascinating to watch the precision with which so many of the top players in the WCWS performed their pre-performance routines.
I started timing Rachel Garcia's routine last year as she worked through the tournament. Sometimes things went her way. Sometimes they didn’t. But what didn’t vary much was what she did before she pitched or stepped into the box.
Why do routines matter?
Because they create certainty in uncertain conditions. And sport is wrought with uncertainty.
As Dr. Amber Selking says in her book, Winning the Mental Game: The Playbook for Building Championship Mindsets, “Routines lead to habits, habits lead to consistency and consistency leads to excellence.”
No matter what the situation, so many of the athletes we watched over the past few weeks walked to the plate THE SAME WAY…with the same cadence… the same composure…with the same look of comfort (we have no idea what was going on inside, but that is part of the point as well). They controlled the parts of the game they could and prepared with consistency for those they could not!
Going back to the 4-step performance cycle (Click HERE for the infographic), we control our approach which sets us up for our action. Then comes the result (which we don’t control) which elicits our response (which we do control).
In talking with a dear friend last night who argued in front of the Ohio Supreme Court 20+ times in his illustrious legal career, he used his pre-argument routine for another reason.
Each time he walked to the lectern to present his case, he stopped by the plaintiff’s table and shook his hand.
Why shake hands with the opponent?
“To see if he was sweating and to stand next to him to get in his head,” he said. “Finally, to make an impression on the court before the proceedings began.”
He was setting the tone and gathering information during his approach…which helped him adjust his action if needed!
As Plato said centuries ago, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” Our approach sets off the entire sequence of our performance!
Observation #2: We should add a smile to our routine!
Did you notice FSU outfielder Kaley Mudge’s pre-hitting routine? It ended with a smile EVERY TIME! Kat Sandercock added a smile a lot, too!
Smiling releases neuropeptides into your brain. Neuropeptides help fend off stress! Add to that a cascade of other feel-good neurotransmitters like endorphins (a mild pain reliever), serotonin (a natural antidepressant) and dopamine (known as the molecule of more) and you have set yourself up to face whatever comes your way!
Not enough for you? There’s more!
In a 2009 study published in the journal, Psychological Science, Abel and Kruger analyzed the smiles of MLB baseball cards from 1952. They found that those with no smiles lived an average of 72.9 years, those with partial smiles lived an average of 75 years and those with a Duchene smile, an authentic, deep and seemingly spontaneous smile showing deep positive emotion, lived an average of 79.9 years! SEVEN YEARS LONGER!
Not only are the FSU players helping themselves in the fend for the moment, they are filling themselves with a natural cocktail of longevity and performance-enhancing molecules. GOOD STUFF!
Observation #3: It’s okay to get really pissed, so long as you “mind the gap”!
In game one of the championship series, the dreaded illegal pitch calls came out once again. This is such an unfortunate thing for the pitcher in the circle in the biggest game of her life. All season long, no calls. On the biggest stage in the game, here we go…
FSU’s coach, Lonni Alameda was not amused. After the first call, she approached the umpire with the smile her athletes used to prepare themselves to attack. I was impressed!
The second time. Not so much!
She was pissed…and rightfully so! I could read her lips and it wasn’t pretty.
Then I was impressed again. We have talked before about THE GAP, that time between frustration or excitement that takes us away from our center and the time it takes to get us back.
Lonni is a champion in so many ways and this is just another way to add to the list.
She went nuts. She stated her case (she needed to!). And she got back to work. She was “minding the gap!”
I have no idea what was going on inside her head, but what I saw…more importantly, what her team saw was their coach back at work, doing what she does best, setting her pitchers up for success.
She wasn’t throwing things in the dugout. She wasn’t complaining to her assistants. She wasn’t yelling out to the field to share new levels of her dismay (granted, she was given a warning, but that hasn’t stopped other well-meaning coaches in the past).
She went to what was important NOW! Impressive. Again, all of this was happening in the biggest game of the year! This means she has good habits since we fall back on them in times of stress!
Hats off to you, Coach!
If you don’t follow college softball, you should! If you don’t watch championships in any sport, you should. Success leaves clues…for all of us and so many of them are transferable to all walks of life.
Congrats to Oklahoma and all the amazing athletes who participated in championships this season! Watching greatness inspires us all to be better!
So do routines, smiles and minding the gap!
Manage the moments!
P.S. My schedule 2023-24 schedule is filling quickly. Contact me today at email@example.com or call/text 234-206-0946 and let’s put together a plan for your program!
Mental Performance Coach
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