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: What do you think is the most important part of being a mentally strong female softball player?
Amanda Scarborough: I believe the most important part of being a mentally strong female softball player is the environment she is surrounded by. There is not one key to being mentally strong. It comes from outside forces around the player, like teammates, parents, coaches or friends, and enables that player to thrive.
Becoming mentally strong doesn't happen overnight. Being mentally strong is a feeling that is created from the time the very first ball is thrown, and a player is surrounded by positive, calm influences all around the game. If you have positive forces around you, then you will be more likely to succeed and be confident in your talent and skills.
MM: How do you train a girl to feel good about herself and gain confidence as a person before she worries about her performance on the diamond?
AS: When girls come to me for lessons, I create a trusting relationship with them and in our time spent together. I want them to feel empowered to communicate to me on their own and form an environment where they feel it's a safe place. That communication piece is so important, because we all want to have a voice and have some say in things. People who are confident are more likely to communicate effectively. Every day I see a player, their emotions are going to be different, and it's important to pick up on those emotions and know when it's a good day to push the player a little more, and when it's a day where they might need a little more encouragement. If a girl does not feel good, she is not going to perform to her highest capability. It's my job as a softball player to figure out how to get them to feel the very best about themselves that they possibly can.
MM: How important is feeling good to play good vs. the mechanical aspects of the game?
AS: When a young player first starts learning the game, until about 14 to 15, I'd say 80 percent of the focus is on the mechanical parts of the game and 20 percent is on the mental side. Your brain and body are still learning mechanics and giving more focus to muscle memory at this time. Once high school hits, the body has that comfortable muscle memory and you start to think about the mental side of the game. It's at this time when it's most important to surround yourself with a positive atmosphere, where girls can play happy and find a place where they feel beautiful and have the confidence that they can be great.
MM: What's the difference between mental toughness and feeling good to play good? Are they one in the same or completely different?
AS: Mental toughness and feeling good to play good are different in my opinion. Mental toughness comes into play when a game is on the line and you can stay calm and focused when all of the pressure is on your back. Feeling good to play good deals with the general feeling you get about the game itself. If a feel good to play good atmosphere is not created, then it will be more challenging for a player to be mentally tough in clutch situations.
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