NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When you hear the word “rebound” in a sports conversation basketball comes to mind.
But Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman and her staff talk with their players a lot about “rebounding” and it has nothing to do with what happens on a basketball court. It is what the Lady Bisons do with their minds.
Such an approach will be a key to this weekend for the Lady Bisons. Friday afternoon at 3 they face Arizona State in the first day of the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional. At 5:30 host Alabama will face Alabama State. The double-elimination tournament continues through Sunday.
Assistant head coach Megan Rhodes Smith works primarily with the pitchers, but she also offers all the players her expertise in dealing with the mental stresses of the sport on the NCAA Division I level.
“Players and team have to be able to rebound quickly,” Ryman said. “Megan does a lot of work with the girls in the mental game and rebounding is something she talks about with them all the time.”
It can happen when a batter takes a pitch thinking it is a ball, but the umpire calls it a strike. It can happen to a pitcher who gives up a big hit or to a fielder who makes an error.
“You hear us shout `rebound, rebound, rebound’ when those things happen,” Ryman said. “In that moment, when something goes wrong, it stinks. As coaches we will be the first to say it stinks.
“When something goes wrong there is nothing, we can do to change it. All we can change is how we approach the next pitch. If we are still angry, mad or upset going into the next pitch we are not putting our best effort forward.”
The approach for the Lady Bisons will be to follow all the mental approaches to the game they have been taught.
“We talk about rebounding and we talk about giving back,” Ryman said. “If you strike out, we all know it is frustrating. But can you walk back to the dugout and give something back to the team?
“Can you tell them what the strike zone was? Can you tell them what pitches you saw? What is the umpire giving the pitcher? Now you are helping your teammates. We have to be able to bounce back.”
One of the goals for this season has been to make sure the players are approaching everything in a positive manner. Often that can be difficult to achieve, but Ryman credits the eight seniors on the team for making it work.
“There is an ebb and flow to the season,” Ryman said. “It can be a challenge because you are not going to ride the highest part of the wave all season.
“We have had girls in the past who have had incredible seasons and we have some players this season who are putting up some unreal numbers, but they are not on top of the highest part of the game in every game.
A state of mind
One of the constants in softball, as well as baseball, is failure is a big part of the game. How a player deals with those failures translates into how successful the player will be individually and as a team.
“Individual temperaments can really impact the temperament of the team,” Ryman said. “When you get to this level and realize how much harder it really is and how much harder you have to work at it there is whole different challenge in front of you.
“It gets emotional and you can let your emotions be affected by the ups and downs of a game. What comes with a bad game is negativity. And at some point, everyone is going to have a bad at bat, a bad day or a bad weekend.”
Ryman stresses that players who can handle the less than perfect performances without dwelling on them are the ones who are going to succeed.
“They are not going to be super streaky players or get into a slump for a long time,” Ryman said. “We have players that take it hard when they have a bad game or a bad weekend, but I would say we have handled it well.
“A lot of these girls have dealt with highs and lows here on and off the field prior to this year and some have dealt with some really low lows. They have a different perspective of the game. It is a maturity thing.”