I heard this advice from a college softball player at one of the various summer softball camps I took part in. The advice has been carried with me ever since. Sadly, I do not remember which player offered the advice or even what camp I happened to be at when it was spoken.
Softball’s hardest attribute is the mental strength. I’m sure you have heard the saying “Softball is 90% mental”. Throughout my career have seen time-and-again athletes with the highest physical capabilities on the field not able to produce outcomes when the game is on.
All of you reading this probably assume that the “stepping into the box” is referring to stepping into the batter’s box. It is not however. Stepping into the batter’s box is only part of the mental issue. The other half can be used for playing defense.
One way to take stress away on the field is by making yourself a imaginary box. Place the imaginary box onto the field. You can even physically draw this box on field if you happen to be an infielder. Place the box where you plan to stand when the ball is pitched. After every pitch, step out of the box. When you are outside of this box, goof off, say funny things to your teammates, relax, take a breather, look for your fans in the bleachers, let your team know how many outs there are, etc. Once the pitcher is ready to pitch the ball again, step back into the imaginary box. The box is where you can put your game-face back on. Everyone has his or her own type of game-face. Some athletes need to be serious. Some need to be starving with rage. Others just need to be focused. Whatever your gameface is, this box is where you put it on before a play. Remember to continue to relax no matter what is on your mind even inside the box and play the game as naturally as you can.
When playing offensive, the batter’s box is your game-face box. Use the same mentality when stepping in-and-out of the batter’s box as when you are stepping in-and-out of your fielder’s box. Outside the batter’s box, you can be your normal carefree self. Inside the box, there is only you and the pitcher.
Practicing “stepping into the box” will help you continue to play stress free. Maintaining a game-face the entire game is very grueling on your mind and can wear you down. Giving yourself mental breaks throughout the game can change outcomes immensely!
Remember that softball is just a game. Relax and remember to have fun.