c And we all know that failure is a huge part of playing fastpitch. Now whether that failure is really a mistake or just a part of the competition is something worth considering.
The way our brain works is part of why we struggle so much with letting go of a mistake, or error, or strikeout. Without getting too far in the weeds, brain science tells us that we use different parts of our brain at different times. When we first learn a skill we store the information in a more conscious part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) but once a skill is learned it moves to a more unconscious part of the brain (motor cortex) where the skill becomes more automatic. We no longer think about all the steps but rather we just “do it”.
So after making a mistake, we are likely to think more about the skill which creates a short-circuit of sorts in the way our brain is working. We shift from performing an effortless and automatic skill and turn it into a very analytic, conscious and inefficient skill. So we really need to help our players think less after making a mistake rather than trying to think it through too specifically.
Now basic sports psychology tells us there are many ways to help a player think less. There are routines and breathing exercises to help them clear their mind and focus on what is coming next rather than dwelling on the past. By focusing on a focal point or breathing the athlete can get back on track very quickly.
And finally, we need to help our players develop a growth-based mindset. There is no way to avoid making mistakes, so we need to help our players learn to see them as an opportunity to learn and improve. If we can help them overcome the fear of mistakes by seeing them as an opportunity, we are on our way.
Remember that FAIL can just as easily be thought of as a First Attempt In Learning a new skill.