1) Competing Against Other teams
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…
1) Competing Against Other teams
I’m a firm believer in experience. There’s nothing like the experience of pitching or hitting in the “big game” or with the bases loaded, and the game is on the line. Your thoughts are rushing quickly through your mind, you are completely aware of what’s at stake and how the next pitch you throw, the next time you swing or the next ground ball you field can be a defining moment in an important game. In this moment, all eyes are on you, and believe me, you can feel it. The experience itself comes down to more of a mental state than a physical state. Your physical skills are there from the hours of practice and thousands of reps you have taken at your skill. However, your mental state will determine how your physical state is allowed to perform during the game at any point, especially those few defining moments in every game when it comes down to that one pitch. One of the biggest questions is how to help a player to be strong in that moment. A big part of that strength comes from drawing on past experience.
How are you going to handle your defining moment?
It’s hard to simulate this same sensation you get in the big moment in the game without actually living through it on the field itself. There’s really no practice that you can do to fully compare to the same feeling that is created when you are actually in that big moment with the ball in your hand. The only way to simulate it is to actually do it…multiple times. The more you do it, the more relaxed you can feel to be able to play to the highest of your ability without your muscles tightening up and thoughts overwhelming your brain in your head. The pressure you feel is as much a mental sense as it is a physical sense of feeling pressure and tightness throughout your whole body. I’ve felt it. Multiple times. It’s that adrenaline rush that you get before the game and during the game that never goes away and is what makes sports addicting. I want to be frank, if you’ve never been the pitcher in the circle or the hitter at the plate in that game-defining moment, you truly have NO IDEA what it feels like mentally to be present in that situation. You don’t have the experience. There may be things that you have been through that are similar, but it when it comes right down to it, the feeling that is created with the “big moment” is sometimes incomprehensible.
But it’s these moments that we all live for in all sports – as players and even as fans at the edge of our seats.
How do you deal with the pressure? You have to experience it. You have to breathe through it. You have to learn from it. You have to be confident that you can handle it. You have to recognize what it FEELS like, be in tune with your body and grasp how to cope with the tightness, the pressure and all of the intense energy that is surrounding that big moment. The more familiar you become with these feelings, the more you understand what it is like to tackle them and become victorious in that big situation. It’s in these situations where you give more thought to breathing and calming your brain and heart down than you do to actually how to throw a pitch or swing a bat. You practice experiences. You practice breathing. You practice how to keep your emotions under control when the game is on the line. The more you have at practicing this, the more you WANT to be the one in the key point in the game.
Experience in ANYTHING we do gives us confidence the more and more we perform an action, in a certain situation, under certain conditions. If you are bad at something (anything, no matter WHAT it is), the more you do it, the better you become at it, as your body and motor skills become more comfortable with handling the new skill you are trying to pick up. The skill in the “big moment” is practicing how to control your emotions, thoughts, and calmness. Even if you start as “good” at something with little to no experience, you will become GREAT at it the more and more you do it. We can see this in real life outside of sports in our careers or different hobbies that we take on. Sports are the same and even more pressure-filled because in a sport, everyone attending the game knows immediately if you failed or succeeded. You are out on a stage called a field, and all eyes are on you watching your physical performance and waiting to deem your physical performance as a success or a failure. Immediately after you perform a skill, every single person watching knows if you failed or succeeded. Think of a player giving up a home run – everyone watching knows that the pitcher just “failed” and the hitter just “succeeded,” or at least they think they know. Think of a basketball player and the eyes that are watching every shot taken. We all know as fans whether or not a player messed up when he/she took a shot based off of the physical result of the ball going in the basket or not. A job can be different than sports. Maybe only 1 person knows that you “failed” – your boss. Many times in a job, you aren’t out on a stage where literally every single person watching, or in the room, knows when you failed. In a softball game, if you strike out or have a homerun hit off of you, AT LEAST 20 people know if you failed or not (at least 9 on each team, plus a few coaches on each team). The thought of failing in front of people added creates pressure.
Okay, so I set the stage for you. After innings and innings of play, and numerous games, sometimes we forget what the “big moment” is all about and what it really feels like to be in that pressure situation – we take it for granted that a player should be good at handling the big moment. This especially happens because we, as coaches and the parents, are older and have either seen or been through those experiences many times ourselves, so we assume that the 11 or 12 year old should be better at dealing with it. Not the case! They are just babies, they are just learning and trying to get their feet underneath them. They are just getting a grasp at the physical part of the game to think about, and now they are having to think about this monumental mental side of it that can make or break them. To understand what is at stake in the experience, is almost as important as learning to understand and deal with the actual experience itself – from a support position as a parent or as a coach.
Everyone comes around in their own time. This is life. We all learn differently, we all experience differently.
Take walking for example (not the softball walking of 4 balls take your base, but the actual skills of walking as a baby) – an experience that all of us can draw from – one of our first physical skills we attempt to do. We got up, we fell. We got up again, we fell again. After days, maybe even weeks of getting up and trying to take that first step, we eventually stand a little longer. We eventually take one step, then maybe two steps, And before you know it, we are cruising all over the room and our parents can’t keep up with us. We had to experience each fall before we could actually get to the end result we wanted. Now, I imagine that standing for the first time or trying to walk for the first time is a bit uncomfortable. (I honestly can’t remember, but I’m just going off of a simple guess here) Your body is probably thinking what the heck is going on? What am I trying to do?
It’s new. You have to figure it out. You have to learn. You have to understand what you’re feeling and your muscles and brain are learning each step of the way (no pun intended). Each and every one of us didn’t all learn to walk in the exact same amount of time, or at the exact same point in our lives. Our parents were there supporting us, encoring us that we could do it. They believed in us, and they knew it was only a matter of time. We experienced failing to become the walkers we are today. We may not have walked exactly when our parents expected us to, but eventually we figured it out.
Playing in the “big moment” is the exact same way. It can feel and will feel uncomfortable.
Anything new feels uncomfortable. Experience will create a comfortability (just made up my own word there, but you get the point). We don’t get as many experiences in the “big moment” as we do when we were walking. When we were walking, we were working on that every single day of our lives. For the “big moment,” you MAY experience it once a weekend. Maybe you don’t experience it on a weekend of games at all. If someone is not experiencing different situations, then you cannot be upset with them for not being good at it. Our parents didn’t get mad at us when we couldn’t walk on our first try.
The more you can experience the pressure situations and the make or break moment, the better and better you will become at being able to handle it.
Nobody wants to fail. Nobody likes to fail; but it’s the failing that can make us GREAT. That “failing” moment where a homerun is hit off of you or someone strikes you out should be looked at as a learning moment, not a failing moment. Where was that pitch she hit? Where could it have been? Where did she pitch you this at bat? What part of the plate was strike 3 on? Where do you think she will pitch you next at bat? What are you going to do the NEXT time so that you feel more equipped to have success than feeling like a failure from your last experience. Teach teach teach teach! When you react, don’t judge the experience, teach the experience.
No matter what age someone is at, especially a young girl, we don’t want to let someone down – especially in the big situation. I PROMISE this is the case. Some might not admit it, but I’m telling you it’s true – I know from experience. Most girls don’t want to let other people down more than they don’t want to let themselves down. Girls are looking for a reaction from their coaches and from their parents. Girls are pleasers. They don’t want to see a reaction that they let anyone down – especially someone important to them.
If you are a coach or a parent, what reaction are you giving when someone “fails” out on the field?
That instant reaction you are giving with your words, facial expressions or body language IS IMPACTING THE NEXT BIG MOMENT THAT PLAYER WILL PLAY IN. No girl fails on purpose – no chance, no way. When she looks to the dugout or into the stands, she is looking to see if she let you down. Yes you – the coach, the parents. If she did let you down, then you’re making it more about you than you are about her. Remember, it’s about those players wearing the uniform, learning every step of the way. They should never feel as if they are letting you down if they don’t make the plays that you think they are supposed to make.
If a girl is scared of a bad reaction, when the big moment comes, she will be drawing back on that experience in her mind from the last time it happened. Even if it is not consciously being thought about, I promise to you it is in the back of her mind. This is only going to make her TIGHTER in the big situation, not relaxed. The player that is in the positive, encouraging atmosphere and mindset will become the player that does better the more and more they get to experience the big situations because they will become more relaxed and more comfortable. These players will be able to understand and deal with those tight feelings and a brain that is running at 1000mph.
Sports are similar to how life works in all aspects. We do something, we fail, we learn. But in the same breath – we do something, we succeed, we learn. There’s a chance for both, but you have to allow the failing to teach you without effecting your confidence. Learn from your successes just like you learn from failing. More importantly, how people are reacting around you are teaching you how to feel about and how to feel in the defining moments of the game. The first thing you should look to if it looks like a player plays down when the pressure situation increases are her coaches and her parents. How do they react? What are they telling her after the failure? What do they look like when things don’t go exactly how they planned? Was there a certain situation that happened in the past where maybe the parents and coaches didn’t even know that they showed to the player that they let her down? I’m telling you — you want a player who can handle the big situations, then you want coaches and parents (authority figures) who react in a positive manner.
Experience is absolutely critical in the development of a player, especially at a young age up until high school. Don’t get me wrong, even in high school and college, experience is one of the most important things, but the experience the older you get becomes more about dealing with extra outside forces. The games start to mean more, the competition becomes tougher, the games become televised. Gaining experience and a mental edge at a young age is instrumental for gaining confidence in the big moment at the older ages when it matters even more. You can’t start from scratch one you get to high school and college. If too many poor, negative experiences and bad reactions are engrained in someone’s head in high school and in college, then it’s toughed to overcome them – similar to bad mechanics and poor muscle memory
It does no good to be on a really well known/best team in the area if you are sitting the bench watching other people get the experience – especially as a pitcher. In 10u, 12u and even moving into 14u, you’ve GOT to be getting experience in the circle and up at the plate. You have a few choices:
If someone has the passion to do something, I am convinced they can and will achieve anything they put their mind to, and you can’t tell me otherwise. The people who don’t have passion end up quitting and weeding themselves out.
Have you ever heard this saying before? I love it. It reminds me of that movie, Remember The Titans. The older I get, the more I understand those 3 words. When you look at pressure as an opportunity, not a fear, the game becomes a bit more simple….not easier, but unescapably more simple. When you get more experiences to choose how you are going to handle different in game situations, you get more experience in choosing the right thoughts, and understanding which thoughts connect with which results. When the bases are loaded and the game is on the line be thinking, “I get to show everyone how good I am and how I am going to come through” not “I hope I don’t mess up and fail.” The experience of being in tight situations is all about controlling those thoughts. It’s easier to control those thoughts when you are in a positive, encouraging environment with your parents, coaches and teammates who support you.
Positive self talk should be something that is without a doubt engrained in players from a young age, especially when they are young and most impressionable. It should be discussed with players as much, if not more, than the actual mechanics of softball. Take time for it. It is so important in the development of players not just in their physical game, but in the part of the actual game itself when the “big moment” comes up and it’s time to shine.
It’s that positive self talk that will help you understand and realize that pressure really is a privilege and you should WANT to be the one with the bat or ball in your hands to come up to be the one for your team.
Realize this: We aren’t going to be perfect, especially in this game of failure we call softball. Every time you are in that pressure situation it’s a chance to prove that you’re in the right frame of mind. The “success” and “failure” comes from being in the right frame of mind and giving yourself a chance to have success when the big moment comes; it doesn’t always necessarily come with the outcome, despite what all eyes watching might think. When you take pressure off of the outcome and the fear of doing something wrong and not pleasing others, you give yourself the opportunity to have more success. The experiences you go through should be learning moments that are making you a better player. It shouldn’t feel like punishment or that you did something wrong as a player if you don’t come through in the clutch. It should be used as a moment to teach, so that when the moment presents itself again, you absolutely nail it.
Only YOU can define your moment. YOU create your opportunities – what are you going to do with them?
“Daddy ball” – slang term in athletics for a team that is perceived by players and players’ parents on the team to have coaches who give more playing time to their own daughter than to other players on the team.
How do you or would you approach a “daddy ball” situation with your daughter?
A question can arise of what to tell a player who is losing confidence in her playing ability because of “daddy ball?” The question that comes to MY mind first is, “How does your daughter even know what ‘daddy ball’ is?”
Every situation is different and in various situations, “daddy ball” may or may not be actually happening. But regardless, I feel like there is a right and a wrong way to handle this situation where playing time is at stake for a player. In any situation, there are always things that you as a family can control with your daughter and there are things that you can’t control. Remember these lessons you are teaching your daughter now are making an impact on her 20 years from now. Consistently be teaching her about things that you can control, even as difficult as it may be in some situations for you. Blaming is instant gratification. Taking the high road pays future dividends that leave a lasting impression for everyone involved.
In my opinion, the word “daddy ball” should never be communicated by the parents to the player.
To me, that just puts a negative connotation in a player’s mind and brings resentment to her teammates, who have nothing to do with the problem. A young player doesn’t know how to handle emotions as well as an adult. All she knows is what her parents put in her head.
So if her parents are telling her that she is not getting playing time because of another girl on the team getting preferential treatment, then that can call for resentment of that particular player. This is going to hurt the lesson being learned of building team chemistry and being a good teammate. These are such critical lessons for an adult later on down the road to be able to work with other people and not blame others. Always remember why we play TEAM sports – to learn TEAM lessons and to win championships as a TEAM. No one player wins a championship, it takes a complete team effort. By causing negative emotions throughout the team because of politics, you are hurting the efforts of the entire TEAM!!
The coach’s daughter in the “daddy ball” scenario has NOTHING to do with making the lineup, so she never should be brought up around your daughter in a negative tone. She is just doing her own thing, minding her own business, playing the sport that she loves. It is wrong to bring her into it, and it’s not fair to the team or to the player.
Stay positive towards your daughter!
Support her by encouraging her to work even harder! Put more emphasis on work ethic than blaming.
Keep every conversation positive (as hard as it may be for you); do not make negative comments around your daughter about the coach, how he makes the lineup or about his daughter. When you discuss as a family her playing time, do not make negative comments about the coach, then it is easier for your daughter to question the coach during practice and games, sometimes even players will lose respect for their coaches. This will only make your daughter appear a bad teammate and un-coachable. At the end of the day, he is the coach, he makes the decisions, and he is the “boss” of the team. From a very young age it is important for athletes to respect their coach’s decision! A lesson learned that will continue to impact a girl decades down the road.
Instead of focusing on playing time, discuss with your daughter what she can be doing in the dugout to help the team and herself. Study hitters. Learn pitch calling. Chart pitches. Keep energy in the dugout for the team. Try to pick signals. Notice anyone warming up in the bullpen and what she throws. Notice patterns the other pitcher is throwing to your hitters. Teach her other ways she can be contributing instead of teaching her coaches who have daughters on the team give more playing time to their daughter. If you don’t know things that your daughter should be doing, ASK.
The way that I would discuss playing time is by telling your daughter (depending on age) to have a meeting with the coach and see what she can get better at in order to earn more playing time. Have a discussion with the coach instead of just blaming and assuming the “daddy ball” philosophy. 90% of parents think that their daughter should be in the starting 9 and are blind to what their daughter needs to get better at in order to become a part of the starting lineup. Every parent thinks their kid is the best (as they should!), but it’s also very important to be real about if your daughter actually is the best.
If your daughter is high school aged, she should ask the coach to meet with just her. At the high school age she is old enough to take this meeting on on her own. If she is younger than high school, then the player can be with her parents meeting with the coach, but I would still encourage the player to ask questions and do a lot of talking. It can be intimidating, but what an expereicne to give your daughter to speak to someone of authority! It also gives her ownership and responsibility in her own playing time, and it gives her a voice. I would recommend writing down a list as a family of the questions you want to ask going in. This will help your daughter speak up and give her comfort in not feeling like she is going to forget what she wants to ask.
Here’s how a few of the questions could be worded, “Hi coach. I feel like I am not getting as much playing time as I would like. I was wondering if you could tell me a few things I need to work on in order to get more time in the lineup.” or “Hey Coach, what are some thing that you would like for me to get better as so that I can more consistently find time in the lineup?” Listen to the things that he tells you. Write them down. Bring them to your private coaches and work hard on them at home. Give it time, the changes won’t happen over night.
The worst thing you can do in that meeting is blame! “Coach, you give your daughter way more playing time than anybody else and it’s just not fair!” This meeting will not go well and it will only leave with resentment. He will feel like he’s being attacked. No one likes to feel attacked. No one. Put it on you not on him.
Then, when your daughters gets her chance to show her coach how hard she has worked and the changes she has made, she HAS to show him and prove it to him come game time. You have to NAIL it when you get your big opportunity to prove yourself. If it’s innings of relief pitching or a pinch hit opportunity, you have to believe in your preparation and make the most of it!! Once again, another lesson learned of taking advantage of your opportunities. Something that will stick with her FOREVER.
Hopefully this can work if your daughter is able to prove to her coach that she has worked hard and has gotten better at the things she needed to work on. If it doesn’t work, then I encourage you to encourage your daughter to keep working hard and making the most of her opportunities she is given. These two things can go a LONG way.
Even if she is not getting the playing time (which you can’t control) tell her to focus on things that she can control: attitude, work ethic, being a good teammate. There are many things she can be learning, even if she is not in the starting lineup.
At the END of the season, if you feel like the team is not the best fit for you, it is then that I would suggest making a change and finding a team that may better suit your needs. But until that moment comes, it says a lot about a player and a family that they take the high road and stay positive towards other parents and teammates. Almost to the point where at the end of the season, people may be surprised that the player is leaving.
Blaming is instant gratification, and it can be a tease to make us feel a little bit better immediately. We want lessons that will take your daughter further into the future and help her become a leader through sports. “Daddy ball” is one of those teaching situations you as a parent come up against. Teach the lesson that work ethic is everything and blaming is never the best option. And remember; don’t refer to “daddy ball” around your daughter. Your daughter may not have even known what the word “daddy ball” meant if it weren’t for you.
Leg drive starts from the VERY BEGINNING. It’s important to create an athletic, explosive position in your push out to maximize your leg drive. Energy and momentum are created from the ground up. You can have the MOST energy by creating the best position possible to push off the rubber. More energy at the beginning of your pitch will create more energy at the END of your pitch. It all starts from the ground up!
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I’ve explained to our own Firecracker team before that Twitter should not be a medium to release any and all personal problems that vary between how you’re playing on the field to relationship problems to family problems. I totally understand 100% that players feel like these forms of social media is a way to express themselves…but there are some things that should be left to be expressed to your coach, friends or family in a one on one CONVERSATION, not a public conversation on the Internet. Remember that there are other ways to be heard and people who care about what you are feeling who are actually close to you – your friends and family.
Want to share something VERY COOL with you to get you (and me) active for the next 30 days. ANYONE can participate – kids and adults alike. It would be AWESOME to get your teams involved in this, as Taylor Hoagland (All American from Texas & USA National Team) is the one who has started this CHALLENGE.
So this morning, I will start #30DaysOfGreatness with Taylor and lots of other people around the country, including my bestie, Savana Lloyd (SL Fastpitch). I want YOU to start with me and hop on board!!! #30DaysOfGreatness is a fitness challenge to workout (lift, cardio, crossfit, pitch, hit, take ground balls, etc) for at LEAST 30 minutes every day for 30 days straight!!!! Here’s what you need to know:
1) 30 minutes of work out every day. GET MOVING!!! To officially enter every day to PROVE that you’re participating, you must take a picture with a short recap of what you did and tweet it to @taylorho6 with the hashtag #30DaysOfGreatness. I would LOVE to see your pictures posted on my Facebook, too! Please, please please please let me see them, especially if they are pitching & playing softball!
2) The OFFICIAL start date of #30DaysOfGreatness is today, January 26.
3) For participants who make the 15 day mark, at halfway, there will be a Google Hangout for everyone to participate in, including Taylor Hoagland, myself, maybe even Patrick Murphy, and some other people who are participating. — THIS is going to be REALLY cool.
4) For the participants who make the 30 day mark, you will receive a shirt as a token of your achievement. (You will only be eligible for this if you have tweeted to Taylor (@tayloho6) every day for the 30 days.
THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME! I’M IN, ARE YOU?
To read more on WHY Taylor started #30DaysOfGreatness and to follow along on her blog, click here.
Comment below and let me know if you are or what you think!
I asked for players to send in their favorite picture with their favorite quotes to go along with it! I got pictures in from all across the country, and here are the 5 winners I picked!
There are a lot of different ways to throw a change up!! I’ve found that incorporating somewhat of a flip into your change is a great way to take speed off a pitch and fool hitters.
If you enjoyed this video please share it with one person you think it would benefit by using the social media tabs.
Around this time of year, I always receive a lot of different questions and grievances relating to the high school softball season. Playing a sport for high school is a unique situation – you don’t get to pick your coaches, you don’t get to pick your teammates. And on the other side of that – the coaches don’t really “pick” you either. Some players and parents choose to think it is more of a forced situation because many compare high school ball to travel ball.
Two different teams; two different sets of problems; one similar mindset — control what you can, let go of what you can’t.
In high school, players get challenged in ways that make them uncomfortable. – as a leader, as a teammate and as a player. Honestly, to me, it shows a lot about a player’s character and passion. During the high school season, I hear a lot of excuses…but I don’t hear a lot of players (or parents) trying to see the positive side of things to make the situation better. What can we do right now in this very moment to learn, to grow and to get better?
Remember a player (and her parents) are not going to agree with 100% of decisions made. Do you agree with ALL of the decisions your boss makes at work? Think of your favorite sports team: do you agree with the starting lineup every single night a game is played? Probably not. Everybody will always have their own way of doing things, because we are all unique, that’s what makes us US. You don’t have to AGREE with everything that is going on, but you can choose to accept it, see the positive and figure out a way to work with it.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned and problems you can either choose to work through or choose to let bother you. I like to always try to choose to make the most of a situation….
In ANY situation we come up against in life, there are going to be things that we can control and things we can’t control. It’s important to always take a step back in any situation, and understand which are which. Limit the excuses and understand what YOU can do better to get the most out of a situation.
Uncontrollable: Making the lineup and teams; playing time.
Controllable(s): Your attitude every day at practice and games; how you can contribute to your team; supporting your teammates; how you push yourself to get better; not talking about the person who is playing in front of you.
Playing time is the #1 grievance parents and/or players complain about (not just in high school ball, but also on tournament teams and college teams). Every person thinks they are good enough for the starting role, and every player thinks they should be on varsity. That’s a great attitude to have, if you channel it in the right way. Always remember that playing time is a decision made by the COACHES, not the parents. I encourage every coach out there to remember your own roots and make your own decisions.
If a player has a question about playing time, then the PLAYER should schedule a meeting with the coach NOT the parent. Parents, as a gentle reminder, I can’t name you one coach that likes to talk to parents about playing time. It’s not your job. Take that energy and encourage your DAUGHTER to make a meeting with her coach, even if she is a freshman.
Controllables: PLAYER meeting with the coach NOT parent; The TONE in which you ask your question; keeping your emotions in check during the meeting; respecting what your coach is telling you.
So you want to know why you’re not playing? Talk to your coach! This is a big deal – I get it! It’s hard as a 15 year old to go up and talk to someone about a serious subject. Think of this as a learning experience! Everyone has a first time of when they had to approach an adult and ask a tough question.
A player gets to set up a meeting with an adult to discuss “grown up” things. This is similar to what will happen in college and this is similar to what would happen in a job situation. At your own current job now, you wouldn’t call on your own parent to go and talk to your boss about a raise or a promotion. Meeting with a coach can be the first real life opportunity a player has to discuss something on their own that is a priority and that they are passionate about.
A player might think she is doing EVERYTHING she can do to earn playing time. But just because the PLAYER thinks that she is doing everything, doesn’t mean that the COACH is having the same view. Remember, we all come from different perceptions and our perception is our reality.
Parents, you can help and get involved not by calling the coach, but by sitting down with your daughter and making a list of things to bring up to her coach whenever she goes in for the big meeting. Have a list of questions you want to remember to ask and that list can be comfort going into the meeting. Allow your daughter to come up with these questions as much as she can – not YOU. It’s not about you, sorry!
A player calling a meeting with a coach shows maturity, and it’s a great experience for the player to take responsibility of having a voice. Don’t complain to your teammates – it makes you look bad and you are just looking for them to tell you, “Yes, Susie, you should be playing.” Nobody wants to hear someone complaining about playing time all the time – it makes things awkward, especially if the people you are complaining to are every day players. Even if the people you are complaining to are NOT every day players, then you guys complaining about each other become a cancer to the team.
Remember everything that comes out of your mouth and all of your actions are either positively or negatively affecting your team’s goal and mission.
If you’re not happy with your playing time, there is only one person you should be talking to on your team – your coach. It’s totally okay to talk about playing time in the walls of your own house with your parents – that’s private time. Outside of that, it should not be happening because it starts to take away from the TEAM.
It’s all about your approach when you have the meeting wit your coach. Look your coach in the eye when you are talking or when he/she is talking. Go into the meeting knowing what you want out of it. Think your questions through. Instead of just asking, “Why am I not playing?” – that question has a negative connotation to it, especially if that is the ONLY question you ask. How about asking things like,
At the end of the season, if you were not an every day player, a great thing to ask your coach is, “Coach, what can I work on during the off season to become an every day starter for you?” Make sure the communication is clear cut, so that you are actually working on the exact things he/she said to work on to become that every day player. Too many times things are lost in translation, and players THINK they worked on the things their coach asked them to, and they show up, and it wasn’t EXACTLY what they wanted. Remember if you are not willing to make the adjustments your coach is asking of you, then when you come back the following season and your coach sees no changes, you will be in the same spot you are this year.
The worst thing is to be left in the dark about why you aren’t playing or feeling like you did something wrong. Open communication from player to coach is always the best thing you can do. Once again – parents, this is not your job.
Okay, so you’re not an every day player, but your coach decides to put you in to pinch hit with a runner at 3rd, who is the game winning run. WHAT a position to be in! Your coach is giving you that chance that you asked him/her about in the meeting. NOW is your chance. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR OPPORTUNITY. Want it bad enough.
Go up, have a quality at bat, and try to hit the ball hard. Doesn’t HAVE to be a hit. You just need to look like you are prepared for your at bat and that you are focused. A QUALITY AT BAT is considered taking advantage of your opportunity. If you go up and strike out on 3 straight pitches, I’m sorry, that’s not a quality at bat, and it’s not taking advantage of your opportunity. That’s looking like you were unfocused since you were not an every day starter.
Same idea defensively – if you get a chance to go out and play on defense, and the ball is hit to you, and you make an error, then why would a coach feel confident in you? Even if that is the first ground ball you’ve gotten all year in a game, you MUST be able to come up with a play – no excuses. I hear that excuse all too often, “Well I made that error because I hadn’t played in a game in a while.” NOPE – stop. That’s the easy way out. The hard way is to go into that game and be so determined that nothing will stop you and you will go in and shine.
In high school and in college, it’s ALL about taking advantage of your opportunities, especially when you are not an every day player. You must be ready for them defensively and offensively. After the fact, if you don’t have success with your opportunity, you CANNOT blame it on the fact that you don’t play all the time. To me, that’s a cop out. That is giving yourself an out for not taking advantage of your opportunity. Don’t be that player.
Maybe you are a short stop, but the player in front of you is an upperclassman who is the best player on the team. So of course, she is going to be playing there at that spot. A good thing to ask your coach is, “Is there another position I could work on to earn a starting spot?”
Make yourself diverse. There may be a spot defensively that is open, and YOU can take advantage of getting in there even though you have never played that position before. Go take some time on your own to practice that position either on off days from high school ball or after team practice is complete. Work at it. EARN YOUR SPOT. The more positions you are able to play, the higher of a chance you have of going out there and making a difference at the team.
If there is a very talented player in your spot, LEARN from that player. She is good for a reason. Even if she is the same age as you, there is ALWAYS something you could be learning from her. Instead of being jealous of her, look at her at practice and in a game and watch how she moves, what she does well and what makes her a great player. There’s nothing wrong with giving her credit, understanding what she does well and trying to emulate her. This way, when you get your chance, it’s an easier transition and you have grown as a player.
This is especially true of pitchers, because a pitcher sitting on the bench can be understanding and learning pitch calling, noticing locations and spots and studying hitters to see what a hitter does well or not well. In the dugout, you can be visualizing what you would be throwing in certain situations. This is important, as well, because what if the starting pitcher gets hurt suddenly. You need to be mentally ready to go into a game. IF you have been studying the opposing team’s hitters and understanding what their weakness is, you can be ready to pick up right where she left off seamlessly.
PS…if you work hard at practice, your coach is going to be more likely to put you in when that injury happens or maybe your coach just gets a feeling in her gut that she wants you to go in to an important situation. You EARN going into a game. You EARN that playing time. How do you earn it? PRACTICE. If he/she sees how hard you are working and how invested you are into the team, he/she is going to be more likely to rely on you.
On October 31, 2014, I got inducted into the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame with 5 other Texas A&M athletes. Another softball player (Megan Gibson), a track runner, a football player, a soccer play and a volleyball player. 5/6 inductees were female – the most ever inducted in one year into the Texas A&M Hall of Fame. To write a Thank You Acceptance speech for such a meaningful honor made me stop and think about ALL of the people who had played a role in my life to get me to the level I played at when I played at Texas A&M. It wasn’t just my parents, it wasn’t just my A&M Coach; No. There were more than that. I could have written an entire novel on all of the different people who impacted my life for the better and have contributed to my success on the field. I am profoundly thankful and proud to have play at Texas A&M University.
Although when I got up there to give my Thank You speech I did not go verbatim from this speech, it gives a pretty good idea of how the speech went, and I wanted to share it because many of you had asked wanting to see it. So here it is!
“Never would I have dreamt I would be standing in front of you, getting inducted into the Texas A&M Hall of Fame. I am so unbelievably proud to be an Aggie and deeply believe choosing Texas A&M was the best decision I have made in my life. From the minute I walked onto campus I understood very quickly that “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.”
First, I feel honored to be standing on stage with these decorated athletes and to forever hold a place with them in a hall filled with history, memories, championships and an Aggie’s most sacred word, tradition. To all those Aggies who played before me, thank you for setting the standard for tradition. It is the tradition that is the heartbeat of all athletes and of Texas A&M. That sacred word Tradition was the daily reminder that I played for something bigger than myself.
Second, to the selection committee, thank you for voting me in. As if being selected into the HOF wasn’t enough, hearing that I was selected with one of my oldest and best friends was nothing short of a dream come true. Tonight would not feel complete without Megan Gibson up here by my side.
Megan, I don’t know softball without you. We grew up around the ball field wearing the same uniform and having friends AND family (including our parents) calling us the wrong name. “Amanda, I mean Megan. Megan, I mean Amanda.” We would always laugh. We were the same age. Both blondes. Both pitchers Both hitters. Both from Houston. It was so fitting that we would both choose Texas A&M.
You pushed me physically. You made me stronger mentally. You made me a better competitor and together, we supplied each other with the criticism necessary to become more successful than we ever thought possible. Without you, I am not sure I would be standing here today. To Megan’s family, Darren, Sharon and Krystal, you guys are like MY family. Getting to be coached by you, Darren, with the deadly combination of my dad, was so much fun and I wish we could go back and relive those memories. Thank you Gibson family for being such a big part of my life and career.
I can’t think of playing ball at A&M without thinking of our 2 other classmates, Jami Lobpries and Jamie Hinshaw. They’re to this day some of my closest friends. Our senior year, Coach Evans pulled us together and asked us to think about what we wanted to leave as our legacy; it was the conversation she had with every senior class that comes through the program. After the conversation, we didn’t have to say it out loud. We knew the mark we wanted to leave. Our legacy only partly consisted of competing for a National Championship, but it’s roots were much deeper than that. We wanted to be known as gritty, determined, fearless teammates who were dedicated to leaving every piece of everything we had on the field every time we competed. For each other, for our teammates, for the 12th man, and for the university. Thank you Jami, Megan and Jamie for the accountability you provided in our relentless perseverance to execute our legacy.
I had the privilege to play for a head coach who made me a better softball player, all the while making me a stronger woman. I do not have enough time to give her the amount credit she deserves in how much she has impacted my life. She taught me a refined way of leading, how to fight and most of all, she taught me how to trust in myself and in my preparation. She reinvented the word compete, didn’t just tell me, but showed me every day at practice. Little did I know, what she was really doing, was teaching me out to compete in the real world.
Coach Evans, thank you for choosing me to play ball at Texas A&M and trusting that I had what it took to be an Aggie. I was born to play for you. You believed in me more than I believed in myself. You were able to pull the VERY BEST out of me and you played one of the biggest roles in all that I accomplished. Even though I no longer get to practice with you every day the role that you played in my life is present daily.
To Joy Jackson, Rich Wilegiman and Mary Jo Firnbach, each of you influenced me in your own unique way and helped me to grow. Your support and guidance throughout my career meant the world to me.
A player’s goal is always to leave college better, stronger, and wiser than when she comes in. Looking back, it was because of Coach Evans and her staff that I can honestly say I did that.
An honor like this doesn’t happen without being surrounded by incredible coaches before I stepped foot in College Station. As a softball player, it’s critical to your success to find private coaches you can trust. Ironically, my first ever pitching coach at age 9 was Robert Andaya, who was Texas A&M Hall of Famer and softball great, Shawn Andaya’s father. At that time, I didn’t even know what Texas A&M was, I didn’t know what the word scholarship even meant, but looking back, he was the first person I remember talking to about these things and the first person who officially taught me how to pitch. How fitting that years later, I would receive a scholarship and play for the same school as his All American daughter. My other private coaches, Ron Wolfworth, Jill Rischel, Ken Hazlewood, and Richard Schriener…you all came into my lives at different times, but you all taught me my foundation and pushed me every week. Thank you so much for all of the time you dedicated to working with me and not just becoming my coaches, but lifelong friends.
My family moved to Magnolia my freshman year. Lucky for me, I moved to a highly competitive high school playing for Coach Renee Bialas and Coach Sheryl Tamborello. Playing at Magnolia High School gave me my first memories of competing for a championship. I remember this being a time I really started to come into my own on the softball diamond. Thank you, both of you, for your unwavering support throughout my high school career and beyond.
My family became a fastpitch-loving group of people – aunts, uncles cousins and grandparents, alike. They may not have been fans of softball before me, but by golly did they become fans along the way. Thank you each and every one of you for putting up with my crazy softball schedule that I’ve had since I was 10, and continue to have at age 28. Even in times when you were not present, I could feel your love and support from afar.
And finally, but most importantly, to my parents, Mark and Sally, when I think of you both, I think of the word “presence.” You guys were physically present for everything, but your presence went beyond that. It was and is a presence full of positivity, happiness and overwhelming love. Taking the field would have felt so different without your presence in the stands (as my parents only missed a handful of games home or away). It felt amazing to play and travel, knowing you were there to constantly cheer me on. Through the ups and downs of a season – Win, lose, strikeout or homerun, your love felt unconditional from the time I picked up a ball at age 6 to now at 28.
Thank you for encouraging me to follow my heart and trust in my own decision making. That is what led me to the best 4 years of my life: playing softball at Texas A&M. My heart overflows with gratitude when I think of the 2 of you and lasting impact you have made in my life. I wouldn’t be here without your sacrifices, effort and influence.
This induction is for all of you – friends, family, coaches and teammates. You guys believed in me. You helped give me the confidence to go out and play the sport I love with a growing confidence. Each and every one of you played a part in helping me perform to the highest of my ability.
My time at A&M was more valuable than I could have ever imagined. This University, the 12th man, the academic staff, the athletic staff, my teammates and my coaches each taught me values that I now have the privilege of paying forward…and for that, I am eternally thankful.
Thanks and gig ’em.”