"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
“It’s all mental.”
I’m sure every athlete has heard this phrase at one point in their life. Whether it be through creating a strategic game plan, trying to outsmart your opponent, engaging in mental toughness, or learning how to practice resilience in response to adversity, having a strong mental game is crucial to success among athletes of all levels.
However, while the mind is one of our biggest strengths, it can also be one of our biggest weaknesses. Life gets difficult. Our sport gets difficult. And more times than not, we fail.
Softball, like many other sports, is a sport of failure. You are considered a “good” hitter if you get three hits out of ten at bats, meaning that you are failing seven out of ten times. As a pitcher, I give up hits, walks, and home runs all the time. It’s a part of the game.
I remember back to the final game of my travel ball career when I was on the mound in the top of the seventh, ball in my hand, and with the mission to close out the game for my team so we could advance to the next round of the tournament. I was two outs away from achieving this goal when a string of timely hitting put the other team up by one going into the bottom of the seventh, a deficit we could sadly not overcome. I remember the final out, and then an overwhelming sense of guilt and failure rushed over me. I felt like it was my fault, and that I had just lost the game for my team because of my failure to execute.
With so much failure surrounding us, how do we continue to maintain the right mindset for it all, and continue to find the motivation to keep pushing through in our sport and in life?
When it’s the bottom of the 7th, the last few seconds on the clock, or the last few steps of the sprint, and every athlete has pushed themselves to their physical and mental limit, more times than not it is the athlete with the greatest will to win that will emerge victorious. At this point, it’s not just about having the right mindset towards something, it’s about having the heart for it.
The heart is what gives a Christian athlete an edge over their competition. By the end of the game whether the scoreboard is in our favor or not, we are victorious, because unlike our sports, God’s ultimate scoreboard is not the stats on the page, but our heart. He could care less about the number of innings you play, shutouts you record, or points you score, as long as you understand that you are a daughter of the King of the universe, and your identity rests in Him. It is about understanding that we are competing for something, or more importantly someone, bigger than ourselves, and when we do that we are able to compete with so much freedom from the standards and expectations that have been set around us.
I will be the first to admit how easily it is for me to lose sight of this. I get so locked in on the process and my outcome goals that I tend to lose sight of reason, or motivation, for why I started down this path in the first place. I need to be reminded that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that when I pour my heart into something bigger than myself (Colossians 3:23) there is no amount of success or failure that can take away his love for me. So even though I may have lost the final game of my travel ball career, it counts as a win in my books, because my heart and my identity belongs to the creator of the heavens and the Earth.
This is the ultimate victory. The true definition of success.
I am currently a sophomore pitcher on the Stanford University softball team and am looking to pursue a degree in engineering. In addition to being heavily involved with FCAIA on campus (Fellowship of Christian Athletes / Athletes in Action), I love being apart of a group called Cardinal RHED where we work closely with developing and strengthening the mental and emotional game behind student athletes. I also have a heart for Jesus and helping other young women discover and develop a personal relationship with our creator as well.