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SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW: 'Mind Gym' Shapes A Sturdy Mental Game

The BC Softball Team Applies Lessons In Confidence And Resilient Mental Fortitude

Asst. Sports Editor

Published: Monday, February 25, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 03:02


Sports are more than a contest of physical ability. As the ancient Greeks knew, sports also test courage, which comes from the Latin word meaning heart.”

This is one of the many philosophical snippets that the Boston College softball team pondered this off season while reading Gary Mack and David Casstevens’s book Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence.

In it, Mack and Casstevens look to provide motivation, inspiration, and ways to increase mental fortitude to athletes who want to better their performance with methods outside of traditional practice techniques. The authors use quotations and experiences from professional athletes to make their teachings hit home.

The 14 team members were asked to read the book over their Winter Break, but their preparation for this season started long before that.

Immediately when the players returned to campus in the fall, they began workouts and practices in anticipation of their fall ball season, which consists of eight games against teams in the area such as BU, Harvard, and UMass.

With that short series of games completed, the practice hours waned, but it was important for the team to keep building its dynamic. Senior Captains Maria Pandolfo and Nicole D’Argento were aware of this need and decided to fill it in a way that would not only benefit their team, but also the lives of other people.

“For a performer, love is the most basic ingredient for success.”- Mind Gym

Throughout the fall, the team participated in a series of “fun runs”—as Pandolfo put it, such as the Welles Crowther Red Bandana Run and the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure.

Not only were these runs a good way to make sure that the team was staying in shape, but they also gave the players time to get to know each other outside of the gym.

“We do bonding, but especially this fall we did a lot of fundraising runs. That was nice because it was an off-the-field perspective on things,” Pandolfo said.

But with the fall season and the out-of-practice team bonding coming to an end, Head Coach Ashley Obrest saw that she needed a way to keep her team engaged and looking toward the fast approaching season as they went their separate ways over the long Winter Break.

“Ninety percent of the game is half mental.”- Yogi Berra, quoted in Mind Gym

With a well-conditioned team coming out of the fall season, the next element of success was building their confidence as athletes.

 “Something we did a little differently this year is we all read a book together. They’ve had to do a different activity, assignment, team bonding type thing every Sunday before practice.

“It’s geared towards mental toughness, getting over your fears, and building confidence. It’s stuff where we have to sit back and look in the mirror and see what kind of players we want to be,” said Obrest, explaining her desire to motivate the team through reading Mind Gym.

The result has been resoundingly positive, with both captains expressing that they felt the team was benefiting immensely from the teachings of Mack and Casstevens. The mental strength that the book cultivated could prove vital to this Eagles team.

“Talent being equal, players with a positive, optimistic attitude will outperform those with a negative, pessimistic one.”- Mind Gym

Last season, BC came out with a strong start, winning 14 of their first 20 games. From there, as Obrest put it, things snowballed. The Eagles struggled to overcome a series of injuries and had to play players out of position, causing a decline into the rest of the season. It didn’t help that Obrest herself was in her first year coaching at BC and was in the process of adjusting to the culture of the team.

This year, she thinks that her players have what it takes to avoid such a slump.

“I think this year we have kids who want to be here and want to put in the time, and I think as a group we all have the same intention,” she said. “I don’t think there’s anyone that has different expectations or standards, and I think we’re mentally tougher already. We were getting ready, but if something goes wrong, it doesn’t phase us.”

That mental attitude has already boosted the players through adversity when they lost their on campus practice facility when the bubble fell in. Unfazed, D’Argento explained that the team fell into a schedule that involved traveling to four separate off campus facilities. Despite the challenge, she is sure that her team is ready for the upcoming season.

“ACT, A stands for accept your present state … C stands for create your desired state. T stands for take action steps to get you there.”- Mind Gym

Before the season even started, the team had to face its first mental challenge. Each year, the coaches in the ACC put out a preseason poll ranking the teams in accordance with where they fit within the conference. Since joining the ACC, BC has been picked to finish last every year, this year coming as no exception.

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