My mission is to inspire softball players 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. Feel free to leave questions/comments, I’ll get back to them as soon as I can!
I pitched, hit and played first base in college, but I have a SPECIAL place in my heart for pitchers. While much of my motivation and many of my blogs can translate to any position on the field, most of what I write now is directed toward the leader in the circle with the ball in her hand.
I undertand, to the greatest extent, that pitching can take a toll on you and at times make you feel like you’ll never be good enough, you’ll never figure it out or like there’s no way you’ll make it through.
TEACH FEMALE ATHLETES HOW TO BRAND, TEACH’EM, TEACH’EM HOW TO BRAND!!
What exactly is a brand? Simply put: a brand is an IDENTITY. It is a set of associations we make with products or services and what differentiates particular products and services from competitors. In sports, we have popular apparel brands like Nike and Under Armour, league brands like the NFL and NASCAR, team brands like the Yankees and Manchester United, and athlete brands like LeBron and Tiger.
Wait, are athletes brands? Similar to the associations we make with products and services, a personal brand is the set of associations we make with a particular person. Athletes with strong brands can benefit from lucrative endorsement deals during and after their careers. Even after their careers end, well-branded athletes can transfer their brand power to entrepreneurial endeavors, appearances, or other business aspects. Want to be like Mike still?? He’s over 10 years removed from his playing days and his Jordan brand is stronger than ever. Well-branded athletes not only earn more, but they have the ability to influence larger masses and opportunities to transfer their brand power beyond the playing field.
So what about the not-as-well-branded or not-as-well known personas in sport? Are they still brands? Tom Peters says: YESSS! Peters is the author of the article titled “A Brand Called YOU” where he claims we are all brands. In fact, we are all CEOs and brand marketers…of our own brand. The way you dress, style your hair, the friends you associate with, the books you read, the food you eat, the car you drive, the content you post on social media. All of this makes up YOUR BRAND. As brands, we each have our own unique name, reputation, credibility, and image. We all have our own brand personalities, or the human element of your brand. We all have different qualities…..
Q1: Is there a such thing as too much pitching at 8-9yo? Don’t want to hurt her, she says she’s fine so thought I’d ask.
A1: Nah! I really don’t think so! There’s not enough force on her arm quite yet! Just make sure you’re practicing all the right mechanics and focusing on detail with all those reps! Want to create good muscle memory! Maybe check in with a sports doctor just in case!
Getting Burned Out
Q2: My daughter will be 11 years old in September. She has been taking pitching lessons for a year and a half. She is really good and continues to get better. However, She seems to be getting burned out. Any suggestions?
A2: Keep it fun for her and keep encouraging her without putting too much pressure on her to go out and practice! Clearly she is athletic if she’s really good and is just getting better and better! Make sure to give her breaks, and make HER come to you about practicing and playing. If she is 10 and getting burned out already, that’s an early age for that to happen! Sometimes a player can be really athletic and talented, but they don’t always have the heart and passion to continue; it’s not THAT uncommon for that to happen! Remember that as she gets older, it’s only going to get more time consuming and the older you get, the more you have to sacrifice for lessons, games and practice! She is still young and growing, so don’t make any decisions quite yet, just see where her choices and heart take her!
Longevity of Pitching Shoes
Q3: This might be a silly question…but my DD has only been pitching a year, and I’m sure we have a lot of things to learn about softball. But is there an actual training shoe or sneaker for pitchers for indoor pitching on turf. She wears her regular sneaker down on her front right toe from dragging it. Her cleats of course hold up really well to this. But around here we have to move practice indoors in the winter time so she is pitching on turf. This is really hard on sneakers….do they make something better built to handle this?
A3: There used to be pitching toes that you could put on sneakers that we were able to put the shoe laces through to keep on the toe and cover it up! I would google search “Softball Pitching Toes.” If nothing comes up and they don’t make that anymore, my mom would just buy me the cheapest sneakers at WalMart or a sporting goods stores. They would be my “Pitching Shoes.” Not worth spending $100+ on a pair of shoes that will just get ruined. They weren’t the PRETTIEST shoes around, and when I was younger I didn’t always like wearing them, but totally understood that you’re going to go through sneakers FAST from dragging! Also – another suggestion you can put lots of duct tape over the toe of the shoe to help it hold up a little bit longer!
Tendency to Pitch Too Inside
Q4: Hi I have a 15yr old daughter that pitches a lot of inside pitches she been pitching for about a year and half, can you help?
A4: For any pitcher, usually pitches that consistently miss too far inside is a true sign that your hips are getting in the way at your release. It’s so important at your release point that your hips are more “open” so that your hand and arm can get through the bottom of your pitch. When your hips get in the way and are “closing” too soon, then your arm hits your hip and causes the pitches to go low and inside. Your arm just can’t get through. So you can either a) speed up your arm speed or b) try to stay open longer to let your arm clear through. I would also encourage to have your catcher set up way outside to give her a different target and something to look for. Last thing, sometimes inside pitches are caused by falling off to the side before you release your pitch. Stay balance longer. For example: If you are right handed, don’t fall to the right BEFORE you release the pitch. Try to stay balance and on the “power line” for as long as you can through your release and stay balance at the end!
Rise Ball Spin for Fastball
Q5: We have watched you over the years and my daughter looks to women like you to compare herself. My daughter is soon to be 16 and she throws rise with the backward spin which in some places really blows others minds and batters get so frustrated. My question is can this spin be thrown as a fastball all the time? Or is it too hard on the body? She throws it all the time and starts it at the knees and if it breaks it breaks and if it don’t it usually gets a an infield pop-up or a little dink behind first, that second can get or right plays in. Just wondering if this is okay?
A5: It’s always good to have good spin and a little bit of movement on your fastball. Really the NAME of a pitch is not as important as the ability to be able to get outs and throw it for a strike and throw it with command. If you have correct foundation of mechanics, I don’t see it being too hard on the arm. I honestly have never come across someone who has spun a “fastball” like that consistently, so I can’t tell you from experience if it will or will not hurt someone’s arm to repeat that motion thousands and thousands of time. The best thing you can do is to just monitor how it is making her arm feel and since she is 16, I would start icing her elbow and/or shoulder after games. Take good care of that arm, it is so very important for longevity in the sport.
Everybody needs someone or something to lift them up on certain days. This game of softball is a game of failure trying to pull us down at every chance. So what I wanted to do was pul some of my favorite quotes from the 60+ blogs I have written on my website. Even the most talented softball players will have days where they want to give up. Remember, even though there will be down days, the awesome days are just around the corner waiting for you. Be confident. Try to grow every day physically or mentally, or better yet, both. When the failure gets the best of you, it wins Believe in yourself and keep a positive frame of mind…
“This game is about the long run. LIFE is about the long run. Pick successes that can build your confidence over time and stay in the process. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, but you can’t see the light if you fall into the trap of all the failures trying to pull you down.”
“Take it one pitch at a time. Take it one day at at time.”
“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. Even if you have to fake it to practice it, fake it until it becomes real. You WILL start to believe it.”
“ANYONE can be on a team, but NOT just anyone can be a loyal leader who people look to and who rises above all the negativity and drama.”
“The true definition of confidence has nothing to do with other people who surround us and statistics on a sheet of paper. The only place that confidence comes is from inside YOU. Yes, you. Our confidence belongs to us, no one else.”
“Every morning we wake up we have a choice at how we are going to believe in ourselves. Too easily we forget, especially when we are in the middle of a whirlwind of a season, that every day we wake up is a new day, and you have a choice every morning if and how you are going to believe in yourself. You own that belief. No one else does.”
“When you take the field or look at yourself in the mirror, YOU must be the one to believe that YOU are meant to do great things. YOU get to show everyone what you are made of and your love for the game.”
“Realize this: We aren’t going to be perfect with our outcomes/results, in this game of failure we call softball. However, every time you are in a pressure situation it’s a chance to prove that you’re in the “perfect” 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. Results will come once the frame of mind has been altered.”
“The only way you won’t “make it” is if you don’t have passion for something and don’t work hard enough at it – with all my heart I believe that. When you have passion for where ever your heart wants to take you, it drives you, it gives you direction and it gives you momentum. Let your passion push you to your dreams. Your passion is the driving force behind your energy and motivation.”
“Passion creates work ethic. Work ethic creates possibilities. Possibilities creates happiness.”
THE most asked question I get is how many pitches and/or how many days a week should my daughter pitch? Sometimes I think parents just ask me this question so that their daughter can hear me say or read that I say 1000 pitches a week or 6 times a week. It’s like parents are trying to use me as their backup and be able to say, “Seeeee, Amanda said you should pitch x amount of pitches every time we pitch.” Unfortunately, there is no magic answer for this question! I totally wish there was (it would make my answering questions a lot easier with an answer less lengthy).
I can easily say this as a GENERAL RULE. If you are practicing 3 times a week, you are most likely just staying the same. 4+ times of practice a week you are getting better and less than 3 times a week, hmmm how can I put this….? you probably aren’t getting better. (Please remember this is not a one size fits all rule, this is just a general statement. There are ALWAYS exceptions). I could throw out so many different workouts, but here is a general one where you can start if you are not pitching in games yet. 4 times a week, 100 pitches a day.
That answer is the easy way out! There is no uniform answer for every single person who asks me this question. In fact, every person will be extremely different. We are built differently with different strengths, flexibilities, minds and overall athleticism. We learn differently. We adapt differently.
But let’s try to work through this……The biggest question I can ask BACK TO YOU to answer is, “Are you getting the results you want on the weekend when it’s game time?” The answer is either yes or no. If it’s no, then you need to practice more. If it’s yes, then you can keep doing what you’re doing.
“But wait…I can’t remember what I did at practice this week…”
Write it down! Write down how many pitches you throw and exactly what you work on for every practice. This way, if you have a successful weekend, YOU can come up with YOUR OWN game plan about how you want to attack your practice plan.
I’m going to be completely honest…sometimes life isn’t fair….
Some pitchers may only have to pitch 1 time a week on their own and still go and dominate in a game. Those are the pitchers we are all so envious of. They are the naturally gifted athletes who are competitors and come from a genetic gene pool we can all only dream of.
Some pitchers may have to practice 4 times a week before they are able to go and dominate in a game.
The one thing I know is certain – you can’t compare yourself to anyone else. You are you.
This whole pitching thing is a LOT of work, I tell ya. It’s more than just learning how to pitch the ball and learning different pitches. Pitching is taking the time to understand what works for YOU and a big part of that is practice routine. It’s impossible to remember and make a practice routine without writing it down. It’s your own personal way of trial and error. Have a pitching journal that is YOURS and be able to write down any thoughts or feelings or anything you are working on in that journal.
“Okay on this week I pitched 2 times a week and threw 100 pitches, but I could have done better on the weekend. So next week I will pitch 3 times a week and throw 75 pitches each day and work on my spin every day while watching my favorite TV show.” For every pitching practice, have a focus (i.e. leg drive, endurance, accuracy, spin, location, attitude, body language.) Mix it up! Try to engage the pitcher and have her pick what SHE wants to work on! You can even There is ALWAYS something you can be working on. Even the best of the best have something they need to work on!
You see this question of how many times to practice a week is such a blank canvas for YOU! I can tell you what worked for ME, but I am not YOU. What I can tell you is that I had to work my tail off to get to the level I played at. I can tell you there were days I didn’t want to practice, but did anyway. I can tell you there were days I didn’t want to practice and ended up just taking a day off and listening to my body. I can tell you there were days my parents pushed me to pitch when I didn’t want to (although they were way fewer than the days it was initiated on my own). And I can tell you every week was probably a little bit different. Life happens and causes us to not get out as much as we “should” on some weeks. But the week after that, do you continue to be “busy”, or do you sacrifice and find time to make the next week better than the week prior?
It is MUCH easier to just ask me to tell you a magic number of pitches to throw a week and you go and do it and we hope for the best. But to me, it is way more fun to figure it out on your own. It’s like a mystery and a puzzle. Every person who asks me the question of how many times their daughter should practice is at a different level than the next person who asks me. Remember, every month may be a little different for what your body needs. Take the time to listen to it. Take the time to go through your results from the weekend and investigate.
Ask yourself some questions so that you can have an a better understanding of how you pitched:
When I gave up hits, were they good pitches?
In the game, did I throw as aggressively and intensely as I possibly could have thrown?
Was I getting ahead of hitters?
Was I able to try out the new pitch I have been working at in the game?
How did my change up work?
Were my outs coming mainly from pop ups or ground balls?
How was my stamina? Did I get tired later in the game (this means you need to pitch longer in each session during the week)
What pitch did I throw the most?
What pitch did I throw the least and need to work on?
(Side note: If you do not know what any of these terms mean or are confused about any of these questions, you need to ASK someone!)
I firmly believe YOU are your best pitching coach, I promise!! It just takes a little bit more work and belief in yourself and your knowledge. As a family, come up with a schedule TOGETHER, as a team for what fits best with your schedule, what you need to work on, and reflect back on your past outings! If you can, pitch 6 days a week! If you are questioning whether to go out and practice or not, GO! The more reps you can get in, the better you are going to become and build a better foundation for your future! Pick up a ball and spin it in your living room or pick up an orange and spin it in the grocery store! There’s so much more to becoming a great pitcher than just pitching FULL distance from the pitching rubber!
Does being surrounded by players who share your values about confidence and being in the right mental state help you as an athlete?
Being surrounded by players that share these values absolutely helps improve your mental state. Players can push each other on the physical side of the game, but can also push each other on the mental side. Players should be surrounded by other players who are reinforcing that feel good, play good mentality. Try to get your teammates to hop on board with those same values. Confidence is contagious. Be someone that your teammates can look to, who plays the game confidently and with a strong presence.
Be a teammate who makes your other teammates better and stronger. By playing the game with confidence and with a strong mind, you make others around you play the game better, as well. Not only will you feel better and stronger off the field, but you will see positive results on the field — having more fun, winning more games, relaxing while you play.
These values not only affect you on the playing field, but off the playing field. The confidence and the mental state you are learning on the softball field greatly affects you in every day life at school and at home. To be completely honest, it doesn’t just have to do with players who share the same values, but with coaches who share similar values and are reinforcing a positive mindset and helping players to feel their most confident.
As you grow up and reflect on the years of your life, you can probably count on 1 hand the people who have made a major impact on you. You are told to surround yourself by people who make you better; a search to seek out the people who pull out the very best in you. But what if one of those people actually found YOU, knowing she could be the one to get the very best out of you? And then, what if you were surrounded by that person for 4 years, 40 weeks out of the year, 6 days out of the week, 4-5 hours of every day? Do you think this person would have a major influence on you in your life? I know firsthand, the answer is yes. I know from having the opportunity to be around Jo Evans, Head Softball Coach at Texas A&M, who just recently won the 1000th game of her career.
When deciding where to play ball in college, some players look at what majors a school has to offer, some decide based on athletic and academic facilities, others may look at a previous win-loss records or national championships. I looked at Coach Evans.
I saw a coach who could make me a better player, but more importantly, I saw a coach who could make me a better person.
I still remember being 15 or 16 years old, and seeing Coach Evans in the stands recruiting me and watching me play. I get asked often if I always knew I wanted to go to Texas A&M. To be honest, I wasn’t one of those players who ALWAYS knew she wanted to go to Texas A&M. I have no family members who went there and had no real ties to the university before I made my decision. When I was that age, I had no idea where I wanted to go to school! But then…Texas A&M showed interest in me, and it was almost as if I knew instantly that I wanted to play for her from the moment I met her. Jo Evans is what pulled me in.
The decision to play at Texas A&M for Jo Evans is definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. When I was there, taking the field every day in College Station, I didn’t realize the magnitude of all that she was teaching me on a daily basis. In those 4 years, I was constantly growing as a player, growing as a leader, and helping to grow a program, all by the guidance of a spunky red head, named Jo.
Coach Evans makes a “big deal” about leaving a legacy, as she asks every senior class, “What’s going to be your legacy?” She reminded our senior class, as she does with every senior class, that we are leaving a lasting mark on a program, and we got the chance to control what it was going to be. From her, we knew we would be leaving a legacy at Texas A&M, but what she did not know at the time, was that she, too, was leaving a lasting legacy on us. A first impression may stay with you for weeks, a lifetime impression stays with you for eternity; it’s one that will stays with me well after I left my cleats on the field in Oklahoma City signaling my playing career at Texas A&M had come to an end. Coach Evans makes lifetime impressions on the players who play for her at Texas A&M University.
Little did I know when I was 16 years old, making the decision to play for Coach Jo Evans, that I would be playing for a coach would achieve the 1000 wins mark. That coach, the one who chose ME to come and play for her at her school, had a monumental weekend, as she won her 1000th career Division 1 game this past Saturday. Quite a milestone, as she becomes the only active coach in the SEC to have 1000 career Division 1 wins and becomes the 8th coach in the country to achieve this.
But in my mind, Jo Evans is more than a softball coach piling up scoreboard victories under her belt.
What has helped lead to those thousand victories is the fact she is a coach who teaches more than the game of softball through the game of softball. She genuinely cares about her players, and has the ability to get them each in the right mindset to go out and compete to their highest talent level, thus the ability to compete for championships. By caring, by teaching, by directing, she is making them better women when they leave her program to go and take on the real world, once their cleats are left on home plate.
It’s a college coach’s duty to teach more than the game of softball, as those 4-5 years of a player’s life are preparing them for the rest of their lives in more ways than one. I know in my heart that many other players feel like I do about the relationship they have or had with their college coach. I speak from my heart and from my own experience as to what I was taught in those 4 years that has honestly, completely changed my life and made me into the woman I am today.
I could write an entire book about what all Coach Evans has taught me. (I laugh because this article is already going to be long enough.) Looking back, I honestly cannot tell you which of these things are the most important and rank them in any particular order, but I do know that they all continue to change my life. Jo Evans left her legacy on us, just like she told our senior class to do on the A&M program.
1) Plain and simple — She taught me the game.
I really learned the ins and outs of the game from Jo. At practice she’s teaching, in the game she is teaching, after the game she is teaching. Doesn’t matter big or small, she will see it, and she will use it as a teaching moment at many point at practice or in a game. At practice, I learned the details of defense from her. In between innings, during a game, I remember her going over pitch calling with me for different situations and letting me know what I could have done better or chose differently. I learned a little bit deeper about what the whole “make adjustments” thing meant as a hitter and as a pitcher, alike.
In post game talks, she would let us know down to certain at bats and certain pitches/counts within that at bat what went wrong, what should have gone differently, and why it changed the energy and outcome of the game or an inning. Because she taught us, we could be more aware of different situations in future games to be able to make adjustments on our own when we experienced that same situation again. She was the best at reminding us of plays of execution throughout the game, that may never go down in the scorebook or get written about in the newspaper, but they were parts of the game that you can’t be a championship team without. During and after the game, she reminded us which plays were a “big deal” for our team.
A huge part of this game is knowing your role on a team. She made me look at the game in a whole new way when it came down to actually playing the game itself, but also, she taught me every player has a “job.” She pointed out different roles that were an integral part of a team; roles that went deeper than the star pitcher and the homerun hitter. Every single player on a roster has value and has a job to do. When you are being reminded that everyone has a role and a job to do at any point in the game, it brings a team together. EVERY player has value.
The more you respect each other’s roles, the better you play together, thus leading to more wins. You keep it simple and worry about doing YOUR job, not someone else’s.
This idea of roles and doing your own job made the game much more simplified. It was important to remember what YOUR job was, and not try to do everybody else’s. You have a job. You execute it. You succeed. “What can YOU do to help OUR team win?” — love that quote.
Looking back, her teaching me the knowledge of the ins and outs of the game has helped me immensely in my career as a softball analyst on ESPN. We did not learn to play as robots on the field – we learned to take responsibility and ownership for every situation throughout the game. Because I wasn’t a robot, I learned quicker and the concepts I learned were able to stay with me longer. Now, I can talk about an array of situations that happen on the field defensively and offensively, taking that knowledge I learned playing under her to relaying knowledge to the viewer on TV listening and watching the game. I know the game from Jo.
2. Respecting the game
Coach Evans takes more of an “old school” approach. She loves textbook softball when it comes down to execution and more importantly, upholding a certain standard to which the game should be played and respected on the field.
Our game has history and our game has value, and she is a coach that doesn’t just ask for her players to respect that history, she demands it. Respecting the game is one of the few things Coach Evans demanded of us, as she is really not a demanding coach. For the few things that she “demanded,” we knew that they were of extra importance, because her demanding anything from us, were things we knew WE could control.
Along with respecting the game, comes respecting the players who played in front of you. Not just at YOUR school, but the players who paved the way to get our sport to where it is today. This is a respect of what they sacrificed, and what they have accomplished ahead of you. Our sport is growing, and our sport is beautiful. This didn’t happen over night. It was made this way from those who laid the foundation before us to make this sport as we know it today. And for that, every time you take the field, you are playing for something that’s bigger than yourself.
What else does respecting the game mean? It means you play hard. It means you leave it all out on the field. It means that when you step out onto the field, nothing else matters – not school, not relationships, not any personal problems. It means keeping a good attitude. It means by knowing that if you stick with the process, the game will reward you. If you are player or former player, you know exactly what I mean.
I had never really thought about the game in this way until I had played for Coach Evans. Yes, I loved to play hard, but I did it a little selfishly, not understanding the real importance of respecting the game. However, she taught me to play hard, for something bigger than myself. Because she loves and respects the game of softball, it’s something that she has pulled out from inside of me to the forefront. Not that it wasn’t always there, because it was, but she showed it to me in a way I had never thought about the game before. If you know me, you know I love EVERYTHING about this game. Coach Evans brought that out of me.
3. Respect Your Opponent
With respecting the game comes respecting your opponent. Jo kept us humble with wearing that Texas A&M across our chest. Yes, we played at a school who week in and week out, usually found ourselves ranked in the Top 25; but she taught us the game doesn’t know who is supposed to win when you step on the field. She taught us that no matter who we were going up against, they deserved our upmost respect, because anybody can beat anybody on any given day. The more I’m around this game, the more I see this, and it’s actually one of the things that still gives me the most excitement about spots in general. As sports fans, we live for the underdog to get the big win. It happens, and it gives everyone out there a little bit of extra hope, as we all feel like an underdog at some point in our lives.
She taught us that even though we respected our opponent, no matter who they may be, a win and a loss 90% of the time comes down to a team playing THEIR game and not worrying about what the other team was doing. She taught us to give so much more attention to ourselves than to the other team, and control the things that WE could control. This is something that as we were playing, made the game seem a little bit more simple. Wow, what a thought – I don’t have to worry too much about the other team, because if we play OUR game, the way WE are supposed to play, then we will put ourselves in a position to win.
Coach taught us a part of respecting your opponent is winning and losing graciously. Any kind of attitude towards another team or disrespect of the game was not allowed. To be honest, we never even really came across anything like this during a game, because we were so engrained to respect our opponent, that it never was really an issue. Respecting your opponent means playing with class and playing within yourself. Jo reminded us of this.
4. Ownership Of OUR Team/ OUR Actions
At the very beginning of the season, Coach Evans will remind a team, “This is YOUR team.” The players are supposed to run the team, with the help of the coaches – it’s not the other way around. This gave us accountability for all of our actions. We monitored and patrolled each other for everything – whether it was about tucking in our shirts at practice, making in game at-bat adjustments or making the right social decision outside of the field. It’s kind of like when your parents buy you a car versus when you buy a car yourself. When you buy the car yourself, then the responsibility and accountability seems to go WAY up. It’s YOUR investment and it’s YOUR car. Every decision you make from that point on has more weight on it.
With ownership of your own team, came ownership of our own pitch calling. As a pitcher, I loved being able to call my own game. It made me LEARN. It made me a better player, and it made me a better coach after college was done. I loved challenging myself and having to think constantly throughout the game. In a way, it gave me independence and confidence in my own decision making. Think about it – I threw 100+ pitches in a completely game, which meant I was making 100+ decisions every time I was in the circle. I don’t know if this was supposed to be a direct bi-product of pitchers/catchers calling their own game, and I’ve never really thought about it this way before, but I think it’s pretty awesome, and it gave me accountability and confidence with my own decision making.
When the players take ownership of THEIR team, it’s astounding how much more accountability and investment it creates. You no longer want to just worry about yourself and YOUR actions, you worry about the TEAM more than you worry about yourself. The team comes first. Because of this, the team starts thinking big picture, monitors each other, and really, the team should pretty much be able to run itself. I can still hear her saying in our team meetings, “This is YOUR team,” and it was true. When we ran OUR team, it gave us more ownership of every win and every loss.
Jo Evans loves to compete. She HATES to lose. “Compete” was a word that we heard daily at practices and in games. The idea of not competing is just like not respecting the game. It’s a long season of over 50 games and Coach expected us to compete for all of them. She wanted us to go out and compete to represent the name on the front of our jerseys.
We had a duty to wear that jersey proudly with Texas A&M represented on the front, and we knew we were representing the 12th man and our incredible university. By not competing, we weren’t just letting our team down, we were letting the 12th man down.
Part of competing is that never give up mentality. To compete and to fight go hand in hand. Not every game is going to be an easy win. There are going to be times you fall behind and need to come back. When you have a coach with the experience and drive that Coach Evans has, she teaches to her team that there is always a chance to win if there are outs left in a game. If she thought that and believed it, then why wouldn’t we, as players, believe it, too?
I remember being a freshman and losing games for the first time early in the season. Some of the losses, we were just beat. Other losses we beat ourselves. But, a loss was a loss. A loss was to be taken seriously with no laughing and cutting up after the game. Our freshman class learned this very fast from our seniors (remember, we patrolled each other). A loss in college was taken much differently than in high school or tournament ball. I learned to hate the way it felt after a loss. As a team, we hated disappointing ourselves, but more than that, we hated disappointing Coach Evans. We hated the way losing made us feel, and we didn’t want to have to feel that feeling very often. We learned from our losses, and were able to move on, but losing was never fun.
Because she was so competitive, our team was competitive. Because she had fight, our team had fight.
Individually, we were expected to compete, and as a team we were expected to fight until the very end. It wasn’t a demand, it was an expectation. It is because of her I am more competitive and have more fight in me than when I entered her program. If you want to win, you’ve got to learn to compete and learn how to fight until the very end, because you never know when the game can change if there are any outs left…
I sincerely believe that Coach Evans taught me the true meaning of what it is to be loyal. She constantly talked to us about loyalty throughout my 4 years. Loyalty means allegiance and trust. When you build a loyal team, you build a team that is going to trust each other and play better together on the field. She encouraged us to be loyal to the program and to our teammates. If we were supposed to take ownership of OUR team, then a big part of that is feeling loyalty from and towards our teammates.
It feels good as a player to be surrounded by loyal teammates. It’s a long season. Not everything is going to go your way. There are going to be team talks, team meetings, and adversity. There are going to be things that are said in a team meeting that need to stay within a team. A loyal team keeps those issues within the team. It is so important to be a loyal teammate. Loyalty establishes faith and belief, and helps with team cohesiveness. Loyalty forms a team who plays for each other8
A team has to feel united at the end of the season to win games and win championships.
When you are a loyal teammate for 4 years, it becomes a habit in your every day life outside of softball. Because Coach Evans taught me the true meaning of loyalty, I bring that quality into my relationships with my friends and family. I hope that they call me a loyal friend – that might be one of the biggest compliments someone can give me. So much of being a good teammate and a good friend comes down to being loyal and trustworthy. If you have teammates who represent those things, then your team chemistry is going to help you get more W’s than otherwise, as Coach Evans taught us throughout the years.
As I saw in Coach Evans, motivation stems from passion. Coach Evans has the ability to speak in a room and motivate everyone who is listening – from the trainers to the managers to the players. Even now, in the rare cases where I get a chance to hear her speak to the team in a pre game/post game talk, it’s moving. It makes me want to go play. It doesn’t just make me want to go play, it makes me want to be great.
She can move you and change your mindset with the passion in her each of her words. Even when it can seem like there is nothing positive to build on after a bad game, she can find it. She can turn a room of emotions from defeat to compete within a few minutes of listening to her speak. She is an extraordinary speaker, because she speaks right from her heart. You can tell it comes from deep within a place built by experience and a place of confidence. It’s hard to NOT be motivated before a game when Jo Evans is your heard coach. It’s that motivation that gets her players ready to play before any given game.
8. She “Gets” Her Players
Coach Evans genuinely cares about her players on and off the build. She takes the time to get to know each player, and figure out a way to coach and communicate with them. Because of the way she forms relationships with her players, a sense of family is built within the program, firmly assembled on the foundation of respect. She can tell her players the hard thing. She is a coach who will always be honest with her players. It might not be always what you want to hear, but she can say the hard thing. She KNOWS her players. She even knows qualities about her players that the player might not have figured out about herself, yet. Sometimes, it takes a few years to understand and appreciate some of the things she brings to your attention in those meetings. It’s hard to hear the truth, and it can be hard to learn about yourself and understand how you are being perceived from the outside. This was “grown up stuff” we were learning to deal with throughout our tenure at A&M. However, in the end, no matter what, Coach Evans told us that she had our backs – each and every one of us – and she meant it. Because we knew she had our back, we had hers.
Coach Evans exuded these noteworthy qualities on a daily basis. We wanted to play and fight for her and for our school. She exemplified what it looked like to model all of the qualities that she was teaching us through her own actions. Because we saw it every day, eventually it just became a part of us. You want it to become a part of you. In some of our most impressionable years, ages 18-22, we were around a woman who was constantly teaching us how to be a good teammate, but an even better person.
For me, playing for Jo Evans at Texas A&M is like the gift that keeps on giving. The life lessons I have learned from her through the game of softball are amazing. I learned a way to play and understand the game, but more importantly I learned ways to improve myself that I could carry on into the real world. When you dig deep to understand why she is a coach who now has 1000 wins, it’s not too hard to figure out how win after win has accumulated over the years. You can tell she has passion, she surrounds herself with a trustworthy coaching staff who exemplify the same qualities that she is trying to teach and she has the ability to reach the players who are in her program to a deeper level. It’s the coaches who have surrounded her and who currently surround her, who cannot be forgotten about as well. Without the help of an incredible support staff, not as many games and championships can be won, trying to steer a program in the right direction.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter how much softball you know and how much strategy of the game you know, if you can’t get your players to play for you, play for each other and play for themselves, then that knowledge is meaningless. I look back to 12 years ago, and I am incredibly thankful she picked ME, Jo Evans picked ME, to play for her at Texas A&M. I cant imagine having played for anybody else, and I would not be the woman I am today without her.
A BIG congratulations to Coach Evans! Her 1000 wins mile marker is a “big deal!!”
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 aredifferent 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.
When I think of tryouts I think of the following emotions: nervousness, anxiety, excitement, eagerness, pressure. This is a time, in my mind, where a player is tested mentally, even more than she is tested physically. If you have practiced hard and worked hard during the summer, a try out should feel like just another practice in terms of what you are about to take on physically. That’s the mindset you should have. You’ll take some ground balls, you’ll throw each of your pitches and you will take some swings either off of front toss or a machine. Your PRACTICES are where you should have been fine tuning some mechanics and working on fundamentals to make you feel COMFORTABLE heading into the tryout.
The tryout is NOT the time to fix mechanics and worry about making changes in your pitches, throw or swing.
How are you going to respond when eyes are on you and it’s your chance to take those swings in front of everybody? How will you handle the pressure? A tryout is just like a game! It adds pressure to completing the skills you were born to do. You can either take that pressure, work through it, and learn to shine. Or you can feel that pressure and crater. I would be willing to bet that the players who crater at tryouts are the players who are not successful in a pressure situation in a game, either.
Here’s the thing: It’s all about what your inner thoughts are telling you, and also what your parents have been telling you leading up to the tryout.
How YOU are handling the conversations with your daughter days and weeks before the tryout is going to affect how she handles the pressure of the big day! How you handle her successes and failures in every day life are going to be in her mind when she is at the tryout. Is she afraid to let you down? Does she know that you support her no matter what happens? Can she feel from you that you are more worried about her well being, attitude and work ethic than you are about the results from the tryout?
Explain to her in different ways that the tryout is NOT something to be fearful of, but the tryout is an OPPORTUNITY to SHOW a coach what she’s got!
If you have worked hard and prepared for this opportunity, then you should feel excited about it! If you didn’t work as hard as you possibly could during the summer, and then you show up to the tryout, THEN that stands for grounds to be scared, unsure and anxious. I would feel the same way if I didn’t prepare for something…any of us would feel that way! The best thing you can do as a parent is keep reminding them of their preparation, to believe in that and to stay within themselves. Remind them to breathe, and also remind them that it’s not the end of the world if they don’t make it. Try to take away pressure, not add on to it. Have a backup plan if the #1 team you want to go to doesn’t want to take you. This is a perfect opportunity as a family to have a contingency plan, and remember that EVERYTHING happens for a reason. Yes, EVERYTHING. Of course, if you don’t make the team you wanted it’s a bummer and you can feel like you aren’t good enough. BUT choose to look at it in a different light. If you don’t make one team, it means that there is an open door for you somewhere else, which is most likely going to be a better fit anyway. As a parent, you MUST have faith and stay positive for your daughter during this situation.
If your daughter had a bad try out, it’s ok! The experience alone was valuable for her to go through and LEARN. Failure is our best teacher. Because of that experience, before the next try out (whenever that may be), you can make some adjustments and think about what you want to do differently at practice and in your conversations to assure that that doesn’t happen again. It should drive you more than it makes you sad.
Don’t DWELL on the bad tryout. It happens!! Just like a bad inning in a game happens!
There are SO many different questions you may ask about tryouts. About a week ago, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me some of their top questions heading into tryouts, and below are some of their questions! Important to remember: there is NO SET answer for ANY of these questions. I base my answers off of experience of being around the game as a player and a coach, and also seeing what OTHER people have experienced to give my best advice.
Q: Is Gold ball really worth the more than $12,000 cost per season (membership, airfare, hotels, meals, gasoline) or if my daughter is good enough will she be recruited without playing Gold? If Gold is the way to go, at what grade level do we make the switch?
A: – First of all, there are SO MANY different directions to take this question, sooo that is why my answers are a little bit diverse. LOTS to consider, but wanted to give you a little bit of insight to a few things….
– When entering the college recruiting world, remember that there are many different levels of collegiate ball. Most people think of college ball and only think of the top Division I schools like UCLA, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, etc. There are SO many more schools than that in terms of Junior Colleges, NAIA, Division II and Division III. There are SO MANY opportunities to take your game to the next level that are outside of “The Dream Schools.” When you are thinking of Gold ball, most of the top athletes in the country are playing at that level on the top teams at the top tournaments which draws in the top coaches. In my personal opinion, the word “Gold” doesn’t mean anything anymore, it’s so watered down and it has lost its allure because of its overuse. Every team wants to be a Gold team, even if their talent doesn’t necessarily match the “Gold” criteria. At the 18UGold level, since they comprised of older girls, a good majority of those girls are already recruited and committed to go play ball, since many of them are Juniors and Seniors. If the big Division I college coaches are there at those games, yes they are recruiting a little bit, but usually at that level they are just going there to WATCH the girls they have already recruited to go and play at their schools. The smaller schools will be at those 18U tournaments looking for the uncommitted/unsigned juniors and seniors. (Players are verbally committing to go to a school in 8th and 9th grade, it’s CRAZY). So playing Gold ball is NOT the only way to get seen because college coaches are recruiting at these different age levels, too. Lots of them will be at 14U and 16U tournaments, as well in order to get an early look at those players who will eventually get up to the 18U level. College coaches want their players to play on the BEST teams because those top teams are playing in the top tournaments against the top teams in the tournament – which gives them invaluable experience and makes them compete at an even higher level. Because of that competition level and how that prepares a player to play at the next level, you can see why college coaches would want to recruit players who play at the highest level possible when they are playing on their select teams.
– I WILL tell you, in order to be recruited, you do need to play travel ball to be able to get the exposure to the college coaches. There is probably a 90-95% chance that you will NOT be seen by JUST your high school team. College coaches do not usually go to high school games to recruit. My best advice in one sentence to truly answer your question: Play on the BEST travel team that you can play on where your daughter will be in the starting 9/10 on the team. It does NO GOOD to be on one of the top teams and not play. You are missing out on getting seen by college coaches when you are sitting the bench AND more importantly, you are missing out on game-time experience to prepare you to play at the next level.
– Lastly, in regards to getting recruited, you need to start EMAILING coaches and putting your name out there to them. Send emails to the schools that best fit your critieria. Maybe you want to stay close to home. Maybe you want to go far away. Maybe you want a high academic schools. Keep your options open and take TIME to understand what the options even are. They are ENDLESS. But the player must decide what is the criteria she wants in a school, and then consistently email coaches and keep your name fresh in their minds. College coaches are getting 100’s (literally) every day and you need to find a way to be different and stand out. When is a good time to start emailing coaches? If you are serious about playing ball in college, you should start emailing coaches in 8th or 9th grade. If you are older than that right now and reading this, then get on it!
My favorite college recruiting website is NCSA. They post SO MUCH helpful information. It’s the best site I have found out there. Their Facebook page is full of amazing tips.
Q: What should parents/players look for in a team? How do you pick the best fit – what should the decision be based on?
A: – There are so many things that fit into a decision personally for YOUR family. You can base it on finances and how much the team is traveling around and if you are able to afford that commitment. You can base it off of how serious your daughter is about wanting to play in college. The more serious she is, the more she should be traveling around to be seen in showcase/exposure tournaments with college coaches. You can also base how serious your daughter takes softball as to how much she is practicing and the time she is willing to commit to playing in tournaments on the weekends and practicing during the week. With that being said, are you, as parents, going to be able to make the commitment to driving her around and taking her to different tournaments?
– More specifically regarding the team, I think you should also base your decision off of the coaches – this is a big one! Ask around about their personalities and how they treat their players and how they are DURING the games. Do they have daughters on the team? If your daughter is a pitcher, how many pitchers are they going to take on the team? I think it’s good to ask them point blank and get an honest answer about where they see your daughter fitting in to the lineup. Ask the hard questions BEFORE you commit to being on the team. Sit down as a family and think of questions that are important you know the answers to.
– I would NOT base it just off of if your daughter has friends on the team. That can be a big one that younger players hold on to. You can make friends. It’s good to get out and meet new people and explore new things! It challenges a player to become more social and make them a little bit uncomfortable! LIFE is about being uncomfortable in some situations and learning how to deal with it and handle it. She can make NEW friends and still have the OLD friends she played with before.
Q: Should you move a kid up in age group to challenge them or leave them down to shine and build self confidence?
A: I like for a player to stay down and play in their age group, especially in 10U, 12U and 14U. To me, this experience of “shining” can yes, give a player confidence, but also teaches them to be a leader and a player that their teammate looks up to. In my mind there is no rush. NOW…with that being said, if a player is simply not being physically challenged enough, I think it is in their best interest to move up to be humbled, learn failure and how to play against the big girls. I think the best person to make this decision is NOT the parents. Usually parents (no offense parents) think much higher of their player than an unbiased opinion would from their team’s coach or their private lessons’ coach. Be honest, be real. Don’t move a player up just to be able to brag about it to other people. That is not the point of playing up. Playing up should be something that is earned and NEEDED and it should have NOTHING to do with ego.
Q: How do you demonstrate “softball smart” at a try-out? Seems like most coaches look for pitchers/catchers and shortstops, how do you make yourself shine at a try-out if you are not one of these?
A: GREAT QUESTION. If you make an error, you rebound quickly by having great body language and a positive attitude. Don’t let it affect you. Players stick out who have a certain softball savvy without even TRYING to have that look. They just walk on the found and have it because they are, like you said, “Softball smart.” They are confident where to go with the ball. They don’t question themselves. Also, be LOUD with communication to call a ball or to cheer on other people at the tryouts. Make new friends, be social and friendly. Pick up another person trying out when they are struggling. You can show signs of being a great teammate even when you don’t necessarily KNOW other people. Lay out for balls. Hustle on and off the field, no walking. Ask for extra reps if there is time. Ask the coaches questions. Stay after the tryout and introduce yourself. Play fearlessly. Do not just fade in with the rest of the crowd with how supportive, energetic and passionate you are. Make yourself stand out and be known. Along with these intangibles, either shine with your speed or shine with your swing! If you are really fast, you will stick out. If you have a pretty swing you will stick out. If you hit for power you will stick out. Coaches love offense. Know what your strength is. When it is your chance to go up to the plate and show them what you’ve got, you have to take advantage of that opportunity to shine! I also found this article, and it has some great little tips!
Q: Is it okay to try out for different teams even though you are staying with your current team so you see have you stack up against the other girls out there?
A: If you are really wanting to do this, I would say it’s VERY, VERY important to have an open, honest conversation with your current coaches. I would think the other coaches at the other try outs might think you are wasting their time when they are needing to evaluate players at the tryouts who are there really wanting to be seen? – that comes into my mind when I think of doing that. Finally, I personally think the BEST way to see how you “stack up” against other girls is to do it on the actual playing field come game time.
One of the biggest questions in our game today is, “What are college coaches looking for in recruiting an athlete?” There’s not just ONE thing that coaches are looking for. In my mind, there are multiple things that add up to being a recruitable player. Some are tangible, some are intangible. What separates you from the thousands of other girls out there who are trying to be recruited who can hit, pitch and field a ground ball?
This question can be answered go into a very position specific answer with a coach once they identify a player (ie what a coach is looking for when recruiting a pitcher, what a coach looks for when looking at a swing), but there are definitely some factors across the board that all coaches are looking for to find a player who is going to come in and be able to make an impact on their program.
It’s great to be able to show versatility — a player who can play multiple positions, especially if you are not a pitcher, catcher or short stop. Pitcher, catcher, and short stop are those few positions out on the field where a coach is okay with finding a player that excels at JUST that position. If you are a standout pitcher or catcher, it’s an added bonus if you can swing the bat and produce at the plate, as well. However, college coaches are less likely to mind recruiting a pitcher who JUST pitches (pitchers really ARE special 🙂 ) and does not play any other position, and the same goes for a catcher. An awesome defensive short stop is a specialized position, as well.
Coaches will bend over backward to find the dime-a-dozen pitchers, a catcher who can throw out a girl stealing who can run a 2.6 and a short stop who can save runs and command an infield.
To have an impactful pitcher, catcher and/or short stop are game-changing positions. If you have a pitcher who can shut teams down, you don’t really care if she can hit the broad side of a barn. IF she can hit AND pitch, more power to her — then that player is probably one of the most highly recruited players, because coaches get more “bang for their buck” in getting a pitcher and a hitter in one player.
Also, if you are an awesome short stop, that means that you are most likely pretty athletic, as the short stop is usually labeled as the most athletic kid on the field. If you play short stop well, a coach sees you as an athlete that he/she might be able to convert to a different position with ease. Remember that once you get to college, every athlete on the team is solid, and there are only 9 positions on the field. So the more versatile you can be, and have the ability to play multiple positions, the higher your chance is of getting recruited……And then, once you are there, being able to get playing time. When I played at A&M, there were 5-6 players on our team who had played short stop in high school or for their travel team. 4-5 of those players ended up playing other positions than short once they got to college.
Please understand that I am not saying you have to be a pitcher, catcher or short stop to stand out. But being completely honest, those are probably the 3 positions most looked at when a coach walks up to the field empty -minded and with no agenda as to which position they are looking at.
After looking at those positions, coaches are looking to see which ATHLETES stand out from both dugouts. Coaches think that they can build off of pure athletes — turn them into any position if they are athletic enough. Because athletic player have more body awareness, then it is easier to transform them and find a spot for them on the field. If you have athleticism, show it off. I think of an athletic player as someone who is strong, agile, quick, can jump, and is flexible. You can have some of these qualities, or you can have all of them. The more you have, the better of an athlete you are.
Players who play multiple sports have higher chances of overall being more athletic because different sports develop different muscles and different athletic qualities.
Think of the jumping skills that come with playing volleyball. That jumping makes you more explosive with your bottom half, and also works on fast twitch muscles, as volleyball moves so fast and is a reaction sport. Think of the endurance that comes with playing basketball or track.
Your body can develop to become an amazing athlete by playing different sports. Many college coaches LOVE multiple sport athletes because of the athleticism that it breeds. However, at the same time, there are coaches that are impartial to multiple sport athletes. I played for a coach who likes multi-sport athletes, so I am more partial to encourage players to play multiple sports IF, and I mean IF, they can get in quality time towards their main sport and continue to show progression in the right direction. If they are staying the same or digressing in their main sport, that is when I feel it is time to cut back on playing multiple sports. My theory: play multiple sports for as long as you can. (Some talented athletes can even pull this off for the entirety of their high school careers).
The more athletic and versatile you are, the higher of a chance you have at being noticed and recruited, and then once you actually make a college team, the higher chance you have at finding playing time. Work hard to get stronger. Work hard to get faster. Work hard to develop athletic skills that do not just involve hitting or throwing or pitching a ball.
2. You produce offensively
Coaches are ALWAYS looking for solid offensive players. It doesn’t mean you have to hit tons of homeruns and it doesn’t mean you have to hit tons of doubles. Understand exactly what YOUR offensive game is so you can focus on it and capitalize on it. If you do have power, that’s awesome, but there are other offensive ways to catch attention, as well. I would say in 90-95% of colleges, if you are one of the top offensive producers on the team, a coach will find a spot for you in the lineup and figure out a way to put you somewhere defensively.
The Big Power Hitter
Can you crush the ball? You’ll catch coaches’ attention. In college, coaches are looking for the top 9 offensive producers to fill into their lineup. If you are one of the top hitters and have a willingness and ability to show that you can play a position you’ve never played before, you can find yourself in a lineup. Be sure you are a hitter who consistently shows that power and show that you’re not a “lucky” hitter. When college coaches are there watching you, you string together quality at bats, where you have a good approach and are hitting the ball hard more often than not. Take advantage of big RBI opportunities. If you are known you’re your power hitting at the plate, then it is your job on your high school team, on your travel team, and it will be your job when you get to college to come through with the big, RBI hits. A college coach wants a power hitter that thrives in clutch RBI opportunities. A big power hitter looks at bases loaded with 2 outs as an OPPORTUNITY, not as a fear. If you struggle in these RBI situations in tournaments or in high school, why would a college coach think you are going to be any different once you make it to the next level?
Do you have speed? Use it — consistently. Speed kills in our sport. Our sport is based around speed. But it does no good to have that speed, be a lefty slapper, and not consistently be able to put the ball on the ground.
If speed is your game, show that you are player who consistently gets on base – some way, some how. That’s your job.
Have a great short game. Remember to read the defense when you’re up to bat. Put the ball on the ground. Your speed does NOT matter if you are popping the ball up. Catch a coaches’ attention by consistently putting the ball on the ground and having great bat control. By putting the ball in play more often, you’re putting pressure on the defense, and if you have speed, you’re going to pressure them make errors, as they will hurry to get rid of the ball to get you out.
So, you have speed? You have speed AND power? Even better. The toughest players to play against defensively are the players who can drop bombs and can also read the defense and know when to drop a bunt down the line to keep the defense off guard. This greatly comes into play, too, because as a hitter you are going to go through slumps – it’s inevitable. If you are in a slump, and you aren’t seeing the ball well, if you have a little bit of speed, you can lay down a bunt down the line and find another way to get on. A college coach will notice if you are a player who is consistently finding a way on base. If you have speed USE IT, by putting the ball on the ground and causing havoc in the infield. On base percentage is such an important statistic – even more important than batting average.
The Singles Hitter
Okay, so maybe you can’t hit the ball 300 ft and you can’t run a 2.7 to first base. Then where do you fall? If you are a player who is more of a singles hitter, embrace that!! Don’t go up TRYING to hit homeruns, it’s only going to work against your game. KNOW that you are more of a hitter who is looking to hit a single, make contact, advance runners, execute your short game. A singles hitter can be a player who is one of the most “headsy” players on the team. She is always looking for a way to help the team.
For example: There’s a runner at 1B with 1 out. Your best power hitter is on deck. Your execution job is to either lay down a sacrifice bunt OR hit behind the runner (hitting the ball to the right side). If you happen to hit a single to the right side when you are trying to hit behind the runner, more power to you. A singles hitter has to be a little bit more crafty in her thoughts and knowledge of the game. KNOW that you are more of a singles hitter, be a hitter that is consistently making contact, a hitter who has great at bats and and a hitter who is great at putting the ball into play. I promise if you do this, coaches will notice (because coaches know the game and they understand that everybody has their own role), and you will be a benefit to have in the lineup.
Every offensive player in a lineup has a role. All of these offensive roles are needed in a collegiate lineup to work together in a strategic lineup. Don’t try to be something you aren’t. Know your strengths. Be consistent with those strengths. Believe in your strengths. Allow those strengths to flourish when college coaches’ eyes are on you.
3. Softball “Savviness”
Coaches love finding players who just KNOW the game. These are players who can think for themselves and trust their softball instincts. I’ve noticed a lot of times, on tournament teams when I am out coaching, SO many player’s are programmed to just do exactly what their coach tells them – whether it’s when to swing or the exact defensive position to be placed in. These player are learning to be robots, they aren’t learning to be instinctual players out in the field. If you do not learn to think for yourself and position yourself in the game, you will not become the best instinctual softball player you can be. A collegiate coach does not constantly want to be moving the robots out in the field during a game – there are way too many other things to worry about.
Softball savvy players are so aware of their surroundings and the game situation, that they innately know what to do almost every time the ball comes to them.
Coaches like this because then it’s less teaching they have to do about basic nuances of the game once you get to their program. Becoming softball savvy comes from watching softball on TV, it comes from watching baseball on TV, it comes from asking questions, learning and then trusting in what you learned once you get out on the field. If you do not trust your knowledge of the game, and you are second guessing every play and every situation, then it doesn’t matter how much you KNOW about softball, you’re not going to be able to make good decisions once you’re out on the field.
Is it in you? Are you learning or are you a robot? Don’t be a robot!!!! Love this game so much that it just is molded into your brain and your movements out on the field. Ask questions and learn. TRUST what you learn and trust in yourself. Do not be told what to do at all times — this is NOT learning.
4. Competitive / Knows how to win
I’ve talked about this before in a different one of my blogs :: the ability to be competitive and have a fire in your belly that you want to win is a HUGE quality that cannot really be taught. Knowing how to win might sound like an obvious quality, but it is a TRUE quality that college coaches are looking for in their programs.
They want players that come from winning teams (winning high school teams or winning tournament teams) because then the players get to their collegiate programs and EXPECT to win, because they don’t know anything else. They like players who come from winning programs:: high school teams that win championships and go deep into playoffs and/or travel ball teams that play at the highest quality tournaments AND go deep into those tournaments. Coaches are paying attention to how the teams you are apart of are doing and if winning is a culture that you are around day in and day out. If you are used to winning, it drives you; it becomes a part of you and once you get to college, that winning attitude will stay inside of you.
Remember, college coaches keep their jobs by WINNING. Their livelihood depends on it. So they are going to put out on the field the best lineup that is going to give them the best chance to win. If a player has played in a big championship game at a tournament level or high school level, then that player has championship experience at a young age, which prepares you to compete in championships at the collegiate level.
You can’t teach what it is like to feel a championship game. You have to experience it.
The adrenaline is higher, the stakes are higher, the competition is higher. You have to be able to control your emotions and get ready for THE BIG GAME. So if a college coach knows that a player has championship experience, then this is an added benefit of coming to their team. All coaches expect to be competing IN championship games for their conferences and for the post season. Championship experience and having an attitude of “been there done that” entering the game will calm their team headed into an important game. (No, I am not talking about players who are cocky with the “been there done that” attitude….I am talking about the players who don’t let their emotions get the best of them and are able to go into a big championship game and keep their emotions in check)
They want players who fight, who are internally competitive and hate losing. College coaches want players who hate losing, because THEY hate losing. (Yes, I heard those of you out there who commented on my Sometimes You’re a Loser blog, and I am in agreement with you that there IS a right and wrong a way to lose. BUT in this instance, and in the Sometimes You’re a Loser blog, I am talking about an internal drive that causes you to hate losing and not want to FEEL what it’s like to lose). But back to what I was saying about being a player who comes from a winning team– think of it this way – the more you are winning, the more games you are playing because you stay in tournaments longer, and the longer you are in tournaments, the better the teams you are playing, so quality of competition increases.
Overall, it’s just a win-win, no pun intended. By playing better competition, you become a better player. So you’re playing more games, you’re playing higher talent, and you’re learning what it’s like to truly compete in a championship atmosphere against the best of the best —– which is EXACTLY what you’re doing once you make it to college. See why winning is important?
5. Good Attitude & Coachable
What do your high school coaches and travel ball coaches say about your attitude and if you are a coachable player?
A coachable player is one who listens respectfully to any coach giving you direction. A coachable player is one who does NOT think she knows more than any coach she comes across.
If a coach is giving her information, she is taking it in like a sponge. A coachable player is someone who never stops learning and wants to continue to grow. If your high school and tournament team coaches think that you are NOT a coachable player, then what would lead a college coach to believe that you would just magically become a coachable player whenever you got to their school? College coaches want someone who is raw and has talent, but also someone who they can coach into an even better athlete once you get to their school. If you are not coachable and you don’t want to learn, then you are not one of those players.
Along with being coachable, a coach wants a player who has a good attitude (This might sound cliche here, but it cannot be stressed enough). College coaches and college players are around each other A LOT. A good attitude makes people around you better, and you’re enjoyable to be around. A bad attitude that is negative is not something that most of us want to be around, especially with the amount that a college team is around each other. Also, remember that our game is a game of failure — it just is! So a coach wants player who have the ability to deal with failure throughout a season because it’s going to be happening — a lot. Sorry, but you’re not going to get a hit every time. Hate to break it to you, but you’re going to give up a home run (or two…or twenty) in college. A player with a positive mindset and attitude can rebound faster. A player with a negative mindset holds on to these things. You have to be able to move on, it’s a long college season.
A good attitude involves caring about the team more than you care about yourself.
Players who throw fits in the dugout and show body language on the field, to me, are more worried about themselves than they are about the team. Remember we play a team sport, because the end result of the team is more important than the end result of an individual player. A player with a bad attitude and a selfish attitude is a cancer, I REPEAT, a cancer to ANY team. You are only as strong as your weakest attitude. Once you get to the collegiate level, it’s all about doing whatever it takes to win and compete. Players who have bad attitudes hold teams back. A coach, then, has to give that player more attention and more time than anybody else on the team, thus making that player a selfish player.
Be aware of your attitude AND your body language!! When coaches come to your games, they can see these things! Even if you don’t think are you giving off bad energy, you very well might be! Coaches are around so many different types of players and WATCH so many different types of players; they are experienced in the arena of picking up on whether or not a player is a team player or not. Work on your attitude and being a good teammate just like you work on your swing. In order for a team to win a championship in college, they must have good team chemistry and a college coach does not want 1 player to hold them back from achieving their goals because that one player has a bad attitude.
You can’t talk about getting recruited to play college ball without the discussion of grades and what kind of student you are in the classroom. (In fact, I probably should have not put this one last on the list as it easily could be #1 and #1 for the simple reason that if you don’t pass, you don’t play…and then this whole talking about getting recruited thing is pointless).
You can be the most talented player on the field or even in an entire tournament, but if you don’t make the grades, then you can’t make it TO college or make it IN college.
I am not saying this because teachers sent me a check to write about this, or parents out there emailed me and wanted me to write about the importance of grades. I am writing about this because this is real life and this is SOOOOO IMPORTANT. With that being said, I am not saying that you have to make all A’s in high school; this might be achieavable for some student athletes, but definitely not for all. I am not an expert on what exact GPA and SAT scores you have to have to get into certain schools, I will leave that research up to you. What I do know, is that a college coach has SO much to worry about, that they don’t constantly want to have to be worried about if their players will be eligible to play due to their grades from semester to semester. But let’s back up a second before talking about actually making the grades when in college….
….FIRST, you have to get IN to a college. There are certain GPAs, ACT, and/or SAT scores you have to make to even be able to make it into a school to be able to play. For some student athletes who don’t have the grades to get into a Division 1 school out of high school, some of them might even start at the junior college level. **Remember that once you become a freshman in high school, EVERY GRADE YOU MAKE COUNTS. So even though you may think, “Oh I’m just a freshmen, my fall semester doesn’t count too much” — you’re wrong.
Study. Make time for school. Going to school and applying yourself in the classroom matters.
One of the first questions a college coach will ask after they spot a player on the field they are interested in is, “How is she in school?” A lot of times this will make or break an athlete if they do not have good grades. A coach looks at someone who doesn’t put in effort in school as someone that they are going to have to baby-sit once that player gets to college. There are so many other things a college coach is worrying about and would rather worry about than making sure his/her starting centerfielder is making the grades every semester to stay eligible. If you don’t make a certain GPA in college every semester and pass a certain amount of hours, then you become ineligible. (Once again, I will leave it up to you to know exactly what that GPA is according to the NCAA). If you are not making the grades at a college and become ineligible, it doesn’t matter if you have the capability of hitting 40 homerun in a season or striking out 400 girls in a year, if you don’t pass, you don’t play, and then you are unable to help your team win.
Another reason it is so important to show that you make good grades in high school is because your to-do list gets better in terms of how many different things you have to balance once you get to college. You are on your own – no parents to monitor how you are managing your time and if you are doing your homework. You have a lot more on your schedule to handle and time manage — class, practice, weights, study hall, study hours on your own, when to eat, practicing on your own outside of normal team practice time, and oh yeah, a social life. So it becomes important to know what your priorities are, and the two main ones are school and softball—- in that order.
There is A LOT that goes into being recruited by a college. Things are happening so early now, with girls committing to play at a school when they sometimes are even in 8th grade or freshmen in high school. It’s important to stand out. Understand from a physical aspect what you do well – and excel at that, that’s how you can stand out. It’s important to learn this at a young age, but at the same time, it’s never too late to learn this. As a coach, communicate with your players about what is important and BE HONEST with them about what they need to get better at. As a player, if your coach is trying to communicate with you about these things, it’s important to listen and be open minded. Your coach is trying to help you get to the next level. None of the things above matter if you don’t have a true love and passion for this game. When you love the game, it shows.
Learn. Grow. Play hard. Be so good they can’t ignore you.