Quiet the Noise (especially from friends)

My Daughter Madison is a 12 year old softball pitcher. She initially caught my attention as a pitcher by how composed she was when she would pitch. She had a knack for being around the plate when she first started, with little to no fundamentals at her disposal. She came to me one day when she was around 9 years old and said "Daddy can I pitch to you?" We went out to the front yard and measured out 35 feet. (Surprisingly our yard has a strip that is exactly 35 feet from the edge of our driveway (or her pitching spot, as it would be later known) to a shady area under one of our trees. (I like the shady spot a lot) We started going over the mechanics, but I mostly just let her throw. Almost everything was catchable, I really didn't have to chase many wild pitches at all. On her team we gave her a shot to pitch in her first game. I would love to tell you she just went in and "dominated"...more on that word in a bit; she did not dominate, but she did throw strikes, move the game along and no matter what, did not every get rattled or frustrated. She threw very throw, looked very raw and rough, but tasted some success. She was absolutely in love with pitching. That one day out in the front yard became an everyday, multiple times a day event with us. We wanted to learn how to get better so we began searching Youtube for pitching videos that we could implement. I was a pitcher in baseball, so I could teach her body mechanics, and the mental side, but mastering the fastpitch mechanics was going to mean I would have to learn and study too. We began a journey together that would grow a love in both of us that we didn't know we had going in. In 3 years time she has worked very hard to develop and master pitches, get stronger, get faster and just be better. She has consistently been the Ace of her teams now for a few teams. over that time though she began to develop some bad habits on the mental side that she has had to work on. If you have ever seen the movie "For Love of the Game" There is a scene in there, that has always resonated with me. In the film Kevin Costner is pitching for the Tigers at Yankee Stadium against the Yankees. The game is about to start and the crowd is extremely loud, there is so much going on. He peers into his catcher and says "Clear the mechanism" When he does everything else just fades away, the noise goes quiet, and he is able to focus on just what he needs to do. When I pitched (though I didn't realize it at the time) I was able to tune out everything else and it was only me and my catcher. I truly believe that skill was what allowed me to be successful as a pitcher. Madison when she first started pitching, was able to do that without thinking. As she started to develop relationships in the game, she began to open up and reveal more of herself to her friends. She has also developed what I will call an "Oh Really" attitude, there is a more colorful way to put it but she is 12. Her competitive nature has caused her to let in a bit of the noise so she can use it as fire and motivation. If you have been to a softball tournament you have no doubt heard the cheers. Now on my teams we do not cheer against the other teams. We do not call out any players and never bash the other team or cheer in way that would be disrespectful. I don't control the other teams though. A few teams have tried to call her out in cheers and the "Oh Really" competitive fire was born. The first time I noticed it, they called her out, I saw her eyes turn slightly in their direction. Her calm demeanor shifted to a much more focused and somewhat agitated state. she quickly got on the rubber and got her sign. The next few minutes were not kind to the opposing team, however she did put them out of their misery quite quickly. The first pitch she threw had a little extra on it. A fastball on the inside corner that the girl in the box wanted nothing to do with. Her look back at her teammates of what the heck did you guys just do, was quite precious. The next fastball, the girl jumped out of the box before the ball got there Strike 2. Followed by a swinging Strike 3 on the outside corner. (The girl wa not in the batter's box when she swung) The next 2 hitters were nearly identical except they did not swing at all, just stood up there in fear. After the 3rd batter our catcher threw the ball back to Madi who got the ball and with a flick of her glove dropped the ball in the circle like a Mic drop. While walking off the mound, she gave a slight glance in the teams direction. Once she had that fire I knew that we would have to work on it. That fire can be a great asset to every player, however with any fire if not managed, can rage out of control quickly. This happened a bit later but on in internal level for her. We played a team that had one of her best friends on it. She has talked to this friend and shared her vulnerabilities with her and had a trust in her. So it took her by surprise when this friend and teammate from another team was leading some of those type cheers. It ignited her fire but also activated other emotions in her that overwhelmed her a bit. I was very proud of her because she was able to confide in me and her catcher BFF about it so that we could get the other girls in on it. They started to rally around Madi and sense when she was getting frustrated. A few of them would get her attention and make her laugh, or tell her something that would refocus her enough. I recently had a conversation with another coach about something similar happening with her daughter. She asked if Madi would talk to her about how she deals with it and keeps her composure. I told Madi and she got a kick out of it because she would tell you she doesn't keep her composure, but she takes it out on the next pitch, or AB or throw. She also kind of holds a grudge against whole teams (sorry she gets that from her dad) if we feel someone is disrespecting our team or the game, it ignites our competitive fire and you are added to the "list". I am not sure if that is the best way, but it has worked well for me over the years. Ideally we want to just be able to "clear the mechanism" but when that doesn't work, the great ones can change the focus to something else other than the noise, they use the noise and then silence them with action. I personally believe that the best way to silence the noise, is to work so hard at shutting people up by how you play that the legend of you becomes known. You want to create the version of you that players talk about, they don't want to challenge you, they don't want to tick you off because the best shot they have to beat you is if you are calm and playing at your baseline level. They don't want you to go to your next level. Stories of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant come to mind as examples of this for me, and I love this mentality. If you have a young pitcher or player, I would have regular talks with them about this and how to handle it. It will without a doubt help prepare them for not only future opponents but for dealing with life as well. I want Madi to embrace the challenges of life with the same ferocity as she does on the mound. I want to be able to offer the same word to each of her challenges as I do before each game she is pitching. I look at her give her a fist pound and say "Dominate".

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