I had the opportunity to sit down with Amanda Scarborough, former two-time All-American softball pitcher from Texas A&M, who trains with us at trainfastpitch.com. Learn about her approach to the mental side of softball performance and how it can make you a better athlete.
Matt Meinrod: How important is it for a young woman to participate in a sport such as softball, then to grow as a person after her playing days are over? Is she better off than her peers who chose not to play a highly competitive and demanding team sport?
Amanda Scarborough: Team sports are an incredible way to learn life lessons and skills that will stick with you forever. Some of them include work ethic, focus, determination, competitiveness, time management and communication. This is not to say that they are better off than their peers who chose not to play a team sport; however, it does say there is a great deal of experience gained with these skills during team sports.
MM: We've all heard the expression, "look good, feel good, play good." How does that mentality transfer to better performance on the playing field? Do your skills and mechanics still need to be prioritized over appearance?
AS: "Looking good" is an appearance, and, yes, it can have to do with the actual uniform you're wearing or how your hair looks. More importantly, "looking good" is a state of mind. It's defined by how you present yourself and your body language. In my opinion, someone who "looks good" is calm and confident on the field. This sets the stage for success.
MM: Does being surrounded by players who share your values about confidence and being in the right mental state help you as an athlete?
AS: Being surrounded by players that share these values absolutely helps improve your mental state. Players can push each other on the physical side of the game, but can also push each other on the mental side. Players should be surrounded by other players who are reinforcing that feel good, play good mentality, are aware of what they're doing, and try to get their teammates to hop on board with those same values.
MM: What role should parents play in making their daughter feel good about herself?
AS: This to me is the most critical piece in the whole "feel good" mentality. Parents have more influence on a kid mentally than they really know. Parents should be very aware of the things they are saying to their kids, their own behaviors and actions. Yes, it's important at times to push your kids, but players have to have a balance. It's important for parents to understand that softball, or any game for that matter, is one big continuum and process. Let your kid have a voice, communicate and speak her mind.
The most important time a parent has to enable or disable their kids mentally comes after the game in the car ride home. It's critical to know the proper questions to ask your player after the game and never shame her for something physically she did or did not do on the field. Questions like, "In that third at bat, did you feel like you saw the ball a little better?" are preferred over, "In that third at bat, why didn't you swing at that second strike that was right down the middle?"
A player knows when she has performed well or poorly. It's not the parents' job to point out all the flaws in her game and make her feel even worse in the car ride home. It's their job to show support and let their kid know that they are there for them no matter what.
Catch up on Part 1 of our interview with Amanda Scarborough.