If you ask what is the single biggest factor between kids who get athletic scholarships to a school in one of the Big 5 conferences and those who don’t or who had the life skills to take advantage of their time at the Big 5 school verses those who didn’t I would say has nothing to do with softball skills. Instead, it has everything to do with their athletic self-image or as I like to call it, it’s about having a champion mindset.
Developing a champion mindset includes improving self-image, knowing how to set and achieve goals, using the power of visualization and developing some mental toughness through intentional learned habits.
Coaches and parents can often be heard saying to their student athlete, “compete.” Which is fair to say, however, I read a study that basically concluded that when competition is used as a means of creating a self-image relative to others that the worst in a person tends to come out; then ordinary fears and frustrations become greatly exaggerated. It went on to say that when a student athlete is secretly afraid that playing badly or losing a game may be taken to mean that they are less of a person, naturally that person is going to be more upset with themselves for messing up. There would be no problem with competition if one’s self-image was not at stake.
I have coached many kids from 12 to 18-year-olds who were caught up in the belief that their self-worth depended on how well they performed. For them, playing well and winning are often life-and-death issues. They are constantly measuring themselves in comparison with their friends and teammates. It is as if some believe that only by being the best, only by being a winner, will they be eligible for love and respect they seek. Many parents, foster this belief in their children. Yet in the process of learning to measure our value per our abilities and achievements, the true and the measureless value of everyone is ignored.
Children who have been taught to measure themselves in this way often become adults driven by compulsion to succeed which overshadows all else. The sad thing about this belief is not that they will fail to find the success they seek, but that they will not discover the love or even the self-respect they were led to believe will come with it.
What we ultimately find with those who were taught to have a single-minded pursuit of measurable success is the sad neglect of other human potentialities. Some never find the time or inclination to appreciate those things in life that truly matter like the beauty of nature, or worse, they fail to express their deepest feelings and thoughts to a loved one, or to wonder about the ultimate purpose of their existence.
If you can’t spend money on helping your student athlete develop a true champions mindset like you do on a hitting lesson, then at least spend some time on it.