Mental Toughness Drills for Softball
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Coaches want softball players who will compete hard and do their best when the game is on the line. Good players want to field the ball in the late innings; they welcome the opportunity to make a game-deciding play. The same is true for the best hitters. Players who want to be responsible when the game can be won or lost have the mental toughness that coaches, teammates and fans want to see.
Line the infielders up at their positions. You will hit grounders around the horn, as you would in a normal infield drill. However, at a certain point in the drill, you will hit five consecutive hard ground balls to one infielder. He must make five consecutive complete plays, without dropping the ball or throwing it away. If he can make all five plays, you move on and hit ground balls to other infielders. If he makes an error, all infielders have to run two laps around the bases. The fielder is responsible for making everyone run -- or not. This creates pressure to perform and builds mental toughness.
Hitters who come to bat in clutch situations want to hit the ball hard. The key to making consistent contact, for many hitters, is going with the pitch. That means pulling inside pitches, hitting pitches over the plate to center and driving the outside pitch to the opposite field. In this drill, the hitter needs to make hard contact on 10 consecutive swings. When a hitter is successful at hitting line drives consistently, she will come up to the plate with the confidence and mental toughness needed to get a clutch hit.
In this drill, the coach will call the outfield spot where the ball needs to be hit. This is different than hitting the ball where it's pitched. The coach may sense weakness in a particular opposing fielder and will want the ball hit to that area. As the pitcher winds up, the coach will call right, center or left and the hitter must deliver. The hitter should be able to hit the ball to the called field on seven of every 10 swings.
Line up six fielders and space them equally from home plate to the foul pole in left field. Do the same thing down the right field side. Each player standing at home plate gets a ball. On your signal, the first player in line throws the ball to the second player, who must catch it cleanly, turn properly and throw to the next person in line. Continue in this manner until the player at the far end of the relay has caught the ball and then return the ball back down the line. The first team to get the ball back to the catcher wins. If a ball is dropped or hits the ground, the team must start the relay drill over again.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.