Gaining the Edge: The Softball Community Embraces Mental Training

Derek Allister still remembers where and how he first learned about the AthleteTypes system. Allister, the co-founder of OnDeck Softball had met one of AthleteTypes early adopters, Tim McDermott (now the Director of Operations for the University of Utah’s Lacrosse Program).

The meeting had nothing to do with AthleteTypes, but in the downtime between conversations, McDermott told Allister of the product that focuses on helping athletes develop and refine their mental game.

Derek Allister

Right away, Allister saw the potential in AthleteTypes brought to the table, “He [McDermott] started explaining a little bit and I immediately recognized like, ‘Woah, this is something really, really good,’” Allister recalls. “We continued that conversation after the original meeting got finished. It was really how it all started. It was a fluke, but I recognized the potential.”

The Genesis

As it turns out, OnDeck Softball interest in AthleteTypes began at the perfect time. The story of AthleteTypes begins with Dr. Robert Troutwine and his clients in Major League Baseball and the National Football league.

After decades of testing and evaluating elite level athletes and their mental makeups, Dr. Troutwine and the founding members of AthleteTypes focused on making the product more accessible for everyone.

“As the AthleteTypes product was evolving and the new company being formed, it was clear that our science-based, end-to-end system could help all athletes, male and female, from early teens to the pros,” says company CEO Rob Pike.

Early on however, most of the data AthleteTypes had gathered came from pro-level baseball and football players, meaning there was a lack of representation from both young people and women.

So, in 2017 after being introduced to the system, the OnDeck softball family partnered up with AthleteTypes to bring elite mindset analysis and mental training to the world of youth softball.

The initial function of the AthleteTypes system is matching an athlete to one of eight successful athletic mindsets — the 8 Athlete Types.  The matched athlete type provides high-level information about the type’s general characteristics, strengths, struggles, and most effective methods of interacting with the type.

“Right away, we understood that in a perfect world, if every softball player knew her Athlete Type, if every parent knew his or her daughter’s Athlete Type… If every athlete knew his or her parent’s Athlete Type, and then if every coach knew their Athlete Type, we would have a better world, because we would be able to communicate more easily.” Allister says.

Softball is a Mental Game

The importance of the mental game in softball is undeniable, so the goal of AthleteTypes to grow and develop the mindset of young athletes aligns perfectly .

“Well I think it’s [the mental game] everything. If you look at the difference, and every hitting person in the country will tell you, once you’ve established a certain baseline skillset, when you get to gameday it’s 90 percent plus mental,” said Jacquie Joseph, the longtime head softball coach at Michigan State University.

Jacquie Joseph

“Well I would say in any sport the Mental Game is the most important thing you could have,” Allister says.

“As a former basketball coach, when a person is in a good place mentally, they perform better and more consistently. When they’re in a bad place mentally, usually their performance is less than good. That only makes sense.”

At the core of the AthleteTypes system is the TAP assessment, which measures the mental intangibles tied to success in athletics and in life. Sample intangibles measured include mental toughness, confidence, and growth mindset.

Since the Allister family has helped usher in AthleteTypes into the softball world, close to seven thousand softball players have taken the TAP assessment. Not only that, there are also nearly 30 college softball programs who use the AthleteTypes system.

“The cool thing about this tool is that it has workbooks or exercises, built into it, for the players to improve,” says Joseph, who uses the AthleteTypes Mental Gym to help her athletes train and develop their mental edge.

A Hotbed for Innovation

Softball, being a game where a sharp mind can have just as much an affect as being physically talented, became a natural place for AthleteTypes to take root. However, that isn’t the only reason softball coaches, parents and players have taken to the system so quickly.

“I think that it’s an open, and untapped market. I don’t think there is a lot out there that does this sort of thing at this depth,” says Joseph. “I think softball in general is still a fairly– it’s a sport where the people aren’t afraid of innovation. They aren’t afraid of growing and learning.”

With all of the softball coaches we have worked with, this has been a common line of thinking. Softball, a sport still growing in the United States, has coaches and players who are unafraid to explore and try new programs and techniques to give their team the edge over their opponents.

Jason Gwyn, a softball coach who uses AthleteTypes for both the high school and club teams he coaches, says that AthleteTypes is a no-brainer for college coaches.

“I really feel this is a powerful tool. If I were a college coach, I would 100 percent be invested in this. Because I think it’s important to see and understand where you are at with your athletes,” Gwyn says. “Who they are, what the team environment is, because that’s going to change every year when you add kids and drop kids.”

Jason Gwynn

The Value of AthleteTypes

Jacquie Joseph was the first softball coach to become a paid subscriber of AthleteTypes when she introduced it to her Michigan State Spartans team prior to their 2018 season.

One of the key reasons Joseph attributes to her adoption of the AthleteTypes system is because of the connection it helps her build with her players.

“Every year, the coach gets a year older, but the players are still eighteen.”

“So every year, the coach is a year older and the players are eighteen, the gap becomes bigger every year. If you have a tool that can help you just bridge that gap, I think that it’s valuable,” Joseph says.  

Opening up ways to communicate with each and every athlete on a coaches roster is one of the major driving forces of AthleteTypes.

“The other thing too, about that I would like to say that the sport is becoming more and more popular, and there’s a lot more at stake,” Joseph says. “The recruitment of the right players that fit your program becomes more and more imperative. Getting it right on the front end is more important now than ever.”

AthleteTypes is working to become the go-to tool for college softball coaches looking to gain an edge when recruiting players who will make the best fit with their program.

“I think it’s really changing the way that softball coaches are looking at players, at least those who are utilizing AthleteTypes right now. We’re getting more and more questions about it as each season goes by,” says Allister.

Getting started with AthleteTypes is easy, and the benefits of knowing about your players and how they are wired is about as invaluable as any other coaching tool.

“I think utilizing it with my current team, anytime you can further understand your players, you’re going to be a better coach,” Joseph says. “I think that moving forward, understanding the types of players that will do the best playing for me and playing in our program is going to pay off down the road.”

Parents and AthleteTypes

AthleteTypes doesn’t just provide information that can help coaches and players, it can also be useful for parents as well. In fact, there is even a report specifically designed for helping parents better understand their child’s mental makeup.

Some parents may feel uneasy about the depth or accuracy of the TAP assessment, but the results speak for themselves.

“It was unbelievably accurate, it was spot on. It also helped me understand, or explain why I get frustrated with certain players,” Joseph said.

It’s important that parents who have their child take the TAP assessment also take it themselves. A parent knowing their Athlete Type in addition to their child’s allows them to see where possible friction will come from.

“Once you learn your own, you take it yourself too. I think it’s important for coaches to take it themselves and then you not only learn a little bit about yourself, you learn why certain players are the way they are. The deeper the understanding of that, the easier it is to coach them,” says Joseph.

Emotional Well-Being of Softball Players

Softball, like a lot of sports in today’s youth sports climate, has evolved into a year-round venture for parents, coaches, and players.

This year long commitment would be challenging for anyone, but the toll it takes on teenage athletes can be even more profound.

The pressures to compete year-round in a sport that is continuing to rise in popularity and competitiveness can easily cause an amateur softball player to burnout.

Fortunately, AthleteTypes offers coaches and parents a way to notice and pick up on cues that the softball player in their life may be crumbling under the weight of their own stress. Stress that can affect even the highest level player in college, all the way down to the young girl just starting to play competitive softball.

Tony Rico, the President of Firecracker Softball, a collection of nationwide club teams that includes thousands of players recognizes the pressures of softball on today’s young players.

Tony Ricco

“The pressures from today’s society coupled with years of playing highly competitive softball can be dangerous to teenage girls,” Rico says.

This is why he decided to adopt the AthleteTypes for the young ladies he is aiming to develop as softball players and people, saying he chose AthleteTypes to help players “enjoy the game like they did when they were untainted 10-year olds.”

Since the aim of Firecrackers and many other softball organizations across the country is to develop better softball players and young women, AthleteTypes and its Mental Gym, where players can learn life skills such as mindfulness and how to avoid and overcome anxiety– is a perfect match.

The Future

Just like softball, AthleteTypes is going to continue to grow, evolve and improve. The assessment, in-app experience, Mental Gym, and new features are constantly being improved and developed.

“I’m most excited about getting in that Mental Gym and getting my kids to improve in that area,” says Gwyn. “But for me, honestly it’s just– I love looking at the team dynamic. How we can build, how we can work together within that structure of who we are. Knowing who we are, here’s how we’re going to do things.”

OnDeck Softball has introduced AthleteTypes to tons of players and coaches, spreading the word about the program that can help coaches and players better understand each other.

“I will say this. I’ve never sat down with a college coach and had less than an extremely positive reaction. Every college coach we’ve talked to on a one-to-one basis, has generally moved towards AthleteTypes,” Allister says.

As softball coaches continue to become more popular and the game continues to grow, AthleteTypes will be right there with it. Accomodating the coaches, parents, and players who have adopted and utilized AthleteTypes to make themselves better mentors, people, and teams.

“I love it. I would love to say I was on the ground floor, but I wasn’t. I feel like I was there pretty early, and have gotten to see how it’s developed over the last two years, and where it’s going from two years ago to know, and some of the things that are coming out,” Gwyn says.

“It is our goal for every serious softball player in America to know their Athlete Type, and we will continue to use it at every one of our events,” says Allister.

“We will promote it at every softball function we have. Just like the SAT and ACT tests, if you’re going to go to college you have to take those tests.”

Working to improve the AthleteTypes product in order to make a difference in young softball player’s lives is a top priority.

“The product keeps evolving and getting better as well. AthleteTypes keeps rolling out new and different things that make it better,” says Joseph.