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Coach’s Corner: With Michael Lotief

Part of being a successful team, or athlete, is being tough mentally. On this week’s edition of “Coach’s Corner”, UL co-head softball coach Micahel Lotief talks about “Taking Out The Mental Trash.” View the blog, below.

Photo Courtesy: ragincajuns.com

Coach’s Corner: With Michael Lotief

COACH’S CORNER:  TAKING OUT THE MENTAL TRASH

 Last week, we talked about excellence.  If you are trying to attain excellence, then you must be in control of your own thoughts and emotions.  If you worry about WHAT OTHER PEOPLE SAY ABOUT YOU (NEGATIVE STUFF which is not constructive) or WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK ABOUT YOU (most often, commenting on an OUTCOME), then you will never achieve excellence.  If you let what other people say about you in social network forums or what is written about you in a blog affect your thinking and thus affect your performance, you need to “take out the MENTAL TRASH” and recommit yourself to the process.

 It does NOT matter what other people think or say about you – whether it is positive or negative.  In your pursuit of excellence, people are going to try and pull you down.  They will “talk trash” about you.  They will stab you in the back.  They will say unflattering things.  That’s part of it. 

Be more concerned about your pursuit of excellence.  Be more concerned about your character (what is true) than your reputation (what people say).  Focus on the truth rather than what somebody said on an internet chat room.

The reality is that very few people are truly committed to the pursuit of excellence.  You must be able to look yourself in the mirror, and you must be able to hold yourself accountable.  Every night when your head hits the pillow, you must know that you did your very best that day and that you must commit to excellence when you awake.  If you are fortunate enough to have teammates or coaches or a support structure that also are pursuing excellence and give you constructive feedback, then consider yourself fortunate. 

There are 4 groups that create MENTAL TRASH: (1) the “naysayers”, (2) the “haters”, (3) the partiers, and (4) the “yes” people.  These types of people do NOT confront the truth or understand the process. (1)  Sometimes, you are faced with the “naysayers”; people who tell you, you CAN’T do it.  They say that you are not big enough or not fast enough or not strong enough.  They come up with all the excuses why you are not good enough to succeed.  (2)  Then there are the “haters” – the people who always attempt to tear you down or talk trash about you or spread mean spirited stories in an attempt to distort the truth and try to discredit your efforts.  It seems that the bitter, negative, personal tone that is so apparent now in American politics is the same tone that has engulfed sports.  There are more and more “haters” and people who feel entitled to make negative, personal, unflattering comments about players, teams, coaches and sports performances.  Put on your blinders and put in your earplugs.  (3)  Others question WHY you do it and try to distract you from your goals – they are chasing instant gratification (“partiers”/the party tonight) and have no concept of the discipline and commitment it takes to pursue the long journey of excellence (delayed satisfaction, sacrifice).  Because all they care about is having fun NOW, they have no concept of what it means to invest in a long term goal.  (4)  Or even worse, sometimes you are faced with “yes people”; people who tell you that you are the best when in fact, you are only “average”.  People who do not hold you accountable or push you to be your best; instead just continuously make self-serving ME statements.  Along those lines, some of us are surrounded by support structures who allow us to have “pity parties” or who sit around and “make excuses” and “blame others” and  “whine and complain”.  Take out the trash! 

 If your objective is excellence then you cannot be surrounded by flawed thinkers, because eventually you will compromise your own standards too. 

Champions know it does not matter what people think because champions are made.  They are developed.  Anyone can be a champion if they are committed to excellence and follow the fundamentals and are able to “control” their own thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in all the mental trash.  Stay on the journey!

 Here is an inspirational poem submitted to me by one of our blog readers:

 Never regret a day in your life.

Good days give you HAPPINESS.

Bad days give you EXPERIENCES.

Both are essential to life.

Keep GOING.

Happiness keeps you sweet,

Trials keep you strong,

Sorrows keep you human,

Failures keep you humble,

Success keeps you growing,

And GOD will keep you going!

PRACTICE/GAME NOTES:  After a weekend where we play 5 games over a 2 ½ day span, I am physically and emotionally spent.  And the players are too.  To just play ONE game, takes your physical best and you have to be mentally sharp every pitch.  Just “one pitch” can make the difference in the outcome of the game.  If you put forth your “very best” physically and mentally every pitch, then at the end of a weekend where you have played 5 games and over approximately 1,000 pitches, you walk-off the field spent… After losing to Southern, the predominant question has been, “What happened?”  As basketball enjoys its win streak, we just celebrate the victories.  Rightly so.  All games are hard fought.  When they lost to Texas College, it is “the game” putting them on notice that things have to be fixed.  Same with softball.  During our win streak, we celebrate the victories.  We know they are hard fought.  After a loss, we know we have things to work on…..Moderation: after a bad loss, you are probably not as bad as it seems and after a big win, you probably are not as good as people are saying.  Don’t get too high nor too low…..I started thinking back about “bad losses” and there have been too many, but here are a couple.  2001, we lost our very 1st two games to Monroe (0-4, 0-4), in 2003 we lost to W. KY (2-3) and FIU (0-2, 1-2) and ended up in the World Series; in 2007 we lost to Alcorn St (4-5) and Sam Houston in Regionals (1-2) and the news story proclaimed that the loss signaled that the program had slipped into mediocrity; the next year, we were back in the World Series after beating LSU in Regionals and then Houston in Super Regional and of course, the #1 National Seed, Florida Gators in the World Series……In again into mediocrity or the “haters” start hating, take out the TRASH….We have the “BEST FANS in the country”.   Fans who are there in good times and bad times, after big wins and bad losses; fans who understand the process and who are always encouraging our kids to stay at it and look for solutions; fans who are optimistic and never pessimistic and who “find a way” instead of just whine and complain.  We love you and you are the best…….this team only has 1 senior (Gabby) and if they stay committed to the process and if they continue to develop – well – maybe – if we are patient – then…… STAY TUNED! 

GOOD TIMES – A LOOK BACK: 

2001 – YES YOU CAN! (reprinted in part from the 2002 Media guide)

 Louisiana’s Lady Cajuns entered the 2001 season with a new coaching staff for the first time in 20 years.  (with a bunch of hold-overs/upper-classmen and a new group of “plugs”).  The 2001 Lady Cajuns became just the fourth team in school history to win 50 games.  They had another All-American, the 29th in school history and they came one step shy of the fourth Women’s College World Series in school history.

 The season started out with back-to-back losses to UL-Monroe (0-4, 0-4), in front of a festive, packed crowd and live reporting by the TV stations.  After that double header, the team sat on the infield dirt – at first stunned, then wondering what people would say, and then finally a couple hours later, recommitting to their goals and eager to get back to work.  Well, a 15 game winning streak ensued that encompassed championships at the McNeese State Cowgirl Classic and the 15th annual Louisiana Classic.  A trip to the Oklahoma/Worth Invitational proved successful as the Lady Cajuns won four-of-five games there.  At the power-rich Kia Klassic, Louisiana-Lafayette had the unenviable task of facing No. 2 ranked Arizona, which was undefeated entering the tournament.  While Arizona would end up rolling to the 2001 National Championship, UL was a bit better on March 15.  Jill Robertson hit a three run homer to give the Cajuns an early lead; and Alana Addison’s home run in the bottom of the sixth handed UA one its four losses for the entire season.  The Lady Cajuns continued to their winning ways against the nation’s top 5 in April.  The Cajuns pulled off of 2 – 1 victory in the first game of the doubleheader over #4 LSU on April 18 (Melissa Coronado getting the victory over Brittany Sneed).

Totally dominating the first-year Sun Belt Conference, the Ragin Cajuns went 19 – 1 in regular season play.  The team also rolled to the SBC Tournament title.  The Cajuns entered the NCAA Regional competition having won 17 of their last 18 games.  Entering the regional as the No. 3 seed, the Ragin Cajuns defeated fourth seed Southern Miss 5 – 1, then dropped a narrow 2 – 1 decision to No. 2 seed Arizona State.  But the Lady Cajuns exacted their revenge against the Sun Devils the very next day.  Playing arguable their best game of the season, the Lady Cajuns scored five runs and got an incredible pitching performance from Melissa Coronado.  The junior hurled a one-hit shutout and allowed just two base runners to the perennial Pac 10 powerhouse.  UL reached the championship game at the NCAA Regional at Baton Rouge, meeting up with the host

Tigers.  Addison hit a towering home run off All-American pitcher Britni Sneed, but the visitors came up just one run short (more like one inch short – Dee Douglas’ slap falling barely within the foul line) in a 2 – 1 defeat.

The Lady Cajuns received numerous postseason honors, including an amazing five players on the All-Sun Belt Conference first team (Melissa Coronado/pitcher, Jana Mower/1B, Jill Robertson/2B, Alana Addison/SS, Jerie Alexander/OF).  Addison was named the league’s Player of the Year; Coronado was the Pitcher of the Year; Stefni Lotief was the Coach of the Year; Jill Robertson was the Co-Freshman of the year.  Junior right fielder, Missy Martin was tabbed as the SBC Tournament MVP.  At the NCAA Regional, Addison, Coronado and Tiffany Grayson were selected to the All-Regional team.  To top it off, Addison was named to the NFCA All-American team; she recorded the best offensive season in school history; she led the nation in RBI per game and set a school record with 79 RBI.

The Cajuns also continued their success in the classroom by placing 10 members on the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Academic team (Erica Enright, Summar Lapeyrouse – 2001 LSWA All-Louisiana selection at 3Base and 2001 Sun Belt Conference Commissioner’s Award, Heather Bertrand, Jessica Clark – [now Dr. Clark who is our boss/assistant AD in charge of compliance]).

 What a great team and a great group of girls who “believed” when the “naysayers” doubted.  They proved that the World Series was reachable and they set the groundwork for the 2003 World Series appearance by creating a culture of always working hard and trusting the process.  GEAUX CAJUNS!   

 

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