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.

But you ARE strong enough to overcome.

You WILL build mental and physical strength along your journey. Let me help you…

Are You Willing to Learn? BE COACHABLE!

One of the things every coach is looking for at any level are coachable players. Coachble means a willingness / openness to try new things and to learn new things. In order to be coachable…..

1) Show Humility – Have a sense of humbleness; a modest view of one’s own importance. You can always get better. There is always something to be learned. There are always people out there better than you.  You can learn from anyone.

2) Have Faith in Others – Trust others. Everyone has had experiences.  Be open to learning different points of views and seeing the best that others bring to the table.  You must trust yourself first before you can trust others.

3) Be Approachable – Have fun! Don’t take yourself too seriously.  When you are having fun, you are inviting other people to have fun with you, teach you and learn with you.  The more people who want to give you information the better! Now you have all this information, you get to try it and sort through what works and what does not work!  Invite people in to help you, don’t push them away.   

4) Look Attentive – Look at someone in the eyes when they are talking to you. No matter who is talking, looking at someone in the eyes is a sign of respect.  Your coaches, your teammates, family and your friends deserve this attentiveness from you.  When you are attentive, your brain is soaking more things in!

5) Be Curious – When given feedback, ask questions.  It shows that you’re more interested in digging deeper into what someone is trying to help you with. A lot of times people aren’t coachable because they are afraid to try new things and are scared of not understanding what is being asked of them.  To fully understand, take a pause after someone tells you something, take a moment to understand and process, and THEN make a decision of whether you do or do not fully understand.  If you do not fully understand, organize a question to dig deeper more into a better understanding.  Ask questions!

At all times – listen with intent to learn.  All of these fall under the umbrella and goes without saying, to have a good, positive attitude.  The more coachable you are, the more enjoyable you are to be around as a teammate and as a player under a coach.  

Understand if you are or are not coachable.  If you are getting feedback from others that you are not coachable, be willing to change.  If you are getting this feedback numerous times, quit blaming that it is other people, and understand that it is you not them.  Accept it, commit to making a change and DO IT.  There is always time to change and make a difference in your own life.  You can do it!  Have faith in yourself and have courage that you can become the best player you possibly can be!!  It all starts with being coachable!!  

It’s Possible…When You Have Passion

POSSIBLE • adj. able to be done; within the power or capacity of someone.

When you believe anything is possible, you are usually right.

When you set your mind to something and work hard at it, your possibilities with what you can do are absolutely endless. It’s so important to believe this at a young age and instill this in players.  They have to have someone who believes in them, and they have to believe in themselves if they want to have success on the field.

Our aspirations are our possibilities.

The picture above is from yesterday’s advent calendar for bellalete, as we continue the countdown to Christmas. My friend, and co-founder, Savana, made this and used my picture in it.  I was surprised and it gave me goosebumps when I saw it posted. And it made me think…

Passion enables possibility to grow.  When you are passionate about something, your work ethic increases because you love what you are doing and you can’t get enough of it.  Therefore, with an increased work load, the possibilities of where you can go in your sport grow, too. I am living proof of this. Softball is my passion, along with many of you out there – as parents, as players and as coaches.

What a lot of people don’t know about me, is that when I was young and first started pitching, there were people who told me that I shouldn’t pitch anymore because I wasn’t good enough.  I was not always the best pitcher on the team, by any means.  I may not have had the best stats or the best fastball, but what I had was a burning passion inside of me and parents who believed in me and believed in my passion. What if I would have stopped? Where would I be? I certainly wouldn’t be here now…I look at the picture above and I am so happy that no one took my possibilities away from me at a young age.  When I look at that picture I see more than just pitching mechanics;  I see someone who believes in endless possibilities. And if you know me, you know I truly believe that anything is possible for those who believe.

Players will go through ups and downs.  It’s inevitable.  The same thing happened to me, it happens to EVERY player.  Some downs may be longer than others, and some players will have to work much harder than others to achieve their goals. There is no set formula or math problem to give an exact answer of when it will happen.

I get asked the question from parents, “Do you think my daughter should continue to pitch anymore? or “Is my daughter where she is supposed to be for her age?”   My answer ALWAYS reverts back to questioning the passion for that player, as I answer, “Does she love to do it?”  You can’t teach passion, but you can teach mechanics.

If a player has passion, then who am I to say that she should not pitch anymore? With that being said, the actions must match up with the words.  If someone is saying they are passionate, does their work ethic reflect that? Because with passion comes countless possibilities; even for those who right now in this moment may look like they are “struggling” to the naked eye. When you are passionate, you look over the struggles you are going through and you keep on persisting because you truly believe in your head that the possibilities are endless.

Realize everybody comes around in their own time.  Don’t rush it just because you as a parent aren’t happy with the results going on in the moment – to me, that is selfish.  Don’t take away the passion from someone by being too results-oriented. Question the passion, not the results.

Passion is either in you for softball (or anything in life) or it’s not; eventually you can’t fake it anymore if it’s not in you.  That passion on the inside is going to help a player grow as a person in the long term much more than someone who is results-oriented with wins and losses.  Winning a game is great, but helping young players win at life is even better.  If a player is passionate and not getting the results that they want, why take something they care about so much away from them? That’s not teaching them a good lesson.

Passion creates work ethic.  Work ethic creates possibilities.  Possibilities creates happiness.

What are your passions? How important do you think passion is when it comes to creating possibilities? Players, parents, coaches — I’d love to hear from you and learn!

It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.

Sometimes, You’re a Loser

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. This is not a problem of erectile dysfunction. 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.

If you enjoyed this post, let me know in the comments or on Facebook.

Understanding the Strike Zone – As A Pitcher

Amanda Scarborough - Texas A&M Softball Pitcher

An umpire’s strike zone should NEVER be used as an excuse of not performing well.

Can you control the umpire’s zone? No. What can you control? Keeping your emotions in check to be able to adjust to his/her zone. What are you going to choose to do about it DURING the game? An umpire should establish his/her zone within the first two innings. All you can ask of that umpire is to be consistent with what he is calling, and as a player it’s your job to pay attention to the zone that is set. You can actually use an umpire’s strike zone to your advantage if you look at it as an opportunity instead of disadvantage…

All you can ask is for an umpire to be CONSISTENT with his zone and whatever he is calling

As a Pitcher…

There is a lot a pitcher has to think about during a game.  Pitch calling, setting up hitters, what a hitter saw her last at bat, what a hitter hit her last at bat, situational pitching, etc.  To add to that list, it’s important for a pitcher to understand the zone behind the plate.  You recognize it, understand it, and work with it.  You are seeing with your own two eyes what IS and what is NOT being called.  Is the umpire’s zone wide? (calling a lot OFF the corners of the plate or up/down in the zone). Is the umpire’s zone small? (squeezing you, not calling a lot of pitches you think are strikes).  Recognize it.  Don’t be fearful of it.  Rise to the challenge – this is a great time to prove yourself.  This is your time to bring out the competitive mentality that sports is all about.

Small Zone

You are definitely going to come across umpires out there who will have a smaller zone.  Realize on the day you throw to these umpires, you will probably get hit a little bit more than you’re used to. Honestly, this is a tough challenge for a pitcher, especially one who is inexperienced with this type of situation.  Consider it an opportunity to get better, not a disadvantage.  An umpire with a smaller strike zone is making you tougher mentally and physically.  Can you handle it?  Look at it positively rather than negatively.  An umpire with a smaller zone is challenging you to get more accurate and precise than you ever thought you would need to be.  When you have a small strike zone, work on the plate to try to establish the strike zone early in the at bat, then as the count goes on and you get ahead, work more off the plate.

Work inches.  Have you heard this term before?   “Working inches” as a pitcher means to not make MAJOR adjustments at first with your location to try to find the strike zone. Work on bringing your pitches a little bit higher in the zone (if the umpire is not calling a low zone) or a little bit more on the plate (if an umpire is not giving you much off the corners).  See how far you can still live on the corners and get the umpire to call it a strike.  If an umpire is not calling a certain placement of a pitch a strike, STOP THROWING IT THERE! It’s not rocket science!  Don’t go from throwing a pitch a little bit off the plate to throwing it right down the middle when you are trying to adjust to the strike zone.  WORK INCHES to find the zone.  Try to find the pinpoint spot that makes an umpire happy.  Remember, he’s not going anywhere.  It’s your job to adjust to him, not his job to adjust to you.

It’s important with a smaller strike zone to challenge the hitter.  Still make them earn their way on (i.e. put the ball in play, get a hit).  Try to limit your walks, as when you have an umpire with a small zone, walks usually increase.  Challenging the hitter means on a 3-0 or 3-1 count, you come more on the plate, even if it means throwing it closer to the middle of the plate, so that you do not walk the hitter.  Challenge them to hit a strike.  When you are challenging a hitter, think in your head how a hitter is meant to fail (remember a good batting average is around .300-.400, which means 6/10 or 7/10 times a hitter does NOT get a hit).

What is even more important, is not to get frustrated and show it with your outward appearance – your body language, facial expressions and overall presence.  First and for most you are a leader on your team, and your team feeds off of your energy.  If you show them that you are frustrated with the strike zone, they are going to get frustrated with you and play tight back behind you and up at the plate.  If you show them that everything is under control, they will play more relaxed (aka stronger) defense back behind you — you will need it as hitters usually put more balls into play when there is a smaller strike zone because you have to come more on the plate to the hitter.  Not only do your teammates feed off of the energy you are giving off, either positively or negatively, in response to the umpire, the opposing team recognizes your body language, confidence and attitude towards the zone.  Don’t give the opposing team  any ammunition to use against you as they will try to push you further down than you already are if you are showing emotion.  And finally, the umpire is looking right at you for most of the game.  When he sees your attitude and body language, that’s not really going to give him a reason to have more calls go your way.  In fact, it’s probably going to have the opposite effect because you are embarrassing him and pretty much calling him out when you are showing emotion for not getting your way.  Don’t make balls and strikes about you.

Wide Zone

A wide zone should be in every pitcher’s dream.  A wide zone should help a pitcher dominate a game.  Understand how/when the umpire is widening the zone – Is it a certain count where he/she widens it up? Is it a certain pitch?  Is it a certain location (up/down, in/out?)  Analyze the strike zone! Analyze the umpire!  If you are given a wide zone to throw to, there is no even point of coming on the plate with your pitches, unless it’s a 3-0 or 3-0 count.  Why would you?  See how far you can push the limits of the zone. Don’t come with a pitch on the plate unless you absolutely have to!  When you have a wide zone, you have the ability to work off the plate first, then come back onto the plate later, only if you absolutely need to.

Notice the furtherst distance you can pitch off the plate (or down) and still get it a called strike.  Live there until the hitter proves they can make an adjustment to hit that pitch.   Honestly, most hitters will never be able to adjust to the wide zone, and you will be able to live on a corner or live on a certain pitch.  Trust me on this! (Something extra to pay attention to is if a hitter makes adjustments as to where they are standing in the box based on the strike zone at hand).

With a small zone, you work inches to come back onto the plate.  With a wide zone, you work inches to move the ball off of the plate.

Use a wide zone to your strategic advantage.  A hitter is going to feel like they are going to have to defend the plate when there is a wide strike zone.  They are going to be more defensive than offensive.  With that being said, when you have a pitchers count, 0-2, 1-2, a hitter is going to be more likely to chase.  The hitter is aware of the wide strike zone, just like you are.  When she is aware of it, she is going to be more likely to swing at something out of the zone, especially with 2 strikes, because she doesn’t want the umpire to strike her out with his crazy calls.

Be proactive in your approach to understanding strike zones.  Practice on your own by pitching “innings” to your catcher at lessons or your own practice time.  Pitch to fake hitters in a line up and keep track of the count and outs as you try to work through the innings.   Be your own umpire and challenge yourself.  Work on a wide zone, where you are able to give yourself a lot of calls off the plate.  Work on a small zone, where the umpire is squeezing you and you have to challenge up.  Both of them are important to work on so that when it comes game time, you feel like you already have experience under your belt in dealing with adversity.

Don’t ever blame the umpire for not getting results you want in a game.  The only person you can blame is yourself.  There is always some kind of adjusting you must be doing as the game goes along, and adjusting to an umpire is something that can make or break your game and possibly even make or break your pitching career.

How do you practice dealing with umpires? I’m interested to hear other ways you guys have either practiced this situation or how you made adjustments in the middle of the game!

Questions Answered with Amanda: Wind Up, Drag & Follow Through Mechanics

Hi everyone! I was asked a really good question this week and I wanted to share with ALL of you as it goes over some very important, basic mechanical details of pitching that I feel like everyone can benefit from:

“Value your opinion of course so hoping for a response. My daughter is 8 and started taking pitching lessons a few months ago, from a reputable coach in our area and I do my research but there are a few things I would like your take on.

1) I notice most pro/college level pitchers cross drag, but he is teaching her to drag straight fwd. (I understand why, which is to close up fully) why is it that most do it the other way? Is it better, why or why not?

2) Also on the follow thru of the pitch (just a normal pitch no change up or curve) some people teach to cross the body? I personally prefer straight (keeping arm long of course and not hurting elbow) is there a right or wrong to this, or is this preference?

3) Also she is taught not to swing her arm back at the beginning of pitch she starts circle straight from glove. Reasons being A) not to show ball it will matter later B) prevents keeping arm from staying straight C) Although I do think it will take a few mph off her speed I feel starting in this position has more advantages, do you? I hope you have time to respond and don’t think my questions are to crazy! Loved your video on the power drive Coach Lisle posted, we utilize one all the time for pitching and hitting, you really helped me understand it better; you have a gift for coaching and explaining!”

Answers

1) I THINK I know what you mean by “cross drag.” I am picturing in my mind a drag that doesn’t just go straight towards the catcher. I call a “drag” a slug trail because if you look down at the ground when you are pitching in dirt, it’s like your drag leaves a slug trail from where your toes drug while you were pitching.  That slug trail is indicative of your mechanics and what your body is doing in your pitch – it is VERY important. A proper slug trail should look like a question mark. From the pitching rubber, it should go straight towards the catcher, and then after about a foot, it should go a little bit behind you. The little bit behind you part of the slug trail is when your hips and shoulders are opening up! Which is a VERY important part of the pitch. If the slug trail just stays a straight line towards the catcher, that would mean the hips are never getting completely open. I would not recommend a straight forward drag (we are girls, we have HIPS, and those HIPS needs to get out of the way of our release by getting OPEN in the middle of our pitch so our arm can clear our hips at our release point)

2) My personal preference for how to teach someone to finish is going to be where their hand NATURALLY finishes, not forcing a certain place to finish after the snap of the pitch. It’s called Pronation – it happens at the end of a pitch after a snap. When you throwing a ball overhand, you see pronation – baseball players do it as well as football players. I do not agree with the hand to shoulder finish or elbow up finish. That’s a forced position. The most natural place you can finish is with your fingers inside your wrist, wrist inside your elbow, elbow inside your shoulder. This forms a little bit of an angle with your arm.  (Hold your arm out in front of you and try to get into that position, it’s easier if you actually TRY to do it rather than just imagining it). The most important thing is that you are loose after your snap at your hip and don’t FORCE a certain finish. However, with that being said, the finish should be consistent and repeatable with a natural ability to relax to that position after the release.

 

3)[A] I like swinging the arm back because it felt like it generated more of a load and more energy at the beginning of my pitch. One solution if you want to do that is to hold multiple pitches the same way. i.e. Hold curve and change the same, so this way, no one can pick up what your grip is before the pitch is coming. Or rise and curve the same. Those are 2 totally different pitches. It’s best to hold a faster velocity pitch the same as an off speed pitch or change up since that is the pitch most coaches are trying to “pick.” You are seeing lots of college pitchers go away from swinging their arm back because of how often college coaches are picking up grips, BUT it is NOT non existent. There are definitely still ways to general power without an arm swing back – remember everything starts from the ground up (with your feet) and putting your lower half into a SOLID EXPLOSIVE position to get the most out of your leg drive with your hips and glutes.

[B] As far as a wind up with an arm swing preventing the arm circle from staying the straight, that is not necessarily so. You see LOTS of players who have their arm swing back, such as myself and also, Jolene Henderson, who is on Team USA. Any action can become repeatable by creating muscle memory with hard work and determination. Get in front of a mirror and look at yourself and repeat 100-200 pitches a night. THAT is one of the best ways to create muscle memory because you are FEELING and SEEING your body in certain positions. There is no one size fits all for every pitcher. Everyone has different muscles strengths to be able to get their body into the same position over and over again.

[C] Total personal preference regarding the advantages of taking an arm swing out of your windup. You are asking someone who did NOT do that wind up, and I was a 2-time All American and competed at the highest level in college. There are other pitchers who are out there who are super successful without starting with that wind up. It’s all about YOUR PITCHER and what can feel the best for HER. Other things can be changed to compliment your wind up, like I suggested before – changing grips to look the same if the wind up where your arm swings back seems to compliment your daughter better to get her more speed, more consistency and more spin.

**Important to note: Wind up is PERSONAL PREFERENCE. Whatever makes you feel comfortable and whatever you can do the most consistent to make the beginning of your pitch the exact same every single time. Make the BEGINNING of your pitch the same in order to help make the END of your pitch the same! No matter what:  that consistency in your delivery is key in order to maintain accuracy, increase and pitch at a consistent speed, and grow spin rates!

What is Beautiful Fastpitch

You are beautiful
 Beautiful- 1) having beauty; possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about ; 2) of a very high standard; excellent.
Fastpitch players are beautiful.  There…I said it.  It’s true.  “Beautiful” is a big word.  It’s used limitedly because of the standard we have tied to it in our culture, and we know that something must be of upmost quality for us to tag that word on it.  Because of its limited use, it is put on a pedestal and rarely pulled out of Webster’s to describe something or someone.  But what if we used to describe the way a young girl played softball?  The word “beautiful” is not a daily softball adjective used out on the field or at lessons like “attack” or “swing hard” or even “aggressive.”  It’s a word people shy away from using because of the grandeur of the word and thinking that it only goes with a sunset in the afternoon or a model during a photo shoot.  But “beautiful”, is a word that can be used to describe softball players and the standard our sport should hold.
Playing softball beautifully has nothing to do with physical looks (ie. eye color, weight, hair color).  No – playing softball beautifully means playing it with poise, playing it with passion, playing it with positivity and calmness. It means slowing the game down in your mind, taking your time in your at bat, playing defense out on the field with head held high and excitement of anticipation for the ball to come to you.  It’s being able to control your emotions during the game so that you have that ability to slow down in your mind the ground ball coming to you or how fast your at bat is going.
FASTPITCH Softball
Softball has a fast pace to the game as it is.  When you’re a player, the game speeds up 10x in your mind and everything seems faster than it really is.  Ask anybody who has played – when you are out on the field, the game seems even faster because your mind is racing; there are a lot of unsure players, which makes the game go by faster and faster until before you know it, the game is over.  A player who is focusing on playing beautifully slows her breathing down, slows her mind down and ultimately, the pace of the game slows down, thus, no matter what kind of mechanics you have, will yield more results because you can actually focus one pitch at a time, one step at a time.
Does playing softball beautifully mean that you’re always going to get a hit and never going to make an error? Not a chance.  That’s our game.  Our game was designed for you to fail, and if we didn’t fail, there would be no fun in it.  However, it’s really when you fail, that your true beauty can actually be seen the most.
So how do we get our players to think this, feel this, believe this? It lies in our coaching and providing the information for them.  Teaching them at a young age that they were made to play beautifully and having an understanding of what that looks like and what it feels like.
Can a hit be beautiful? Absolutely. Is a pitch with a lot of movement on it beautiful? You betcha. But those are things we cannot always control when we are playing.  As a player, I can control my attitude during the game, my respect for my teammates and my approach at the plate during my at bat.  I can control how fast thoughts are going through my head.  THOSE are the real things that add beauty to this game.  Taking pride in your uniform, taking pride in being a good teammate, and taking the responsibility to make adjustments at the plate or in the circle.  Those are things of REAL beauty.  Unfortunately, those are the things that don’t go I the scorebook or the news paper article, they aren’t the things of our game that gets all the hype.
Playing beautifully is something (like anything) that needs to be practiced.  It will not just show up magically in the game.  By being aware of what we look like on the field in between pitches when we are up to bat or on the field, we have a better understanding of what impressions we are giving off.  I go around and watch a lot of softball through college and travel ball.  The players who are fidgety, always messing with their uniforms,  always touching their hair, having fast/quick movements up at the plate or on deck, those are the players I know will not remember the game and it will pass them by very fast.  Those are the players, to me, who will actually end up beating themselves.  The players who are playing beautifully have calm, slow movements.  They are slowing down the game in their mind with these movements, and thus, slowing down the game for their team.
Beautiful Softball field
As coaches, we get so caught up in mechanics and fundamentals (which believe me, are very important and need to be practiced), but the idea of playing fastpitch beautifully needs to be discussed.  For mechanics, every coach is going to coach something different – where to hold your hands, how to use your lower half, how to throw a rise ball.  But with playing beautifully, I think there is a general consensus of what this looks like and what it should feel like to the players.
Most of you, I’m sure, have watched the Women’s College World Series and know who Lauren Chamberlain is.  She is, in my opinion, the greatest hitter in our game right now, and maybe when she is done with her 4 years at Oklahoma, one of the greatest hitters to have ever play our game.  When you watch her play, look at her approach and her confidence in between pitches.  She has a routine in between pitches in her at bat.  She’s calm, she is not constantly fidgeting, she is not constantly looking back at her coach and messing with her uniform.  All of her movements have purpose and I guarantee she remembers everything about her at bat.  She is letting the game come to her.  Does Lauren Chamberlain have great hitting mechanics? Yes- without a doubt.  But without her approach, poise, and routine at the plate, she would not be able to use those mechanics to their fullest potential.  Chamberlain would be a good hitter without her calm approach, but WITH the calm approach, she becomes one of the best.
Playing beautifully takes your game to YOUR next level.  It’s going to be different for everyone, and you can’t compare yourself and your results to the person sitting next to you.  This idea of being a beautiful player comes with time, it comes with practice and it comes with experience – all of which the idea of “beautiful” is at the forefront of your mind.  Act it.  Feel it.  Know it.
You are beautiful
Beautiful – Don’t be scared to use the word, don’t be scared to try to be the word, and definitely don’t be scared to coach the word.  All players have that beauty inside, it just needs to be brought out of each one in order for players across the country to play at their very highest ability.   Through sports and coaching, lessons are learned – competitiveness, work ethic, determination.  These are lessons that when softball is over, allows softball to still stay apart of you.  Just like softball is a medium for life lessons, softball should be a medium to make girls feel good about themselves, to feel beautiful.  The more beautiful you feel, the more confident you are, the more motivated you are to go out and achieve your dreams and think the sky is the limit.  It all starts with an at bat or throwing a pitch, and noticing a different way of moving and holding yourself to resemble being the most beautiful player that you can be.

 

  And that is beautiful fastptich.

 

High School Softball Survivor Guide – Grievance 3: Teammates

(In case you missed the first 1 grievances, Grievance 1: Playing Time and Grievance 2: The Competition. )

Grievance 3: Teammates

Uncontrollable: Who is on your team; Other players attitudes; Other players work ethic;

Controllable: Being a good teammate; being a good leader; leading by example; not talking about people behind their back; putting the team first; being loyal

“I don’t get along with some of my teammates.”

“Most of my teammates have a really bad attitude.”

“My teammates don’t care as much I do.”

Well, you’re stuck with them!  So you can either figure out a way to handle different situations that are presented, or you can opt out to quit.  In high school, you don’t really have a choice of who you get to play with, what their attitude is like, how they treat people like and what their work ethic is like.  When you get a job, you don’t really get to have much of a choice either. You can never change people, but you can always have a voice and try to lead by example in your own actions.  When speaking up in a team meeting or to a teammate, have good intentions with where you are coming from with your statements.  It’s always about the team, not always about you. Trying to prove yourself as “right” usually does not work in conversations with a teammate. Leading, reminding of a vision, reminding of the mission of the team works better than pointing fingers. 

If you have a teammate who doesn’t have a good attitude, and you think it’s affecting the team, it’s completely acceptable to pull that player off to the side and let her know how you feel.

I recommend doing this before you go days upon days talking to your other teammates about the girl who has a bad attitude. Then it festers. Then it just makes the other teammates turn on her. It grows to become a cancer.  Say something to her before you talk to all of you teammates constantly about it. It’s HER job to take it the correct way, so long as you are telling her in an appropriate manner.  

Sometimes, before even going directly to the player, you can try to have team meetings. This works best without your coach even TELLING the team they need to get together. Be a leader and pull together the team before your coach recognizes that the team needs to meet together to talk some thing out.

If you are truly a leader on the team and want the best for the team, you are ok with standing up for what you believe in and what is truly going to benefit the team the best. 

Remember, you don’t have to want to hang out with every player on your team OFF the field and be best friends. But ON the field, it’s your duty to find a way to get along with each other and take care of each other. From the outside looking in, nobody should be able to tell that you are NOT best friends. Supporting someone on the field does not mean you have to go to the movies with that person on the weekend. It’s a very mature thing to do to be able to separate the two.  The same can be said in an opposite situation: your best friend plays on the team, but she is showing a bad attitude and not trying hard. It says a lot about you as a leader if you are able to tell your good friend that how she is acting is not helping the team, it is only hurting the team. You all have the same mission: winning together.  And THAT should be what is remembered when it comes time to compete on the field and at practice

  • TEAM comes first
  • How can you find a way to communicate with someone
  • On the field, get along and fight for each other; off the field you don’t have to be best friends
  • Think about what you say before you say it or repeat what someone told you.
  • Work as hard as YOU possibly can.
  • I’ll say it again, no matter what, TEAM COMES FIRST

There is only so much you can say and so much you can lead by example when you notice it’s just not working, but that doesn’t mean it has to pull YOU down. When someone has a bad attitude around you, if you’ve already tried saying something, it’s best to ignore it. The strength of the team has to move forward to try to drown that person out.  Don’t give that person energy. Don’t give that person time. If they’re not going to change, they’re not going to change. There will always be those “inbetweeners” on a team. Do you know who I’m talking about? Those are the players who could go either way – they can pull more toward the strong leaders or they can gravitate more toward the cancers. It’s your job as leaders to try to get them on YOUR side. They become the difference makers on the team. Empower them to feel the difference of what it’s like to be more on the positive side than the negative side.

Don’t get caught up in team drama!!!! Don’t do it! I know it’s temping, and it’s there (a lot).  If you hear someone talking about another person, say you don’t want to hear about it. Maybe even tell them not to talk about that in front of you. Maybe you can tell them that if they have a problem with that person, they need to go talk to that person directly.

It’s not “cool” to be the teammate who talks about other teammates behind their back once you leave the field. I PROMISE. 

What is your character like? What do you want it to be? It speaks volumes about you, not just as a player, but as a person, for the drama to end with you. It’s ok to be that girl who other teammates know they can’t talk about other teammates in front of! Be a loyal teammate. A loyal teammate does not talk about other teammates behind their back. For 4 ways to learn how to be a loyal teammate, click here.

Learning to communicate is one of the biggest things we can learn in this world.

Communication is SO VITAL in life and with your teammates. Learning to talk to someone in the right tone, and have a conversation, not a fight, is important in terms of respecting each other. Learn to say what you want to say with words without yelling.

Just because you are yelling doesn’t mean that someone is listening or understanding you that much better.

Set expectations and standards of how your team plays. Control your own attitude and your own work ethic. If you’ve tried to have a one on one talk and a team talk, and it’s just not working, don’t let it effect YOU. When talking in a team setting, it’s ok to say stuff out loud that you believe in and you know that’s right. At the end of the day, remember that every action is either hurting or helping the mission of the TEAM. I don’t know about you, but I like to win. Team chemistry and trust are huge parts of winning. Set a good example, treat your teammates the right way and do all that YOU can to help the mission of the team. 

Be Your Own Boss

I recently was introduced to the book Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence by Davis Casstevens, and I absolutely feel in love with it. It has great stories, very motivational and inspiring, right up my alley in so many different ways. In one of the chapters, Riding the Pines, Casstevens writes about an article he himself had read about being your own boss, thus leading him to come up with the idea for an athlete to “inc” himself/herself (ex. AmandaScarboroughInc) and the idea that your “company” (ie YOU) are a stock. Everything you do increases or decreases your value to the public. The “public,” in my eyes, can either be considered your current team OR the “public” can be a college recruiting you. OR, if you are a player already committed, the “public” is your current college you committed to, as they are wanting to see your stock continue to increase in value before you actually set foot on their campus.

Even if you are not the star player of your team, you are still a commodity to your team. However, being a commodity is not just handed to you, you have to make yourself a commodity by earning it. Every day you have to work on getting your “stock” to climb…this could apply to every day starters, players who are injured or players who are not in the everyday starting lineup. Ask yourself the question every day when you are playing or practicing, what are you doing to get YOUR stock to climb? Having a bad attitude would decrease your value, not giving your best every single second at practice also would decrease the value of YOUR stock. Those of you who are not in the starting rotation have to remember, you are ONE PLAY away from being a starter. At any second the person in front of you could get injured, and then it could be your time to shine. It would be YOUR opportunity and YOUR chance to make the very most of it. Don’t you want to be the one prepared for that opportunity?

Your coaches are a reference…

If a company (ie college coach) is going to ask about acquiring your company (ie you as a player), what are your coaches going to say about you? Are they going to say you have a good attitude, works hard, coachable, and a real team player? Or are they going to say the complete opposite? Your coaches’ opinions do actually hold weight and college coaches take that into their opinion when thinking of whether to buy your stock (recruit) you or not.

Tweet Smart…

Along the same lines of this is social media with Facebook and Twitter. Before you put something up for the world to see, ask yourself, if my coach saw this, would this increase or decrease my value as a stock? Before putting your entire life and every personal move on twitter, be careful and think twice when it comes to language, relationships, friendships or any kind of social scene. Ask yourself, “is this tweet or status going to increase or decrease my value?” Twitter and Facebook should not be used to show that you are an emotional rollercoaster. A college coach is looking for someone who is positive, steady, and a leader. And remember, at any second, a college coach can get online, and go and check out these social media outlets.

Lead…

On the field, every inning think about if your stock is decreasing or increasing in value. This is not necessarily simply performance based, but think of other things that help raise your “stock” like being a leader and helping out your younger or new teammates . Are you going to be the teammate who watches as someone sturuggles to learn the system or to learn a drill? Or are you going to be the teammate who goes over and helps them work through things, thus increasing YOUR value and your TEAMMATE’S value? If you are the “boss” of a company, you aren’t just worried about yourself, you’re worried about the employees who work for you, too.

Observe….

If you are injured, because let’s face it, injuries are GOING to happen, but consider it a perfect time for you as player to start thinking about situations, pitch calling, trying to pick up grips of opposing pitchers, trying to pick up the opposing team’s signals, making sure your teammates are in the right spot on defense, helping to keep your team’s energy up. There are SO MANY things you can be doing during the games and at practice. If you are a player who is injured, and you are not doing anything to help your team on a consistent basis, your stock value is dropping. You can do nothing or use the time you are injured wisely, the choice is yours. Observe. Visualize. Go through situations mentally, so once you get into the game and get back out there, it’s like you’re picking up right from where you left off. You possibly could be a bit behind physically wise from not being able to practice, but mentally pick up right from where you left off because you still visualized yourself being out there in any situation, and your mind is still as strong as it was when you were healthy.

Contribute…

In Mind Gym, Casstevens talks about “can-do” planning. This is when a player makes a list of things you can do when you’re “riding the pines,” whether you are injured or just not in the start lineup. The list is made up of things you can still be doing to help contribute to your team, and I listed a few things above such as studying your opponent by trying to pick signals (defensive and offensive), trying to pick pitches by seeing if the pitcher tips any pitches, cheering your teammates on, or exercising in the weight room. Write these things down and see all the different ways you can still contribute to your team and to yourself.

One thing in the game of softball we NEVER can control is the lineup, and who is in the starting 9. One thing we ALWAYS can control is our attitude and how we accept that lineup. Everyone wants to be playing, without a doubt. Have the attitude though, that you are continuing to learn and at any moment you could be called upon to action. You can control that aspect of the game, always. Be so ready in the dugout, that if someone gets hurt who plays in front of you or you get a chance to pinch run or pinch hit, that you are ready for that opportunity. Make it be as if that opportunity doesn’t come as a surprise to you during the game, because mentally you are ready, and it’s as if you were already in the starting 9. When you get that opportunity to go into the game, you’ve got to be able to make the most of it, and take it and run with it. THOSE are things you can control. Remember you can never never, (as a parent or a player) control the lineup of a coach. Casstevens quotes the serenity prayer in Mind Gym,

 

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

 Serinity

 A simple quote that many players and player’s parents can really learn from and keep in their back pocket to remember.  This is a helpful motto not just in our game of softball, but in life in general.

Teach your kids life lessons….

From a perspective of being a coach, I see parents all too many times who are not necessarily helping with this idea of their players being all they can be and “increasing their value” even if they are not in the every day lineup.  They actually KEEP the player from increasing their value because of what is being said in the car ride home from games or in between games, or wherever the conversation may be taking place.

Let me say, that I totally understand that some players and families are not going to be happy, and there will be players who switch teams.  It happens.  It’s a part of our game, and I do think it is important to be in an environment and in a situation where everyone can be happy, as it’s a two way street with the team and also the player. A player will THRIVE in a positive situation, as it’s important to find a place where your daughter can feel the most beautiful (ie. happy) when she is playing. However it’s how you handle it before the move that decreases or increases the “value” of your daughter as a player and the lessons you are teaching her with such an important change.  Even if you are not happy with your situation, it should NOT be shown in the stands or on the field.  There is a time and a place for everything, and if you want your daughter’s “stock” to be at the highest value for the “trade,” then it is important to handle it in an appropriate manner.  Even if you KNOW you are switching teams at the end of the year, or whenever it may be, still enable your player to get better every single game and practice no matter the situation.  There is always learning to be done in any situation.  Switch teams when the time may come for that change, but up until that last second, encourage your daughter to continue to increase her stock.

Teach young players that it’s  NOT just about the players who are in the starting 9, that there are lessons to be learned that are outside of softball and bigger than the game of softball.  Kids are so observant and are always learning and picking up things.  Even if you are not happy with your team and situation, it is not an out to not work hard and not continue to invest in yourself.  Teach your young players that even when there is a tough situation, you work through it until the time comes for the actual change  Don’t teach them that when a tough situation comes up, it’s okay for them to “check out” of practice and games by having a poor attitude towards their teammates and coaches and not working hard.  Commit to being your very best, at all times, even when no one is watching.  Player’s stock value is dropping or increasing due to the lessons that parents and coaches are teaching them by their actions, especially by what parents are saying to them outside of the actual field.

The journey…

Important for all of us to remember as players and as coaches that:
Carl Lewis

What lessons are you allowing your players to learn along the journey?  A lot of times we get caught up on the outcomes (wins and losses), but really when we look back, it’s not all about championship rings and innings played and batting averages.  I don’t remember those things as much as the lessons I learned from my parents and coaches, the way that those people made me FEEL and the great mentors I met along the way who have made me the person I am today.  We get caught up in the moment and forget about the longrun.  It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  We all learn from mistakes and from failing, much more than we learn from when we don’t fail.  Allow your players to fail, this allows them to learn.  The failing is part of the journey.  “Failing” could be striking out.  “Failing” could be making an error.  “Failing” could be not being in the starting lineup.  Once you define a fail, more importantly, define how you are going to learn from it.

EVERYTHING is a process in life, and your goal is that that your “stock” is TRENDING upward.  This means you’re going to have moments of downs, we all do.  But when you look back, you hope to see that if your playing career or life was a graph, you would see the trend increasing over an amount of time.

Raise your stock

My “company” was surrounded by mentors who helped increase my “stock” every day, and I was not faced with the social networking animals of Twitter or Facebook (until I got to college). Whether you’re injured, not an every day starter, or you’re in the starting 9, engage in can-do planning and recognize the things you CAN change vs the things you CANNOT change and see the difference. Every day, commit to increasing your value, as a player and as a person, whether it’s on or off the field. Remember that there are bigger goals ahead for you, and the actions that you have now are going to effect what happens to you later.

 

#30DaysOfGreatness – I’m in, are you??

Want to share something VERY COOL with you to get you (and me) active for the next 30 days. ANYONE can participate – kids and adults alike. It would be AWESOME to get your teams involved in this, as Taylor Hoagland (All American from Texas & USA National Team) is the one who has started this CHALLENGE.

So this morning, I will start #30DaysOfGreatness with Taylor and lots of other people around the country, including my bestie, Savana Lloyd (SL Fastpitch). I want YOU to start with me and hop on board!!! #30DaysOfGreatness is a fitness challenge to workout (lift, cardio, crossfit, pitch, hit, take ground balls, etc) for at LEAST 30 minutes every day for 30 days straight!!!! Here’s what you need to know:

1) 30 minutes of work out every day. GET MOVING!!! To officially enter every day to PROVE that you’re participating, you must take a picture with a short recap of what you did and tweet it to @taylorho6 with the hashtag #30DaysOfGreatness. I would LOVE to see your pictures posted on my Facebook, too! Please, please please please let me see them, especially if they are pitching & playing softball!

2) The OFFICIAL start date of #30DaysOfGreatness is today, January 26.

3) For participants who make the 15 day mark, at halfway, there will be a Google Hangout for everyone to participate in, including Taylor Hoagland, myself, maybe even Patrick Murphy, and some other people who are participating. — THIS is going to be REALLY cool.

4) For the participants who make the 30 day mark, you will receive a shirt as a token of your achievement. (You will only be eligible for this if you have tweeted to Taylor (@tayloho6) every day for the 30 days.

5) Throughout the 30 days, there will be GIVE AWAYS from GlitterBandz AND bellalete.

THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME!  I’M IN, ARE YOU?

To read more on WHY Taylor started #30DaysOfGreatness and to follow along on her blog, click here.

Comment below and let me know if you are or what you think!

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