Before each of Shannon Bustillos’ two home runs this weekend, the Terrapins softball catcher stuck to her routine. She glanced at the left-field foul pole, took a deep breath and planted her foot in the batter’s box.
Bustillos learned the techniques from Brian Cain, a sports psychologist and performance coach who has been working with the Terps this season.
During a disappointing 6-32 campaign, the Terps, who dropped two of three games to Virginia Tech this weekend, have tried to keep things relaxed as the team nears the end of its season. Players and coaches have worked to lighten the team’s mood and develop a looser atmosphere to counteract the team’s struggles.
“Really, this team, all we have to decide is we’re going to do it,” center fielder Amanda McCann said. “And it’ll be done. And we’ll win the rest of the season.”
While the Terps haven’t won more than two games in a row this season, McCann, who went 2-for-4 with two runs in Sunday’s 8-1 win over the Hokies, hopes the positive mindset carries over to the rest of the Terps.
McCann said she often works with pitcher Madison Martin on the mental side of the game. The sophomore right-hander pitched in 37 contests last season but has been used sparingly this year. This weekend, she pitched 8.1 innings over two games and allowed three earned runs.
“We’re always on each other about staying in it if we mess up,” McCann said. “And I know that [Martin] gets down on herself and will just come right back. So she lets it go right away.”
While McCann and Martin try to coach each other, Cain has helped Bustillos develop a routine to follow before she steps up the plate. Bustillos had a hit in every game this weekend and finished the series with a team-high six RBIs.
Bustillos’ teammates combined to tally five RBIs in the series finale, and McCann has spread the message of positive thinking. She’s not alone in her attempts to remaining upbeat, either.
“I’ve been telling the girls: Just be happy,” Bustillos said. “We put too much pressure on ourselves. Just go out and have fun. We love the game.”
Ninth-year coach Laura Watten said she has tried to create a more relaxed atmosphere at practice in a losing season that has left the team feeling stressed and down at times.
“Just trying to get them to chill out,” Watten said. “And to slow down and relax and have more fun at practice. And to have them come out and stay relaxed and find that place when they step into the box of having fun and feeling good.”
Infielder Candice Beards doesn’t need any extra incentive to be easygoing, the senior said.
And with two weeks remaininwg in her final college regular season, the cheerful infielder hopes her teammates can adopt her attitude despite the team’s consistent struggles.
“I’m never really a serious person,” Beards said. “I don’t like to be serious because then I just start tensing up. I like to smile.”