“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re usually right”
~ Henry Ford
All three of my daughters have played fast-pitch softball since they were old enough to swing a bat. I’ve spent many years cheering them on, honing their technique, and coaching various teams during the past 10 years. During this time, I’ve seen Mr. Fords quote in action more times than I can count. Recently, I had the opportunity to see it again during my 13 year-old daughter’s games.
My daughter Taylor plays for a travel softball team, which competes at a much higher level of play than the average city recreational league. She practices three times a week, and works with professional coaches to perfect her technique and performance. At this level of play, minor mistakes can mean the difference between winning and losing, and each player has a role to play in the overall strategy. It’s an exciting game to watch, especially when the team is all performing at their best. These kids are amazing athletes.
Last weekend, I was watching Taylor’s team play, and was very excited to see her play. She had her game face on, and came up to bat with a runner on base. She had a good battle at the plate, but struck out watching strike three go by. Never a fun experience for a player, and I knew Taylor wanted that pitch back. Her second at-bat came, and again, after a great battle, she struck out swinging. After seeing her body language, I knew she would need some encouragement during the game break.
In the game break between her double header, Taylor and I sat and ate lunch together in the stands. I asked her how she did, and she simply stated “I can’t hit the outside pitch.” I immediately quoted Mr. Ford to her, and explained that her striking out has nothing to do with her physical technique, that it’s all in the mental attitude she brings to the plate. I reminded her of how highly trained she is, and how hard she worked to earn a spot on this team, and what a tough kid she is. I told her that the only thing she needed to fix for the next game was the space between her ears. Of course, I got the “whatever, Dad” look and she scooted down the stands to sit with her team. As she headed back to the dugout, I told her “Taylor; Yes you can.” I saw a sneak of a smile escape from under her visor, and knew the seed was planted.
As Taylor warmed up in the on-deck circle before her next at-bat, I yelled from the stands “YES YOU CAN!”, and I got a thumbs up from her as she strode to the plate. After running the count to 3 balls, 2 strikes, Taylor rips the next pitch to left field, scoring a run and making to base safely. I stood up, and made a spectacle of myself cheering for my kid. Ahh, parenthood.
At her next at-bat, she was facing the dominating pitcher from the first game. This girl held our team scoreless during the first game. Again, I yelled “YES YOU CAN” to Taylor as she went to bat. Again, Taylor send a shot into the shallow gap in left, making it to base safely. My heart was bursting with pride when Taylor stood on first base and raised her arms in victory. What a great way to recover! Her team went on to win the second game 14-2, and Taylor finished the day on a very positive note.
Taylor’s experience during her game perfectly illustrates how much our mental attitude can affect our physical performance. Not a single thing changed during her break except her mental attitude. She didn’t get stronger, taller, or faster during her break. She didn’t get a new magic bat, or spiffy new cleats; she only changed her attitude.
Cognitive Behavioral Psychology demonstrates that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are directly linked to produce our experience of the world. If our thoughts are negative, we’re more likely to feel negative, and our behaviors will fall in line. When we notice this process happening, our only recourse is to make a positive shift in one of those areas to help the others become more positive too. For example, Taylor struck out, which made her feel bad. Her thought process went negative and said “I can’t do this”. Her behavior (physical performance) at her next at-bat was influenced by her negative feelings and thoughts. When she made the mental shift from “I can’t hit the outside pitch” to “Yes I can”, she was able to see a difference in her physical performance. Our minds are powerful things..
The next time you’re faced with a challenge, look for negative messages in your self-talk. Look for common negative statements like ‘I can’t..’, or ‘I shouldn’t’ in your daily conversation or internal monologue when you think about the things you want to accomplish.
These thoughts can be sneaky, and we’re often so used to them that we hardly notice them affecting our performance. Ultimately, remember Henry Ford and his adage, and decide what you want to be right about. “Can” you, or “Can’t” you? either way you’re right.
Thanks for reading,
Tray Thomason, M.A.
Iron String Life & Achievement Coaching