She had a great game, then……

Lily had a great game in the tournament on Saturday.  She faced 18 batters, striking out 15. This past weekend, I received so many texts and emails about our pitchers who started strong.  Then, I waited, knowing what would come.  Fully half of them are new to me.  Dominance is a new experience.  There is a large gap between being incredible once and being incredible every game.  Learning to be a champion is a journey.

I hope Lily stayed on course, but a couple of my kids faltered in a game later in the weekend. A different type of message arrived, one in which they were bewildered that something had changed. 

Yes, you have to learn to be a champion.  Let me explain.  There are as many reasons for failure as there are pitchers in the world.   Understand that a bad game will only be a big deal if you let it.   Let’s talk about the reasons for bad games.

Frist of all, realize that teams will adjust.  As the weekend progresses, hitters learn lessons.  Coaches are scouting, figuring out ways to deal with you.  And, sometimes an opposing team just “catches fire”. 

It can be physical.  One of my kids had a little unexpected pain.  It scared her.  There is no way that a young athlete can ignore that, no matter how she tries.  The brain goes into protective mode.  Sometimes she does not even realize something is wrong.  Her hips may be slightly out of line, a muscle knot in the shoulders doesn’t reveal itself immediately, or something “stiffens up” a bit.  The brain’s first priority is to protect you, so it will not let you go full force, not matter how much you want to win.  We do not want you to ignore pain anyway.

Sometimes it is emotions.  It is hard to get that much adrenalin pumping and not have a let-down afterward.  One of our athletes pitched a full game, then came into 3 different games as a reliever, for just a batter or two.  It takes a lot of experience and maturity to deal with that.  I am sure that the adrenalin rushes simply exhausted her.  Mature pitchers do not get as “high” so they do not suffer as much of a let-down.  This is part of the learning process for a champion. 

There is also fatigue.  They are not in “game shape” this early in the season.  Think about it.  The pitcher I just mentioned warmed up 5 times in two days.  That is a lot of reps.  That is a lot of starts and stops on the muscles.  She got warm, she cooled, she got warm again.  The muscles were confused and fatigued.  Additionally, that gave her a lot of chances for her to lose really important components in her movement patterns.   If fatigue and emotions cause her to lose just one of two proper movement sequences over a weekend, she is not the same.  The harder she tries, the worse it can become ingrained. 

There are a dozen other explanations   Field conditions may be soft, causing incredible fatigue.  Heat.  Cold.  Kids think they are hydrated enough, but high emotions require even high hydration.  Nutrition needs are different.  And, finally, these are young athletes.  They go through sudden emotional and physical swings that confuse them.

Bottom line.  Tell her to laugh about it and shake it off.   Our daughters went through similar experiences.  Use it as fuel to for your fire.  In our case, we immediately forgot about it, and went right back to work helping more firmly establish great movement patterns.  I never, ever, wanted them to doubt.

Take a day to rest, get back to work.  Remember that Tom Brady still has bad games.  This is what motivates champions to go back to work and better prepare, adjust, and focus on ways to have more good games. 

Remember, talent does not go away.  Physical skills do not leave.  Intelligence does not change.  Go back to what got you here in the first place. 

Enjoy ever win as part of the process, every loss as part of the process, and see them as nothing more, nothing less.

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