Arguably the most famous softball player in the world, Jennie Finch knows about success. Among her achievements: two Olympic medals (Gold in 2004, Silver in 2008), the NCAA record for most consecutive wins and "The Most Outstanding Player" Award at the 2001 Women's World Series Championship (her team took first place).
STACK recently spoke with Finch, who shared some of the things that shaped her game and motivated her to win. No matter what game you play, you'll be able to profit from her tips for sports success.
Love Your Game
"I discovered winning on the softball field, and I fell in love with it and never looked back," says Finch.
To be the best at your sport, you really have to enjoy it. As a serious athlete, you devote hours to training individually and with your team. If you dread workouts and time spent on the field, you won't put maximum effort into your game. Finch says you should always remember the reason you play—hopefully because you love it—and have fun with your sport.
Finch's strengths as a softball pitcher include control, speed and diversity. "My dad always told me I couldn't have a go-to pitch," Finch explains. "If I had a go-to pitch, then everyone would know when it was coming."
Instead, she developed five different pitches. She says, "Sometimes one pitch would be better, or sometimes it depended on what the umpire was calling. My game plan going in was always kind of to stretch [my pitch seletion] as much as I could. And don't throw a strike if you don't have to!"
Have a Strong Support System
"My dad was my backbone throughout my career," Finch says. "He was the one who spent the hours on the bucket catching my pitches."
A strong support system—whether with family members, friends, teammates or coaches—will push you to keep going even when you're spent. Find people who will make you face your fears and challenge you, not someone who tells you to take it easy.
Be Mentally Tough
Another key to success is believing in yourself. Low self-esteem and lack of confidence will make you doubt your every move. Finch found that battling her doubts and fears improved her performance. "No matter how many times you play, those doubts and fears are going to be there," she says. "Get them out of your head and let them go each time. Believe in yourself, don't let anyone take anything away from you. You only have to prove yourself for you."
Learn From Challenges
"My biggest defeats were some of my greatest life lessons," declares Finch. "It was learning from the situation and turning heartbreaks and frustrations into determination. There will always be a hurdle, but focus on turning negative energy into positive."
So you flub a ground ball or strike out swinging. Instead of dwelling on your mistake, move forward and seek immediate improvement by focusing on doing it better the next time.
Trust Your Preparation
You've spent hundreds of hours training. You've put in the time. Now, believe that you will succeed. Finch: "I remember taking the field for the first time in the Olympics. It was the opening game against Italy, and I had to just keep telling myself, 'This is the same game you've been playing since you were five. You got this. Your teammates and coaches are all behind you...Just take it one pitch at a time.'"
Although Finch's tips may not set you up for Olympic Gold, she guarantees that incorporating them into your training will help your game.