My mission is to inspire softball girls to DREAM bigger, WORK harder, and SMILE more often. I look to not only help to improve their physical softball skills, but also show them the importance of confidence on AND off the field. Through my website you will find information on all things softball—motivation, inspiration, blogs, quotes, videos, tips, preparation, etc. The options are endless for us to explore…

Sometimes, You’re a Loser

Amanda Scarborough Loser Blog

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but everybody is not always a winner.  We live in a society where everyone is scared to tell a kid that they lost and in a society where everybody gets a trophy or a ribbon, proclaiming they won.  This just isn’t real life.  How does this prepare a young player for the real world once sports are done?

Now, if you know me, you know that I am 100% always about making girls feel great about themselves and helping them become the best people they can be, not just the best players they can be.  But here is what I know: There is always a winner, and there is always a loser.  If there is not a winner or a loser, then there really isn’t a competition happening.  If we are teaching kids that everyone is a winner, then we aren’t teaching them real life; we aren’t preparing them for what’s ahead.  Knowing that there is a winner and a loser is what drives competitiveness.  That competitiveness is going to be needed and used long after softball is over.

The more competitive players are going to be the players who show up to the ballpark every day with a desire to WIN.  That idea of winning is going to be what motivates them to practice more, so that they can help out the team more when it is game time in order to WIN.  The idea of winning is always going to be what motivates them to stay focused during the game for the entire 7 innings, because they know that if they lose focus, there could be a bad inning, which could result in losing.   A will to win will also motivates them to be a leader and help their teammates become the best players they can be, thus ensuring more wins than losses.

Doesn’t this sound like the recipe for success in life? — Hard work. Focus. Leadership. Teamwork.

Hmm…those things sound familiar.  Oh right!  They’re the major keys to having success in life and success in a career.  But, if everyone wins, then players will not feel that sense of urgency to have a work ethic and drive unlike any other.  There has to be something at stake.  And every time you enter a game, winning is at stake.  Learn to win.  Learn to lose.  Hate losing more than you like winning.

Take an in-game example.  Other than just on the scoreboard, throughout the game there is a winner and a loser with every at bat that happens.  A pitcher either wins the battle or a hitter wins the battle.  Think of that tense situation with the bases loaded, 2 outs, tie ball game.  I want the pitcher in the circle or hitter up to bat on my team who KNOWS there is a winner and a loser. She doesn’t get scared of it.  She just accepts it.  BUT, she wants to win so bad that the will to win overcomes the fear of losing.  Sometimes this player with the will to win and uber competitive drive isn’t even the most talented player on the team, and that’s totally okay.  When it comes down to it, I want the competitive player over the talent.

Be so good they can’t ignore you.

If we aren’t coaching to win (to truly be the ONE winner), then we are not teaching to compete.  You must lose to truly be able to appreciate winning. The way we learn is to fail.  Losing is considered failing.  If everyone is always a winner, then we never truly learn to fail and won’t push ourselves as hard to become better, learn more, work harder and become more dedicated.  Losing is not a BAD thing.  We’ve all been losers at some point.  BUT, I would be likely to say that the loss fueled your desire to win even higher.  It’s human nature.  Nobody WANTS to lose.  Everybody WANTS to win.  It’s not always about your record, but it IS about teaching how to lose and teaching how to win.  You can still be teaching these things and have a winning record.  I totally get that it’s not all about your record or all about the scoreboard.  However, the lessons to be taught by having a conversation about winning and losing, and teaching kids the meaning of winning and losing, has a lot to be said.

Hate the feeling of losing more than you love the feeling of winning.

Competitiveness is going to be what drives players and drives a teamA team understanding that there is always a winner and always a loser is one of the most important, fundamental concepts to learn about sports at a young age; let’s not ignore it. It’s there.  It’s real.  Teach it at a young age so it’s not a surprise once they become older, when the wins and losses and at bats have more meaning behind them.  By teaching winning, you’re teaching fight, leadership, focus, hard work and team work.  Sounds like a winning combination to me.

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5 Essentials of a Change Up

Amanda Scarborough Change Up

A Change Up is a MUST HAVE weapon for a pitcher!  For almost all pitchers, a Change Up is the second pitch that is learned after a Fastball. A Change Up is a pitch that should be anywhere between 10-20 mph slower than your fastest pitch. The speed differential is determined on how fast you normally throw.  Being able to change speeds is critical to have success for a full 7 inning game where you will face the same hitter 3 or 4 times in the same game.  For a hitter – timing is everything.  So as a pitcher, it’s important to disrupt that timing by mixing speeds throughout the course of a game to show the hitter something different to keep them off balance and guessing!

There are lots of different ways to release a Change Up! If there were 100 pitchers standing in front of me, there would be 100 different ways they would tell me they release it!  A Change Up release will be unique to each pitcher and needs to feel COMFORTABLE for that pitcher to believe in and trust in it. However, regardless of HOW you choose to throw YOUR change up, there are a couple of things that need to remain consistent:

1. “Sell” the Change Up to the hitter.

The hitter must never know a Change Up is coming! This means from the facial expressions you show from taking the signal from the catcher with the nod of your head and the look in your eyes, to the way that you FINISH your pitch without slowing down through your release, EVERYTHING must look identical to your routine of your other pitches. Your arm speed should stay the same from the wind up of your pitch to the end release of your pitch.  You must fool the hitter and hide it from them until it is coming at them!

2. Throw the Change Up LOW.

When practicing this pitch AND throwing it in a game, you would rather miss it low and in the dirt than belt-high.  It’s much easier for a hitter to hit that pitch when it is up in the zone than ankle high. Aim low! Work on keeping this pitch down by adjusting your release point (releasing it earlier generally keeps the pitch lower) and you can also adjust where your weight is at release (having your weight slightly forward will angle the ball down as well).

3.  Keep it UNPREDICTABLE.

No matter how you throw it, it’s important to prove that you will throw a Change Up in different counts. Too often a pattern is formed to throw a change up only on 0-2 and 1-2 counts.  Mix the Change Up in to different counts to keep the hitter guessing. Throw it for a first pitch. Throw it on a 3-2 count.  Another way to keep the change up unpredictable is to possibly not throw it for an inning (please note this should be based on how the other team is recognizing the pitch and adjusting).  Or maybe one inning you throw it once, another inning you throw it 10 times. Do not fall into a certain pattern for how often you are trying to throw the pitch in a single inning. Maybe you don’t even SHOW the other team your Change Up until the second time through the order! This can be very effective as well!  Your job as a pitcher is to keep the hitter guessing!

4.  Find the perfect SPEED.

A Change Up can be too fast and a Change Up can be too slow.  If it’s too fast, it doesn’t affect a hitter’s timing, their swing can stay the exact same and they have a high probability to “run into” a pitch and get a hit.  If it’s too slow, a hitter can reload, sit back, see the pitch coming, and put a good swing on it.  It’s important to find the perfect speed for your change up and be able to practice it at that speed. I suggest using a radar gun for this purpose – so you know if you are consistently throwing the pitch at a certain speed and/or if you need to speed it up/slow the pitch down. Some pitchers can get away with their Change Up being 10mph slower.  Other pitchers need their Change Up to be between 17-20 mph different.  Generally, the faster you throw, the more mph you will need to take off of your pitch.  If you throw 70mph, you will need to take around 15-20 off.  If you throw 50mph, then you may only need to take about 10mph off.  Monitor what speed you are throwing your Change Up at in a game versus at practice. Pay attention to how and if you are fooling hitters. Are they getting fooled? Are they barreling up to the ball? Play with it! Try different speeds to see what works the best! 

5. THROW it!

Even if your change up is not your best pitch OR if your Change Up is your best pitch but it is not working in a game, keep throwing it!!  Keep a good attitude about it, and keep showing it to the other team.  When the opposing team and the hitter up to bat sees you throw a Change Up, it keeps it in the back of their mind that it is a pitch they may have to face when the hit against you.  You always want them to believe that there is a threat of you throwing it.  Even when it is not working perfectly, you SHOWING it to the hitter disrupts their timing by their eyes and brain SEEING a pitch coming out of your hand at a different speed.

Do not give up on your Change Up!

Just because you may not use your Change Up as your strike out pitch, does NOT mean to stop throwing it! If it’s your weakness right now, it can always turn into your strength if you keep working at it.  Be aware of the way you are thinking about your Change Up! If you always say it’s your worst pitch, then it will stay your worst pitch. Practice your thoughts and what you are saying to your friends, coaches and parents about your Change Up! It does NO GOOD to speak negatively about it. What are you doing at your practices to make this pitch better?!  This pitch is a MUST HAVE tool for a pitcher!

 

High School Softball Season Survivor Guide – Grievance 2: The Competition

High School Softball Season Survivor Guide Part 2

In ANY situation we come up against in life, there are going to be things that we can control and things we can’t control.  It’s important to always take a step back in any situation, and understand which are which.  Limit the excuses and understand what YOU can do better to get the most out of a situation.

You will recognize that my grievances have a common theme — worrying about yourself, controlling what YOU can, keeping a positive mindset and working as hard as up can. If you missed Grievance 1: Playing Time, then click here.

Grievance #2 : Competition Isn’t “Good Enough”

Uncontrollables: How fast a pitcher is throwing; ball/strike ratio of an opposing pitcher; how well the other team hits; how well your defense fields behind you as a pitcher

Controllables: Your intensity and focus in the circle; your intensity and focus at the plate; playing YOUR game at YOUR level; learning from game-like situations; making adjustments

Ok, fine.  So maybe high school ball does not have as high of quality of players as the travel teams you play for during the summer, but really this excuse is laughable to me as an excuse of why they don’t like high school ball.  Does this mean you’re going to use it as an excuse to play down to their level?

You have a choice to play down to the level of your competition or you can choose to shine!!

“The Pitchers Throw Too Slow / Too Many Balls”

Controllable: Swinging at good pitches; trying to be on time; going opposite field; good approach at the plate

Oh boy, this one is pretty funny to me.  Okay, so you face a pitcher that doesn’t throw “hard.”  You should be thinking LUCKY me not POOR me!  A pitcher who isn’t throwing a lot of strikes? Perfect!  I can work on taking pitches, seeing the ball all the way in. and my pitch selection. Visualization training. Patience training. Working on patience at the plate and understanding your strike zone is essential to being a good hitter.

The BEST players will be the players who can adjust the FASTEST, no matter what is thrown at them.

A pitcher who doesn’t throw as hard as you’re used to gives you more time to see the ball, more time to make a decision whether it’s a ball, or a strike and gives you the ability to work on hitting opposite field. Hitting opposite field is one of the things I see out there that is hardest across all levels. EVERY PLAYER can pull the ball. But NOT ever player can have the patience to let the ball travel and work one riving it on the middle or to the opposite side of the field (right field for a right handed hitter, left field for a left handed hitter).  Clearly, if you are someone who struggles with slower pitching, this means this is something that you need to work on with your swing. I promise, even in college, there will be slower pitchers that you have to face and YOU have to be able to make an adjustment.

When you face a pitcher who is throwing slower, take it upon yourself to try to hit opposite field.  Work on keeping your wait back, work on pitch selection, work on letting the ball travel. This is showing bat control.  You can work on this and be someone who is able to adjust to different speeds of pitching with no problem. If you are saying this pitcher isn’t “good” then you should be perfect with you plate appearances and get a hit in your first at bat every single time that you go up to bat.  Set an example for your team on how to adjust to a pitcher.

  • Work on pitch selection
  • Take your walks when they are given to you
  • Work on letting the ball get deep and waiting on slower pitching (just like waiting on a change up)
  • Take slower pitching to opposite field
  • Work on quick adjustments

If you are worried about not being ready for travel ball pitching speed, then take some time on your own to have your travel team pitcher throw to you or go to a batting cage where you can raise the speed and still work on having quick hands and making quick adjustments. Also, go to the cage next to it and go to the slower speed. Alternate going from cage to cage and see how quick you can make the adjustment.

“I’m A Pitcher, and My Defense Can’t Make Plays Behind Me”

Controllables: YOU; Work a little bit more off the plate to get swings and misses; mix speeds to get them to swing and miss; add more movement or better location to induce ground balls that are not well hit;  keeping a good attitude/body language; learning how to work through long innings with endurance and precision

At some point in my playing career, I know I have either been on a team or been in an inning where my defense just can’t seem to make plays back behind me.  Does not matter what kind of level you are at, you will go through an inning or a game like this.  It’s one of those things like having a homerun hit off you – it’s going to happen, and then it’s probably going to happen to you again, and then probably again.  So you can get frustrated and upset over it, or you can figure out a way to be a little bit better in the circle to get more swings and misses or to not have balls as sharply hit to your infielders or outfielders.  This CHALLENGES you; it makes you think; it makes you be creative; it makes you be BETTER.

Pitchers who blame their defense behind them for reasons that they aren’t getting better as pitchers –  I can’t stand that.  This is another EXCUSE.

You’re working through real-game softball situations. You’re working through problems. These are problems you will be faced with again at some other point in your playing career.  Think of it as a challenge; think of it as making you a better pitcher to be able to work through adversity — working on your attitude and keep your emotions in check. BE A LEADER.

What CAN’T happen is that you get a bad attitude and show it to your teammates.  That is going to make your defense that much more tight behind you, and then they REALLY aren’t going to make a play for you.  This is a great test of patience of pitchers.  If you can get through a team that struggles to make defense behind you, it’s going to make you that much better mentally and physically when you get to a team that has a sharp defense. By having better body language and a better attitude, you will help your teammates stay confident behind you; ultimately you a making your TEAM better. By being more concerned with your own personal ERA or how many runs are scored off you, you are more worried about YOU than the team.

It’s ALL about how you choose to look at the situation and how you choose to view what you are getting out of it.

Also, this is a great time to work on being a good teammate.  It says a lot about a pitcher, whose defense continues to make errors back behind her, but who continues to stay positive towards that teammate and not letting it negatively affect her attitude.  This can be a challenge, but this is ONLY going to make you a better TEAMMATE to be around so that your teammates can trust in YOU and believe in YOU even more.

When your defense is struggling behind you, you should get STRONGER and step up.  If your high school team doesn’t play great defense, in my mind, the easy way out is to quit, blaming that the defense isn’t good enough.  You are NEVER bigger than the game. It is what YOU make of it. When you start feeling uncomfortable, do you rise up to the challenge, or do you surrender? YOU control how you handle it.

You can’t change your defense.  Instead of complaining and blaming, step up YOUR game mentally and physically. CHALLENGE YOURSELF.  Challenge your mind.

  • Stay calm
  • Stay positive
  • Work on small adjustments with locations of your pitches
  • Keep good energy
  • You get stronger when the situation gets tougher
  • Think strategically to which of your infielders field the ball the best. Work on throwing to the side of the plate where the hitter will most likely hit it to your best infielder.
  • Think of pitch calling and situations.
  • Look to hitter’s weakness by noticing what they are doing in their swing.

You can be getting better by being creative in what you are learning in tough game situations and thinking/analyzing situations to make yourself a more well rounded pitcher.

“I’m a Pitcher and I Strike Everyone Out, The Hitters are Not Challenging For Me”

This is a perfect time for you to work on a different pitch you’ve been trying to learn or master. Maybe your curve ball is your favorite pitch, and you throw it 85% of the time, and you’re learning a drop ball.  If you’re striking everyone out with your curve ball, then start working on your drop ball.  Throw it in different counts.  Work on placement of it and movement of it.  Know that you can always go back to your curve ball when you need a strike or need an out.  Working on a new pitch in a game situation is so important.  This can create a new focus and determination to add another pitch that will help you, once you start facing more competitive hitters.

  • Work on something new
  • You can still work on getting better despite your competition

There is SO MUCH to be learned from game time experience, regardless of what THE OTHER team is or isn’t doing. Challenge yourself during the game to be the best teammate and lead be example. Any game-time experience is our greatest teach. Softball presents so many different situations in and throughout a game that practice cannot teach you. Be thinking one play ahead. Think one pitch at a time, but when you can be really creative and you’re a pitcher, think one pitch ahead.

Don’t Forget to Check out My Shop!

Fastpitch Pitching Mechanics Analysis

You don’t have to be 6 ft tall to throw the ball in the upper 60’s.  I know for a fact that this is not true.  How am I so certain? Because I did it. It didn’t come easy and it didn’t come on my own.  With a strong work ethic and amazing pitching coaches growing up, especially one who taught me some of the BEST fast pitch mechanics from age 9-13, it can most definitely happen.

For someone under 6 ft tall or 5’10 or even 5’8, to throw in the upper 60’s, you’re going to have to have solid mechanics, especially with the lower half of your body.  Gaining MPH in your pitch comes from a great delivery, a solid foundation of base mechanics and using your lower half the correct way.

I want to tell you about my mechanics as I take you through a slow motion video and explain through each frame exactly what I am doing.  I also draw lines, circles and arrows for a complete video analysis. Enjoy!  Let me know what you think and if you have questions!

10 Reasons Softball Can Change Your Life

Amanda Scarborough

When I first started playing softball at age 5, I never would have guessed that I would end up where I am now – calling games on ESPN and coaching young softball players all over the country. Softball teaches and allows young girls to experience more than just striking people out and hitting a home run (yes, I know, those are 2 of the best feelings in the entire world). But SPORTS have the ability to teach us so much more than what meets the eye.

There are so many things to learn through sports, and I wanted to take it a little bit deeper than just the basic ra-ra about teamwork and hard work. What is it about working with your teammates that stretches you as a person? What is it about the beautiful combination of failing and winning that keeps us coming back for more? I want to start with one of my favorite things to do in this entire world that I learned from softball.  Travel…

1) Travel:

Playing on a select tournament team led me to my current passion that I have for traveling.  I loved going to the tournaments that were outside of Houston, inside of Texas, but what I really enjoyed was getting a chance to visit states like Florida, Arizona, California, Oregon, Colorado, and many others.  I even got to go play in Australia when I was in 7th grade against teams from Japan and teams from within Australia.  Had softball not been a part of my life, I may have never gotten to have these amazing travel experiences.  I consider travel such a great way to explore the world and to get to know another culture and another state.  I remember being a young girl and going to a different state and just taking in everything about it from the way that their highways were different than ours in Houston to how the houses were built differently.  It’s fascinating to me and such a good learning experience.  This traveling continued and increased once I got to Texas A&M as we traveled almost every other weekend in the spring.  I have such a passion in my life for travel now, which works well since I am always traveling outside of Houston for camps/clinics/television games. Also of course, I love to do it for fun as a hobby, as I have been to many different countries including, Australia, Thailand, Dominican Republic, Honduras, and many countries in Europe. It’s because of travel, I want to make memories all over the world.

2)  Networking (old coaches, former teammates, girls who I played against, former private instructors, old coaches I played against, parents of players who I played with):

Little did I know that even as a young girl I was networking for my future.  You parents may laugh at this one, as networking seems like a concept that you really only start once you get to college. But for me, I look back and that is just not true.  I am still in contact with so many amazing coaches and adults from my childhood.  It may have been years since I last spoke to some of them, but they always have a place in my life as we shared a bond growing up from softball that will always tie us together. I had no idea that….

…. while my coaches were impacting ME, I had the ability to make an impact on THEM even though I was much younger.

Imagine that. The networking and relationships formed does not just deal with the people who were adults when I was growing up, but also with my teammates I played with on various different teams. We now have a new relationship as some of them are coaching collegiately across the country.  Now our relationship is not based on a competitive “team spirit,” but with me talking to them about potential players they may want to recruit to their college teams or about a new pitching/hitting philosophy we can debate and learn from each other on.  When you play a sport, it can become an  instant bond with anyone you meet who played that same sport. People who were once your opponents become your friends just because of the connection of our sport.  One of the most important things you can remember is that you never know the impression you are leaving on someone- teammates, coaches, opponents- make it a lasting one. And better yet, you never know where that teammate or coach or other parent might end up, head of a company, head of doing volunteer work you want to participate in, or even have mutual friends.

You can never learn too early that people won’t always remember what you said, but they will remember the way you make them feel

– one of my favorite quotes and I think that it can make an impact the fastest in people’s lives. Plus, you never know who people know…..

3) Time Management:

The older you get, the more you realize what a big concept time management is.  When you have 40 things on your to do list and only 8 hours to get them all done, how are you going to manage your time and emotion to be able to come through? More importantly, how are you going to be able to look at that to do list and rank priorities? When you’re playing softball as just a kid, already you’re learning how to balance your time with practice, school, homework, lessons, friends, quiet time, family, church, other sports, extra curricular activities and games.  And let’s face it, it’s hard.  That’s a lot to try to manage, especially as a 12 or 13 year old.

But like anything, your body and mind learn to adapt to the challenge gradually as you take on a little more and a little more.

Softball players (and athletes, period) have the ability to be one step ahead of everyone when they get to college and things start to move a little faster and there is more of an individual responsibility on each student.  The concept of time management grows even stronger once you make it as an athlete in college; but after college, you are set.  If you make it past collegiate sports, it feels a little bit easier to manage time once you are in the “real world.”  

This time management helps build accountability and dependability– if you’re young, I know these are big words, so my best example to you is just imagine you told your friend you would meet her at the playground and you didn’t show up because you were doing something else.

Being late? It makes me anxious to even think about it. I don’t want to be late to a hair appoint, movie, party, game. Noooooo….the thought of it makes my heart beat fast.  As an athlete, you learn that if you are on time, you’re late, and if you’re early you’re on time. Being late is a selfish act- even if you are not MEANING to be selfish. If you’re late and making people wait on you, you’re saying to the other people who made it there on time, their time is not as valuable as yours. You learn fast in college that there are VERY few, VERY VERY few acceptable reasons to be late. Start being on time now and create a punctual, early habit that you can take into your life post-sports.

4) How to Manage Relationships on a Team:

In a team setting there are so many different personalities. When you play sports, you have to pay attention to everyone’s personality and learn what the best way to is to talk to each person.  Every teammate is going to be different with how you can talk to her. You learn that you do not have to be best friends with everyone, but you will respect them.

So quickly on a team we learn everyone is NOT just like us, and recognize differences in personalities, opinions, leadership and attitude.

Are you going to be the one who shuts down when things go wrong and someone doesn’t agree with you?  Or are you going to be the one that learns to communicate and work through a problem? Ah, problem solving. One of the keys to success of the future. Being on a team puts you in a position to gain experience on this. In order to get the best results on the field, you have to manage your relationships off of the field.  Managing relationships and being best friends are two separate things. Once you hit that field, nobody in the entire complex should be able to tell that there is an argument or something going on between you and a teammate stemmed from off the field problems. Understand you need seperation, aka compartmentalization.

5) Communication:

To me, there is no bigger concept in our lives than communication. Communication is a commodity in every type of relationship. If you cannot communicate, life is going to be a long, tough road ahead.  Through sports as a kid, you’re on a path to communicate in many different situations to gain experience and confidence for when you are an adult. So you know you want something or you need something. It’s in your mind. How are you going to be able to articulate it so that someone actually HEARS what you are saying?

  1. a) With your Coach I remember as a kid, one of the hardest things to do is have a conversation with an adult – whether it was to order my own food at a restaurant or talk to my coach about a specific play. (I remember the beginning times when I was about 9 maybe 10, shoot it could’ve been 8….but we were ordering pizza and my mom told ME to make the call. What? Me???) But there’s going to be an adult on the other line and I might mess up. There comes an age where it is time for a player to approach her own coach about playing time, pitch calling, or any kind mechanics questions. If you do not understand what someone is telling you, you have to learn to speak up!!  That simple dynamic of a player communicating with a coach is just like an employee going to speak with his/her boss. It takes confidence, and it takes a plan of knowing what you want to say and the message you are trying to convey.  It doesn’t just deal with the words that actually come out of your mouth, but more importantly HOW you say those words. Softball teaches you how to communicate with those who are in authoritative positions about something you really want.
  2. b) With your Teammates Communication on the actual playing field is critical to our game, or someone could get hurt. However, “hurt” can be more than just physical injuries.  Important to remember that this communication is two-sided; as a player you are learning not only how to speak to someone, but also how to TAKE IN what someone is trying to tell you. You could be great at communicating TO someone, but how are you going to handle it when that person is going to start communicating BACK to you. Sports teaches you how to communicate (both talking AND listening) and how to compromise with your peers. In the real world, you are most likely going to be on another “team” in the future. You have to learn how to work together with a group of people, sometimes even your friends, for the betterment of a single goal. A big part of reaching that goal will include effective communication and being able to adjust your communication so that someone else can hear what you are saying.
  3. c) With your parents Let’s face it – we are stuck with our parents.  🙂   To be able to feel like you can communicate with your parents is a process that does not just need to happen while you are playing softball, but lasts an entire lifetime.  There are many things a player should be able to communicate to her parents about: if she feels like she is injured, if she feels like she needs a break, if she feels like she needs to practice more, if she feels like she needs more support, if she feels like her parents are being too hard on her. How a parent listens sets the example for the child of how to listen. Are you open minded? Are you someone your child can come talk to?  The open communication about softball helps make your relationship stronger from growing up to when you become an adult.  I was very lucky that I had parents who told me that I could talk to them about anything and built a strong relationship.  They did such a good job of communicating to me that softball was not the only thing that defined me and that at the end of the day, if I didn’t want to play softball anymore, they would be okay with that.  I never felt forced into playing softball, and because of that, it made me feel like I could open up to them and talk to them on rough days. Because the communication piece of our foundation was set when I was younger, our relationship only gets stronger as I get older.

6) Failure:

It’s inevitable. We are going to fail at softball sometimes. We are going to fail at SOMETHING in life. We cannot be perfect. My mom used to tell me we are all perfectly imperfect, and that’s a phrase that has always stuck with me. Softball teaches us how to be able to rebound from that failure quickly. The quicker you rebound, the quicker you will get to feel success again. How do you fail? Do you do it gracefully? Do you do it where everybody in the entire stadium knows you failed? Are you able to make an adjustment, or do you repeat the same mistake over and over again? Fail fast, but learn faster. If you are learning from your mistakes and making adjustments, you have no reason to fear failure.

7) Winning:

In the same breath that we have to learn how to fail, we have to learn what it takes to win. Not just win…but compete.  A winner’s mentality does not have to be a negative, in-your-face mentality. You win gracefully AND lose gracefully. Why wouldn’t you want to win? A winning mindset is a pure WANT to win. A winner hates to lose more than he/she likes to win.

A winner likes to compete – not just when things are easy, but when things are tough.

Winning is a sense of achievement. A winner only knows one speed – FULL OUT, because they know if you go full out you have a higher chance to WIN. A winner knows that some days if you want to win, you have to fight. Not with someone else, but with yourself. Fight to win. Fight to be the very best you, so that more days than not, you have the higher number on the scoreboard when it’s all said and done. That number should not represent your pure physical talent, but you’re pure fight and determination to give your all every single time you take the field.

There is something to be said of an athlete who has been on championship/winning teams. They know what it takes to not only get to the big stage, but compete at the big stage. They know how to handle pressure. Competing for a position, having pressure at a big job, how to win – these are things sports teaches us. Everybody likes a winner. 

10 Reasons Softball Can Change Your Life

 8) To Never Give Up:

Do you know what a dream is? Do you know what it feels like to never give up on that dream? Do you know what it feels like to fight for a dream? Softball teaches us (if we let it) a work ethic that makes us forget failure and forget people around us who may not believe in us. (On a side note, I don’t understand those kind of people. The people who are looking to pull you down instead of help you rise up. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time for those people. I am too busy envisioning my future).

When we can learn to work through failure, our dreams gain  in our mind, they seem more within reach.When we can learn to push those negative, outside thoughts away, dreams can feel more tangible. A dream or goal is used as motivation.

Put an idea in your head, feel it in your heart if it’s your passion and keep moving forward, outworking everybody around you along the way. Hard work pays off. Hard work leads us to our dreams. Softball has this magnificent way of proving to us that if we never give up, and we put our all into something, good things will come in return.

9) Presence:

More than what comes out of our mouth, we are communicating with so many non verbals every day. We start to learn body language as little kids. It’s like learning as a toddler that if we throw a temper tantrum, we still might not get what we want. And all we do with the temper tantrum is draw unnecessary attention to ourselves. Well in life we aren’t always going to get what we want, and as adults it should not affect our body language and the energy we are giving off towards others. Throughout a game and a practice you have opportunities to practice your presence and your body language – at the plate AND in the circle. There are a few reasons for this:

1) Fake it til you make it – Even if you are feeling a little down or a little off, if you have to try to work through it on game day, a lot of times you can fake yourself out into feeling good and have good results. As a girl, and as a human, I understand there are some major parts of life we aren’t and shouldn’t hide our feelings from. But when it comes to how you warmed up, or if one pitch isn’t working, or if the weather is bad, you learn to be a leader and work through some things to show yourself and your team that you can be a leader. Can’t make excuses..you just gotta go get it.

2) Don’t show your enemy your weakness– You want to appear strong and confident. You want to appear stoic, like nothing can change your emotions. When your enemy sees weakness, they know they can attack. And on the other half of that, when your enemy feels an abundance of confidence (even if it’s the fake it till you make it confidence), they can be set back a little bit and you get the apprehend.

3) Strong Presence = Leadership– Eventually you may become president of a company and many employees will be looking up to you. Because in sports you’ve practiced having a strong presence under pressure, it can translate to a real job or being on a different kind of “team.” Your presence speaks volumes about who you are as a player, a person and as a leader.

 10) Be Present and Let Go:

We are going to make mistakes throughout games and throughout life. We can’t take ourselves too seriously. If we hang on to those mistakes, it’s so much harder to rebound and be present in the next play ahead. You quickly have to learn, but not judge, your mistakes. Be able to focus on the present play at hand without hanging on to the past.

If you can give the current play your FULL focus, you are going to have a much higher chance at success!

If in the back of your mind is something that happened 2 days ago, 2 weeks ago or a year ago, you will never be able to live up to your full potential. Learn from your mistakes, have them teach you, but be able to move past them.

These things combined…used all together…have the ability to grow your confidence and belief in yourself more than you ever imagine.  Picture a well traveled woman who is independent, confident, can multi task with ease, communicates with her peers, and isn’t scared to go in and ask her boss for what she really wants. Envision a woman in the future who lets things go quickly because she has confidence in herself and in the beauty of her dreams even when there are bumps in the road. Softball teaches us every bit of this. This is what we go through as softball players and this is what is building us and preparing us to take on the world ahead of us once we hang our cleats. I would want that woman on my team any day……..

 

 

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Why Fastpitch Pitching Leaves So Many In Awe…

Amanda Scarborough Fastpitch Pitching

I love everything about fastpitch pitching. It’s an art – physically and mentally. A very small percentage of people in this world can say that they have taken a stab at it, and even fewer can say that they ended their career as a pitcher and made it through the whole way. There is a certain splendor in watching someone perform the action of underhand pitching, and actually doing it well.

Let me be the first to tell you – pitching is not easy because of how unique the motion is and how each part of your body does something on its own while it still contributes to one full, complete, pitching circle. Softball pitching leaves fans who aren’t around the sport jaw-dropped. Pitching is an act that so many people want to do, but very few last until the very end in the collegiate or professional ranks.

What makes pitching so beautiful is the motion, the dedication and the pressure.

Amanda Scarborough Pitching

The Motion

There is such a high percentage of parents, especially dads, who have thrown overhand and can teach their sons and daughters the general idea of how to throw a ball in an overhand motion. The percentage of those parents who have any idea on how to pitch understand is minute, which causes it to have a certain mystique to those who watch. The motion of fastpitch pitching is intriguing.

When watching a fastpitch pitcher, there is truly so much more to it than meets the eye, especially when it comes to physical mechanics of pitching. It’s not easy to perform the action, and it’s even harder to actually excel at being a great pitcher. Because of all the moving parts through one pitch, all of them add to the allure.

There is so much that goes into creating 1 pitch:

  1. Explosiveness – you get ONE BIG PUSH every time you go to complete the act to get the absolute MOST energy from your body. One burst of energy, then you get a break, then another burst of energy. This explosiveness is NOT just a step or a lunge – it’s a giant glide off of the pitching rubber. Amanda Scarborough Fastpitch Pitching
  2. Balance / Smoothness – while you’re making that explosive push out, your head and eyes must stay still, you must stick your finish like a gymnast on a balance beam after exerting a ton of energy through your pitch.
  3. Rules – while you’re trying to be explosive, you have rules you have to worry about concerning your pitch being a “legal” pitch by the rulebook.
  4. Timing –there are many moving parts throughout an underhand pitch, and all have them have to be in the right place at the right time in order to throw a strike. Not only is timing critical for accuracy, the timing is critical in order to have speed and spin. Timing is everything. The muscle memory and repetition to create that timing is the most important because think about the full motion and how many different things are moving at once at a HIGH pace – elbows, calves, legs, finger tips, shoulders, core, wrist. Pitchers are asking their bodies to move at the fastest rate possible, but also be on time every single time in order to throw strikes. Because of that, timing takes repetition after repetition to master.

There is no other motion in sports quite like the underhand delivery, which leads people to be in awe of pitchers.

There are so many things that need to go right in every single pitch in order to have success in a single game, nevertheless in an entire career. The feel of knowing when a good pitch is coming out of your hand is a feeling that cannot be created with any other action in softball. It’s a feeling of success, effectiveness and control and a feeling only pitchers can understand.   To create that feeling over and over again through hard work and dedication is what it takes to create a beautiful, fluid motion that leaves ordinary people in admiration.

The Dedication (aka Sacrifice)

What adds to the attractiveness of a great pitcher is the fact that they are dedicated to their craft. Because of the things listed above about the motion of a pitcher, it takes repetition after repetition to form the correct habits and mechanics. There are so many small drills you can work on as a pitcher to make a complete motion beautiful. You can skip those drills, but being dedicated to those small drills day in and day out is what adds to the absolute beauty of a pitcher with a solid foundation and will add to her success in the long run.

It takes so much time and you must be willing to put in the extra work – more work than any other position player may put into their swing or fielding a ground ball. Are you will to sacrifice giving up some other things to become a GREAT pitcher? If you are willing to, I promise the sacrifice will seem worth it when you look back.

A pitcher pays more attention to detail than any other player every time you go out to pitch, as pitching is the most intricate position to try to master.

It’s that attention to detail and dedication to practicing that creates body awareness, feel and smoothness in a pitcher’s muscles.  Yes you may be dedicated, but a pitcher’s motion is always a work in progress. Mentally, it can take a toll on a pitcher to put in the work and always having to correct or tweak a little something here and there. For as many things that are going correctly in your motion, there is always something to work on, always something you can be doing better or getting stronger at. The devotedness to practice for a pitcher should be relentless. With devotedness comes perseverance, all the while you are learning the greatest lessons about yourself.

When you look back, you realize the sweat, fatigue, pain and sacrifices were all worth it.

The Pressure

The pressure a pitcher goes through in a game is extraordinary. Think of how a playing field is called a “diamond.” Who is in the middle of that “diamond”?  The pitcher.  Remember, a real diamond is made from high pressure and temperatures. So, seeing as how a pitcher’s position is right in the middle of a diamond, the pressure will be high… Amanda Scarborough Fastpitch Pitching

A pitcher is battle tested so many times throughout a season. If you have never been on a pitching mound or in a pitching circle when the bases are loaded and the game is on the line, you have no idea what thoughts go through a pitcher’s mind and the intense pressure that an be felt at that point. All eyes are on you and you play a tremendous part in what the outcome of the game will be. From the stands, you may think you know, but it’s one of those things one must experience in order to get the full effect.

In the middle of the pitching circle there is no hiding. Everyone watching THINKS they know when you are doing well or when you are doing bad. Sometimes they are right with their assumption, other times they are completely wrong. BUT, as pitcher, you have the most chances out of anybody on the field for others to see your results.You can look at it as the most chances for opportunity to show the world what you’ve got, or you can look at it as the most chances to mess up – the choice is yours. In a game, a hitter may get anywhere between 0-10 swings in 4 at bats. A pitcher is throwing 100+ pitches in a 7 inning game. Your skills are put on display for everyone to see every time you release the ball.

The pressure is a huge part of what makes pitching even more beautiful to watch and take in.

Pressure adds adrenaline and fuel to the fire. Do you use this to get motivated, or do you let it get the best of you?? At the end of the day, if you can handle the pressure and learn to take the bad results like you take the good results, stay consistent with your emotions and be able to handle the pressure one pitch at a time, the sky is the limit for where a pitcher’s abilities can go. You learn to FEEL the pressure, embrace it, but not let it take over your emotions. The pressure will ALWAYS be there, it will never go away. But what makes a pitcher even more amazing, is when they handle the pressure and are able to move on to the next pitch, next inning and next game with a fresh, clear way of approaching it. The best pitchers will change their mindset of thinking of pressure as something negative, and start thinking of pressure as an opportunity.

Amanda Scarborough Pitching

Pitching. I love coaching it, I love still getting a chance to do it. I just think that everything about pitching is beautiful. It’s one of the hardest things to do in sports, which is why the victory of having success when you pitch is one of the biggest highs of the world. It’s the hard that makes it great. There’s a beauty to being in control and having the ball in your hand. You feel the seams under your finger tips and you may even feel your palms sweat a little while you hold the ball. This feeling is OUR feeling – the pitchers in the world who want to take not only the ball in their hand, but they want to take the GAME in their hand and lead their team. This is what it takes to be a great pitcher, are you ready?

Not everyone can pitch. It’s mysterious, it’s difficult, it’s a never-ending project.  When you pitch, you get to be in your own world, like tunnel vision. No one else knows what is going on in your head and your inner thoughts. When you pitch, you can actually become a different person; it’s almost like a yearly Halloween costume. It is your chance to enter a different place and become a different person. If you have never pitched before, it’s hard to even remotely understand what I am talking about, for being a pitcher is its own special breed.

If you can dedicate your time to trying to perfect your mechanics, while perservering through the pressure, then THAT will get you through til the end.

If it’s in you, never give up on being a pitcher. Finishing your career as a pitcher is an accomplishment in itself; it’s like entering into a exclusive sorority. Compared to the mass numbers, very few will be there with you, but if you make it, you share an exceptional bond that very few will ever know.

Amanda Scarborough Fastpitch Pitching

Confidence

Amanda Scarborough

CON . FI . DENCE : a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities

I like definitions. Too many times we use a word and the true meaning gets lost from our day to day use of the word or overuse of it. So to me, definitions serve as important reminders as what we are trying to convey in our every day speech.

Players, coaches and parents know that confidence is important to feel in order to have success as a team and as an individual player. The biggest question stems from where does it come from? Parents and coaches automatically assume that their players will just be confident by merely bringing it up in a post game meeting or in a car ride home. Confidence doesn’t come from a conversation.

Confidence doesn’t come from two conversations. For most players, confidence happens over time.

In my mind, there are two different types of players – 1) the player who is innately confident, and 2) the player who learns to be confident. You know these players who are innately confident – they are the ones who ever since they picked up a ball or a bat just knew they could do it. I played with one of these players, Megan Gibson, current assistant softball coach at Penn State University. Megan is my one of my oldest friends and long-time teammate from Texas A&M and well before the college days. Megan was a two way player who hit, pitched, and played first base when she was not pitching. For as long as I can remember, Megan was just plain confident no matter what – at practice, in games, socially, etc. I looked up to her because I recognized that this was something that was not naturally inside of me. Megan had the type of mentality that she knew she could beat you, even if statistically the other player was supposed to “win” when she was pitching or hitting. Just by merely stepping out onto the field, she had a confidence that was unlike any other, and the rest of our teammates fed off of it. She was just confident because that’s just who she was on the inside for as long as I could remember. From my experience, those who just are innately confident are not the norm, they are the outliers. As coaches, you wish every player could be like Megan, and just step on the field to compete and think they could beat anyone. It’s a quality you can’t teach and that few athletes are born with. These are the players who just have “it.”

Amanda Scarborough Confidence

The majority of players have to…

learn to be confident, just like players have to learn to throw a ball. It’s a process and it gets stronger the more it’s practiced. I, personally, learned to be more confident through hard work and practice.

My confident feeling was created through repetition before it came game time to ease my mind that I was prepared. I knew the more I practiced, the more comfortable I would be for a game and the likelihood would go up that I would have success at the plate or in the circle. I gained confidence with every practice knowing I was putting in the time outside of the game.

In practice I prepared, in games I trusted.

The times I didn’t practice as much, I didn’t feel as comfortable with my playing abilities, which caused me to be less confident and have less results come game time. I was the type of player, especially in college, that would come to practice early or stay late when the majority of my teammates were already gone. The hard workers are the players who are putting in extra time outside of the scheduled practice times. They are doing things on their own when no one is telling them to, trying to gain confidence in their personal craft so they can have success when it really matters. Preparation breeds confidence.

Amanda Scarborough Confidence Blog

Instead of telling a player she needs more confidence, try asking her if she feels confident, and have her answer using her own words.  Ask her what she can do in order to feel more confident.  Confidence is a feeling.  It’s an attitude.  Confidence is shown by behaviors on the field in every move that you make from the way that you take the field to the way that you go up to bat.  Confident behaviors are calm.  They are smooth.  When you are confident the game slows down. Even just by ACTING confident with your body language on the field, the game starts to slow down in your mind.  It is when the game slows down in your own mind that you are going to be able to flourish with confidence and results.

Let me ask you these questions…

What do you look like in between pitches at your position? Do you look like you’re nervous? Or do you look like you’re calm, cool and collected? ….as if anything can come your way and you’ve got it. If you don’t look this way, what are you going to do to change it? Video your player if her opinion of what she is doing is different than the coach’s or parents opinion.

When you’re up to bat are you constantly fidgety and always looking down to your third base coach? ….or are your thoughts collected and you’re involved in your own routine, and then you merely glance down at your coach to see if he/she is going to give you any signals?

If you’re a pitcher, do you make eye contact with other players on the field with you? That eye contact signals confidence that you have in yourself and confidence you have in your teammates. In the circle are you constantly looking at your coach for reassurance, or do you keep your gaze maintained on what is going on with your catcher and the batter in front of you. Confident players aren’t afraid to make eye contact with the opposing hitter. They aren’t afraid to make eye contact with their own teammates when things start to unravel a bit out on the field. The eye contact is needed most at this time so that your teammates feel like they are behind you and that you in the circle are still confident- everyone is working together.

Confident actions start when you’re getting out of your car to walk to the field – how you’re carrying your bat bag, the way you speak to your coaches.  Confident actions are bred OUTSIDE of the softball field.  How do you walk down the hall when you are at school?  Is it confidently? Or is it fearfully?

 

Ways to show/gain confidence:

–  Consistent eye contact when someone (peer, coach or parent) is talking to you or you’re talking to them
–  Making your own decisions without looking to your friends to see what they are going to do
–  Becoming better friends with someone on your team/at your school who doesn’t normally run in your circle of friends
–  Keeping your eyes up when you’re walking into the ballpark, down the hall at school, running onto the softball field
–  Hands stay still without pulling at your jersey or messing with your hair whenever you’re in the dugout, on deck or out in the field – think about what your hands are doing, they say a lot about your confidence
–  Meet new people
–  Speak up in a team meeting
–  Take on more responsibility around your house / on your team
 Speak clearly, don’t mumble

How are you practicing your confidence? More importantly, are you practicing confidence?  This is a daily characteristic to think about.  Will you feel more confident by preparing more? Do you gain confidence by changing your body language? What works for you?  Shine on the field and play beautifully, the way you were born to play.

Amanda Scarborough Confidence

Experience Makes You Shine

Amanda Scarborough Experience

I’m a firm believer in experience.  There’s nothing like the experience of pitching or hitting in the “big game” or with the bases loaded, and the game is on the line. Your thoughts are rushing quickly through your mind, you are completely aware of what’s at stake and how the next pitch you throw, the next time you swing or the next ground ball you field can be a defining moment in an important game.  In this moment, all eyes are on you, and believe me, you can feel it.  The experience itself comes down to more of a mental state than a physical state.  Your physical skills are there from the hours of practice and thousands of reps you have taken at your skill. However, your mental state will determine how your physical state is allowed to perform during the game at any point, especially those few defining moments in every game when it comes down to that one pitch.  One of the biggest questions is how to help a player to be strong in that moment.  A big part of that strength comes from drawing on past experience.

How are you going to handle your defining moment?

It’s hard to simulate this same sensation you get in the big moment in the game without actually living through it on the field itself.  There’s really no practice that you can do to fully compare to the same feeling that is created when you are actually in that big moment with the ball in your hand. The only way to simulate it is to actually do it…multiple times.  The more you do it, the more relaxed you can feel to be able to play to the highest of your ability without your muscles tightening up and thoughts overwhelming your brain in your head. The pressure you feel is as much a mental sense as it is a physical sense of feeling pressure and tightness throughout your whole body.  I’ve felt it.  Multiple times.  It’s that adrenaline rush that you get before the game and during the game that never goes away and is what makes sports addicting.  I want to be frank, if you’ve never been the pitcher in the circle or the hitter at the plate in that game-defining moment, you truly have NO IDEA what it feels like mentally to be present in that situation.  You don’t have the experience.  There may be things that you have been through that are similar, but it when it comes right down to it, the feeling that is created with the “big moment” is sometimes incomprehensible.

But it’s these moments that we all live for in all sports – as players and even as fans at the edge of our seats. 

How do you deal with the pressure?  You have to experience it.  You have to breathe through it.  You have to learn from it.  You have to be confident that you can handle it.  You have to recognize what it FEELS like, be in tune with your body and grasp how to cope with the tightness, the pressure and all of the intense energy that is surrounding that big moment. The more familiar you become with these feelings, the more you understand what it is like to tackle them and become victorious in that big situation.  It’s in these situations where you give more thought to breathing and calming your brain and heart down than you do to actually how to throw a pitch or swing a bat.  You practice experiences.  You practice breathing.  You practice how to keep your emotions under control when the game is on the line.  The more you have at practicing this, the more you WANT to be the one in the key point in the game.

Experience in ANYTHING we do gives us confidence the more and more we perform an action, in a certain situation, under certain conditions.  If you are bad at something (anything, no matter WHAT it is), the more you do it, the better you become at it, as your body and motor skills become more comfortable with handling the new skill you are trying to pick up.  The skill in the “big moment” is practicing how to control your emotions, thoughts, and calmness.  Even if you start as “good” at something with little to no experience, you will become GREAT at it the more and more you do it.  We can see this in real life outside of sports in our careers or different hobbies that we take on.  Sports are the same and even more pressure-filled because in a sport, everyone attending the game knows immediately if you failed or succeeded.  You are out on a stage called a field, and all eyes are on you watching your physical performance and waiting to deem your physical performance as a success or a failure.  Immediately after you perform a skill, every single person watching knows if you failed or succeeded.  Think of a player giving up a home run – everyone watching knows that the pitcher just “failed” and the hitter just “succeeded,” or at least they think they know.  Think of a basketball player and the eyes that are watching every shot taken.  We all know as fans whether or not a player messed up when he/she took a shot based off of the physical result of the ball going in the basket or not.  A job can be different than sports.  Maybe only 1 person knows that you “failed” – your boss.  Many times in a job, you aren’t out on a stage where literally every single person watching, or in the room, knows when you failed.  In a softball game, if you strike out or have a homerun hit off of you, AT LEAST 20 people know if you failed or not (at least 9 on each team, plus a few coaches on each team).  The thought of failing in front of people added creates pressure.

Okay, so I set the stage for you.  After innings and innings of play, and numerous games, sometimes we forget what the “big moment” is all about and what it really feels like to be in that pressure situation – we take it for granted that a player should be good at handling the big moment. This especially happens because we, as coaches and the parents, are older and have either seen or been through those experiences many times ourselves, so we assume that the 11 or 12 year old should be better at dealing with it.  Not the case!  They are just babies, they are just learning and trying to get their feet underneath them.  They are just getting a grasp at the physical part of the game to think about, and now they are having to think about this monumental mental side of it that can make or break them.   To understand what is at stake in the experience, is almost as important as learning to understand and deal with the actual experience itself – from a support position as a parent or as a coach.

Everyone comes around in their own time.  This is life.  We all learn differently, we all experience differently.

Take walking for example (not the softball walking of 4 balls take your base, but the actual skills of walking as a baby) – an experience that all of us can draw from – one of our first physical skills we attempt to do.  We got up, we fell.  We got up again, we fell again.  After days, maybe even weeks of getting up and trying to take that first step, we eventually stand a little longer.  We eventually take one step, then maybe two steps,  And before you know it, we are cruising all over the room and our parents can’t keep up with us. We had to experience each fall  before we could actually get to the end result we wanted.  Now, I imagine that standing for the first time or trying to walk for the first time is a bit uncomfortable. (I honestly can’t remember, but I’m just going off of a simple guess here) Your body is probably thinking what the heck is going on? What am I trying to do?

It’s new.  You have to figure it out.  You have to learn.  You have to understand what you’re feeling and your muscles and brain are learning each step of the way (no pun intended). Each and every one of us didn’t all learn to walk in the exact same amount of time, or at the exact same point in our lives.  Our parents were there supporting us, encoring us that we could do it.  They believed in us, and they knew it was only a matter of time.  We experienced failing to become the walkers we are today.  We may not have walked exactly when our parents expected us to, but eventually we figured it out.

Playing in the “big moment” is the exact same way.  It can feel and will feel uncomfortable.

Anything new feels uncomfortable.  Experience will create a comfortability (just made up my own word there, but you get the point).  We don’t get as many experiences in the “big moment” as we do when we were walking.  When we were walking, we were working on that every single day of our lives.  For the “big moment,” you MAY experience it once a weekend.  Maybe you don’t experience it on a weekend of games at all.  If someone is not experiencing different situations, then you cannot be upset with them for not being good at it.  Our parents didn’t get mad at us when we couldn’t walk on our first try.

The more you can experience the pressure situations and the make or break moment, the better and better you will become at being able to handle it.

THE REACTION

Nobody wants to fail.  Nobody likes to fail; but it’s the failing that can make us GREAT.  That “failing” moment where a homerun is hit off of you or someone strikes you out should be looked at as a learning moment, not a failing moment.  Where was that pitch she hit? Where could it have been? Where did she pitch you this at bat? What part of the plate was strike 3 on? Where do you think she will pitch you next at bat?  What are you going to do the NEXT time so that you feel more equipped to have success than feeling like a failure from your last experience. Teach teach teach teach!  When you react, don’t judge the experience, teach the experience.

No matter what age someone is at, especially a young girl, we don’t want to let someone downespecially in the big situation.  I PROMISE this is the case. Some might not admit it, but I’m telling you it’s true – I know from experience. Most girls don’t want to let other people down more than they don’t want to let themselves down.  Girls are looking for a reaction from their coaches and from their parents. Girls are pleasers.  They don’t want to see a reaction that they let anyone down – especially someone important to them.

If you are a coach or a parent, what reaction are you giving when someone “fails” out on the field?

That instant reaction you are giving with your words, facial expressions or body language IS IMPACTING THE NEXT BIG MOMENT THAT PLAYER WILL PLAY IN. No girl fails on purpose – no chance, no way.  When she looks to the dugout or into the stands, she is looking to see if she let you down.  Yes you – the coach, the parents.  If she did let you down, then you’re making it more about you than you are about her.  Remember, it’s about those players wearing the uniform, learning every step of the way.  They should never feel as if they are letting you down if they don’t make the plays that you think they are supposed to make.

If a girl is scared of a bad reaction, when the big moment comes, she will be drawing back on that experience in her mind from the last time it happened.  Even if it is not consciously being thought about, I promise to you it is in the back of her mind.  This is only going to make her TIGHTER in the big situation, not relaxed.  The player that is in the positive, encouraging atmosphere and mindset will become the player that does better the more and more they get to experience the big situations because they will become more relaxed and more comfortable. These players will be able to understand and deal with those tight feelings and a brain that is running at 1000mph.

Sports are similar to how life works in all aspects.  We do something, we fail, we learn.  But in the same breath – we do something, we succeed, we learn.  There’s a chance for both, but you have to allow the failing to teach you without effecting your confidence.  Learn from your successes just like you learn from failing.  More importantly, how people are reacting around you are teaching you how to feel about and how to feel in the defining moments of the game.  The first thing you should look to if it looks like a player plays down when the pressure situation increases are her coaches and her parents.  How do they react? What are they telling her after the failure? What do they look like when things don’t go exactly how they planned?  Was there a certain situation that happened in the past where maybe the parents and coaches didn’t even know that they showed to the player that they let her down? I’m telling you — you want a player who can handle the big situations, then you want coaches and parents (authority figures) who react in a positive manner. 

SEEK OUT THE EXPERIENCE

Experience is absolutely critical in the development of a player, especially at a young age up until high school.  Don’t get me wrong, even in high school and college, experience is one of the most important things, but the experience the older you get becomes more about dealing with extra outside forces.  The games start to mean more, the competition becomes tougher, the games become televised.  Gaining experience and a mental edge at a young age is instrumental for gaining confidence in the big moment at the older ages when it matters even more.  You can’t start from scratch one you get to high school and college.  If too many poor, negative experiences and bad reactions are engrained in someone’s head in high school and in college, then it’s toughed to overcome them – similar to bad mechanics and poor muscle memory

It does no good to be on a really well known/best team in the area if you are sitting the bench watching other people get the experience – especially as a pitcher. In 10u, 12u and even moving into 14u, you’ve GOT to be getting experience in the circle and up at the plate.  You have a few choices:

  1. Say you are the #2 or #3 pitcher on the team.  You can stay on the well-known team, even though you aren’t the starter and keep practicing very hard to continue to get better.  Stick it out for a year or two, BUT sign up for a local league and get pitching time.  Yes, I know the competition isn’t as good, but I don’t care.  You are getting mound time and you are practicing throwing to an opposing team while working hitting your spots and gaining command.  This is a perfect place to improve confidence, get reps and work on some mechanical issues you are trying to get better at.  PLUS, if you are staying on that team where you are the #2 or #3 pitcher on the team, you add to the competition to be the lead pitcher.  Because you a re getting better, you are making the other pitchers better and there becomes more competition at your position.  I actually did this, and I know from experience that it worked to my benefit.  I wasn’t getting as much pitching time as 1 or 2 other pitchers on my select team in 12u, and me and my parents weren’t in denial about it.  We knew that I needed to get better in order to earn more pitching time.  So we signed up for a fall league to get more innings and more pitches thrown.  To this day, I really think it’s one of the best ideas we came up with as a family. I got drastically better after that season because I was getting the experience I needed, and my results on my select team started to improve and eventually I got more and more time.  Yes, it was a bit of a time crunch, and there were probably times I didn’t want to go, but I really feel like it helped out in the long run.
  2. You can change teams.  I always recommend doing this at the end of the season and not in the middle.  With this being said, I am not an advocate of team hoppers.  However, I am an advocate for experience and how essential it is to have playing time at a young age.  Experience, when it comes to time in the circle and number of at bats you are getting, is SOOO important.
  3. I DON’T THINK QUITTING IS AN OPTION IF SOMEONE LOVES TO DO SOMETHING.  This will be an option that many people are quick to jump to.  The only time I would encourage quitting is if the passion is not there for someone and they are not putting in the time and effort it takes to become solid player.  There is a difference between not having passion and not being as talented as the other players VS having passion and being slower to catch your talent level up to speed.

If someone has the passion to do something, I am convinced they can and will achieve anything they put their mind to, and you can’t tell me otherwise.  The people who don’t have passion end up quitting and weeding themselves out.

PRESSURE IS PRIVILEDGE

Have you ever heard this saying before? I love it. It reminds me of that movie, Remember The Titans.  The older I get, the more I understand those 3 words.  When you look at pressure as an opportunity, not a fear, the game becomes a bit more simple….not easier, but unescapably more simple.  When you get more experiences to choose how you are going to handle different in game situations, you get more experience in choosing the right thoughts, and understanding which thoughts connect with which results.  When the bases are loaded and the game is on the line be thinking, “I get to show everyone how good I am and how I am going to come through” not “I hope I don’t mess up and fail.”  The experience of being in tight situations is all about controlling those thoughts.  It’s easier to control those thoughts when you are in a positive, encouraging environment with your parents, coaches and teammates who support you.

Positive self talk should be something that is without a doubt engrained in players from a young age, especially when they are young and most impressionable.  It should be discussed with players as much, if not more, than the actual mechanics of softball.  Take time for it.  It is so important in the development of players not just in their physical game, but in the part of the actual game itself when the “big moment” comes up and it’s time to shine.

It’s that positive self talk that will help you understand and realize that pressure really is a privilege and you should WANT to be the one with the bat or ball in your hands to come up to be the one for your team.

Realize this: We aren’t going to be perfect, especially in this game of failure we call softball.  Every time you are in that pressure situation it’s a chance to prove that you’re in the right frame of mind.  The “success” and “failure” comes from being in the right frame of mind and giving yourself a chance to have success when the big moment comes; it doesn’t always necessarily come with the outcome, despite what all eyes watching might think.  When you take pressure off of the outcome and the fear of doing something wrong and not pleasing others, you give yourself the opportunity to have more success.  The experiences you go through should be learning moments that are making you a better player.  It shouldn’t feel like punishment or that you did something wrong as a player if you don’t come through in the clutch.  It should be used as a moment to teach, so that when the moment presents itself again, you absolutely nail it.

Only YOU can define your moment.  YOU create your opportunities – what are you going to do with them?

Mental Toughness vs Feeling Good to Play Good

Mental Toughness

What’s the difference between mental toughness and feeling good to play good? Are they one in the same or completely different?

Mental toughness and feeling good to play good are different in my opinion. Mental toughness comes into play when a game is on the line and you can stay calm and focused when all of the pressure is on YOU.  You are able to focus on the task at hand and ignore everything else that is going on around you (fans cheering, dugout hollering, the intimidating batter at the plate).  It’s very similar to that idea of “clear the mechanism” in the Kevin Costner movie, For Love of the Game (if you haven’t watched this movie you need to!).  Mental toughness also comes from ignoring tiredness that may be setting in or any kind of small pain you may be feeling.  When you are mentally tough, NOTHING ELSE matters but the task at hand.  Mentally tough hitters want to be the one up to bat with the bases loaded and 2 outs in a tie ballgame.  Mentally tough pitchers want to be the one in the circle with a full count and the 4-hole hitter up to bat with the game on the line.  Mentally tough players are not complaining about weather, umpires, opponents, soreness.  Mentally tough players do not even notice these things.  One thing about mentally tough players, they don’t even have to have the best mechanics — they are so mentally strong and their will to succeed is so high, they will do whatever it takes to win.

Feeling good to play good deals with the general feeling you get about the game itself. If a feel good to play good atmosphere is not created, then it will be more challenging for a player to be mentally tough in clutch situations.  Feeling good to play good deals with the atmosphere and scene that is going on around the game itself.  Do you feel like you have coaches who believe in you? Do you feel like you have parents who support  you no matter if you strike out or give up home runs? Do you feel good in your uniform? Did you prepare enough at practice that week? When a player plays in an atmosphere that gives her confidence, she is going to flourish and surpass anyone’s level of expectations.  Feeling good to play good is especially important for girls.  Girls are different than boys.  Girls have to FEEL good to PLAY good.  And boys PLAY good to FEEL good.  Surround a player in an atmosphere where it’s nothing but positivity, strong role models and a big support system, and you’re going to see a player SOAR when it comes to her results.

Reliving One of the Most Memorable Moments of my Career

Amanda Scarborough vs Florida

The picture speaks volumes.  I can still remember exactly what happened; it felt like slow motion.  I can still remember exactly how it felt when I was at the highest peak in the air at this moment.  It was probably the highest I have ever jumped in my life out of pure excitement, relief, joy, happiness and adrenaline.  Sports can bring out the best in us.  This was one of my favorite moments of my entire career, and I remember it like it just happened yesterday.

It was the 2007 NCAA Softball Super Regionals, and we hosted the University of Florida in College Station.  (For those who don’t know, Super Regionals is like the “Sweet 16” of softball during the post season.  It’s a best of 3 series with 2 teams.  During Super Regionals, there are only 16 teams left playing all around the country, vying for the 8 spots in the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, OK).  The magnitude and meaning of the game was so high.  The goals we had set as a team at the very beginning of the season, 4 months before this picture was taken, were all riding on this one game, and I was in the pitching circle, the one who had the ball in her hand for the 3rd game of a 3 game series.  There were big moments and 2 games that led up to my favorite moment…

This series, in particular of all the Super Regionals, was absolutely amazing.  It was two top notch and very talented teams, battling against each other, trying to get 2 wins to meet up with 7 other teams in Oklahoma City.  SEC vs Big 12, Texas A&M and Jo Evans going up against Florida and Tim Walton.  All of the games were nail biters.  We played the first game on Friday, May 25.  We won 2-0.  I pitched a complete game against Florida All American, Stacey Nelson. Winning the first game of a 3-game series is always SO important, and probably the most important game of the series.

Score by Innings                  R  H  E
-----------------------------------------
Florida............. 000 000 0 -  0  3  0
Texas A&M........... 011 000 X -  2  7  0
-----------------------------------------
Florida                IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Stacey Nelson.......  6.0  7  2  2  1  2 23 25 104  0.91

Texas A&M              IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Scarborough, Amanda.  7.0  3  0  0  2  8 23 26 105  1.00

We came back the next day, on Saturday, knowing we were just 1 win, potentially 1 game, away from Oklahoma City.  But Florida wasn’t going to go down without a fight.  Megan Gibson started the game 2 of the series.  She ended up pitching into the 5th inning, and then I came in in relief into a tie ball game.  The game continued to be tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the 7th inning.  Even though we were in College Station, Florida was the home team for game 2 of the series, as we were the home team in game 1 of the series.  With 1 out in the bottom of the 7th, Lauren Roussell came up and hit a solo home run off of me to end the game and send the Super Regional to 3 games.  I had given up a walk off home run.  We were 1 run away from ending it and making our way to Oklahoma City.  The game would go on to the third game of the series, and would be played immediately after that game.  I knew I would be getting the start in the circle for game 3.

Score by Innings                  R  H  E
-----------------------------------------
Texas A&M........... 200 000 0 -  2  6  1
Florida............. 001 010 1 -  3  6  0
-----------------------------------------
Texas A&M              IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Gibson, Megan.......  4.1  5  2  1  1  3 17 19  72  1.52
Scarborough, Amanda.  2.0  1  1  1  3  1  7 10  37  1.02

Florida                IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Stacey Nelson.......  7.0  6  2  2  4  6 25 31 109  0.94

Now to set the stage a little bit more for this amazing series…it was May in Texas, and it had rained that weekend.  It was hot.  It was humid.  The air was so thick, you could cut it with a knife (bad hair weather).  But, with Florida being from Florida, and us being from Texas, both teams felt right at home.  The series was so tense up to this point through 14 innings of play, we knew that game 3 would be an absolute battle. And it was.

Our offense ended up putting 2 runs on the board the entire game, 1 of which came in the bottom of the first inning, answering back right away from the loss just minutes before.  The fact that we wasted no time in scoring was absolutely huge for the morale and attitude of the team.  This was a team that never gave up.  Florida’s lineup was so tough.  I remember being in the circle and being so mentally locked in and focused.  I had to be.  One swing of the bat could totally change the ballgame, as they had proven against me in the game before.  Florida, with Tim Walton as their hitting coach, was and is an awesome, powerful, offensive team.

The energy on the field throughout this game, and energy from the stands ,was so contagious.  We were sweaty, we were hot, but we just had one goal in mind, and we were on a mission.  In the field behind me, the defense played amazing.  The team was locked in and there were tense moments and Florida base runners getting on in different innings in the game.   We remained strong, and kept them scoreless through 6 innings.  Finally, with a 2 run lead, we made it to the bottom of the 7th inning, and this time, we were the home team.

Thanks to the help of my defense, we got the first two hitters out, who were the 8 and 9 hitters in the lineup, and it brought back up, with 2 outs, the leadoff hitter of Florida.  I remember being in the circle, my feet on the rubber and already feeling the excitement running through me, feeling so many emotions knowing that we were 1 out away from the Women’s College World Series.  To be honest, I had to check myself and refocus on the task at hand, because you know how this game goes — it just takes one person to get on to start a rally.  I knew it was so important to get out this leadoff hitter to be the last out of the game.  I threw an inside drop to the left handed leadoff hitter, and she grounded out to second base.  In my mind, I can still feel the pitch come out of my hand, I see the swing, and I can see each bounce of the ground ball to our second baseman, Joy Davis.  I remember being a little tight just hoping that she would field it cleanly, and she did, and make the toss to Megan Gibson, who was playing first base.  The minute that Megan caught the ball, it was one of the best feelings in my life.  That out, that ground ball, secured our spot in heading to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 1988.  All the hard work and determination came out in that single jump as I looked around at all my teammates and knew what we had accomplished together.

Amanda Scarborough vs FloridaI love this picture and this moment of my career so much because the look on our face is priceless and what we had accomplished together spoke volumes to the rest of the country.  In the picture, Megan still has the ball in her hand, and in the background behind Megan, you can see Stephen Grove, our Director of Operations, jumping over the fence and heading out onto the field to celebrate.

I cannot begin to tell you how absolutely amazing it is to claim a spot in getting to go to the Women’s College World Series.  There are over 200 Division 1 teams that start out with this goal at the beginning of every season in February.  At the end of May, only 8 teams are left standing.  Texas A&M had not put a team in the Women’s College World Series before this moment since 1988, And we were the team to finally break through to get the Aggies back in Oklahoma City.

Score by Innings                  R  H  E
-----------------------------------------
Florida............. 000 000 0 -  0  5  0
Texas A&M........... 100 010 X -  2  8  1
-----------------------------------------
Florida                IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Stacey Stevens......  2.1  5  1  1  1  3 12 13  61  2.22
Stacey Nelson.......  3.2  3  1  1  1  4 14 15  69  0.95

Texas A&M              IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Scarborough, Amanda.  7.0  5  0  0  2  7 26 28 104  0.99

The college softball season is about to start.  When you have a chance to watch college softball on TV, know that these kinds of moments are constantly being created, especially in the post season.  If you are a player, you will be creating these kinds of moments this season.  Remember them.  Cherish them.  Live in the moment and know that there is nothing else out there like the feeling you get when you throw a big pitch or win a big game. The memories you get from sports are captivating, and they are moments that you can remember forever.

Amanda Scarborough vs Florida 2007 Texas A&M Softball

Amanda Scarborough vs Florida 2007 with Mark Scarborough

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