Welcome to the mound kiddo and when you step into that circle you need to realize that you, more than any other player on that field, control the game. Think about it. You are the only person that touches the ball every, single, play. Each and every play starts with you. So you have quite a responsibility because you set the tone and you put everything in motion. And you need to accept that responsibility and take control.
Control. An important element of pitching. And it doesn't just mean hitting your spots, managing your speed and/or moving the ball. That is only a small part of what control means to a pitcher. It is the obvious. But the best athletes look beyond the obvious and take their game to the next level. And for pitchers, the literal, inside-the-box meaning of control is just the beginning.In that past few days I have been thinking quite a lot about control. Things have been happening in my life that are beyond my control. Some I feel I must take responsibility for (mistakes, mistrust of someone, poor judgement on my part) and some that seem to have no explanation, rhyme or reason (a heartbreaking health diagnosis for someone I love). And it has all made me think of a question I ask when working with pitchers, "How was your game?" Inevitably, some of the answers would be full of excuses. The umpire was terrible. The coach didn't play me. I didn't have time to warm up. The other team didn't play fair. My team made errors.
The thing about these excuses is, they don't matter. All of these things, true or not, are not in a pitcher's control. Not to be mean but I don't care about any of them. I want to know if you threw your best, hit your spots, worked the corners, showed class and grace in the face of adversity, represented yourself and team well, and did you have fun? Those are the parts of an athlete's performance to analyze because those are the things that can be changed. Those are things over which we have control. It's hard for anyone, even adults (sometimes especially adults as we don't have youth and immaturity to blame), to look in the mirror and accept responsibility for their actions. And it's difficult to focus on what we can control and let go of what we can't. Many people fight letting go and it only leads to continued frustration. So in the long run that is an even more difficult option. It's a test of character, as are most things in life.
So what is a pitcher to do when things she can't control are going wrong? Well, she needs to stay in control, but in a different way. And by that, I mean she needs to maintain composure. Errors are happening, bad calls are being made, coaches are making choices we don't agree with, and it just is not fun. You can't control ANY of that, but you CAN control your reaction to it. Do you blame your team mates? Complain about the umpire and make faces? Argue with the coach? Quit the game you love? Do any of those options translate in to any sort of a victory on the scoreboard or otherwise? Of course not. When player makes and error and lets someone on base that means it is your turn to pick that player up. Dig deep, get a strike out, or hit your spots and get the batter to hit into a double play. Umpire makes a bad call? Adjust to the strike zone you're given and let the coach do the talking. Don't like your coach or the decisions being made? Well guess what? You are not the boss, the coach is. Don't like it? Find an appropriate time to address it in a mature manner but be prepared for a kick to the curb. And focus on what you loved about the sport in the first place.
There is a big difference between someone who pitches and a pitcher. And one of those things is control. So learn from my mistakes, and the mistakes of many others, and focus on what you CAN control. I'll help you out and give you a list...
To your surprise, you will most likely find that focusing on what you can control will bring you a sense of accomplishment and peace. And when asked how you pitched you will most likely say that you did your best, performed well, know you can still do better and had a blast the entire time!