by: Adam Arbour
STRIKE THREE. GAME OVER. NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!
The smiles, the emotions, the thrill of victory take over. A dog pile falls to the ground in the middle of the field and players jump on top like they are leaping into a pile of freshly raked leaves in the fall. I always feel bad for the leaves that are crumpling at the bottom of those dog piles…
The trophy is hoisted and the celebration lasts all night. A feeling that you’ll never forget and changes you in the process.
I was a coach with Alabama Softball when we won it all in the magical season of 2012. The ring is great and all, but it’s the lessons I’ve learned throughout my years coaching and playing that have impacted my life the most.
These takeaways are true life lessons that can be applied in almost any setting you find yourself.
The sooner you realize it’s not all about you, the better off you’ll be.
This is the phrase our head coach, Patrick Murphy, would start every first team meeting with. Every year you knew it was coming, and every year it’s simplicity and relevance reverberated throughout each team. It set the tone for how you were expected to act. Athletes came from across the country, being the best player in their area, and now were expected to be a part of a team that worked together. A me approach would never fly, it had to be about we.
When you trust, there is no pressure.
Sitting in a circle before a huge game, legendary coach Carol Hutchins of the University of Michigan, muttered this phrase. It has stuck with me for a decade. Trust the work you’ve put in, your preparation, your teammates, and your coaches. Trust yourself. When you’ve done all you can do, there is no sense worrying about anything else.
Control the controllables
Can you control the other team? The weather? What the umpire calls? No. So we shouldn’t waste time concerning ourselves with it. We can control our energy, our effort, and our attitude every day. We can control our preparation, our practice, and our intensity. It was our goal to put our focus on the things we could control and focus on us.
Go big or go home. No risk, no reward
There are times to be conservative, and then there are times to go for it. The best teams and leaders know when to go for it and don’t hesitate when the opportunity presents itself. In a game and in life an opportunity can be gone in the blink of an eye.
One Pitch Softball
If you find yourself thinking of the past pitch or dreaming of the next pitch, guess what? You will miss the current pitch. Playing the game one pitch at a time is the hardest part of the game. If you succeed three out of ten times, you are an impact player. It’s so tempting to spend time stressing over all those “failures”, but the truly great athletes can stay in the moment and play one pitch softball.
It comes down to fundamentals and repetition
Professional baseball players play 162 games in the regular season, NCAA softball players play 56 games in the span of 3 months or so. To play that many games at that high level, it is required to master the basics. Years and years of perfecting the little skills in the game allows you to perform them effortlessly when the bright lights are on. The little things make the big things happen.
You need to know when to be Nick Saban or Mic Potter
Anyone who follows college football knows of Nick Saban, the fiery and competitive head coach of Alabama football. Mic Potter is the quiet and often reserved head women’s golf coach at the same university. Their two approaches to motivation and energy levels couldn’t be more different, yet their success is unmatched in their respective arenas. There are positives to being competitive, in your face, and intense. There are also positives to being reserved and calm. It would benefit your team to have both ends of the spectrum represented either through different personalities or different approaches by the leader.
Mu-what? It’s a Buddhist term, which essentially means you can find joy in the happiness and achievements of another. Our athletes consistently were happier when a teammate succeeded than when they themselves did something great. Did your teammate just hit a homerun? Can you be as happy for them as if you hit the ball? That’s mudita.
The Dugout Wins Games — energy creates energy
Talent spilled over when you watched our team, but it was only when the dugout (the bench players) spilled over onto the field that we knew we were winning a ring. In the deciding game of the championship series, there was a rain delay. It was only slightly sprinkling, but the game was stopped to let the weather pass. The opposing team huddled in the dugout. Our team jumped onto the field and started cheering with their teammates and fans. Not something you see every game…The dugout created so much energy that it pushed our team to score the winning run when the game resumed. It was the players on the bench who were credited with winning that national championship. Your stars can only do so much.
Miss on talent, not on character.
This was a phrase that was used when recruiting potential student athletes. Alabama is consistently in the top 10 nationally. Do they get the best of the best? Heck yeah, but it is never at the risk of poisoning their chemistry. It is said that one bad apple spoils the whole bunch, and they never ran that risk. If you were the best player in the country, but had a horrible attitude, were selfish, and didn’t want to be a part of a family; you would have to find somewhere else to go. The teams with the best players don’t always win, but the teams with the best teammates always have a chance.