Dena Tyson is a former All-American at the University of Washington and currently is a successful Corona Angels head coach at the 18U and 16U levels who has helped dozens of players develop and advance to the collegiate level to play softball.
Dena is the daughter of legendary Corona Angels head coach Marty Tyson and competed at the University of Washington from 2002 to 2007.
She was part of Husky teams that made the Women’s College World Series three times (2003, ’04 and ’07) and as a senior for Washington in 2007 was a 1st Team All-American and was selected to the World Series All-Tournament Team.
In today’s blog, she addresses every hitter’s worst nightmare: the dreaded slump, why it’s more mental than physical and how to power through it.
Be sure to check out her previous blogs too including Being a Team Player, How to Deal With Failure, How to Deal With Riding the Bench, How to Pick the Right College, How to Balance Life as a Student Athlete, What Are The Qualities of an All-American?, To My Unverballed Seniors, It’s Not Just About You and Habits.
I have been asked how I choose the subjects of my blogs each week and honestly, I just put my ear to the softball world and try to see what needs to be heard.
This week I have decided to address the slump.
Every hitter in the world has gone through the infamous slump, some more than others! I was one of the “more than others.”
Now that I am coaching, I realize that the slump is so much more mental than physical. However, as players we may not see or understand that part.
When my girls are struggling, they always come to me with “Coach ,what am I doing?” “Am I dropping my hands?” “Am I turning my upper body?” “m I not on time?” “Is it my pitch selection?”
I get bombarded with these questions, especially from girls who are in a “slump.”
I look them dead in their eyes and say: “Stop! You have been playing for a long time and you know what you are doing! Right now, you are just frustrated and it has stopped your progress.”
My goal in writing this blog is not to give you the blueprint to cut a slump short.
Instead, I am going to tell you why slumps are so important for your process and how working through them the right way will not only make you a better player, but will better prepare you to work through other life challenges as well.
When you are in a slump, lots of thoughts go through your head. One of the most common is: “Maybe I am just not good enough.”
I had that thought in 8th grade and I was ready to call in quits. I remember getting in the car with my dad to go to the game and I had built up enough courage to tell him that I was done with softball and I was quitting.
He let me quit for the weekend, but that Monday I had to face the music.
The first question he had for me Monday was why. I told him that I had been practicing every day and that I was still “sucking” in the game so obviously I was not a very good player.
My dad had a great answer for me. He said:
“Just because you are practicing doesn’t mean you are getting better.” He explained to me that to get better, my good swings had to outweigh my bad swings.
While his answer did not change my behavior (yet), it did change my practice thoughts. Now I had a measuring stick to determine how my lessons with my dad went.
So, to my players that are in a slump right now and reading this, before you throw in the towel and quit, ask yourself: “Are my good swings outweighing my bad swings in practice?”
So many times I see girls come into lessons and repeat the same mistake over and over for an hour. Then they get in the game and they are surprised when they make the same mistake in the game.
I challenge you guys to practice for a week with a hard focus on doing the right things and then see what your results are.
Now, you guys are going to do this, and you still may not see the results you want. You are going to be like, “Dena, you lied… I still suck!
First off, stop saying you suck! Positive thoughts are a big part of a healthy process in sports and in life.
Secondly, I am going to steal my boy Inky Johnson’s line: “Can you be committed to the process of what you are doing without being emotionally attached to the results of what you are doing?”
This game, like life, will not always give you the results that you want, but I promise you that something more important is happening. During my All-American season, my process was the most important part of me becoming an All American. I hit .400 during my senior year so obviously more than half of the time I was getting out!
I remember getting cold for about a month. Old Dena would have said, “Well, this process isn’t working and I am not going to keep working this hard and not get the results I want!” New Dena knew to trust the process and just make sure my good swings outweighed my bad swings.
I know what I am asking isn’t easy, but let me talk to you about life, not sports, and why the process is more important than the results.
At this point in your life I know it sounds crazy to you, but one day you are going to be an adult. One day you will have to get a job, start a family and raise that family. As your parents can attest, the results in life are outside of your control.
Life is going to throw you an unexpected curveball. To deal with it, you are going to have to focus on your process and work your way through it because in life, quitting is not an option. Especially when you have other people counting on you to be there and take care of them.
I will leave you with what my dear friend Matt Otis shared with me.
Life, like sports, is what you make it. Enjoy the journey, evaluate your process along the way, change what you need to change and be ready to hit that curveball into right center gap for a double.
--- Dena Tyson