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…

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

Dealing with Injuries Part 2 – Contributing to Your Team

Injuries are going to happen.  They are a part of sports; they are a part of being an athlete.

Some injuries are definitely more severe than other injuries.  As athletes, we are pushing our bodies to the limit to get the most out of them.  Some may keep you out for a weekend, some may keep you out for an entire season.  But other than keeping you out of a game, an injury can teach you life lessons.  If you’re injured now or have gotten injured in the past, how have you responded?

Your response defines your character….An injury shows if a player is selfish or selfless.  There is a VERY big difference.

To me, an injury is a way that our body is telling us to slow down.  An injury is also telling us that it may be time to change some mechanics, thus getting better so that our body can perform at the highest level possible.   An injury can bring attention to some things we need to change in making sure we take the best care of our bodies possible, as this is the only body we are going to have.

As we live each day, we are writing our own book.  Are you going to let an injury just be a couple of pages in a chapter of your book? Or are you going to allow an injury to be 4-5 chapters of a book?  Your response will be very telling.  The choice is up to you.  Now, I understand that there are the severe, catastrophic injuries that most likely will impact someone’s life in different ways for the entirety, but still I ask, how are you going to respond?  Every day we have choices.  Are we going to rise up to a challenge? Or let adversity overcome us?

With in injury, there come a lot of decisions in how you are going to handle yourself.  1) You now have a choice in the attitude you are going to have towards taking on life after the injury.  2) You have a choice in how you are going to still contribute to your team.  3) You have a choice in how you are going to try to figure out a creative way to practice to keep up with your skills.  4) You have a choice in how you are going to get treatment for your injury and take care of yourself.  ALL OF THESE THINGS affect life lessons and define your character,

and in the end, will help define what kind of player you will turn out to be after the injury.

For Part 1 of Dealing with Injuries – Attitude, click here.

2. CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR TEAM

So you’re injured.  You know you’re not going to get up to bat.  You know you’re not going to throw a pitch or take a ground ball or have an at bat.  Does this mean that you won’t be able to help out your team because you physically can’t do anything? NO WAY!

Just because you cannot physically be out on the field playing does not mean that it’s okay for you to mentally check out and be uninvolved during a game.  To me, the selfish thing to do as a player is to not help out your team and not stay involved.  Don’t be a distraction in the dugout or at practice just because you are not taking reps or getting at bats.

Your job as a teammate changes whenever you are injured.  Don’t be a selfish teammate.  If you are a distraction in the dugout, you are making things about YOU and not about your TEAM.  The team always comes first. The team is bigger than you.

There are always things you can be doing in the dugout to help contribute to every game and every practice!  If you are injured, it’s always a good thing to have a clip board (or a notebook), pen/pencil and a sheet of paper in your hand throughout the game.  This way you can take notes, maybe even help keep score, and stay INVOLVED in the game.  I’m going to give you a TON of things in a game you can do to still stay involved and help figure out a way to help your team win:

  1. Chart pitches of the opposing pitcher to look for tendencies (Example: every time the opposing pitcher gets 2 strikes, she throws a change up).
  2. Chart pitches of your own pitcher to see if she is having any tendencies (Example: for first pitch of the last 5 hitters that have come up to bat, your teammate has thrown to the inside corner, which is a tendency the other team could pick up and start to use to their advantage)
  3. When you are in the dugout, and your team is on defense, and there is a runner on first base, your job is to watch that runner to be able to shout to your catcher if the runner is going or not.  Every pitch, you can make it your job to be a helper for the catcher to let her know what that runner is doing.
  4. When you are in the dugout, and your team is on defense, watch the hitter.  At first movement of her hands moving down the barrel of the bat to try to sneaky bunt, yell “BUNTT” to help your teammates on the corners.  Try to be the first one to spot a bunt. Don’t fall asleep in the dugout
  5. Also, when you are in the dugout, and your team is on defense, and there is a runner at 3B,  your job can be to watch the runner at 3B to see if the other team is running a squeeze.  If you see that runner at 3B take off on the pitch to try to head home, yell “squeeze” as loud as you can so that you can help give your infield a heads up to be on top of the play at the plate.
  6. Help your pitcher, catcher and defense remember who is coming up to bat next inning and where they hit it.  Say the leadoff hitter comes up to bat for the 2nd time in the game, and she hit it to your centerfielder, Jami.  You yell, “Hey Jami! She came to you last time.” Help your defense stay in the game and remember the play that happened before.
  7. When your team is hitting. and everybody is in the dugout, make it your job to try to pick up any signals from the opposing coach or catcher.  Try to figure out the other team’s signals so you can help out your hitter.  Even the catcher may be showing everybody her signals by not keeping her hand close to her while she is giving signals.  If you can see them, try to figure them out to help give your teammate an advantage up at the plate.
  8. When your team is hitting, take a look at the pitcher and see if she has any tendencies with her body when she throws a certain pitch.  Maybe before she throws a changeup her head tilts a certain way, or you can tell she gets a special grip in her glove.  Consider it a challenge that you are going to sit there and watch that pitcher to see what exactly she is giving away.  All pitchers give away information every single pitch – it’s up to you to be able to identify it.
  9. Another job that you could help do, is when your team is on defense and you are in the dugout, help get the 3 hitters who are due up the next inning’s gear ready for them to come into the dugout to slip on – heltmet, batting gloves and bat.  You can have that at the front of the dugout ready for them, so they can come in and make a quick transition to go up to bat.  Help them get focused sooner.
  10. If your coach calls pitches from inside the dugout, and you are a pitcher or a catcher, go sit by that coach.  Ask what he/she is calling and why they are calling it.  Learn how to set up hitters.  Be a sponge.  Even though you are physically not throwing pitches and getting better physically, you learning how to set up hitters and learning a method behind calling pitches is going to make you a stronger pitcher or catcher once you are healthy and get back out there.
  11. Be the your team’s biggest cheerleader.  More than that, be a leader.  Be supportive of your teammates, keep them up in the dugout.  If someone had a bad at bat or seems down during the week, try to have a talk with them and bring them back to being more positive.  What will speak the most about you and your character is the communication and support that you have towards that person who is in your spot.  Say, you you’re usually the starting short stop, but you can’t play because you rolled your ankle.  Now, the back up short stop is in, who doesn’t have that much experience.  You can take it upon yourself to help her know where to be in all situations.  Coach her throughout the game and monitor over her to make sure that she is always in the right spot.  Also, give her encouragement or any kind of helpful hints that you know from playing that position.  You now become that new short stop’s biggest fan.  You want her to do well, because if she does well, then your team has a better chance of winning.
  12. Make it your job when your team is hitting to make sure that whoever is supposed to be on deck is ready and knows that their turn to bat is coming up.  Make sure there is always someone on deck and always someone in the hole. Help your teammates be ready and focused so they have the best possible chance to have success when they are up at the plate.
  13. Overall, it just comes down to being a student of the game.  Study hitting, pitch calling, body language, situations.  When you cannot play, you can go into more of a coaching/observation role to help take your game to the next level.
  14. Read the defense when your team is on offense.  A lot of times teams have their middle infielders or outfielders shift depending upon which side of the pate the pitch is going to be.  So sometimes the defenders are giving away to the hitter which side the pitcher is going to throw to.  Example: A right handed hitter is up, you see the short stop move more towards 3B, and the centerfielder move more towards LF before the pitch is thrown.  They’re positioning themselves for an inside pitch to come to the hitter).  Look for this, and if you notice it, make sure you call together a little team meeting and tell your teammates what you see.  You may be able to pick something up, to once again, help your teammate deliver a hit while she is up to bat.  It might even be the game winning hit that you help her get.

What do all have these things have in common? You’re still contributing to helping your team WIN.  By finding ways to still contribute, you are putting attention on the team and taking attention off of yourself.

After an injury, you should actually come back to the game as a smarter player once you can play again.  Take an injury as time to become a smarter player and think more like a coach.  Ask questions and become a leader while you are contributing to your team. An injury is not an automatic ticket to become a spectator during your teams games.  An injury means you step up and find a new role to help your team win.  Every day you are a part of a team you should ask yourself, “What can I do today to help my team win?”

Put your team before you.  Even if you are injured, you are still a part of a team.

For Part 1 of Dealing with Injuries – Attitude, click here.

Do you Have Short Term Memory Loss?

Before you get scared- NO, this is not a spam post ad for some overseas medicine coming to America to help with short term memory loss!  In sports, a player NEEDS to have short term memory loss.  What do I mean by that? I mean you have to forget mistakes you make in a game – quickly.  Sports are filled with failures, but also filled with a lot of opportunity.  How are you looking at your next at bat or your next pitch you throw after you make a mistake? Are you looking at it as an opportunity to succeed or as a chance you might fail?

We all are going to make mistakes throughout the game.  It’s all about how we recover from that mistake that matters. We must understand that one play does not define you as a player – for better or for worse. We have to be able to move on from a play within SECONDS of it happening, in order to have full focus on what is still happening during that same play while it is being completed. Then, we must move on on to the next play, the next pitch, the next at bat.  Sports like softball move very fast.  The game will move on with or without you – hopefully, it’s with a fully focused, fully positive you – ready to make a new impact on the game when you have another opportunity.

If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes. – John Wooden

A hitter might have 4 at bats in a game, an infielder might have 3-4 plays chances to make a play in a game, but a pitcher is touching the ball 80-130(ish) times a game.  A pitcher has more opportunities to make a mistake than any other person on the field, but also more opportunities to rebound from a mistake…more opportunities to have a chance to shine.  You have to be able to let things go. Forget about the last mistake you made. The game isn’t nearly as much fun when you are WORRIED about mistakes and hanging on to things that weren’t done “perfectly.” If you are worried about pitch number 24 you threw in the game, while you are throwing pitcher number 44, there is no way to throw pitch 44 to its highest ability.

It isn’t making mistakes that’s critical; it’s correcting them and getting on with the principal task.  – Donald Rumsfeld

The best pitchers are going to be the pitchers who move on with a new, clear focus on the next pitch.  After you throw a pitch, you CANNOT hang on to it.  You have to accept the outcome, do not JUDGE it.  It’s when we judge the outcome that we are more likely going to be hanging on to it and unable to move on.  You have a chance the very next pitch to redeem yourself to your coaches, team, and to yourself.  How are you going to rebound?

As athletes, we all want to be perfectionists.  It’s impossible to be perfect in sports.  We are trying to achieve perfection every time we take the field or the court, and perfection never going to be attainable. If you are a competitive athlete, you are always going to want to be better and better and better, and there never truly is perfection.  Even if you throw a “perfect” game, it doesn’t mean that you threw 100% strikes and had 21 strike outs in a game.  (If someone has had this, I applaud you, but I am not sure that this exists out there).  Go into a game not EXPECTING to make mistakes, but understanding that they might happen.  The best thing you can do is accept that you made a mistake, and move on.  The ability to do this can make a good player a great player.

Once you accept that you’re imperfect and are ok with making mistakes, it’s the most liberating thing in the world.  We are all perfectly imperfect.

Whether you are hitting or pitching, you must have the mindset of NEXT PITCH.  You took a pitch that was right down the middle for the first strike of your at bat? So what, next pitch.  In our game, you have the OPPORTUNITY to recover from a mistake within seconds of making that mistake.   Think of the next pitch as an immediate opportunity to bounce back whether you are at the plate, in the field or in the circle. If you are still down when that next pitch is happening, your chances of having success aren’t going to be very high because you are still hanging on to the past. Let go of the past, focus on what you can do NOW.

The first step in this whole process of getting better at having short term memory loss is PRACTICING having short term memory loss at practice and at lessons, even throughout the day in regular, every day activities.  If you cannot recover from a mistake in a lesson quickly, it’s going to be 1000 times harder to recover from a mistake in a game because a game moves faster and a game has more pressure.

Someone who does not have short term memory loss must first come to the realization that you are not good at letting go of mistakes before you can begin to change it.  Once you realize it, you become aware of it, and you can actually make a change.  If you never realize it, you are not going to change, and you will stay lost amongst the high percentage of players who hang on to the mistakes they make throughout a game and throughout a tournament.  When you hang on to mistakes, it’s exhausting and the game doesn’t seem fun anymore. Practice having short term memory loss in your lessons.

Know you made a mistake, do NOT judge it, learn from it, and commit to the next pitch with a fresh mentality.  By practicing it in lessons or at team practice, you will have a much better chance of putting into play your short term memory loss into a real game.

Don’t be so hard on yourself! Remember, sports should be fun!  Even though you are intense, and expect to be great every time that you go out onto the field to play, you are GOING to make mistakes.  The longer you hold on to that mistake, the less fun the game is going to be.  We are all perfectly imperfect and are allowed to make mistakes!  What is going to separate you from the rest of the players out there is how FAST you move on from mistakes!

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!

Power Drive Photo Shoot

About three years ago I was searching pitching and pitching tools, and I stumbled across the Softball Power Drive.  I spent some time on their website truly studying the tool and soon realized that it was a tool that helped teach exactly how I taught my pitching students.  Immediately I searched for a contact email and sent an email to Softball Power Drive explaining who I was, how much I loved their tool and if there was any way we could work together.  I thought that email was going to go into a black hole, but it didn’t.  I got contacted back a few weeks later by the inventor of the Softball Power Drive, John Miller, and his father Brad. After that conversation, we have worked together ever since.

We made this video in Indiana about 2 years ago with a high tech camera that shoots at 1000fps.  What’s so cool about this video is that it shows how to use the Softball Power Drive while also showing fastpitch mechanics at a speed where you can actually see where the body is supposed to be.

I was very lucky growing up; I had tremendous pitching coaches who taught me solid mechanics and how to put my body into the most efficient spots to get the most out of my size and muscles.  I stand at not even 5’6 but could touch 70mph.  Think of the normal pitcher you see in college and most of them stand above 5’6, lots of them over 6′ tall.  So I get asked where I got that power from a lot.  My answer to them is: I used my lower half in the right way in order to get the most energy out of my frame.

This video has over 400,000 views on youtube and does not include the numbers of views it has had on the Softball Power Drive home page.  I haven’t really found anything else out there on the internet that shows the fastpitch mechanics in slow motion at 1000fps like this video does.  So please share or leave any comments and questions! Enjoy!

My Top 10 Favorite Softball Motivational Quotes

Everybody needs someone or something to lift them up on certain days. This game of softball is a game of failure trying to pull us down at every chance. So what I wanted to do was pul some of my favorite quotes from the 60+ blogs I have written on my website.  Even the most talented softball players will have days where they want to give up. Remember, even though there will be down days, the awesome days are just around the corner waiting for you. Be confident. Try to grow every day physically or mentally, or better yet, both. When the failure gets the best of you, it wins Believe in yourself and keep a positive frame of mind…

Amanda Scarborough Softball Quotes

“This game is about the long run. LIFE is about the long run. Pick successes that can build your confidence over time and stay in the process. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, but you can’t see the light if you fall into the trap of all the failures trying to pull you down.”

“Take it one pitch at a time. Take it one day at at time.”

“The majority of players have to learn to be confident, just like players have to learn to throw a ball. It’s a process and it gets stronger the more it’s practiced. Even if you have to fake it to practice it, fake it until it becomes real. You WILL start to believe it.”

“ANYONE can be on a team, but NOT just anyone can be a loyal leader who people look to and who rises above all the negativity and drama.”

“The true definition of confidence has nothing to do with other people who surround us and statistics on a sheet of paper.  The only place that confidence comes is from inside YOU.  Yes, you. Our confidence belongs to us, no one else.”

“Every morning we wake up we have a choice at how we are going to believe in ourselves.  Too easily we forget, especially when we are in the middle of a whirlwind of a season, that every day we wake up is a new day, and you have a choice every morning if and how you are going to believe in yourself.  You own that belief.  No one else does.”

“When you take the field or look at yourself in the mirror, YOU must be the one to believe that YOU are meant to do great things. YOU get to show everyone what you are made of and your love for the game.”

“Realize this: We aren’t going to be perfect with our outcomes/results, in this game of failure we call softball. However, every time you are in a pressure situation it’s a chance to prove that you’re in the “perfect” frame of mind. The “success” and “failure” comes from being in the right frame of mind and giving yourself a chance to have success when the big moment comes; it doesn’t always necessarily come with the outcome, despite what all eyes watching might think. Results will come once the frame of mind has been altered.”

“The only way you won’t “make it” is if you don’t have passion for something and don’t work hard enough at it – with all my heart I believe that. When you have passion for where ever your heart wants to take you, it drives you, it gives you direction and it gives you momentum.  Let your passion push you to your dreams. Your passion is the driving force behind your energy and motivation.”

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

 

Amanda Scarborough Softball Quotes

 

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.

 

Top Five Q’s with A – II

Can You Pitch Too Much?

Q1: Is there a such thing as too much pitching at 8-9yo? Don’t want to hurt her, she says she’s fine so thought I’d ask.

A1: Nah! I really don’t think so! There’s not enough force on her arm quite yet! Just make sure you’re practicing all the right mechanics and focusing on detail with all those reps! Want to create good muscle memory! Maybe check in with a sports doctor just in case!

Getting Burned Out

Q2: My daughter will be 11 years old in September. She has been taking pitching lessons for a year and a half. She is really good and continues to get better. However, She seems to be getting burned out. Any suggestions?

A2: Keep it fun for her and keep encouraging her without putting too much pressure on her to go out and practice! Clearly she is athletic if she’s really good and is just getting better and better! Make sure to give her breaks, and make HER come to you about practicing and playing. If she is 10 and getting burned out already, that’s an early age for that to happen! Sometimes a player can be really athletic and talented, but they don’t always have the heart and passion to continue; it’s not THAT uncommon for that to happen! Remember that as she gets older, it’s only going to get more time consuming and the older you get, the more you have to sacrifice for lessons, games and practice! She is still young and growing, so don’t make any decisions quite yet, just see where her choices and heart take her! 

Longevity of Pitching Shoes

Q3: This might be a silly question…but my DD has only been pitching a year, and I’m sure we have a lot of things to learn about softball. But is there an actual training shoe or sneaker for pitchers for indoor pitching on turf. She wears her regular sneaker down on her front right toe from dragging it. Her cleats of course hold up really well to this. But around here we have to move practice indoors in the winter time so she is pitching on turf. This is really hard on sneakers….do they make something better built to handle this?

A3: There used to be pitching toes that you could put on sneakers that we were able to put the shoe laces through to keep on the toe and cover it up! I would google search “Softball Pitching Toes.” If nothing comes up and they don’t make that anymore, my mom would just buy me the cheapest sneakers at WalMart or a sporting goods stores. They would be my “Pitching Shoes.” Not worth spending $100+ on a pair of shoes that will just get ruined. They weren’t the PRETTIEST shoes around, and when I was younger I didn’t always like wearing them, but totally understood that you’re going to go through sneakers FAST from dragging! Also – another suggestion you can put lots of duct tape over the toe of the shoe to help it hold up a little bit longer!

Tendency to Pitch Too Inside

Q4: Hi I have a 15yr old daughter that pitches a lot of inside pitches she been pitching for about a year and half, can you help?

A4: For any pitcher, usually pitches that consistently miss too far inside is a true sign that your hips are getting in the way at your release. It’s so important at your release point that your hips are more “open” so that your hand and arm can get through the bottom of your pitch. When your hips get in the way and are “closing” too soon, then your arm hits your hip and causes the pitches to go low and inside. Your arm just can’t get through. So you can either a) speed up your arm speed or b) try to stay open longer to let your arm clear through. I would also encourage to have your catcher set up way outside to give her a different target and something to look for. Last thing, sometimes inside pitches are caused by falling off to the side before you release your pitch. Stay balance longer. For example: If you are right handed, don’t fall to the right BEFORE you release the pitch. Try to stay balance and on the “power line” for as long as you can through your release and stay balance at the end! 

Rise Ball Spin for Fastball

Q5: We have watched you over the years and my daughter looks to women like you to compare herself.   My daughter is soon to be 16 and she throws rise with the backward spin which in some places really blows others minds and batters get so frustrated.  My question is can this spin be thrown as a fastball all the time? Or is it too hard on the body?  She throws it all the time and starts it at the knees  and if it breaks  it breaks and if it don’t  it usually gets a an infield pop-up or a little dink behind first, that second can get or right plays in. Just wondering if this is okay?

A5: It’s always good to have good spin and a little bit of movement on your fastball. Really the NAME of a pitch is not as important as the ability to be able to get outs and throw it for a strike and throw it with command.  If you have correct foundation of mechanics, I don’t see it being too hard on the arm.  I honestly have never come across someone who has spun a “fastball” like that consistently, so I can’t tell you from experience if it will or will not hurt someone’s arm to repeat that motion thousands and thousands of time.  The best thing you can do is to just monitor how it is making her arm feel and since she is 16, I would start icing her elbow and/or shoulder after games.  Take good care of that arm, it is so very important for longevity in the sport. 

10 Ways to Stand Out At A Softball Clinic

So you go to a clinic, there are a lot of other girls there, and that means you need to find a way to stand out of the crowd. It could be at one of our Packaged Deal clinics, or it could be at the clinic of your FAVORITE university. Maybe you’ve never heard of the people who will be instructing, maybe you’ve been counting down the days until you got the chance to go to this clinic. Either way, there are ways that you can STAND OUT from the 40 or even 100+ girls you are at the clinic with. Don’t you want to make a good impression? Standing out (for all the RIGHT reasons) can only be a good thing, because you never know WHO people know, and who might be able to put in a good word for you somewhere down the road….

Take for example your goal is to play at the University of Michigan, but you’re from Florida and you’re at Packaged Deal clinic in Florida. There’s us (the four girls from PD), and then also guest instructors at our clinic. Though you’re thousands of miles away from Michigan, one of those coaches may know the Michigan head coach. It takes just one phone call or one text to Carol Hutchins (Michigan Head Coach) to say, “Hey Coach, you’ve GOT to see this girl from Florida play, she’s the type of kid you would want on your team.” Or…the opposite could happen. Maybe one of us run into Carol Hutchins at a tournament and she says, “Hey, have you ever worked with this one girl, she’s from Florida, really wants to come to Michigan she said she’s been to one of your clinics. How was she?”  We will have to respond with the truth. If you didn’t’ hustle, if you weren’t coachable…we have to tell her that.

There are things you can do to make a great impression and represent yourself the best so you have a better chance at achieving your goals. Be memorable…

  1. Walk in with confidence – even if you have to fake it.

Ok, so you’re a little nervous. You don’t know what to expect, you’ve never even been to the facility before. You don’t know how many people are already going to be there. You have ONE chance to walk in for the FIRST time – be aware of what you look like! Even if you have to fake it, walk in with confidence. Walk in with a look in your eyes of excitement. Walk in with the feeling of not caring what anyone might say about you. From the minute you get out of the car, own it….own how you carry your bat bag, to the way you open the facility door, to the way you put your shoulders back and walk like you BELONG.

 

  1. Meet a friend, introduce yourself to new people

 

You might not know anybody at the clinic, but that’s totally ok! It just means you have a chance to make a NEW friend. While you’re waiting for the clinic to start, you could go up to another person who looks like she is by herself and introduce yourself. Then, once the clinic starts, it feels like you know someone there. If you are broken into groups, take it upon yourself to meet your other group members. Find out their name, maybe even where they’re from. Who knows…you could meet a lifelong friend if you just put yourself out there!

 

  1. Eye Contact

 

THIS is a big one. When an instructor is talking to you individually or in the group setting, give them your BEST eye contact. Even if they’ve been talking for a little while, lock in and give your focus. This means…no playing with your glove or your shoe laces or looking across the facility at what distracting things may be going on. You’ll soon realize, the more eye contact you give, the more the instructor gives you because she knows you are LISTENING. Take away eye contact from a clinic and bring it to conversations with your parents, brothers, sisters, teachers, coaches and even friends.

 

  1. Hustle – No Walking

 

Hustling is infectious to the rest of the players who are at the clinic. It even makes the COACHES want to give more/ The minute the clinic starts, there is no walking. – similar to not walking in between the lines out on the field. Hustling from station to station allows you to get more work in. Hustle is the sign of an athlete wanting to get better and not wanting to waste any time. DO NOT walk. Even if it seems like a short distance, just pick up your pace and hustle over when you’re changing stations or going to get water.

 

  1. Try New Things

 

Come into the clinic and BE OPEN. The worst mindset you can have when you go to a clinic is to be close-minded and unwilling to change. A clinic can help grow you by making you feel uncomfortable and pushing you to try new things. If you are open to trying new things, you never know what new drill or piece of information can take your game to the next level…

 

  1. Don’t Make The Same Mistake Over and Over Again

 

A clinic will allow you to go through lots of REPS. Don’t make the same mistake over and over again without making an adjustment at each station. If you are making the same mistake, then you are not learning, and it gives the impression that you are uncoachable and/or that you do not care that you’re making the same mistake over and over. On the other hand, if you make quick adjustments, it gets noticed. Making quick adjustments shows that you have great body awareness AND that you are coachable. Being coachable is one of the BEST things someone can say about you to someone else. Especially a coach who might be recruiting you.

 

  1. Be Inspired

 

Be inspired by the instructors, not afraid of them. Sure, they might be a little intense, they might be loud, and they might pick up on things you’ve never heard before or done before. But, don’t be scared of them, be inspired by them. At the end of the day, they most likely have been in YOUR shoes in the past. Listen and hang on every word they are sharing with you because their goal is to have you leave the clinic feeling more motivated than when you came in.

 

  1. Make Sure The Station is Clean Before Rotating

 

If you’re at a station where you’re going through a lot of balls, do not rotate to the next station until every single ball has been picked up. Leave the drill like you found it. Do NOT leave one person to be the person who is always the last one picking up the balls. Do NOT rotate without your entire group. This may seem like a small thing, but it speaks volumes about your character and the type of teammate you are. Softball is a team sport, being a good group-mate more than likely means that you’re a good teammate. This I know with certain is Jen Schro’s #1 way to stand out for the WRONG reason if you leave balls behind…

 

  1. Write Down Important TakeAways

 

You just learned a TON of information. After the clinic is done, go WRITE DOWN (not text) things that you learned from the clinic. Maybe it’s a quote that sticks out in your mind that really hits home, maybe it’s a drill, maybe it’s a mechanical fix that someone helped you with that you need to work on. When you write things down, you’re more likely to remember them, and go practice them. This will help you elevate your game faster.

 

  1. Thank Your Parents

 

Say THANK YOU to your parents (and/or whoever brought you) for letting you attend the clinic. Never forget that almost every clinic you go to costs money to allow you to participate. That money comes from someone’s hard work. Your parents are working hard to earn that money so that you can enjoy a sport that you LOVE. What THEY love is when you show appreciation. Your parents would do anything for you, but saying thank you makes them feel good and makes them want to continue to do things for you. You can write them a note, send them a text, or tell them when you’re leaving the facility. Whichever way you feel most comfortable, make it happen and never take things that you have or get to do with softball for granted.

 

3 Things To Do Post Clinic:

 

  1. Follow all forms of social media.

 

By following on social media, you have a chance to stay connected with the instructors one your clinic is done. By staying connected, you can now ask questions, learn new drills they post and also find out when they will be back in your area. By staying connected, you are showing that you’re invested and passionate. Find new drills even AFTER the clinic, they’re there for YOU. Softball knowledge is posted daily and it’s all for YOU. So even though you might not be physically WITH the instructors, you’re still apart of their tribe and can benefit just from following their social media accounts – as a whole and individually.

 

  1. Practice the drills daily/weekly.

 

The only way the drills that you learned will work is if YOU work. So get to it. Go practice the drills or mechanically positioning you learned and WORK to get better. You will leave the clinic on a high of excitement. Use that feeling to build momentum to take into your practices, working on the drills you learned. Most likely you learned drills that you could do on your OWN, even without anybody else. How bad do you want it?

 

  1. Continue to thank your parents for the investment they are making to allow you to play softball.

 

Not just after the clinic, but for the rest of your softbsll career, thank your parents. NEVER take what they do for you for granted. Softball is a time investment and a financial investment and they do not HAVE to let you play softball. The gas, the time driving, your clothes, your cleats, your equipment – all of these things cost money. So, THANK your parents and be appreciative for them letting you play the sport you love.

Who are you Surrounded by?

Does being surrounded by players who share your values about confidence and being in the right mental state help you as an athlete?

 

 Being surrounded by players that share these values absolutely helps improve your mental state. Players can push each other on the physical side of the game, but can also push each other on the mental side. Players should be surrounded by other players who are reinforcing that feel good, play good mentality.  Try to get your teammates to hop on board with those same values. Confidence is contagious.  Be someone that your teammates can look to, who plays the game confidently and with a strong presence.

Be a teammate who makes your other teammates better and stronger.  By playing the game with confidence and with a strong mind, you make others around you play the game better, as well.  Not only will  you feel better and stronger off the field, but you will see positive results on the field — having more fun, winning more games, relaxing while you play.

These values not only affect you on the playing field, but off the playing field.  The confidence and the mental state you are learning on the softball field greatly affects you in every day life at school and at home.  To be completely honest, it doesn’t just have to do with players who share the same values, but with coaches who share similar values and are reinforcing a positive mindset and helping players to feel their most confident.

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