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

Mental Strength & Your Environment

team

What do you think is the most important part of being a mentally strong female softball player? (I’m going to skim the surface of a topic that people write entire books on…but it’s still helpful nonetheless…)

In my mind, one of the most important parts of being a mentally strong female softball player is the environment she is surrounded by.  There are a lot of pieces that add to this environment.  It comes from outside forces around the player: teammates, coaches, and parents. ALL of these outside forces can play into the mentality of a player. Some might call some of these “excuses” and things that players need to get over.  But to me, these are real issues that need to be addressed and can affect the mentality of a player. Each one of these could be their own topic, but I wanted to just cover the basics first, then get into more detail some other time. Here are questions to ask about each of the following that can effect a player’s mental game:

Teammates

Do you get along with your teammates? Is there drama on the team?  Do you feel like your teammates have your back? Do your teammates have as much passion towards softball as you?  When you don’t feel like your teammates have your back (especially as a pitcher in the field), you start to over think, overthrow, overswing and try to be too perfect.  When you pitch on a field where you know players are going to make plays behind you, you can pitch your game and feel more confident to throw strikes.  When you’re worried about the defense making errors behind you, it can be a tough thing to work through, but it’s actually a really good experience and one that almost all pitchers go through at one point or another.  Teammates affect what is going on in the mind of a player – for better or for worse.

Coaches

Are your coaches yellers? Do they embarrass you? Do you feel like your coaches believe in your talent? How do they tell you they believe in you? Do they help you set goals to achieve? Do you know their expectations for you? (short term and long term) Do they explain to you your role on the team?  Yelling adds pressure.  There are very few players who actually respond to coaches who yell.  There ARE some players who respond to this, but the majority do not.  The majority will shut down.  Especially the coaches who yell across the field to a player and let them know what they did wrong.  If I played for a coach like this, I would be terrified to make a mistake.  Being scared to make a mistake is NOT a fun way to play sports (especially when you play a sport that revolves around failing: i.e. a .300 batting average is good).  When you’re scared to make a mistake in front of your coaches, you can’t possibly be mentally strong.

Parents

How often do your parents tell you they believe in you? (Your kids want to hear it often and FEEL it, no matter what their results are)  Do they talk more about results or about how you felt during the game? (All players are well aware of their results after a game, whether they went 3 for 3 or 0 for 4, it’s not necessary to remind them.  Ask them about the process they went through in getting those results).  Are your parents yelling out mechanics to you during the game? (Game does not equal practice).  As parents, you are the biggest influence they have.  Don’t talk to them about mechanical/coaching things more than you talk to them about believing in them and supporting them no matter what.  I PROMISE they do and will remember the belief you had in them more than they remember the outcome of any game.  Trust me on this one…

So here’s the thing…becoming mentally strong doesn’t happen overnight. You work on your mental game just like you work on a curve ball or hitting an outside pitch.  This is an important realization for all of the parties involved, especially parents.  A lot of times adults think that just by simply saying to a player, “You need to get mentally stronger” that that is going to help.  False.  That’s not going to help.  You’re not giving her any tools.  You’re not giving her any true support.

One piece of advice: Start with positive self talk, regardless of what is going on around you in your environment.  In the game, are you telling yourself what NOT to do? Or are you telling yourself what you ARE going to do?  Example: Don’t swing at a ball above your hands. (that’s telling yourself what NOT to do).  Example: Swing at a strike. (that’s telling yourself what TO do).  It’s been proven that the brain does not hear the word “not” in the first example.  Start by practicing positive self talk at practice!  Just like you practice other things a practice, be conscious of the thoughts that are going through your head.  Let me tell you though – it’s easier for a player to have positive self talk when she is in a positive environment with positive outside forces.  All a player wants is someone to believe in her.  When a player as 3 different sets of people believing in her (coaches, teammates and parents) it takes pressure off, allowing a player to feel more relaxed, thus being more mentally strong. Create a habit of positive self talk and recognize the different in your game and how much more fun the game is to play when you’re out of your own head.

With all this being discussed about a positive environment, and as much as I think that outside forces an effect a player, I am not for sheltering a player from working through problems and working through adversity around her.  I also do not endorse quitting teams in the middle of a season (I know there are exceptions) or being a team hopper because you can’t seem to find that “perfect” environment.  There are always exceptions to every rule…

Which of these, in your experience, can have the biggest impact on a player? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Softball Pitching Tips 101

Was just going back through old videos and came across this pitching mechanics one that has basic tips to help you out a long the way. What I love when I look back over this video is the fact that no matter what age you are at, you can always re-learn from going back over basic fundamentals and make sure your body is in check.

I would love to hear your feedback. Here is what others have said:

Thank you, you helped so much! I am 12 and I am going to try to be a pitcher for the fall at my school. I love how you say stuff like “it is just like opening a doorknob” those tips help sooo much!

-Rebecca S

This video helped me alot i am a 12 year old going into 12 -15 and im a pitcher thankyou so much ur amazing!!! :)

-SoftballPitcher22

This helped soo much! im in 7th grade and working on my pitching. i just wish i had a softball when i watched to remember where my hand goes! thanks team express!!

– Anna Williams

Thank-you I’m really new at pitching.This video is helping me with the basics.I am 12 and trying to become a good pitcher.I CAN DO. THIS!! :)

-pancakelover5656

 

Leave your comments below

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.

 

What does it mean to be competitive? Part 1 – Competing Against Other Teams

Competiting against other teams
(This month’s topic will be broken down into 3 parts, 1 in each of the next 3 weeks.)

 Competition Quotes

One of the words I most frequently heard at Texas A&M from head coach, Jo Evans, was “COMPETE.” 
 
Competition fuels desire.  Competition adds drive. Competing has become somewhat of a lost art for this generation of softball players, and one that I hear from many college coaches that is a characteristic they are searching for in their future athletes.  Nowadays, more often than not,competing is a quality that is having to be taught, instead of being innate.

 

When I use the word “compete” I am referring to that inner fire that burns to go out on the field and beat the team in the opposing dugout, to compete for a position and to compete against yourself to see just how good you can really be.
Competition is one of those lessons that sports builds in you, if you allow it.  However, being around the softball fields at the select and college levels, I see fewer and fewer girls who are showing up and just flat out competing when they are out on that field.

 

Competing is one of the biggest things college coaches are looking for in players right now.  Many times, they are claiming that it is a quality that is missing In recruits across the country.  Some coaches will even take that desire to compete over a player who has better talent.  It’s that competitive nature that makes you a great teammate and allows you to be a player that other coaches and teammates would want to go to war with.  It’s not always about the player who has the most talent; it’s about the player who has talent and has a fierce competitive drive that runs deep inside of her.

1) Competing Against Other teams

Competiting against other teams

 

The ability to be competitive against other teams…

 

 …sounds easy right?

 

Who would’ve ever thought that you would have to teach/motivate a player to just competeagainst another team.  This is your most basic form of competition a college coach is looking for.  This kind of competing involves stepping out onto a field and knowing that at the end of the game there is going to be a winner and there is going to be a loser, and dreadfully not wanting that loser to be you.  It’s these people who are the upmost competitive on the field who hate to lose more than they like to win.  Competing on the field against another teams means having an inner fire and inner desire to beat whoever is in the opposing dugout.  Most players will show up for the “big” game to compete, but it’s the most competitive players who will show up for the game against a team they know they SHOULD beat.  This kind of competitive player knows that at this time that all stats are out the window, and you compete knowing that anybody can beat anybody on any given day no matter who you’re going up against.

 

Even though this is the most basic form of competing, and some people take it for granted, I find that sometimes it has to be brought out in young girls playing today.  The mere idea that if there is a game being played, that you should want to beat the other team more than anything else going on in that moment at that time.  It comes out as a passion to win.  A passion to win should not just come out when there is a lot at stake for the game (ie. playoff games, nationals, championship games).  A passion to win should just come out because there is an opponent standing on the other side of the field in a different uniform.  A passion to win for those uber competitive players shines so much that it glows on other players on the team in attempt to lead the team and get everyone focused on the same goal.

 

One theory I hear all too often deals with the fact that nowadays, “everybody wins”, and “everybody gets a trophy”.  This is not how life really is when girls get older and are in the “real world”.  There are parents who are too overprotective and want to make sure that their daughter feels like a winner, even though she may have lost the championship game.  I am all for making a player feel better after a big loss, but there also has to come the honest truth and realization that there IS a loser.  By teaching a player that she lost, it makes her that much more hungry not to ever feel that feeling of losing again, thus creating that inner fire  to go out and win that much more when she steps out onto the field the next time.  More importantly, it pushes her work harder and get mentally tougher in game situations.  The idea that everybody wins is not realistic when you get to the “real world” and players are all grown up.  Build your desire to compete now, so that it pays off later even when sports are over.

 

In any type of game there will always be a winner and a loser, which is what makes sports so interesting to watch from the outside and from the inside, builds character.  It is that internal drive of simply not wanting to lose that makes the most competitive players stick out to college coaches when they are at the games.  College coaches are looking for more than a player who can hit a homerun or throw 68 mph.  They want heart, passion, drive and internal motivation so that when you get to their program, that is one less thing they have to teach.  Plus, if you are that player who is competitive, it can rub off on the other players on the team. Lead by being competitive.

 

Part of that inner drive deals with playing through injuries, sicknesses and being tough.  Competitive players compete through minor physical setbacks because they love to play so much and want to help their team win.  Players who are not as competitive look for reasons to get out of playing in games – a cough, a runny nose, bad weather, a broken nail.  Players who love to competeFOR their team and AGAINST other teams will do whatever it takes to be out on the field and play the game they love.

 

Are you competitive? Are opponents scared to play you?  Do your teammates look to you as someone they want to go to war with? Answer these questions truthfully so you know if you need to reevaluate your outlook and passion for this amazing game.
COMPETE EVERY PITCH.

 

Inspirational Photo Contest!!!

Amanda Scarborough

Okay y’all! I want to see you and hear from you! From NOW until Friday, March 14  at 11:59pm CT I want you to send in playing pictures (pitching, hitting, teamwork, teammates, fielding, etc) WITH a your favorite QUOTE that goes with the picture! Be creative!

— Quotes and pictures can be about ANYTHING – happiness, passion, working hard, dream, determination, focus, fun, beauty, energy, role model, etc. Think of something that motivates you or you believe in. Whatever you think the word could be, it’s totally ok! It’s all about YOU.

— One picture per email please WITH the quote in the body of email. Also, full name, age and team! (You can send however many emails you’d like!)

— Email picture and quote to amanda9pictures@gmail.com with the subject of the picture you are sending in. Ex. “Happiness” Ex. “Passion”

— There will be at LEAST 5 winners that will receive a signed (optional) Amanda Scarborough t shirt. The winner may also find your picture in an EBOOK to be written this year by me!

— **By sending me your picture, you are giving permission to be my social media or my website. If you are not okay with picture going public, please specify in the email!**

SHARE this with your teammates, friends, family, whoever!!

My picture here is an example of the quote about a picture to send in like I am talking about.

Subject: Passion
“Do it with passion or not at all.”

Amanda Scarborough

“Do it with passion or not at all.”

Same Game Different Stage

softball same gam different stage - motivation
Well, televised games start THIS WEEKEND on the ESPN family of networks.  The first game will be #7 Tennessee @ #3 Florida this Saturday, March 16 on ESPNU at 11am ET.  These are two teams going up against each other who just this past week, both defeated Alabama, as Florida gave Alabama their first loss over a week ago in a mid week Wednesday game, and Tennessee beat Alabama 2/3 in their series this past weekend in Knoxville. Before last week, Alabama was ranked #2 in the nation and was undefeated. So far there has been some great matchups and upsets along the way and it’s only going to continue as we move through the season.  If you know me at all, you know this is my favorite time of year.  I love being able to follow the teams, the players, the seniors, the freshmen and seeing which teams are living up to expectations, and which teams are falling short.  It’s so interesting to see when different teams will peak in the season, each team trying not to hit their peak too early in the year.
ESPN is putting more regular season games on TV than they ever have in the past.  Year after year the amount of televised collegiate games is growing across all networks, and it’s really cool to see.  This year in the booth for ESPN during the regular season you will be able to catch 6 softball analysts calling the games at any given time: Myself, Jessica Mendoza, Michele Smith, Jennie Finch, Cheri Kempf & Garland Cooper. For a complete game schedule of ALL televised games on the ESPN Family of Networks: CLICK HERE
Other sites I use for good college softball info:
Great week by week information of who is hot and which teams are playing best. Graham Hays is someone who knows his stuff, always enjoy reading about what he has to say and he covers which teams week by week are playing best.
This is where you can find the college polls (rankings) and also who is the National Player of the Week.  Every week there is a new National Player of the Week and a new top 25 Poll.
Want to know where your team or favorite player ranks statistically in the nation? Click there.  Individual statistical rankings (ex. Lauren Chamberlain’s batting average) and team statistical rankings  (ex. Oklahoma’s team batting average.)  There are all kinds of stats you can see ERA, home runs per game, batting average, stolen bases, walks, on base %).  The first rankings for this season just came out this week, and they will update weekly.
Some fun stats for this week:
The highest on base % in the nation goes to Devon Wallace, who plays for Arkansas.  She gets on base almost 7/10 times with an OB % of .691.
The lowest team ERA goes to Oklahoma, whose team ERA is .80.  With the amount of great competition and the amount of top 25 teams Oklahoma has faced this year, that is a an amazingly low ERA.  And it does not just have to do with senior All American pitcher, Kelani Ricketts. She is ranked 5th in the country with an ERA of .87 in 80 Innings Pitched , however, Oklahoma has another senior left handed pitcher, Michelle Gascoigne who actually is leading the entire country with a .70 ERA in almost 60 Innings Pitched.

 

So why should you watch softball on TV?
 
Being able to watch college softball on TV can be used as a valuable learning experience in so many different ways for players and for families.  Below are 3 reasons if you’re a young player or a softball family, you should watch as many collegiate games on TV as you possibly can.

 

1. Create goals, inspire dreams

 

With the amount of college softball games on TV, young players are able to see role models right before their eyes playing the game they love at a higher level.  Being able to watch it on TV can put the dream right in front of them that they, too, one day, may be able to make it to that level and be able to compete at the game they love.  Our game of softball has come so far, and a major reason is the amount of games that are now being televised.  By watching these games, young players can be inspired to create a goal in their mind of a future level they want to compete at.  It’s so important to have these futuristic dreams to have something to work towards and look forward to.  It’s the dreams and goals that push you every time you go out to practice to become better.  Every day at practice you are either becoming better or worse.  By watching these collegiate games, players are able to visually see other who have achieved their dreams, and make goals to some day be playing on that same field.
Quotes about goals
2.  Learn about colleges who are recruiting you or colleges you think you have an interest in dreaming of playing at.
I personally love being able to be a part of these televised games becuase I get to learn so much about different programs from across the country.  I get to meet with their coaches, somtimes even their players and ask them a lot of questions and really try to dig deep to learn about their programs and what kind of program the coach is trying to build or has already built.

 

Watching two teams go up against each other in a televised game is a great way for YOU to learn about a school’s program, too.  You get to watch the coaches, you get to watch how the players swing & pitch, you get to watch how the teams act in the dugout and how they take the field.  There are so many different variables that define a program other than their wins & losses record.  If you’re REALLY watching a game, you can pick up on a lot by the attitudes and body languages of a team.  Things to look at:

 

- How do the players wear their uniform (is it wrinkly? is the shirt untucked? is it sloppy looking?)
- When the team gets down, do they fight until the end of the 7th inning, or do they give up once they got down?
- How do the players interact with each other?
- How does the coach interact with the team?
- What is their energy like throughout the entire game?

softball team

 

Who is your favorite team? What do they LOOK like on the field?

 
These might seem like small things, but it’s all the small things that add up to big things and really characterize a school’s program.  When you are actually playing college softball, it becomes less about the statistical numbers that make you a player and a team, but more about what is going on outside of those things that make the heartbeat of a team and program.  By watching as many games as you can, you’re able to get an understanding of each team you watch simply by paying attention to the energy of the players and the energy of the coaches.  Also, not to mention, during the broadcasts, there are usually stories about the team and their coaches, maybe even possible human interest stories that can also help you get to know a team.  If you are getting recruited by different colleges across the country, try to watch them as much as possible in person and/or on TV if you get the chance.  If you do not know where you are wanting to go to college, watch different games and see if you can get the “feel” of a team through the TV screen to see if they gain your interest in the way that they are playing the game.  Watch the games on TV for more than just balls and strikes.  Look deeper and you can learn.

3.  Same Game, Different Stage – They make mistakes too (good for players AND parents to realize this)

When you’re a young player, an error or giving up a homerun feels like the end of the world.  – It feels the same the exact same way for a college player, trust me.  You struck out looking?  – College players do that too…but instead of never hearing the end of it from their parents, it’s their coach who gives them an evil eye as they run back to the dugout.  Same feeling, different authority. You have players on your team who sometimes don’t run a fly ball out?  – SAME THING still happens in college! (maybe just not as much)
softball same gam different stage - motivation
You see, this game…is the exact same…just with bigger girls, further homeruns and smaller strikezones.  By young players being able to see these televised games, they can see that even the college players are human and make mistakes, too.  Young players, especially young girls, feel like they get people down when they are not absolutely perfect on the playing field.  If they are able to see their role models make mistakes on the same field, it makes them better, and puts less pressure on them the next time they are going out to go play a game.  Less pressure on yourself = more fun = better results = more wins.
When I say that this is the same game, I mean to the “t” this is the exact same game no matter if you are in a rec league, on a tournament team or play in college.  A leadoff walk more times than not, will lead to a run.  A pitcher falling behind in the count means a hitter will be more aggressive on a 2-0/2-1 count.  A ball missed down the middle of the plate will get hit well.

….and parents….

More importantly than the young girls being able to watch these players make mistakes,  is the importance of the parents being able to see an All American hitter strike out and a Player of the Year have a homerun hit off of her.  In being around this game at so many different levels, parents get so ashamed of their kids when they are in the stands if they make an error or do something that is not actually benefitting the team.  Remember as a parent, these older girls are making the exact same mistakes – and it will never go away for as long as you’re around the game.  Remember that when something happens in a negative light to your daughter, it’s not a reflection on YOU at all, unless you make it about you with the way that you react.  Take the attention off of you in the stands and put that energy into how you are going to make your daughter feel better about herself by the words you say after the game, the body language you have during the game and the efforts you are going to take with her AFTER the game to make her a better player and to make her feel better about herself.
Watch these games to dream.  Watch these games to learn.  Watch these games to take pressure off of yourself.  Enjoy getting to learn about the NCAA Division 1 college season and have favorite players and teams to root them on.  All of the girls on the field have been in the same position as all of you young players and they worked their tail off to make it to this collegiate level.  They, too, had a goal of playing at the next level.  They also are just like you and have parents who are just like yours.  THe games you are watching through the television screen is the same game you are playing in all different aspects.

 

Personal Branding

Be original - motivation

What is your personal brand saying about you through social media?

Definition: Personal branding is the process of developing a “mark” that is created around your personal name or your career. You use this “mark” to express and communicate your skills, personality and values. The end goal is that the personal brand that you develop will build your reputation and help you to grow your network in a way that interests others. They will then seek you out for your knowledge and expertise.
Vision and Branding - Sports

 

Personal brands affect each and every one of us daily.  Few players realize that they are building their personal brands NOW, at age 12 or at age 17.  This no longer applies to just famous celebrity adult athletes out in the “real world.”  Social media, in my eyes, is affecting personal branding the most with young players.  Every tweet, every picture, every post is defining how you want the world to view you and how you are making your own unique “mark” on the world.  Young players are unaware that the image they are portraying now, even at as preteen, could be affecting where their career is headed when it comes to playing in college and also in post college careers past softball.   Personal branding affects a player trying to play softball in college just as much as it affects the current college softball standout.

Why is this important when it comes to softball?  A softball player’s brand is not simply built on batting average, ERA, or wins and losses.  Though that is PART of a player’s brand, it truly is much more and deeper than just statistics and swag on the field.  Every second of the day it’s either getting stronger or getting weaker. A player is not the only person who has a personal brand in our game – coaches and parents also have their personal brand which is being defined with every game, every win, every loss and every taught skill along the way….but a coaches and parents brand discussion will have to be discussed on a different date.

What players are putting out on social media is writing their personal brand through words and pictures that will live forever — Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Vine, etc.  This is something that 10-15 years ago, players like myself did not have to worry about as much, as the concept of Personal Branding really started to come around in the late 90’s. It is through technology and apps that define your brand and really what you are all about on the inside.  As I’ve watched and monitored over our own team’s tweets and posts, I’ve noticed some common themes along the way that need to be redirected and given better, more positive energy than some of the negativity I read.

 

Think of these things as you build YOUR brand before you post anything on any of your apps:
  1. What is your vision and purpose?
  2. What are your values and passions?
  3. What are your goals? Long term and short term?
  4. What makes you happy?

Be original - motivation

I’ve explained to our own Firecracker team before that Twitter should not be a medium to release any and all personal problems that vary between how you’re playing on the field to relationship problems to family problems.  I totally understand 100% that players feel like these forms of social media is a way to express themselves…but there are some things that should be left to be expressed to your coach, friends or family in a one on one CONVERSATION, not a public conversation on the Internet.  Remember that there are other ways to be heard and people who care about what you are feeling who are actually close to you – your friends and family.

If you’re not playing well on the field…why would you tweet about it? Do you want your competition to know that you’re not seeing the ball well or your change up is struggling? Instead of tweeting about it, go practice.  Take that energy and use it towards something good.  If you have time to tweet about it, usually you have time to go out and practice or get better at whatever it is you’re complaining about.  The more your thoughts are negative, the longer you will struggle.  Along those same lines, are your tweets helping your team or hurting your team?  Handle team problems off the field not through social media.

When you’re tweeting, think about the language you are using.  No curse words or putting other people down or bullying.  Anything negative only brings other people down who are reading it and makes YOU look worse.

When you’re posting pictures, before you post, think about if that exact picture was on the front of USA Today, would you be ok with it? What would your parents think if they saw it on the front of the paper?

Don’t complain about relationship and friendship problems via social media.  These problems fall under that personal umbrella that should not be shared with the world. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that there will be problems, we all have them.  However, there is a place to talk about them, and it’s not over a social media medium.  The negativity and complaining take away from your personal brand.

 

When you are tweeting and posting, think about posting things that shape YOU in the light that you want to be seen in and the characteristics that you want put next to your name.  If you’re having a bad day, where you maybe can’t think of anything nice or positive to post, then just go ahead and don’t put anything that day.  Putting nothing is better than putting something negative or sad.  Nobody else defines you, YOU define you.  Do you want to be seen as pessimistic, critical, a bad teammate, depressed and someone who has self pity? Or do you want to be seen as charismatic, happy, motivated, inspired, passionate? When you put yourself in a college coach’s shoes, which characteristics do you want your players to have and be around every day? What kind of energy are you giving off to the public with your posts?

Have an effect on others that is positive.  Before you post, think is this helping or hurting my brand? It’s so important to realize that every day your image can be seen in a negative or positive light, which will have an effect on not only YOU but college coaches, tournament team coaches, opposing players and also your career once softball is finished.  Right now, what kind of brand are you creating and what kind of “mark” are you leaving on the world?  The brand you are creating on a daily basis now has an impact on your life years and years down the road.  Make the most of it NOW, don’t start later.
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Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands.  The personal-branding concept suggests that success comes from self-packaging. Personal branding also involves creating an asset by defining an individual’s appearance and areas of knowledge in a way leading to a uniquely distinguishable, and ideally memorable, impression.
Dr. Suess Motivational Quotes

The Do’s and Don’ts of “Daddy Ball”

Amanda Scarborough Daddy Ball

“Daddy ball” – slang term in athletics for a team that is perceived by players and players’ parents on the team to have coaches who give more playing time to their own daughter than to other players on the team.

How do you or would you approach a “daddy ball” situation with your daughter?

A question can arise of what to tell a player who is losing confidence in her playing ability because of “daddy ball?”  The question that comes to MY mind first is, “How does your daughter even know what ‘daddy ball’ is?”

Every situation is different and in various situations, “daddy ball” may or may not be actually happening.  But regardless, I feel like there is a right and a wrong way to handle this situation where playing time is at stake for a player.  In any situation, there are always things that you as a family can control with your daughter and there are things that you can’t control.  Remember these lessons you are teaching your daughter now are making an impact on her 20 years from now.  Consistently be teaching her about things that you can control, even as difficult as it may be in some situations for you.  Blaming is instant gratification.  Taking the high road pays future dividends that leave a lasting impression for everyone involved.

Do’s

  • Give your daughter ownership in herself and her effort.
  • Give her a voice by talking to her coach about playing time.
  • Encourage her to be a good teammate.
  • Encourage her to work even harder to earn playing time.
  • Stay positive.
  • Focus on what you can do.
  • Teach her other ways to stay involved throughout the game if she is not playing.
  • Evaluate at the end of the season is the team you are on is fitting your needs as a family.

Donts

  • Quit in the middle of a season.
  • Be negative around your daughter about her coach.
  • Get your daughter involved in “Daddy Ball” parent politics.
  • Make excuses.
  • Get other parents involved.
  • Complain to other people outside of your family.
  • Make everything about playing time.

In my opinion, the word “daddy ball” should never be communicated by the parents to the player.

To me, that just puts a negative connotation in a player’s mind and brings resentment to her teammates, who have nothing to do with the problem.  A young player doesn’t know how to handle emotions as well as an adult.  All she knows is what her parents put in her head.

So if her parents are telling her that she is not getting playing time because of another girl on the team getting preferential treatment, then that can call for resentment of that particular player.  This is going to hurt the lesson being learned of building team chemistry and being a good teammate.  These are such critical lessons for an adult later on down the road to be able to work with other people and not blame others.  Always remember why we play TEAM sports – to learn TEAM lessons and to win championships as a TEAM.  No one player wins a championship, it takes a complete team effort.  By causing negative emotions throughout the team because of politics, you are hurting the efforts of the entire TEAM!! 

The coach’s daughter in the “daddy ball” scenario has NOTHING to do with making the lineup, so she never should be brought up around your daughter in a negative tone.  She is just doing her own thing, minding her own business, playing the sport that she loves.  It is wrong to bring her into it, and it’s not fair to the team or to the player.

So, what can you do?

Stay positive towards your daughter!

Support her by encouraging her to work even harder!  Put more emphasis on work ethic than blaming.

Keep every conversation positive (as hard as it may be for you); do not make negative comments around your daughter about the coach, how he makes the lineup or about his daughter.   When you discuss as a family her playing time, do not make negative comments about the coach, then it is easier for your daughter to question the coach during practice and games, sometimes even players will lose respect for their coaches.  This will only make your daughter appear a bad teammate and un-coachable.  At the end of the day, he is the coach, he makes the decisions, and he is the “boss” of the team.  From a very young age it is important for athletes to respect their coach’s decision!  A lesson learned that will continue to impact a girl decades down the road.  

Amanda Scarborough

Instead of focusing on playing time, discuss with your daughter what she can be doing in the dugout to help the team and herself.  Study hitters.  Learn pitch calling.  Chart pitches.  Keep energy in the dugout for the team.  Try to pick signals.  Notice anyone warming up in the bullpen and what she throws.  Notice patterns the other pitcher is throwing to your hitters.  Teach her other ways she can be contributing instead of teaching her coaches who have daughters on the team give more playing time to their daughter.  If you don’t know things that your daughter should be doing, ASK.

The way that I would discuss playing time is by telling your daughter (depending on age) to have a meeting with the coach and see what she can get better at in order to earn more playing time.  Have a discussion with the coach instead of just blaming and assuming the “daddy ball” philosophy.  90% of parents think that their daughter should be in the starting 9 and are blind to what their daughter needs to get better at in order to become a part of the starting lineup.  Every parent thinks their kid is the best (as they should!), but it’s also very important to be real about if your daughter actually is the best.

If your daughter is high school aged, she should ask the coach to meet with just her.  At the high school age she is old enough to take this meeting on on her own.  If she is younger than high school, then the player can be with her parents meeting with the coach, but I would still encourage the player to ask questions and do a lot of talking.  It can be intimidating, but what an expereicne to give your daughter to speak to someone of authority! It also gives her ownership and responsibility in her own playing time, and it gives her a voice.  I would recommend writing down a list as a family of the questions you want to ask going in.  This will help your daughter speak up and give her comfort in not feeling like she is going to forget what she wants to ask.

Here’s how a few of the questions could be worded, “Hi coach.  I feel like I am not getting as much playing time as I would like.  I was wondering if you could tell me a few things I need to work on in order to get more time in the lineup.” or “Hey Coach, what are some thing that you would like for me to get better as so that I can more consistently find time in the lineup?”  Listen to the things that he tells you.  Write them down. Bring them to your private coaches and work hard on them at home.  Give it time, the changes won’t happen over night. 

The worst thing you can do in that meeting is blame!  “Coach, you give your daughter way more playing time than anybody else and it’s just not fair!” This meeting will not go well and it will only leave with resentment.  He will feel like he’s being attacked.  No one likes to feel attacked.  No one.  Put it on you not on him.

Then, when your daughters gets her chance to show her coach how hard she has worked and the changes she has made, she HAS to show him and prove it to him come game time.  You have to NAIL it when you get your big opportunity to prove yourself.   If it’s innings of relief pitching or a pinch hit opportunity, you have to believe in your preparation and make the most of it!!  Once again, another lesson learned of taking advantage of your opportunities.  Something that will stick with her FOREVER.

Hopefully this can work if your daughter is able to prove to her coach that she has worked hard and has gotten better at the things she needed to work on.  If it doesn’t work, then I encourage you to encourage your daughter to keep working hard and making the most of her opportunities she is given.  These two things can go a LONG way.

Even if she is not getting the playing time (which you can’t control) tell her to focus on things that she can control: attitude, work ethic, being a good teammate.  There are many things she can be learning, even if she is not in the starting lineup.

At the END of the season, if you feel like the team is not the best fit for you, it is then that I would suggest making a change and finding a team that may better suit your needs.  But until that moment comes, it says a lot about a player and a family that they take the high road and stay positive towards other parents and teammates.  Almost to the point where at the end of the season, people may be surprised that the player is leaving.

Blaming is instant gratification, and it can be a tease to make us feel a little bit better immediately.  We want lessons that will take your daughter further into the future and help her become a leader through sports.  “Daddy ball” is one of those teaching situations you as a parent come up against.  Teach the lesson that work ethic is everything and blaming is never the best option.   And remember; don’t refer to “daddy ball” around your daughter.   Your daughter may not have even known what the word “daddy ball” meant if it weren’t for you.  

Understanding The Strike Zone – As a Hitter

Understanding the strike zone as a hitter

A discrepancy that comes up in about 90% of all games is the umpire’s strike zone.  Pitchers complain about it.  Hitters shake their heads in the box about it.  Coaches whine about it.  And parents in the stands let the umpire know exactly what they think about the zone.

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 his/her zone.  You can actually use an umpire’s strike zone to your advantage if you look at it as an opportunity instead of disadvantage…

As a hitter..

Recognize if the umpire has a wide zone (calls a lot of strikes) or small zone (doesn’t call a lot of strikes).  You can recognize this by paying attention to the first couple of innings when you are in the dugout or out in the field.  Even when you are not up to bat, you always need to be paying attention to your surroundings.  If you do not hit at the top of the order, or if you are a hitter who did not start the game, your job is to pay attention to your teammates at-bats and recognize where exactly the umpire is calling strikes, and where he is not. Sometimes one side of the plate might be wider than the other side.  Sometimes he may be an umpire that has a lower strike zone.

Small zone

A game should be controlled by the offenses when there is a small strike zone.  Games with small zones usually lead to higher scoring games.  When there is a small zone being presented, it’s your job as a hitter to have patience at the plate.  With a smaller zone, you change your game plan and approach to not be as aggressive, especially in an important situation.  You want to challenge the pitcher to throw strikes.  Don’t help her out until she proves that she can find the umpire’s strike zone consistently. With a smaller strike zone, comes more walks.  It’s important to pay attention to the hitter in front of you.  Did the pitcher just walk that hitter on 4 straight pitches?  If she did, then you probably should not swing at the first pitch of your at bat, since clearly that pitcher is struggling to find the strike zone.

Finding a way on base is critical in our game.  Realize that a walk is just as valuable as a hit.  It may not seem the same to you as a hitter statistics wise, but taking that walk puts you 60 feet closer to scoring than you were before you started your at bat.  Have patience at the plate, and definitely challenge yourself not to swing out of the zone.

When you’re up to bat, look for a mistake in your at bat.  With a smaller strike zone comes more added pressure to the pitcher, not the hitter.  With added pressure, a pitcher is more likely to be more tense and frustrated.  She will probably start aiming the ball a little bit more trying to find the strike zone, and she is going to be more likely to come over the heart of the plate.  LOOK FOR THIS MISTAKE.  Don’t fall asleep at the plate just because a pitcher is throwing more balls than strikes.  Be ready to hit.

In the dugout, be paying attention to the pitcher’s body language.  If she is getting down on herself and showing that she is not confident with what she is throwing, then it’s even more important to not help her out in your at bat.  Don’t give a pitcher any confidence when she is struggling to find the zone by helping her out and swinging at a pitch that is not a strike.  That gives her a little bit of positive energy and could be exactly what she needs to get back into her groove. When a pitcher is struggling, offensively, it’s your job to keep her struggling.

Wide zone

A wide strike zone can be a hitter’s worse nightmare.  If the umpire is going to have a wider zone, you can be a little bit more aggressive.  You still never want to get out of your true strike zone.  If an umpire strikes you out on a pitch that was clearly not a strike, don’t get discouraged or consider it a failure.  Don’t let that at bat take you out of your next at bat, and more importantly, don’t let the wide strike zone carry over into the next game and get you out of your zone.

When I was playing and there was an umpire with a wide zone, I made it my goal to get not get 2 strikes.  I wanted to hit a strike early in the count so that the umpire didn’t even have a chance to strike me out! YOU can control hitting early in the count. You CAN’T control the umpire calling you out on a pitch that is out of the zone.  So be aggressive early in the count so that you get a better pitch to hit, and you don’t stand a chance of getting struck out on a pitch that is out of your zone.

Also, if an umpire has a wider zone, DON’T SHOW EMOTION.  Players show emotion at the plate when they get strikes called against them just to make sure everyone else knows who’s watching that they didn’t think it was a strike.  Control your emotions.  Don’t let your opponent know that something is wrong with you – that fuels them and let’s them think they have you right where they want you.  If you’re showing body language (i.e. rolling eyes, shaking head) after a certain pitch, and I am pitching against you, I am probably going to throw you that exact same pitch again, since you just clearly showed me disgust after the umpire called that strike against you. Why would I throw you anything else? Clearly you are not looking to hit that pitch that you were just shaking your head about…

Understand which part of the plate the umpire is being “wide” on.  For example: Is it the outside pitch to a right handed hitter that he’s calling way off the plate? If this is the case you have 2 options: 1) Go up looking for an INSIDE pitch, if the pitcher is still showing you that she is working on that side of the plate. 2) If the pitcher is controlling the outside corner because that of where the umpire keeps calling it, crowd the plate the very most you can, and take away that outside pitch so that it doesn’t seem as far outside to you.  The same can be applied for the inside corner by backing way off the plate and looking for that pitch.  If an umpire has a higher strike zone, it’s important to not swing at pitches that are too far high and out of your zone.  Something I did when facing a pitcher who threw higher pitches in the zone was to hold my hands a little bit higher when I was in my stance before the pitch was thrown; this adjustment helped me keep my hands on top the ball so that I was not as likely to pop up.  This was a small adjustment on my part to be able to able to win the “battle.” Your job is to win the battle and do whatever it takes to come out on top – no excuses necessary.

The best players are going to be able to adjust during the game, no matter what is thrown at them!  Softball is a game of adjustments.

Instead of complaining about a wide zone, be proactive in practicing during the week about the approach you will take as a hitter or as a team if you come up against an umpire with a wide strike zone.  It’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of time.  By practicing this, you’re turning what some think as a disadvantage, into something you can feel more confident about at bat when it happens in a game.  Have the discussion before it happens about how your approach changes at the plate when facing different umpires.  An umpire is never the one who comes away with a win in the win column at the end of the game.  By letting the umpire beat you, you indirectly are letting the other team beat you.  Quit the excuses, and use an umpire to your advantage when you’re up at the plate by adjusting how YOU approach YOUR at bat.

 

Experience Makes You Shine

Amanda Scarborough Experience

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

How are you going to handle your defining moment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE REACTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEEK OUT THE EXPERIENCE

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

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

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

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

PRESSURE IS PRIVILEDGE

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

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

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

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

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