In the wake of three losses to Florida last weekend, LSU softball players dusted off a book they hadn’t read together since the fall semester.
In the absence of a midweek game, and ahead of the Tigers’ road trip to No. 10 Georgia, coach Beth Torina had two extra days with which to work — time she intended her team to spend addressing its own issues.
She started that process by returning to former UFC champion Ronda Rousey’s autobiography, “My Fight/Your Fight.”
“We kind of went back over it on Monday. We talked about some things, like getting back up when you’re down,” freshman shortstop Amber Serrett said Wednesday. “Ronda Rousey said something in her book about once you let people tell you that you’re up, you can also let them tell you when you’re down.
“If we only listen to only ourselves, then we know what we’re capable of.”
Rousey’s book was one of several motivational techniques Torina used at the beginning of the week to help the Tigers regroup after they were swept for the first time since 2014.
She has put a premium on the mental side of the game as No. 8 LSU (26-8, 3-6 Southeastern Conference) braces for its fourth top-11 opponent in as many weekends.
The Tigers and Bulldogs (30-5, 4-2 SEC) begin their three-game series at 5 p.m. Friday in Athens, Georgia.
“I think it’s tough to stay mentally tough and mentally focused throughout the SEC. ... But you have to be mentally tough to succeed in this league,” Torina said. “You’re going to fail a lot, and the people that can get back up and get going are the people that are going to be successful.”
LSU has lost five of its past six conference games, dropping weekend series at No. 12 Texas A&M and against the No. 1 Gators. Clutch hitting eluded the Tigers in their low-scoring losses to Florida, which came by a combined 10 runs.
So Torina restructured the team’s practices after it took Sunday off. Besides reading Rousey on Monday, LSU held a session that emphasized individuals with the goal of fine-tuning their skills.
The Tigers had a more team-oriented practice Tuesday, but it came with a twist: Each player was paired with a teammate, giving them someone to root for and support throughout the day. Partners shared recognition and success with each other. Serrett claimed the tactic made practice more upbeat and energetic.
“When we pair up and put ourselves into someone else, it takes away us focusing on what we’re doing wrong or right. Instead it’s allowing us just to play,” senior first baseman Sandra Simmons said. “We know how to play and have those fundamentals. We just need to get out of our own heads a lot of the time.”
Torina said the team is “coming back around” after two days of working on its mental game, and players described themselves as eager to move on from last weekend’s failures.
“We’ve had a little more push to us, a little more drive to meet our potential and not fall short,” Simmons said. “We’re going to continue working and get on the ‘up’ path. Everybody is putting in a lot more work.”
But now LSU has turned its attention to Georgia, using Wednesday and Thursday to prepare for a team that swept Texas A&M last weekend. The Bulldogs have the best batting average in the country and are 15-1 at Jack Turner Stadium.
The Tigers insisted their perspective on the rest of the season hasn’t changed, but they’re hoping a little introspection can go a long way.
“I definitely think when things don’t go the way you want them to, you always have to take a step back and look at it,” junior right fielder Bailey Landry said. “We have done some assessing, and I think things are definitely going to go up from here.”