Game Strategy - What Every Athlete Must Know
In every sport, game strategy is crucial to success—especially for athletes wanting to consistently perform well.
Game Strategy for Softball Players & Coaches
One of the greatest hitters to ever play softball explains how to create your own winning game strategy.
In every sport, game strategy is crucial to success—especially for athletes wanting to consistently perform well.
To come out ahead in competition, an athlete not only has to perform at their best, they also need to defeat their opponents.
This is where game strategy enters.
Athletes who win consistently, go into every game with a multi-layered plan.
They have a plan for how to get the most from their unique strengths—and they have a plan for how to overcome their opponent’s strengths, plus exploit their weaknesses.
Without a plan, luck or raw talent might get you over the line some days. But neither will provide the consistent success required to reach an elite level. Athletes who don’t master game strategy will eventually (and often quickly) be outclassed by those who do.
Aside from the obvious performance benefits—getting good at game strategy can dramatically improve the enjoyment of sports.
All sports will have their own examples. But for softball and baseball, there is perhaps no worse experience than facing up against a batter or pitcher better prepared than you.
If you have ever been struck out mercilessly because the pitcher knew you couldn’t hit a specific throw. Or been embarrassed on the mound when batter after batter seemed to be able to read your pitch—this article is for you.
We’re not going to cover technical skills—we’ve already got tons of content in this area.
What we’re going to discuss in this article, is how to develop a game strategy to leverage your unique strengths and your opponent’s weaknesses.
To help us out with this task, we caught up with USA Softball icon, Amanda Lorenz.
A Master of Strategy
For a full rundown of Amanda’s background, check out her Versus profile.
Lorenz is renowned for being a consistent big hitter—considered one of the greatest to ever play the game.
She had an illustrious college softball career with the Florida Gators. Lorenz was a 4 x NFCA All-American. Finished her career as the program leader in seven batting & scoring categories. Plus took her team to three back-to-back Women’s World College Series, from 2017 to 2019.
Lorenz began her professional softball career with the USSSA Pride in 2019, after being the number two overall pick in the National Pro Fastpitch Draft.
Amanda’s dream job has always been to become a college softball coach. In 2020, she was appointed as the Gator’s Volunteer Assistant Coach, bringing her back into partnership with her long-time mentor and head coach Tim Walton.
The content for this article has been pulled from an exclusive video interview with Amanda Lorenz, detailing her comprehensive system for game strategy. While the practical examples mainly focus on softball—they apply to any sport.
In the video, Amanda gets into topics like how to build a strategy around your strengths. When to utilize information about an opponent's weaknesses. And how to adjust strategy on the fly.
We’ve covered most of the main points in the article, but to fully absorb the lessons—we recommend subscribing to Versus to watch the training video as well.
In addition to the session on game strategy, a subscription to Versus gets you access to the entire library of training sessions, from our star-studded roster of elite athletes and world-class coaches.
You can test the platform out with our free package. Paid options include unlimited video sessions, future course content participation, and interactive content.
But now, let's get started on Amanda Lorenz’s lesson, on what every athlete must know about game strategy.
Strategy = Consistency
Consistency is one of the most important qualities of a professional athlete. In many ways, it is what separates the professionals from the amateurs.
A professional performs at their peak in all situations. They have a system and strategy that is followed no matter the conditions, giving them the best chance of producing consistent results.
Amateurs—particularly those without a solid foundation in game strategy—tend to falter when the going gets rough. Choking in clutch situations, and not reliably backing-up impressive game performances, are signs that a player might benefit from working on strategy.
Amanda uses a short story as an example of how strategy is linked to consistency at the beginning of the video.
“At the University of Florida, we played Oklahoma in the national championship in 2017. It was game one of the National Championship and I had seven at bats.
Each one of my at bats in that 17 inning game—I approached exactly the same. I stood in the same part of the box. I was only trying to hit strikes.
In the 12th inning—a huge moment—we were down by two runs with two outs. I knew I had to get on base for my team.
They had a lefty pitcher on the mound, throwing 70. I took a deep breath, and I understood—my strategy does not change. Whether I have two strikes or no strikes, I’m going to be ok.
I took the next pitch, hit it in the left-center gap and ended up tying the game for our team—in the National Championship!”
This story sets the tone for the rest of the video, where Amanda goes on to detail a practical approach to game strategy, which any athlete can use to achieve consistently high performance—no matter the circumstances.
There are two essential points Lorenz makes before going further:
- Every athlete will have their own strategy. While it’s fine to get pointers from coaches and teammates, and model yourself off others—game strategy is something that will look different for every player.
- Game strategy will change for every game. Because strategy is as much about your opponent as it is you, to be effective—a new plan and strategy must be developed for each game.
How to Stay in Attack Mode
Most sports involve some level of focused head-to-head competition.
Players are locked into a series of battles—both brief and ongoing—and the one who can outmaneuver and outlast the other, wins.
Coming out on top requires a relentless commitment to staying in attack mode the entire game.
No matter how well you might play early on, losing focus at key moments can quickly erase game winning progress. As MLB veteran Adam Wainwright said in a previous interview, “You can’t take off for one pitch.”
Lorenz explains that loss of focus is often a result of an absence of strategy.
She states, “So often, when we don’t have a plan or strategy leading to an at bat, we find ourselves guessing a little too much. Trying to guess what the pitcher’s throwing next. It just puts us in a bad position.”
Amanda’s solution: have a plan to stay in attack mode all the time.
If you go into a game with a clear strategy, it eliminates the hesitation and second-guessing that leads to loss of focus.
Build Strategy Around Strengths
Now, we get into one of the key pillars of Lorenz’s philosophy on game strategy—self-awareness.
Lorenz recommends building game strategy around your individual strengths first, stating, “that’s what we want to attack when we go into the box”.
Whatever your role, the big wins in sport come from putting yourself in the position to capitalize on your strengths in the game. It’s not that weaknesses aren’t important, but the time to focus on weaknesses isn’t in the game—it’s in practice.
In terms of practical advice, Amanda gives a series of questions players can run through to answer her most important question: What are you really good at?
Her suggestions, which can be tailored according to the sport or player, are:
- What kind of hitter are you?
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- Am I someone who wants to put the ball in play?
- Am I fast, powerful, or both?
- Do I love to come out swinging and attack the first pitch, or to pace myself?
- Am I trying to hit a home run, or just lay down a bunt?
The priority with these questions is to answer them before the game, then use them to develop your strategy.
But what about when the answer to a question changes mid-game?
Knowing When to Adjust
While attacking strengths should be the foundation of game strategy, it is essential to know how to adjust.
Softball is the perfect sport to explain this principle, because we can look at two-strike adjustments.
As Lorenz states in the video, “If I’m attacking my strengths, but the pitcher’s got 2 strikes up and hasn’t thrown to them yet—that’s when I need to adjust my game strategy just a little bit.”
There are two main points Amanda makes about adjusting mid-game:
- Know you’re good enough to adjust. This is a mindset tip to help you maintain focus. If you have to adjust, remind yourself over and over that you’re capable of handling it. Build preparation for this event into your strategy. So that when you are faced with a situation that requires a slight change in approach—you can make just one small adjustment—not get rid of the whole strategy.
- Small and simple is best. Keep adjustments small and simple. You came up with a detailed game strategy for a reason—it’s going to help you win. Just because you have to make one small change, doesn’t mean your whole strategy was flawed. In most cases, there are going to be several more plays left in the game.
Here are some examples of small, simple adjustments that might be made mid-game. These are focused on hitting in softball, but can be adjusted to any athlete’s circumstances:
- If you’re having trouble hitting a specific pitch (in the video, Lorenz gives the example of struggling with Cat Osterman’s drop ball), slightly adjust your position in the batter’s box.
- If you’re on two strikes, choke up a little on the bat to improve control.
- When nothing seems to be working, try a “see-strike, hit-strike” approach for one at-bat, then go back to your original plan.
The most important part of adjusting strategy mid-game, is to make the change within your existing strategy—not to get rid of the strategy altogether.
Keep a Journal
Amanda keeps a ‘hitting journal’ to help with planning game strategy.
This is the second time a Versus athlete has suggested keeping a journal. Another softball legend, Jennie Finch, discusses how she uses a journal in her training session on Setting Goals.
In Amanda’s case, she writes down as much detail as possible after each game, stating that this helps with strategy for the next time she faces that opponent.
For a hitter in softball or baseball, this includes things like:
- Where did you stand in the box?
- What pitches were you attacking?
- What was the pitcher’s speed like?
- How involved was the pitching coach?
- How did your legs feel? What about hands?
- Did the pitcher make you adjust?
- Did they have a particular hitch or tell?
- Did the pitcher’s strategy adjust when you were at-bat?
Evaluate your performance and that of your opponents. Focus on any information you can take into future games, particularly against the same team and pitcher.
As we said in the article with Jennie Finch, if the idea of keeping a traditional pen and paper journal doesn’t appeal, feel free to use whatever format suits you best.
Jotting down notes in your phone, voice recordings, even video are all fine. As long as you’re keeping a record of observations to inform future game strategy—you are on the right track.
The Secret to Never Taking a Pitch Off
If you want to be consistent like the pros. To build a sporting career that makes an impact. You have to figure out how to never take a pitch off—whatever that means for you.
Tim Walton calls it, “we go hard, all the time.”
Amanda Lorenz describes it as “staying in attack mode.”
For Albert Pujols, the key is “tuning out distractions and never losing focus.”
The secret to the level of consistency that all of these high-performing athletes and coaches achieve—is an unwavering commitment to developing and refining their game strategy.
In keeping with Amanda’s recommendations, each of the athletes above has developed their own unique style and approach to coming up with a solid game plan (you can learn about them all on Versus).
Without fail, they run through their process before each and every game, helping them perform at their highest level—regardless of the conditions.
The good news is, game strategy is a continual work in process.
You don’t have to perfect it the first time around. Or worry about getting it right or wrong.
As long as you are focusing on your strengths. And planning for how to overcome your opponent's strengths and exploit their weaknesses. Plus reviewing everything along the way—you will be making solid progress on developing your game strategy.
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