Casey Stangel: Get into game mode

Casey Stangel is a junior pitcher at Lake City High School (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho) who also plays for the SoCal Explosion. Her high school team won the Class 5A state softball championship last season and she has committed to play college softball at the University of Missouri. She will blog for ESPNHS throughout the 2012 season.

When I put on my uniform, it’s like putting on a shield; it blocks out anything and everything unrelated to that game. I am no longer worried about my friends, my school work or my weekend plans. I switch into my game mode, and that is a focus that cannot be broken.

Before a game, my mind zones in and mentally prepares to beat that day’s opponent. I build up my confidence and focus on winning a ballgame. Pregame mental preparation is absolutely crucial for me to play at my best. Keys to this preparation are visualization, listening to music and looking over the other team’s stats.

Visualizing myself striking out batters or seeing contact on a perfect hit is something I do before every single game. If I can see myself doing something in my head, it makes it a reality when I go out on the field. I have to sit down in a quiet place before the game and close my eyes and put the game in my head. I think about what it looks like to strike someone out and then go out on the field and apply it. The same things go for hitting; I see the other team’s pitcher in front of me and imagine finding that perfect pitch and hitting it right back at the defense on a line.

In one of my earlier blogs, I made the statement “Hours before a game, up until the second I put on my cleats, you can find me with my headphones in, mentally preparing.” Music is something that I have found is huge to my mental preparation. It puts me in a different world, away from people, relaxed and focused on the game. Music also is something that just fires me up. I am pumped for the day. It loosens me up because I am jammin’ out to my iPod with some good pregame vibes flowin’. I stay in my separate world; my mind ready and psyched to ball. People know that when the headphones go in, I am in game mode and I’m not coming out.

Last, but most definitely not least, is going over stats. My high school pitching coach has tracked every single pitch I have thrown since my freshman year, making me well-educated on every team we play. We know every hitter and what they have done so that we are prepared and have a game plan going into every at-bat. My goal is to win every pitch, and beat out my opponent every time, and reviewing the stats gives me a great advantage in that fight.

Preparation is the key to success in everything, whether it is a game, a test, a speech, anything. Softball games are a huge deal to me no matter who I am playing; each game is my test. To be at my best I have to prepare for any eventuality, and focusing my head is a huge asset in preparation.

Read the previous installment of Casey's blog – on her approach to high school season – here.