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…

Why She Has 1000…

As you grow up and reflect on the years of your life, you can probably count on 1 hand the people who have made a major impact on you.  You are told to surround yourself by people who make you better; a search to seek out the people who pull out the very best in you.  But what if one of those people actually found YOU, knowing she could be the one to get the very best out of you?  And then, what if you were surrounded by that person for 4 years, 40 weeks out of the year, 6 days out of the week, 4-5 hours of every day?  Do you think this person would have a major influence on you in your life?  I know firsthand, the answer is yes. I know from having the opportunity to be around Jo Evans, Head Softball Coach at Texas A&M, who just recently won the 1000th game of her career.

Amanda Scarborough Coach Jo Evans Texas A&M

When deciding where to play ball in college, some players look at what majors a school has to offer, some decide based on athletic and academic facilities, others may look at a previous win-loss records or national championships.  I looked at Coach Evans.

I saw a coach who could make me a better player, but more importantly, I saw a coach who could make me a better person.

I still remember being 15 or 16 years old, and seeing Coach Evans in the stands recruiting me and watching me play.  I get asked often if I always knew I wanted to go to Texas A&M.  To be honest, I wasn’t one of those players who ALWAYS knew she wanted to go to Texas A&M.  I have no family members who went there and had no real ties to the university before I made my decision.   When I was that age, I had no idea where I wanted to go to school!  But then…Texas A&M showed interest in me, and it was almost as if I knew instantly that I wanted to play for her from the moment I met her.  Jo Evans is what pulled me in.

The decision to play at Texas A&M for Jo Evans is definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.  When I was there, taking the field every day in College Station, I didn’t realize the magnitude of all that she was teaching me on a daily basis.  In those 4 years, I was constantly growing as a player, growing as a leader, and helping to grow a program, all by the guidance of a spunky red head, named Jo.

Coach Evans makes a “big deal” about leaving a legacy, as she asks every senior class, “What’s going to be your legacy?”  She reminded our senior class, as she does with every senior class, that we are leaving a lasting mark on a program, and we got the chance to control what it was going to be.  From her, we knew we would be leaving a legacy at Texas A&M, but what she did not know at the time, was that she, too, was leaving a lasting legacy on us.  A first impression may stay with you for weeks, a lifetime impression stays with you for eternity; it’s one that will stays with me well after I left my cleats on the field in Oklahoma City signaling my playing career at Texas A&M had come to an end. Coach Evans makes lifetime impressions on the players who play for her at Texas A&M University.

Coach Jo Evans 1000 wins Texas A&M Softball

Little did I know when I was 16 years old, making the decision to play for Coach Jo Evans, that I would be playing for a coach would achieve the 1000 wins mark.  That coach, the one who chose ME to come and play for her at her school, had a monumental weekend, as she won her 1000th career Division 1 game this past Saturday.  Quite a milestone, as she becomes the only active coach in the SEC to have 1000 career Division 1 wins and becomes the 8th coach in the country to achieve this.

But in my mind, Jo Evans is more than a softball coach piling up scoreboard victories under her belt.

What has helped lead to those thousand victories is the fact she is a coach who teaches more than the game of softball through the game of softball.  She genuinely cares about her players, and has the ability to get them each in the right mindset to go out and compete to their highest talent level, thus the ability to compete for championships.  By caring, by teaching, by directing, she is making them better women when they leave her program to go and take on the real world, once their cleats are left on home plate.

It’s a college coach’s duty to teach more than the game of softball, as those 4-5 years of a player’s life are preparing them for the rest of their lives in more ways than one.  I know in my heart that many other players feel like I do about the relationship they have or had with their college coach. I speak from my heart and from my own experience as to what I was taught in those 4 years that has honestly, completely changed my life and made me into the woman I am today.

I could write an entire book about what all Coach Evans has taught me.  (I laugh because this article is already going to be long enough.) Looking back, I honestly cannot tell you which of these things are the most important and rank them in any particular order, but I do know that they all continue to change my life.  Jo Evans left her legacy on us, just like she told our senior class to do on the A&M program.

1)   Plain and simple — She taught me the game.

I really learned the ins and outs of the game from Jo.    At practice she’s teaching, in the game she is teaching, after the game she is teaching.  Doesn’t matter big or small, she will see it, and she will use it as a teaching moment at many point at practice or in a game.  At practice, I learned the details of defense from her. In between innings, during a game,  I remember her going over pitch calling with me for different situations and letting me know what I could have done better or chose differently.  I learned a little bit deeper about what the whole “make adjustments” thing meant as a hitter and as a pitcher, alike.

Jo Evans 1000 wins

In post game talks, she would let us know down to certain at bats and certain pitches/counts within that at bat what went wrong, what should have gone differently, and why it changed the energy and outcome of the game or an inning.  Because she taught us, we could be more aware of different situations in future games to be able to make adjustments on our own when we experienced that same situation again.   She was the best at reminding us of plays of execution throughout the game, that may never go down in the scorebook or get written about in the newspaper, but they were parts of the game that you can’t be a championship team without.  During and after the game, she reminded us which plays were a “big deal” for our team.

A huge part of this game is knowing your role on a team. She made me look at the game in a whole new way when it came down to actually playing the game itself, but also, she taught me every player has a “job.”  She pointed out different roles that were an integral part of a team; roles that went deeper than the star pitcher and the homerun hitter.  Every single player on a roster has value and has a job to do.   When you are being reminded that everyone has a role and a job to do at any point in the game, it brings a team together.  EVERY player has value.

The more you respect each other’s roles, the better you play together, thus leading to more wins.  You keep it simple and worry about doing YOUR job, not someone else’s.

This idea of roles and doing your own job made the game much more simplified.  It was important to remember what YOUR job was, and not try to do everybody else’s.  You have a job.  You execute it.  You succeed.  “What can YOU do to help OUR team win?” — love that quote.

Looking back, her teaching me the knowledge of the ins and outs of the game has helped me immensely in my career as a softball analyst on ESPN.  We did not learn to play as robots on the field – we learned to take responsibility and ownership for every situation throughout the game. Because I wasn’t a robot, I learned quicker and the concepts I learned were able to stay with me longer.  Now, I can talk about an array of situations that happen on the field defensively and offensively, taking that knowledge I learned playing under her to relaying knowledge to the viewer on TV listening and watching the game.  I know the game from Jo.

Amanda Scarborough and Jo Evans

 2.  Respecting the game

Coach Evans takes more of an “old school” approach.  She loves textbook softball when it comes down to execution and more importantly, upholding a certain standard to which the game should be played and respected on the field.

Our game has history and our game has value, and she is a coach that doesn’t just ask for her players to respect that history, she demands it.  Respecting the game is one of the few things Coach Evans demanded of us, as she is really not a demanding coach.  For the few things that she “demanded,” we knew that they were of extra importance, because her demanding anything from us, were things we knew WE could control.

Along with respecting the game, comes respecting the players who played in front of you.  Not just at YOUR school, but the players who paved the way to get our sport to where it is today.  This is a respect of what they sacrificed, and what they have accomplished ahead of you.  Our sport is growing, and our sport is beautiful.  This didn’t happen over night. It was made this way from those who laid the foundation before us to make this sport as we know it today.  And for that, every time you take the field, you are playing for something that’s bigger than yourself.

Texas A&M Softball

What else does respecting the game mean?  It means you play hard.  It means you leave it all out on the field.  It means that when you step out onto the field, nothing else matters – not school, not relationships, not any personal problems. It means keeping a good attitude.  It means by knowing that if you stick with the process, the game will reward you.  If you are player or former player, you know exactly what I mean.

Coach Evans 1000 Wins

I had never really thought about the game in this way until I had played for Coach Evans.  Yes, I loved to play hard, but I did it a little selfishly, not understanding the real importance of respecting the game.  However, she taught me to play hard, for something bigger than myself.   Because she loves and respects the game of softball, it’s something that she has pulled out from inside of me to the forefront.  Not that it wasn’t always there, because it was, but she showed it to me in a way I had never thought about the game before.  If you know me, you know I love EVERYTHING about this game.   Coach Evans brought that out of me.

3.  Respect Your Opponent

With respecting the game comes respecting your opponent.  Jo kept us humble with wearing that Texas A&M across our chest.  Yes, we played at a school who week in and week out, usually found ourselves ranked in the Top 25; but she taught us the game doesn’t know who is supposed to win when you step on the field.  She taught us that no matter who we were going up against, they deserved our upmost respect, because anybody can beat anybody on any given day.  The more I’m around this game, the more I see this, and it’s actually one of the things that still gives me the most excitement about spots in general.  As sports fans, we live for the underdog to get the big win.  It happens, and it gives everyone out there a little bit of extra hope, as we all feel like an underdog at some point in our lives.

She taught us that even though we respected our opponent, no matter who they may be, a win and a loss 90% of the time comes down to a team playing THEIR game and not worrying about what the other team was doing.  She taught us to give so much more attention to ourselves than to the other team, and control the things that WE could control.  This is something that as we were playing, made the game seem a little bit more simple.  Wow, what a thought – I don’t have to worry too much about the other team, because if we play OUR game, the way WE are supposed to play, then we will put ourselves in a position to win.

Coach taught us a part of respecting your opponent is winning and losing graciously.  Any kind of attitude towards another team or disrespect of the game was not allowed.  To be honest, we never even really came across anything like this during a game, because we were so engrained to respect our opponent, that it never was really an issue.  Respecting your opponent means playing with class and playing within yourself.  Jo reminded us of this.

4.  Ownership Of OUR Team/ OUR Actions

At the very beginning of the season, Coach Evans will remind a team, “This is YOUR team.”  The players are supposed to run the team, with the help of the coaches – it’s not the other way around. This gave us accountability for all of our actions.  We monitored and patrolled each other for everything – whether it was about tucking in our shirts at practice, making in game at-bat adjustments or making the right social decision outside of the field.   It’s kind of like when your parents buy you a car versus when you buy a car yourself.  When you buy the car yourself, then the responsibility and accountability seems to go WAY up.  It’s YOUR investment and it’s YOUR car.  Every decision you make from that point on has more weight on it.

Amanda Scarborough

With ownership of your own team, came ownership of our own pitch calling.  As a pitcher, I loved being able to call my own game.  It made me LEARN.  It made me a better player, and it made me a better coach after college was done.  I loved challenging myself and having to think  constantly throughout the game.  In a way, it gave me independence and confidence in my own decision making.  Think about it – I threw 100+ pitches in a completely game, which meant I was making 100+ decisions every time I was in the circle.  I don’t know if this was supposed to be a direct bi-product of pitchers/catchers calling their own game, and I’ve never really thought about it this way before, but I think it’s pretty awesome, and it gave me accountability and confidence with my own decision making.

When the players take ownership of THEIR team, it’s astounding how much more accountability and investment it creates.  You no longer want to just worry about yourself and YOUR actions, you worry about the TEAM more than you worry about yourself.  The team comes first. Because of this, the team starts thinking big picture, monitors each other, and really, the team should pretty much be able to run itself.  I can still hear her saying in our team meetings, “This is YOUR team,” and it was true.  When we ran OUR team, it gave us more ownership of every win and every loss.

5.  COMPETE

Jo Evans loves to compete.  She HATES to lose.  “Compete” was a word that we heard daily at practices and in games.  The idea of not competing is just like not respecting the game. It’s a long season of over 50 games and Coach expected us to compete for all of them.   She wanted us to go out and compete to represent the name on the front of our jerseys.

We had a duty to wear that jersey proudly with Texas A&M represented on the front, and we knew we were representing the 12th man and our incredible university.  By not competing, we weren’t just letting our team down, we were letting the 12th man down.

Texas A&M CompetePart of competing is that never give up mentality.  To compete and to fight go hand in hand.  Not every game is going to be an easy win.  There are going to be times you fall behind and need to come back.  When you have a coach with the experience and drive that Coach Evans has, she teaches to her team that there is always a chance to win if there are outs left in a game.   If she thought that and believed it, then why wouldn’t we, as players, believe it, too?

I remember being a freshman and losing games for the first time early in the season.  Some of the losses, we were just beat.  Other losses we beat ourselves.  But, a loss was a loss.  A loss was to be taken seriously with no laughing and cutting up after the game.  Our freshman class learned this very fast from our seniors (remember, we patrolled each other).  A loss in college was taken much differently than in high school or tournament ball.  I learned to hate the way it felt after a loss.  As a team, we hated disappointing ourselves, but more than that, we hated disappointing Coach Evans.   We hated the way losing made us feel, and we didn’t want to have to feel that feeling very often.  We learned from our losses, and were able to move on, but losing was never fun.

Because she was so competitive, our team was competitive.  Because she had fight, our team had fight.

Individually, we were expected to compete, and as a team we were expected to fight until the very end.  It wasn’t a demand, it was an expectation.  It is because of her I am more competitive and have more fight in me than when I entered her program.  If you want to win, you’ve got to learn to compete and learn how to fight until the very end, because you never know when the game can change if there are any outs left…

6.  Loyalty

I sincerely believe that Coach Evans taught me the true meaning of what it is to be loyal.  She constantly talked to us about loyalty throughout my 4 years.  Loyalty means allegiance and trust.  When you build a loyal team, you build a team that is going to trust each other and play better together on the field.  She encouraged us to be loyal to the program and to our teammates.  If we were supposed to take ownership of OUR team, then a big part of that is feeling loyalty from and towards our teammates.

Texas A&M Softball

It feels good as a player to be surrounded by loyal teammates.  It’s a long season.  Not everything is going to go your way.  There are going to be team talks, team meetings, and adversity.   There are going to be things that are said in a team meeting that need to stay within a team.  A loyal team keeps those issues within the team.  It is so important to be a loyal teammate.  Loyalty establishes faith and belief, and helps with team cohesiveness. Loyalty forms a team who plays for each other8

A team has to feel united at the end of the season to win games and win championships.

When you are a loyal teammate for 4 years, it becomes a habit in your every day life outside of softball.  Because Coach Evans taught me the true meaning of loyalty, I bring that quality into my relationships with my friends and family.  I hope that they call me a loyal friend – that might be one of the biggest compliments someone can give me.  So much of being a good teammate and a good friend comes down to being loyal and trustworthy.  If you have teammates who represent those things, then your team chemistry is going to help you get more W’s than otherwise, as Coach Evans taught us throughout the years.

 Texas A&M Softball

7.  Motivation

As I saw in Coach Evans, motivation stems from passion.  Coach Evans has the ability to speak in a room and motivate everyone who is listening – from the trainers to the managers to the players.  Even now, in the rare cases where I get a chance to hear her speak to the team in a pre game/post game talk, it’s moving.  It makes me want to go play.  It doesn’t just make me want to go play, it makes me want to be great.

She can move you and change your mindset with the passion in her each of her words.  Even when it can seem like there is nothing positive to build on after a bad game, she can find it.  She can turn a room of emotions from defeat to compete within a few minutes of listening to her speak.  She is an extraordinary speaker, because she speaks right from her heart.  You can tell it comes from deep within a place built by experience and a place of confidence.  It’s hard to NOT be motivated before a game when Jo Evans is your heard coach.  It’s that motivation that gets her players ready to play before any given game.

8.  She “Gets” Her Players

USA11_196Coach Evans genuinely cares about her players on and off the build.  She takes the time to get to know each player, and figure out a way to coach and communicate with them.  Because of the way she forms relationships with her players, a sense of family is built within the program, firmly assembled on the foundation of respect.  She can tell her players the hard thing.  She is a coach who will always be honest with her players.  It might not be always what you want to hear, but she can say the hard thing.  She KNOWS her players.  She even knows qualities about her players that the player might not have figured out about herself, yet.  Sometimes, it takes a few years to understand and appreciate some of the things she brings to your attention in those meetings.  It’s hard to hear the truth, and it can be hard to learn about yourself and understand how you are being perceived from the outside.  This was “grown up stuff” we were learning to deal with throughout our tenure at A&M.  However, in the end, no matter what, Coach Evans told us that she had our backs – each and every one of us – and she meant it.  Because we knew she had our back, we had hers.

 

Coach Evans exuded these noteworthy qualities on a daily basis. We wanted to play and fight for her and for our school.  She exemplified what it looked like to model all of the qualities that she was teaching us through her own actions.  Because we saw it every day, eventually it just became a part of us.  You want it to become a part of you.  In some of our most impressionable years, ages 18-22, we were around a woman who was constantly teaching us how to be a good teammate, but an even better person.

For me, playing for Jo Evans at Texas A&M is like the gift that keeps on giving.  The life lessons I have learned from her through the game of softball are amazing.  I learned a way to play and understand the game, but more importantly I learned ways to improve myself that I could carry on into the real world.   When you dig deep to understand why she is a coach who now has 1000 wins, it’s not too hard to figure out how win after win has accumulated over the years.  You can tell she has passion, she surrounds herself with a trustworthy coaching staff who exemplify the same qualities that she is trying to teach and she has the ability to reach the players who are in her program to a deeper level. It’s the coaches who have surrounded her and who currently surround her, who cannot be forgotten about as well.  Without the help of an incredible support staff, not as many games and championships can be won, trying to steer a program in the right direction.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter how much softball you know and how much strategy of the game you know, if you can’t get your players to play for you, play for each other and play for themselves, then that knowledge is meaningless.  I look back to 12 years ago, and I am incredibly thankful she picked ME, Jo Evans picked ME, to play for her at Texas A&M.   I cant imagine having played for anybody else, and I would not be the woman I am today without her.

A BIG congratulations to Coach Evans!  Her 1000 wins mile marker is a “big deal!!”

Coach Jo Evans Texas A&M

The DNA of A Pitcher

What does it take to be pitcher?

My dad volunteered to pitch me when I was 8 years old because our team moved up an age group from coach pitch. I was the chosen one based off of willingness to try it out, and of course, if my dad thought it was a good idea, then, sure, put me in! At that time, I called myself a pitcher. NOW…I wouldn’t have been so quick to pull the trigger on that title knowing the true characteristics of what it takes to label yourself a Pitcher when you’re out there competing. At that time, I was filling a void on the field. I was playing a part like an actress in a play. What I later learned is that being someone who throws pitches to a catcher in an inning or two is different than being a Pitcher.

When I do clinics around the country with The Packaged Deal, the highest number of participants who want to pitch are probably between the ages of 8-12. At this age, the young girls are either trying it out or trying to fill a void on the team. They’re a little naïve, and it seems fun – to be the one who gets to hold the ball every play and be the one with the most physical action on the field. If you are a young player, or young parent getting involved in the sport, the first thing you pay attention to is the physical attributes that make a pitcher and you give most of your attention to the mechanical positioning of the pitch. What takes years to learn/experience and what you can’t see, is all that goes into being a pitcher internally.

The more you are around the sport and the older you get, the quicker you learn being a pitcher is not as glamorous as you once thought it was.

Eventually, either because of unwillingness to practice or lack of confidence, a high percentage get weeded out. I’m sure you’ve seen it – when you were younger you had 6-8 “pitchers” on your team, and then when you get older, you have 3-4 pitchers on your team.

Why does that happen? Because you learn that pitching isn’t just something you do, you learn that it’s a way of life and thought.  Most people don’t quit because of lack of physical attributes…but because of what it takes on the inside. They are lacking the DNA of a pitcher or they are lacking the patience to develop the DNA of a pitcher.

There are 4 different categories you can be placed into along the journey….

  • The Naturals– They’re born with “it.” What this feels like, I don’t know, because I definitely did not fall under this category. This person is born with the physical mentality to be a leader and the confidence to go out and beat anyone at anything they do. They are also born with some amazing athletic traits and can be considered naturally gifted.
  • The Renovators – These are pitchers who are not born with “it”, but given all the tools along the way to apply their knowledge and put it together. They get better with their tools the more experience they get.
  • The Static Ones – I think of a mouse running on one of those spinning wheels. They keep trying and trying. The Mice either aren’t given the correct tools, or are given the correct tools and can’t quite use the tools to put all the pieces together. Sometimes this is a pitcher who doesn’t have big goals as a Pitcher and they lack motivation to put it all together. Sometimes this is a pitcher who keeps trying and trying, but she fights herself so much without trusting, that the tools she knows become inapplicable. This is a pitcher who is not moving forward with her growth for one reason or another.
  • The Transfers – This is that majority who decide to pass on pitching early on. They likely enjoy another position more or they don’t want to spend the mental and physical energy towards pitching. They transfer out of pitching and focus on a different position or maybe even transfer to another sport.

Pitcher DNA Ingredients.

Your pitcher may have some of these, she may have even been born with some of them. Others may be working on all of them or working on some of them. In the end, to be a great pitcher, you have to eventually show that you can perform all of them. Those who are performing all of them on a consistent basis are the ones whose names you hear about on TV or read about in the newspapers. They are the ones somewhere along the way advanced from one of the “supporting actresses” to lead role on Broadway. Thing is – not everyone WANTS that lead role. Some people are ok with always being the supporting actress.

Ingredients when you are cooking all have to be put in the put together in order to make the best tasting dish. If you leave one out, you can still have a dish that might taste ok….but it won’t taste the same as when 100% of them are put in.

#1 – Pays Attention to Detail – To me, this all starts at practice. Pitching is one million small details all mixed together: how often to practice, what to practice on, what you are getting better at, what you need to work on, working on small little mechanics to build a strong foundation, pinpoint detail in hitting location. Think about how many pitches you will throw in a life. If a pitcher does not learn to pay attention to small details, then she will not learn along the way to be very successful. Paying attention to small details about mechanics and how to make small adjustments IS pitching. Learn to do this and you are setting yourself up for success along the way. If you do not have the patience for this, you most likely will hit a point where you are not getting better and other people around you will start to pass you up.

A Pitcher understands that all the small things add up to big things, and  gives upmost respect and attention to small details every step of the way.

Pay attention to little things throughout the day – take care of your uniform (no wrinkles), tuck in your shirt, hustle every single step instead of cutting it short, run out to your position, do every single rep (even when they may seem meaningless). Train yourself to start paying attention to details OUTSIDE of actual pitching and INSIDE of your bullpens. You will be amazed at how paying attention to small little details will change your game.

#2- Pursuit of Perfection mixed with Understanding Perfection is Unattainable – The biggest pro and con of every pitcher, no matter what age, is they want to be perfect. That pursuit of perfection should motivate a pitcher, but it should not paralyze her. In life, even outside of pitching, there needs to be a constant reminder that it’s ok to not be perfect. That reinforcement will play as a balancing act. Think of it this way- a pitcher might throw 100 pitches in practice with her dad. In an average practice, MAYBE 10 of them she will consider “perfect.” (Maybe you as a parent will consider more, but the pitcher is always going to be harder on herself). That means at that practice, 90 times she was not “perfect.” And not only was she not perfect, but she may have thrown those 90 imperfect pitches in front of her DAD, who she wants to be perfect for. Double whammy. So really it’s a lose-lose situation. We need to practice so we can try to be perfect, but we won’t ever be perfect. So we are just going to keep practicing, striving for perfection which will always be unattainable. A parent’s job is to combat this necessary evil. In just one practice a pitcher can get really down on herself, and then the practice becomes unproductive. If and when a pitcher can learn it’s ok to not be perfect, and move on to the next pitch to give that next pitch it’s best shot at being perfect, that’s when she starts to feel what it’s like to take that leading role.

#3 – Positive Self Talk – The thoughts inside of a pitcher’s head are more threatening than any physical attribute about her. More times than not when a pitcher is not having success in a game, I can almost guarantee it’s because before a pitch she is thinking, “Please don’t hit this”, “Please let this be a strike”, “Don’t throw a ball.” That kind of self-talk is exhausting and feels lonely. With that kind of talk, you are beaten before you even throw the pitch. Practice working on positive pitch thoughts in practice and lessons. Or instead of blank thoughts, turn them into positive thoughts. Maybe it takes having a moment by yourself where you “buy into” yourself. A lot of times it’s not a coach or a parent who can talk you into this. It has to be YOU. Maybe you’re in your backyard playing or in your room before going to sleep and you make the CONSCIOUS decision to have positive self-talk. Will it be there every day? Nope. I hate to tell you this, but no, you won’t feel it EVERY DAY. You have to work on it. But the more you train it, the more it becomes a habit, just like the physical mechanics of pitching. Like muscle memory – train your brain. It helps if you train your brain to do it in things outside of pitching. Even walking down the hall at school, thinking positive about what people might be saying about you, keeping your chin high and not letting negativity creep in. Start thinking consistent positive thoughts and you will be amazed at how you will FEEL and the results that it will lead to. 

#4 – Strong Focus – You have to be locked in and focused before anyone else on your team is. It all starts in the bullpen before the game. Have a soft focus of staying relaxed yet warming up and getting your mind focused on the task at hand. A strong focus once you get into the game will deal with pitch calling – remembering where you are in the lineup, remembering what the hitter did the last AB, thinking about what the count is, thinking about what you pitched the last time, looking at where she is in the box. You will have 100+ pitches in a game – that is 100+ times in a game will you have to focus intently on exactly what you are doing. Being a Pitcher, your mind is NOT on autopilot. You have to manually put yourself into gear every pitch you throw. When your team is hitting, you are thinking about who is coming up to bat the next inning. You are focused while other people on your team may be messing around in the dugout. Your strong focus takes over where you never lose sight of the task at hand. If you are not up for this kind of set focus on the games, pitching is not meant for you. Never just go through the motions. If your body is pitching, it is learning and you should be focused on making your craft better whenever you set the intention and set aside the time to practice. Train your mind to be focused in on the task at hand whenever you are in the circle.

#5 – Determination/Resilience/ResponseThese three ingredients go hand in hand with each other. Anything that is worth anything in life is going to have its down moments, even moments where you may want to quit. The best Pitchers you hear about on TV or in the paper, you read their names and see all the glory next it, but it fails to mention the times those players who are even considered “the best” wanted to quit.  I am going to tell you right now there are going to be multiple times as a pitcher you want to give up, but if you love it, you will keep coming back to it. There are going to be times you are injured…almost everyone will get injured as one point or another – it’s just a part of sports. Don’t feel sorry for yourself – find a way to get better and get healthy. The resilient ones will work hard to get back to the form they were in pre-injury. If you’re THAT determined and THAT resilient, you will see it in a game where you don’t have your best stuff. Not every day you are going to FEEL your best as a pitcher, but if you are determined to find a way to go out and compete and give it your all, that’s all anyone would ever ask. When you come upon adversity (we ALL will) go at it full force! Whether it be inside a game where you are getting hit really hard or you come upon an injury, always remember it is NOT that moment that defines you – it is how you RESPOND. Your response defines you as a pitcher, as a leader, and it defines your character. Be resilient. You are so much stronger than you think. If you love to do something…if you truly LOVE to do it, even through the toughest moments. If you feel it in your heart, DO IT.  

#6 – A) Will to WIN – You better believe that determination and resilience tie in with a will to win. I am not talking about those players who just sit there and say, “Yeah, I want to win.”

I am talking about those players who will do ANYTHING it takes to win every single pitch. You see them fighting. Why? Because they have a reason to fight. That reason? Simple. To win.

To be a successful pitcher, you HAVE to want to WIN. If you don’t have that internal drive to will your body to win, then you don’t have much chance of being a successful pitcher at a high level. A team plays harder behind a pitcher who possesses the will to WIN. If you don’t want to WIN, then you are probably just playing for a hobby. It goes back to the difference between someone who is just filling the role of throwing pitches to a catcher versus a pitcher who is throwing pitches to a catcher with the intent figure out a way to WIN. Those pitchers with the will to win you see their name more often. Their team fights harder behind them because the team knows every single pitch that pitcher is fighting for them. It works both ways. You either want to win, or you are just out there going through the motions just to get the game over with. Compete with yourself at practice, compete against your coach, and compete with your teammates.  Compete in healthy ways, but train yourself and your mind that you want to compete to be the best. Nothing will be given to you – not an out, not an inning, not a starting spot. You HAVE to have the will to win and the will to compete if you want to be successful. 

B) Know How To Win– Ok, so you WANT to win, but do you know how to win? There is a difference. First, you have to have the will. Then, you have to know what it takes to win – the way it feels to give your all every single pitch and come away with the W. Some pitchers may be great for the first 2 innings, but then maybe they lose their focus or the other team catches on to them, and they lose the game in the last 1-2 innings. Being good for the first couple of innings doesn’t count as a W.

You have to know how to win a complete game.

A complete game may feel like a marathon, but a Pitcher will be able to figure out how to beat an opposing team for an entire game, not just a few innings. First, you have to have the physical endurance – it will help with hitting consistent locations to last an entire game. You also have to be able to mix speeds to last an entire time- can’t just throw one. And finally, you have to be able to work BOTH sides of the plate – you can’t just live on one (it makes it too easy for a hitter to adjust to). When you have experiences to draw on where you mixed together the WILL to win and figuring out HOW to win, then you can go up against almost anybody and know you have a chance.

#7 – Want the Ball – Finally, the greatest pitchers I have ever witnessed want the ball. What does that mean? It means when the coach asks who wants to pitch the championship game, that player has her hand out waiting for the game ball to be put into it. The average pitcher won’t feel this. It takes courage and guts to be the one who puts her hand out. The average player doesn’t want the ball because they are scared to make a mistake and are scared to lose. In this game, you can’t pitch scared to lose. You can’t pitch scared to make a mistake. Every inning, every game, you have to be the one who wants the ball. You have to know what wanting the ball entails.

Wanting the ball does NOT mean you are going to be perfect.

If you put those two hand in hand, you are greatly wrong. Wanting the ball means you are going to give your all on every single pitch. It means you are committing to be locked in. It means you have a belief in yourself that you are going to be able to make adjustments when necessary. Wanting the ball means even if something does not go your way, you aren’t going to give in. And wanting the ball means you are determined and resilient with a passion to do what it takes to win. A pitcher who wants the ball may even call a meeting with her coach and be brave enough to say, “I want a chance to pitch in the championship game” or “I want a chance to pitch in the bracket game.” She doesn’t want this because her PARENTS want it, she wants it because it’s a feeling inside of her that she knows she can do it and succeed.  It says a lot about a pitcher who will meet with her coach and say aloud that she wants to be The One in the circle.

Always remember that you may have all these qualities as a pitcher, yet some days that means you last in a 11-10 game, and your team still wins. Some days that means that you fall on the other end of an 11-10 game. Other days you may win the 1-0 game. No two games are going to be exactly alike, but you can always strive to show the above ingredients and build the confidence inside of yourself to be the Pitcher who wants the ball. The biggest thing I know is that #1-6 do not matter if you don’t have #7.



What does it mean to be competitive? Part 1 – Competing 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.

 

How Many Days A Week Should I Practice?

THE most asked question I get is how many pitches and/or how many days a week should my daughter pitch? Sometimes I think parents just ask me this question so that their daughter can hear me say or read that I say 1000 pitches a week or 6 times a week. It’s like parents are trying to use me as their backup and be able to say, “Seeeee, Amanda said you should pitch x amount of pitches every time we pitch.” Unfortunately, there is no magic answer for this question! I totally wish there was (it would make my answering questions a lot easier with an answer less lengthy).

I can easily say this as a GENERAL RULE. If you are practicing 3 times a week, you are most likely just staying the same. 4+ times of practice a week you are getting better and less than 3 times a week, hmmm how can I put this….? you probably aren’t getting better. (Please remember this is not a one size fits all rule, this is just a general statement. There are ALWAYS exceptions). I could throw out so many different workouts, but here is a general one where you can start if you are not pitching in games yet. 4 times a week, 100 pitches a day.

That answer is the easy way out! There is no uniform answer for every single person who asks me this question. In fact, every person will be extremely different. We are built differently with different strengths, flexibilities, minds and overall athleticism. We learn differently. We adapt differently.

But let’s try to work through this……The biggest question I can ask BACK TO YOU to answer is, “Are you getting the results you want on the weekend when it’s game time?” The answer is either yes or no. If it’s no, then you need to practice more. If it’s yes, then you can keep doing what you’re doing.

“But wait…I can’t remember what I did at practice this week…”

Write it down! Write down how many pitches you throw and exactly what you work on for every practice. This way, if you have a successful weekend, YOU can come up with YOUR OWN game plan about how you want to attack your practice plan.

I’m going to be completely honest…sometimes life isn’t fair….

Some pitchers may only have to pitch 1 time a week on their own and still go and dominate in a game. Those are the pitchers we are all so envious of. They are the naturally gifted athletes who are competitors and come from a genetic gene pool we can all only dream of.

Some pitchers may have to practice 4 times a week before they are able to go and dominate in a game.

The one thing I know is certain – you can’t compare yourself to anyone else. You are you.

This whole pitching thing is a LOT of work, I tell ya. It’s more than just learning how to pitch the ball and learning different pitches. Pitching is taking the time to understand what works for YOU and a big part of that is practice routine. It’s impossible to remember and make a practice routine without writing it down. It’s your own personal way of trial and error. Have a pitching journal that is YOURS and be able to write down any thoughts or feelings or anything you are working on in that journal.

“Okay on this week I pitched 2 times a week and threw 100 pitches, but I could have done better on the weekend. So next week I will pitch 3 times a week and throw 75 pitches each day and work on my spin every day while watching my favorite TV  show.” For every pitching practice, have a focus (i.e. leg drive, endurance, accuracy, spin, location, attitude, body language.) Mix it up! Try to engage the pitcher and have her pick what SHE wants to work on! You can even There is ALWAYS something you can be working on. Even the best of the best have something they need to work on!

You see this question of how many times to practice a week is such a blank canvas for YOU! I can tell you what worked for ME, but I am not YOU. What I can tell you is that I had to work my tail off to get to the level I played at. I can tell you there were days I didn’t want to practice, but did anyway. I can tell you there were days I didn’t want to practice and ended up just taking a day off and listening to my body. I can tell you there were days my parents pushed me to pitch when I didn’t want to (although they were way fewer than the days it was initiated on my own). And I can tell you every week was probably a little bit different. Life happens and causes us to not get out as much as we “should” on some weeks. But the week after that, do you continue to be “busy”, or do you sacrifice and find time to make the next week better than the week prior?

It is MUCH easier to just ask me to tell you a magic number of pitches to throw a week and you go and do it and we hope for the best. But to me, it is way more fun to figure it out on your own. It’s like a mystery and a puzzle. Every person who asks me the question of how many times their daughter should practice is at a different level than the next person who asks me. Remember, every month may be a little different for what your body needs. Take the time to listen to it. Take the time to go through your results from the weekend and investigate.

Ask yourself some questions so that you can have an a better understanding of how you pitched:

  • When I gave up hits, were they good pitches?
  • In the game, did I throw as aggressively and intensely as I possibly could have thrown?
  • Was I getting ahead of hitters?
  • Was I able to try out the new pitch I have been working at in the game?
  • How did my change up work?
  • Were my outs coming mainly from pop ups or ground balls?
  • How was my stamina? Did I get tired later in the game (this means you need to pitch longer in each session during the week)
  • What pitch did I throw the most?
  • What pitch did I throw the least and need to work on?
  • (Side note: If you do not know what any of these terms mean or are confused about any of these questions, you need to ASK someone!)

I firmly believe YOU are your best pitching coach, I promise!! It just takes a little bit more work and belief in yourself and your knowledge. As a family, come up with a schedule TOGETHER, as a team for what fits best with your schedule, what you need to work on, and reflect back on your past outings! If you can, pitch 6 days a week! If you are questioning whether to go out and practice or not, GO! The more reps you can get in, the better you are going to become and build a better foundation for your future! Pick up a ball and spin it in your living room or pick up an orange and spin it in the grocery store! There’s so much more to becoming a great pitcher than just pitching FULL distance from the pitching rubber!

Love to pitch.

Reliving One of the Most Memorable Moments of my Career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amanda Scarborough vs Florida 2007 Texas A&M Softball

Amanda Scarborough vs Florida 2007 with Mark Scarborough

Sometimes, You’re a Loser

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be so good they can’t ignore you.

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

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

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

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

Why Fastpitch Pitching Leaves So Many In Awe…

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

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

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

Amanda Scarborough Pitching

The Motion

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

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

There is so much that goes into creating 1 pitch:

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

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

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

The Dedication (aka Sacrifice)

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

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

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

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

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

The Pressure

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

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

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

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

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

Amanda Scarborough Pitching

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

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

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

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

Amanda Scarborough Fastpitch Pitching

Step Back. Enjoy

My recent vacation was a reminder to myself we all need a break and to take a step back sometimes. We easily get caught up in the go-go-go of every day life, working hard and pushing ourselves to our max. In America, the never-stop mentality is embedded in our culture and we get lost in the shuffle that surrounds us. I preach as much as anyone that hard work is my own personal manifesto, and I will never stop believing that hard work is the key that unlocks door to your dreams. However, sometimes our bodies and minds need a break, and it’s important we listen to their request.

Especially in the sport of softball, many play it year round, taking breaks only for the major holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Pitchers throw thousands of pitchers, players take thousands of swings and get caught up in the current to become the best. Always remember, becoming the best means you know not only TO take a break, but WHEN to take a break. It’s all about finding a balance, and what balances one doesn’t necessarily balance another.

Take time off. Give the mind and body a break from the grind of continually wanting to get better at softball. Most who play ball are perfectionists, and softball is a sport of failure that takes a toll on the mind. It’s in those times we need to take a step back, remember to breathe and remember that sports should always feel fun and bring joy to our lives. Our lives are too short to feel anything but.

Allow time away from something so that when you come back to it, you fully appreciate its beauty in all its splendor.

 

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4 Ways to be a Loyal Teammate and Be Bigger Than Team Drama

Last Thursday I had a chance to FaceTime and talk on the phone with a team from Trussville, AL, CLEAtS ‘02. These girls were SO sweet. Prior to our conversation, I told them to think of 5-6 questions they wanted to ask me. They all asked great questions.  One of the questions was, “What was the biggest lesson I learned from playing college softball?” I had to think about this one for a few seconds. The first thing that came to my mind that I wanted to share with her was the concept of loyalty. I asked the young girl who asked the question, “Do you know what loyalty is?” And she replied back, “Yes.”

I told her the biggest thing I learned from college was how to be a loyal teammate and a loyal friend.

I told her it was very important to me to be a leader on my team and someone that my teammates and friends could go to. They could tell me things they were feeling, confide in me, and they could feel that whatever they told me was safe with me. I told her how important it was to be someone that her teammates could rely on and trust in. If you don’t have trust on a team, you don’t have anything. This is a quality that I still value very much in my every day life.

Amanda Scarborough I don’t know if it’s the Taurus in me or something I learned from my parents or previous coaches, but if you know me, you know I am loyal. I hold that quality very dear to my heart, and I think that it’s a quality that can dictate a lot of decisions that we make in our lives on and off the field.

I disliked drama from a young age. I didn’t and don’t like the feeling of being in the middle of things. To me, it’s negative energy. I don’t like to have negative energy surrounding my life, I feel like it pulls me down and it weighs on me. I remember middle school not being very fun years of my life. I wasn’t the most popular or prettiest and I didn’t have the most friends. Middle school is hard! I learned what it was like to have people be DISloyal to me, and I hated the way it made me feel…so that made a lasting impression on me. I never wanted someone to have to feel that same feeling because of something that I did them.

I like the feeling of smiling and laughing 1000 times more than I like the feeling of talking about someone behind their back.

Along the way I have learned…

  1. If someone confides in you, guard their secret.

It’s your duty as a friend that if someone chose you to tell something you, then they trust you.  It is your job you to care so much about that person that that secret stays with you. If a teammate confides in you, that means they see you as a leader. It’s important as a leader to understand the types of things you and your teammates can handle on your own, and the types of things that are the big issues that the coach should get involved with. To understand what to go to an adult about, think about if you feel like your friend, team or the mission of your team could be severely hurt because of what was told to you. (Important note: If there is a secret that a friend or teammate tells you that could be harmful to that person, it is important to tell an adult.)

  1. If someone is talking about someone else to you, don’t endorse it or repeat it.

The one thing about being on ANY team is that there WILL be teammates who talk about other teammates. So when that time comes, tell them you don’t want to hear it. Sometimes you may even have good friends who talks about other teammates, and it may be hard for you to tell them you don’t want to hear it or get involved, but if they don’t respect your decision for not wanting to hear it or talk about it, and they don’t really understand why, then that’s their problem. Whether you have the courage to stand up to your teammate to tell them not to talk about drama around you or not, don’t repeat what you hear. Don’t feed into the drama and into the gossip. Have the gossip stop with you. It might even get to a point where people stop gossiping to you…trust me, you want that! Stay far away from drama and the people who attract drama.  Remember, when you repeat that gossip to someone else, even if you aren’t saying that they are YOUR feelings, you are endorsing whatever is coming out of your mouth to someone else, thus making it what YOU are thinking and feeling.

  1. Always remember your own values.

To know your values, you must understand yourself and be comfortable with your own thoughts and feelings that you feel in your heart about the type of person you want to be. Close your eyes and think to the future. What do you want to be like? Think about what kind of friend you want to be known as and what kind of teammate you want to be viewed as. What do you see? If people who don’t understand those values, you’re better off without them. You will find those people who have the same values as you – those will be your forever friends. Sometimes, there might be only 1 or 2 of those friends and other people may have more friends than you. But who cares! I bet you will have way more fun with those 1 or 2 friends who hold the same values as you. Remember, you are never alone.

  1. Have your teammates back, respect each other.

Your teammates should feel like you have their back and they have yours. This does not mean you have to be best friends off the field and do everything together outside of the field. That’s not what I’m saying. Sometimes you might not even agree with everything your teammate does outside of the field, and you can’t control that. What you can control is how you respect each other on the field with everything else put aside.

When it comes game time, and you and your teammates go into that dugout, they should feel undoubtedly that you have their back. True competitors and athletes leave everything but their sport outside of the field. Once you step onto that field, it’s go-time, and you compete together for the same goal. Because believe me, when you are out on the field with the lights on in the middle of the big game and you look to the person to your right or left on the field or in the dugout, you want to think, “I got you” – and not just think it, but MEAN 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.

Amanda Scarborough

Through all of this, remember to be loyal and remember the mission of your team. Every team has a mission, no matter what sport. That mission is to win championships. (any championship: tournament championship, league championship, conference championship, district, etc). Do you REALLY want to win? If you are a true competitor and have visions of being great, all of your decisions you make should be based off the mission of the team; any other decision could be considered selfish and detrimental to the mission of what the team is trying to accomplish.

Remind your teammates the mission of the team when things get tough. Remember that mission is bigger than one person. Drama brings attention to the one person who is starting it.   The mission of a team is bigger than drama, gossip or bullying. It’s never about just one person, it’s about the team. If everyone feels like they are on that mission together, united and loyal to each other, that is when that team will win championships. It all starts with being loyal. Be loyal in your every day life and to your teammates wearing the same uniform to accomplish big things on and off the field.

Amanda Scarborough

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. 

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