2015 Fordham Softball – Week 7 / Turning Letdowns into Lessons

Thursday, February 26, 2015 – Citrus Classic / Orlando, Florida

The seniors (minus Serena), after our big upset of #13/11 Minnesota at the Citrus Classic.

The seniors (minus Serena), after our big upset victory over #13/11 Minnesota at the Citrus Classic.

Over the course of a long and taxing season, letdowns are inevitable. A sudden switch in momentum, an instant of complacency, or a momentary lapse in judgment, and things can suddenly go from hunky-dory to dire, and fast.

In a quick-moving game like college softball, in which you blink your eyes and it’s the fifth inning, transient letdowns can often determine the outcomes of games, especially if you fall on your heels and expect victory to happen just by showing up.

Last Saturday in South Carolina, that’s just what happened to us. Over the course of our game against Gardner-Webb, the David to our Goliath, letdown crept up and quickly turned those seven-innings into our most frustrating loss of the season, and later, a week of reflection.

And lengthy our week was; we collectively dealt with cringing could-haves, regretful should-haves, and long conversations with parents, teammates, and coaches alike about what went wrong and how we went from flying high on a five-game winning streak to questioning our team’s ability, in just two hours of bad softball. On top of it all, we had to wait six days to play again, so the bitter taste and painful vestiges of defeat lingered for much longer than we would have liked.

Amid the animated conversations, prognostications about the remainder of our season, and awkward questions from outsiders about how we could possibly lose to a far-inferior team, however, the week-long reflection allowed me to realize that this loss could very well be a blessing in disguise for us; a reminder that in-between the white lines, nothing is guaranteed and no one is invincible, no matter who the opponent is and what the rankings say. While the naysayers may think differently, our loss to Gardner-Webb could be just the kick in the behind we need to ignite our fire going forward, for this weekend in Orlando and in upcoming Atlantic 10 contests in March and April.

Ironically, the tides will turn for us this weekend, and we will become a Gardner-Webb-like team, as we face our toughest competition of the season at the Citrus Classic. While facing two ranked teams in Georgia and Minnesota, and also playing other formidable opponents during our second stay in Florida this season, it is important for us to remember the lesson we learned from our game with Gardner-Webb: Every team is susceptible to letdowns, no matter how good they look on paper. After all, this is a game played by humans, flawed ones, in fact. And like the example Goliath set forth, no one is invincible.

So, once the first pitch is thrown tomorrow in the Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World, our slate from last weekend will finally be cleaned and we will have the chance to be another team’s source of letdown; the David to someone else’s Goliath.

No matter what happens this weekend, though, I know that the Gardner-Webb loss will pay long-term dividends for us, even if they aren’t visible immediately. And like we’ve experienced several times before, we can right the wrongs of our past losses simply by turning our letdowns into lessons for the future and attacking our opponents like David did, regardless of being the underdog or not.

“Thinking Solution” and Rediscovering the Fire in My Belly

Thursday, February 27, 2014 – Citrus Classic / Orlando, FL

Over the past 24 hours, I have spent some time rediscovering who I am as a softball player. After a talk last night with my incredibly wise and bright boyfriend DJ, I feel like I’ve gotten clarity about how to break free from the recent struggles that my teammates and I have endured on the diamond.

The entrance to the Wide World of Sports complex, the site of the Citrus Classic in Orlando, Florida.

The entrance to the Wide World of Sports complex, the site of the Citrus Classic in Orlando, Florida.

In our conversation, DJ and I talked about what the main difference has been in how I’ve approached the game over the past two weekends that I’ve been struggling. I told him I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I felt like something was broken, and after two weeks of focusing on fixing the various minor aspects of the problem, it was still not fixed. He told me that I need to stop focusing on fixing all of the little problems within my game (hitting mechanics, mental toughness, etc.) and adjust my mindset to “think solution.” This concept of “think solution” was passed down to him by his late grandfather, whom he lost as a little boy. What this means is that I need to break things down to the most basic level of determining what the problem is and what the solution to the problem would look like. It’s simple logic, really.

Personally, over the past two weeks, I think I have been so engrained in trying to fix all of the things that could be the causes of my problems on the field that I have lost sight of what the solutions would look like. Envisioning the solutions is only possible by recalling to memory the times that I have succeeded on the field. In my mind, the solutions look like solid shots in the gap, diving plays to rob a hitter, pumping my fist after a big strikeout by one of our pitchers to get us out of a jam, and high-fiving my teammates after a victory.

When I took the time to play the highlight reel in my mind and call to memory the times in the past when I had done these things, I immediately got this sense of conviction that I had been lacking over the past two weeks. It’s hard to put this feeling into words, but I felt like something was panging on my heart and stomach, dying to escape. A little something I like to call the fire in my belly.

I suddenly felt like myself again. The confident, challenge-seeking, clutch-situation-loving, softball-adoring self, not the unsure, doubting, acceptor of defeat my brain had tricked me into thinking I had become over the past two weeks. After just a matter of minutes of visualizing what the solution would look like, I felt like I knew myself again. In that moment, I wanted more than anything in the world to have a bat in my hands with the game on the line.

It’s funny how the human brain works. How quick we are to forgot our myriad successes when we encounter failure. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why the failures gleam at the forefronts of our minds, while the memories of success are fleeting and suppressed unless consciously recalled to memory. At least that’s how my brain works.

My Dad and me at the team Texas BBQ hosted by the fabulous Ortiz family.

My Dad and me at the team Texas BBQ hosted by the fabulous Ortiz family. (Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

After having multiple conversations with coaches and teammates alike over the past two weeks about what’s been missing from our team so far this year, I think I’ve finally gotten some clarity on what the answer might be: We’ve lost sight of who we are, both individually and collectively.

I shared this concept of rediscovering who we are with some of my teammates today, as I think it will be vital to our team’s success for the remainder of the season. Individually, each of us has experienced tremendous athletic success both before and during our careers at Fordham, and it is no accident that we are competing at the highest possible level of college softball as Division 1 athletes. Collectively, we are the defending Atlantic 10 Champions, who have proven time and time again that when we rise to the occasion, we can be scary good in-between the white lines, no matter who the opponent is.

It’s hard to remember these things when you’re struggling, though. During tough times, I think it is easy to be jaded and fooled by voices of doubt, which trick you into thinking that you have become someone you are not. I think this is true in life, too. Often times, we lose sight of what we have accomplished and what has made us who we are when we encounter road blocks or unfortunate circumstances along life’s journey. In the process, we sometimes succumb to the voices of doubt, and lose the fire that sets us apart and gives us an edge.

It’s a trap, though. We as humans, for whatever reason, are programmed to dwell on our disasters, rather than count our blessings and look at our challenges as stepping stones for greatness. If we make a conscious choice to “think solution,” as DJ’s grandfather would have said, and envision what the answer to the problem looks like in real time, I think it will be much more difficult to lose sight of who we are, even during the hardest times.

When I close my eyes and “think solution” about Fordham Softball, I envision balls flying into the tennis courts over the left field fence at our home field in the Bronx. I see us cheering and laughing and celebrating after a bases-clearing double. I see us walking into a complex with swagger and a mentality that we are going to take care of business no matter who we are facing. I think we showed a glimpse of that when we gave Oregon a scare in Palm Springs last Saturday during our last game of the weekend. I hope we can build off of what we showed in the Oregon game and get our edge back.

As Thoreau says in Walden, “Not until we are lost […] do we begin to find ourselves.” I believe this to be true, as I feel like I have learned a tremendous amount about myself and my teammates through our struggles over the past two weeks.

No matter what happens on the field this weekend in Orlando, I’m not going to lose sight of who I am and have always been as a softball player. My goal at the Citrus Classic and beyond is to capture that feeling of conviction I experienced last night, and not just use it to reignite the fire in my belly when I am on the field, but set it ablaze.