Postseason is upon us! This past weekend could go down as one of the best Regional weekends NCAA Division I softball has ever seen. There were so many close wins, so many clutch walk-offs, so many solid pitching performances. The highs and lows in all 16 Regionals glued softball fans across the country to their TV's.
As the Super Regional games begin today, May 23rd, and the Women’s College World Series slates to begin May 30th, it's easy to just sit back and enjoy the games. However, there is a lot to learn from watching these high caliber teams. As a young player dreaming of playing in these jammed-packed stadiums one day, watching the best-of-the-best play can be the most effective classroom on what it takes to get there.
So here are a few things to pay attention to while watching the college softball postseason.
1. Look for signs of good team chemistry
How did these teams make it this far? Surely it is of huge credit to the stellar pitchers in the circle and the home run hitters at the plate. However, I am more than positive that if you were to ask the head coaches, they would also credit the team’s chemistry. The coach would mention how the pitcher and catcher work so well together or how the bench players play an intricate part in the team’s success.
So look for those traits! What do the players on the bench do while their team is on defense? Pay close attention to the players’ faces when their coach comes out to the circle during a timeout. What are some of the small intricacies (handshakes, silly rituals, cheers) that team does together to stay loose? All of these details add up to create a team culture, and this team culture determines if the players have a good team chemistry or not.
2. Watch how players react to high pressure situations
The games played this weekend and next will be some of the biggest moments in these players’ careers. There will be plenty of high pressure situations where they will be asked to perform at their best. So how do they react when facing these obstacles?
Watch how a pitcher acts in the bottom of seventh with the game on the line. Does she look composed? Nervous? Focused? In this same situation, check out the hitter as well. Both players are under an enormous amount of pressure to perform. So how will they respond?
More than likely, the top players on the field this weekend will look the exact same as they did before. They are comfortable, almost basking in the pressure. Those players who can stay consistent and relaxed, regardless of the amount of pressure, are more likely to come through when their team needs them the most.
3. How does a player or team act after failure?
Failure comes quickly and often in softball. When an All-American is considered outstanding even though they have only hit the ball forty percent of the time (a.k.a. Having a .400 batting average), you know this game is mostly filled with failures.
The pitchers in the Super Regional games this weekend are the toughest pitchers to face in the country. Trust me when I say, the hitters will be facing a lot of failure. So what do they do after they strike out? What is the body language they show as they head back to the dugout? What is her response when she has her next at-bat or when she gets the ball again on the field?
The players that are most successful are the players who make the quickest adjustments. The players who can bounce back from failure the quickest will be the ones who come in clutch for their team late in the game. Watch for the way the best-of-the-best make in-game adjustments after a tough strikeout or error. As spectators we can to learn just what it takes to succeed in this failure-ridden game.
What else will you be paying attention to during the college postseason? Which team are you rooting for to win it all?
To see the game schedules for all of the Super Regional games, click here.