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…

Be Your Own Boss

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

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

Your coaches are a reference…

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

Tweet Smart…

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

Lead…

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

Observe….

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

Contribute…

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

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

 

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

 Serinity

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

Teach your kids life lessons….

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

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

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

The journey…

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

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

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

Raise your stock

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

 

Summer Tryout Q&A with Amanda Scarborough

When I think of tryouts I think of the following emotions: nervousness, anxiety, excitement, eagerness, pressure.  This is a time, in my mind, where a player is tested mentally, even more than she is tested physically.  If you have practiced hard and worked hard during the summer, a try out should feel like just another practice in terms of what you are about to take on physically.  That’s the mindset you should have. You’ll take some ground balls, you’ll throw each of your pitches and you will take some swings either off of front toss or a machine. Your PRACTICES are where you should have been fine tuning some mechanics and working on fundamentals to make you feel COMFORTABLE heading into the tryout.

The tryout is NOT the time to fix mechanics and worry about making changes in your pitches, throw or swing.

How are you going to respond when eyes are on you and it’s your chance to take those swings in front of everybody? How will you handle the pressure?  A tryout is just like a game!  It adds pressure to completing the skills you were born to do.  You can either take that pressure, work through it, and learn to shine.  Or you can feel that pressure and crater.  I would be willing to bet that the players who crater at tryouts are the players who are not successful in a pressure situation in a game, either.

Here’s the thing: It’s all about what your inner thoughts are telling you, and also what your parents have been telling you leading up to the tryout.

How YOU are handling the conversations with your daughter days and weeks before the tryout is going to affect how she handles the pressure of the big day!  How you handle her successes and failures in every day life are going to be in her mind when she is at the tryout.  Is she afraid to let you down?  Does she know that you support her no matter what happens?  Can she feel from you that you are more worried about her well being, attitude and work ethic than you are about the results from the tryout? 

Explain to her in different ways that the tryout is NOT something to be fearful of, but the tryout is an OPPORTUNITY to SHOW a coach what she’s got!

If you have worked hard and prepared for this opportunity, then you should feel excited about it!  If you didn’t work as hard as you possibly could during the summer, and then you show up to the tryout, THEN that stands for grounds to be scared, unsure and anxious.  I would feel the same way if I didn’t prepare for something…any of us would feel that way! The best thing you can do as a parent is keep reminding them of their preparation, to believe in that and to stay within themselves. Remind them to breathe, and also remind them that it’s not the end of the world if they don’t make it.  Try to take away pressure, not add on to it.  Have a backup plan if the #1 team you want to go to doesn’t want to take you.  This is a perfect opportunity as a family to have a contingency plan, and remember that EVERYTHING happens for a reason. Yes, EVERYTHING.  Of course, if you don’t make the team you wanted it’s a bummer and you can feel like you aren’t good enough.  BUT choose to look at it in a different light.  If you don’t make one team, it means that there is an open door for you somewhere else, which is most likely going to be a better fit anyway. As a parent, you MUST have faith and stay positive for your daughter during this situation. 

If your daughter had a bad try out, it’s ok!  The experience alone was valuable for her to go through and LEARNFailure is our best teacher. Because of that experience, before the next try out (whenever that may be),  you can make some adjustments and think about what you want to do differently at practice and in your conversations to assure that that doesn’t happen again.  It should drive you more than it makes you sad.

Don’t DWELL on the bad tryout.  It happens!!  Just like a bad inning in a game happens!

There are SO many different questions you may ask about tryouts.  About a week ago, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me some of their top questions heading into tryouts, and below are some of their questions! Important to remember: there is NO SET answer for ANY of these questions.  I base my answers off of experience of being around the game as a player and a coach, and also seeing what OTHER people have experienced to give my best advice.

Q: Is Gold ball really worth the more than $12,000 cost per season (membership, airfare, hotels, meals, gasoline) or if my daughter is good enough will she be recruited without playing Gold? If Gold is the way to go, at what grade level do we make the switch?

A: –       First of all, there are SO MANY different directions to take this question, sooo that is why my answers are a little bit diverse. LOTS to consider, but wanted to give you a little bit of insight to a few things….

–        When entering the college recruiting world, remember that there are many different levels of collegiate ball.  Most people think of college ball and only think of the top Division I schools like UCLA, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, etc.  There are SO many more schools than that in terms of Junior Colleges, NAIA, Division II and Division III.  There are SO MANY opportunities to take your game to the next level that are outside of “The Dream Schools.” When you are thinking of Gold ball, most of the top athletes in the country are playing at that level on the top teams at the top tournaments which draws in the top coaches.  In my personal opinion, the word “Gold” doesn’t mean anything anymore, it’s so watered down and it has lost its allure because of its overuse. Every team wants to be a Gold team, even if their talent doesn’t necessarily match the “Gold” criteria.  At the 18UGold level, since they comprised of older girls, a good majority of those girls are already recruited and committed to go play ball, since many of them are Juniors and Seniors.  If the big Division I college coaches are there at those games, yes they are recruiting a little bit, but usually at that level they are just going there to WATCH the girls they have already recruited to go and play at their schools. The smaller schools will be at those 18U tournaments looking for the uncommitted/unsigned juniors and seniors. (Players are verbally committing to go to a school in 8th and 9th grade, it’s CRAZY).  So playing Gold ball is NOT the only way to get seen because college coaches are recruiting at these different age levels, too. Lots of them will be at 14U and 16U tournaments, as well in order to get an early look at those players who will eventually get up to the 18U level. College coaches want their players to play on the BEST teams because those top teams are playing in the top tournaments against the top teams in the tournament – which gives them invaluable experience and makes them compete at an even higher level.  Because of that competition level and how that prepares a player to play at the next level, you can see why college coaches would want to recruit players who play at the highest level possible when they are playing on their select teams.

–       I WILL tell you, in order to be recruited, you do need to play travel ball to be able to get the exposure to the college coaches.  There is probably a 90-95% chance that you will NOT be seen by JUST your high school team.  College coaches do not usually go to high school games to recruit.  My best advice in one sentence to truly answer your question: Play on the BEST travel team that you can play on where your daughter will be in the starting 9/10 on the team.  It does NO GOOD to be on one of the top teams and not play.  You are missing out on getting seen by college coaches when you are sitting the bench AND more importantly, you are missing out on game-time experience to prepare you to play at the next level.

–       Lastly, in regards to getting recruited, you need to start EMAILING coaches and putting your name out there to them.  Send emails to the schools that best fit your critieria.  Maybe you want to stay close to home.  Maybe you want to go far away.  Maybe you want a high academic schools.  Keep your options open and take TIME to understand what the options even are. They are ENDLESS.  But the player must decide what is the criteria she wants in a school, and then consistently email coaches and keep your name fresh in their minds.  College coaches are getting 100’s (literally) every day and you need to find a way to be different and stand out. When is a good time to start emailing coaches?  If you are serious about playing ball in college, you should start emailing coaches in 8th or 9th grade. If you are older than that right now and reading this, then get on it!

My favorite college recruiting website is NCSA.  They post SO MUCH helpful information.  It’s the best site I have found out there.  Their Facebook page is full of amazing tips.

Q: What should parents/players look for in a team? How do you pick the best fit – what should the decision be based on?

A: –       There are so many things that fit into a decision personally for YOUR family.  You can base it on finances and how much the team is traveling around and if you are able to afford that commitment.  You can base it off of how serious your daughter is about wanting to play in college.  The more serious she is, the more she should be traveling around to be seen in showcase/exposure tournaments with college coaches.  You can also base how serious your daughter takes softball as to how much she is practicing and the time she is willing to commit to playing in tournaments on the weekends and practicing during the week.  With that being said, are you, as parents, going to be able to make the commitment to driving her around and taking her to different tournaments?

–       More specifically regarding the team, I think you should also base your decision off of the coaches – this is a big one! Ask around about their personalities and how they treat their players and how they are DURING the games. Do they have daughters on the team?  If your daughter is a pitcher, how many pitchers are they going to take on the team?  I think it’s good to ask them point blank and get an honest answer about where they see your daughter fitting in to the lineup.  Ask the hard questions BEFORE you commit to being on the team.  Sit down as a family and think of questions that are important you know the answers to.

–       I would NOT base it just off of if your daughter has friends on the team.  That can be a big one that younger players hold on to.  You can make friends.  It’s good to get out and meet new people and explore new things!  It challenges a player to become more social and make them a little bit uncomfortable!  LIFE is about being uncomfortable in some situations and learning how to deal with it and handle it. She can make NEW friends and still have the OLD friends she played with before.

Q: Should you move a kid up in age group to challenge them or leave them down to shine and build self confidence?

A: I like for a player to stay down and play in their age group, especially in 10U, 12U and 14U. To me, this experience of “shining” can yes, give a player confidence, but also teaches them to be a leader and a player that their teammate looks up to. In my mind there is no rush.  NOW…with that being said, if a player is simply not being physically challenged enough, I think it is in their best interest to move up to be humbled, learn failure and how to play against the big girls.  I think the best person to make this decision is NOT the parents.  Usually parents (no offense parents) think much higher of their player than an unbiased opinion would from their team’s coach or their private lessons’ coach.  Be honest, be real.  Don’t move a player up just to be able to brag about it to other people.  That is not the point of playing up.  Playing up should be something that is earned and NEEDED and it should have NOTHING to do with ego.

Q: How do you demonstrate “softball smart” at a try-out? Seems like most coaches look for pitchers/catchers and shortstops, how do you make yourself shine at a try-out if you are not one of these?

A: GREAT QUESTION. If you make an error, you rebound quickly by having great body language and a positive attitude. Don’t let it affect you.  Players stick out who have a certain softball savvy without even TRYING to have that look.  They just walk on the found and have it because they are, like you said, “Softball smart.”  They are confident where to go with the ball.  They don’t question themselves.  Also, be LOUD with communication to call a ball or to cheer on other people at the tryouts.  Make new friends, be social and friendly.  Pick up another person trying out when they are struggling.  You can show signs of being a great teammate even when you don’t necessarily KNOW other people. Lay out for balls.  Hustle on and off the field, no walking.  Ask for extra reps if there is time. Ask the coaches questions.  Stay after the tryout and introduce yourself.  Play fearlessly.  Do not just fade in with the rest of the crowd with how supportive, energetic and passionate you are.  Make yourself stand out and be known. Along with these intangibles, either shine with your speed or shine with your swing!  If you are really fast, you will stick out.  If you have a pretty swing you will stick out. If you hit for power you will stick out.  Coaches love offense.  Know what your strength is.  When it is your chance to go up to the plate and show them what you’ve got, you have to take advantage of that opportunity to shine!  I also found this article, and it has some great little tips!

Q: Is it okay to try out for different teams even though you are staying with your current team so you see have you stack up against the other girls out there?

A: If you are really wanting to do this, I would say it’s VERY, VERY important to have an open, honest conversation with your current coaches. I would think the other coaches at the other try outs might think you are wasting their time when they are needing to evaluate players at the tryouts who are there really wanting to be seen? – that comes into my mind when I think of doing that.  Finally, I personally think the BEST way to see how you “stack up” against other girls is to do it on the actual playing field come game time.

Featured image from Ringor.com and this website.

 

Mental Strength & Your Environment

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

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

Teammates

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

Coaches

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

Parents

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

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

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

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

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

Top Five Q’s with A • I

Hey everyone, I constantly receive awesome questions from you guys and I wanted to share some of the ones that I think would benefit all of you. Keep them coming and know I will do the best that I can to get to as many of them as possible. If my responses benefit you, please show your support by liking the blog or sharing it with someone you think it could benefit!  Thanks for all of your questions and trusting in me and my answers!

Benefits of 30 min Pitching Lessons

Q1: I have a question. My daughter is 9 and taking private pitching lessons from a girl in college. She charges $25 for 30 min. Is 30 min enough time for a lesson? We only get to see her once or twice a month. It just doesn’t seem like enough time. Thank you

A1: Yep! When I was giving lessons I did 30 min as well, ESPECIALLY for a 9 year old. BUT with that being said, I give a lot of detailed information within that 30 min….so it’s up to YOU and your daughter to go and work on the little things while you are on your own. So pick the 2-3 things in that 30 min that you can go and focus on at practice on your own, master then before your next lesson, learn a few more things at the next lesson, master them on your own, repeat. It’s a cycle and it’s how your young pitcher will get better instead of trying to learn 52 new things in an hour lesson and not know exactly what to work on. Also, that is a great price, I charge $45 for 30 min, so you’re getting a good deal. Don’t try to learn too much too fast! One step at a time.

Does pitching improve your hitting?

Q2: Question? When you started pitching did your hitting get better? After working with you that one day and her pitching coach this summer she is now “squashing” the bug with her back foot and driving balls deep into the outfield. Lexi made the U8 fall team, but want her there before or after practice for pitching so they can move her to U10. She really wants to work with you again so let me know the next mini camp in Houston.

A: Hey there! To be honest, at a younger age I was a better hitter than I was pitcher. Hitting came more naturally to me than pitching did. So I didn’t really connect them together at a younger age thinking that one affected the other! Maybe just overall she has gotten more excited about pitching and softball in general to get her more confidence and overall joy towards the game, which gives her more happiness to go out and play the game!

Amanda’s Training Availability

Q3: Hi Amanda! Where are you located and do you still do training? 

A3: Hi! I am in Houston! At this time I am not taking on any private lessons since I am traveling around the country a lot during the year and cannot keep a regular lessons schedule! I will do clinics across the country with The Packaged Deal (www.packageddeal.com) and I also will throw together small clinics in the Houston area about once a month to try to reach out to our community!

Q4: Just a reaching out as a curious recreation director here in Darlington South Carolina. What could we possibly do to get a clinic here in our area. We are in somewhat of a hotbed for softball and I think we could possibly have a successful clinic here! What do we need to do?

A4: Hi Lee! All of my pitching clinics are being done through The Packaged Deal. The Packaged Deal is a group of 4 girls (including myself) who offer catching, pitching, infield, and hitting sessions at facilities and fields around the country. We have come together to travel around for different people to host us! You can find more information at http://www.packageddeal.com/who/ . There, if you click on “Book” on the Navigation Bar, you can look more into how to host us near you!

Strength Training for Softball

Q5: Hi Amanda! My name is Lane Welch and I coach high school football and head coach our HS softball team! I would first like to say how much I love seeing your post and reading about the passion you have for softball and teaching youth and coaches around the world the knowledge that you have! I have been fortunate to have been in strength and conditioning by some of the most knowledgable people in the world! I strength train my softball team and know that I have very positive results from it over the years. Some of my players don’t understand it and have parents tell them that it holds them back. I truly do not believe that, but would love to know your thoughts on strength training in softball as you have played on such a high level! I am from west monroe, LA and love reading all your postings. Please keep doing what you do.

Q5: I totally agree with it! Think it’s very important and I noticed a drastic difference when I was in college of overall strength I felt playing the game. We did EVERYTHING – bench press, dead lift, power cleans, conditioning, lots of core works, shoulder stability exercises, agilities, sprints. The one thing we did NOT do was long distance training, since softball is such a quick, explosive sport and you need to be fast on your first step (of fielding a ground ball, first step out of the box, big push step when pitching). I feel like some people complain because they don’t want to put in the extra work. Strength and conditioning can be built into your practices and overall weekly routine if you are wanting to become a better ATHLETE and softball player. When I think of S&C for softball players I think of strengthening the lower half, strengthening the core and working on explosiveness. The more time you want to sacrifice to put into your training, the better results you are going to see on the field! 

Inspirational Photo Contest Winners!

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!

Kimmy wallen

Kimmy Wallen
St. Louis Chaos 00
Farmington, MO

D'Layna Ketchum

D’Layna Ketchum
Age 13
Cico’s Fastpitch
Andrews, TX

Bennett Patterson

Bennett Patterson
CLEAtS 02
Trussville,, AL

Sophia Lawrence

Sophia Lawrence
Age 10
San Diego, CA

Danielle Bigham

Danielle Bigham
Age 13
Virginia Edge
Powhatan, VA
“Four bases, three strikes, two teams, one winner. It’s not just a game, but a way of life. Softball, this is my destiny.”

Experience Makes You Shine

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

How are you going to handle your defining moment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE REACTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEEK OUT THE EXPERIENCE

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

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

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

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

PRESSURE IS PRIVILEDGE

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

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

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

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

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

The Depth Chart Doesn’t Define You

Someone asked me this, “What was the turning point for you? Was there a stage where you suddenly began passing people? And how much of it had to do with your willingness to out-work everyone? Were there times when you thought your work wasn’t going to pay off?”

My answer might surprise you….

This is actually something over the past couple of years I have given a lot of thought and always am trying to take a look back my travel ball days! I was not always the #1 pitcher for my team growing up until probably my junior/senior year, and even then we had several good pitchers on my travel team and it was always good competition. In high school, my fresh/soph year I pitched behind a girl who was a junior/senior. I earned my way up to the #1 once she was gone. In travel ball I started as a #2/#3, then solidified #2 then later was in competition for #1. And then, once I actually got to college, I was the #1 pitcher starting on opening day as a freshman in the circle. Then it was solidified.

But there was so much that led up to that moment…

When I was growing up, I never thought of it that way of where I was on the “depth chart.” I never thought of how much I enjoyed playing softball by the number of innings I was pitching, I just knew that I liked to do it. What I think was a game changer for me was the fact that I had an amazing pitching and hitting coach (they were married) from around the ages of 11-15 who taught me and showed me the foundation of mechanics of a swing and a pitch. They did this by constantly breaking down the pitch/swing from the very beginning.

(Let me focus more on the pitching aspect…….) Because of how much we broke things down, I was a little bit slower to “come around” when it game to full pitch progress and speed and consistency – that would come later. There would be days where over half of the lesson I would not pitch a ball but just look in a mirror and work on a balance beam and do tubing drills. They taught me through SO MANY drills about where my body mechanically should be. At the time when I was younger, I thought it was a bit boring, but here was the kicker……we would do video analysis about 4 times a year. Back then, video analysis consisted of pulling out a video camera, then putting the tape into the VCR and slow-moing the VCR and holding up photos of old pitchers like Lisa Fernandez, Dee Dee Weiman and some japanese pitchers. There was a check list of different mechanics that I, myself, needed to look at as we went through the full video analysis and write down what I did right and what I did wrong. Why I liked this was because we did it enough to where I could see I was PROGRESSING and getting BETTER because of my hard work. I literally got to SEE it on the screen. So not only was I working hard in between lessons on the things I knew I needed to adjust, I was able to get satisfaction by seeing the progress I was having.

My parents were not result oriented in the sense that they were constantly letting me know I was a #2 pitcher or I pitched x amount of innings and the other pitcher pitched x amount of innings. No. They were focused on the fact that I was getting better at these lessons and my mechanics were forming properly. I could SEE it, they could see it, I could feel it. That part was more the focus than the playing time & field RESULTS. I saw what I needed to get better at, I went back and worked hard at it, and then I was able to see the results of my mechanics getting better. We all need our little forms of “success” along the way in this softball career.

How are you defining success? By playing time or by actually getting better and progressing at something that you love to do?

Were there days where I felt like I wanted to quit? YES, absolutely. Were there days where I cried, 100%. It’s normal. I guarantee that every college player out there has had those days. My parents never panicked when I had those days, they took it in stride. They did not overreact, which caused me not to overreact. The thing when I look back that was defining was that it was just 1 bad day. 1 bad day didn’t turn into a bad week. 1 bad day was just that. The next day, after I breathed a little bit, got some sleep, I woke up with a fresh outlook and ready to go back at it and practice and take on the world. But that’s how you know you really have a passion or it. You are wanting to go out and practice and the bad days don’t linger for long. When you are back at it practicing, you are pitching with getting better in mind, not pitching with # of innings pitched in mind.

Lastly, I will say, the best thing my parents told me growing up and would remind me during hard times was that I didn’t HAVE to play softball if I didn’t want to, and they would love me anyway.

 

They would ask me if I still enjoyed playing and they would genuinely listen to my answer. We communicate with so much more than words – with our actions, body language, tone. They asked me in a way I knew they cared and I felt like I could be honest with them, and I answered by more than just a simple, “yes” in the way that I was motivated to practice and how I looked when I was out playing ball.

Many just see me as an All American and during my time at Texas A&M one of the best players in the Big 12….but I am so much more than that BECAUSE of the time and emotions I invested growing up.

 

I am GLAD I wasn’t the #1 pitcher the entire time when I was younger. It taught me so much more. Mainly about myself and giving me the ability to help make my own decisions, work extremely hard at something and then feel the reward of what it is like to actually EARN a #1 spot and earn the awards that followed in college. That work ethic and the process of working on mechanics when I was younger made me into the coach I am today. Because of that foundation of mechanics that I would spend hours upon hours without a ball and paying attention to my own craft, I have the knowledge that goes along with pitching and was able to stand at 5’5 and throw 70mph especially once I got stronger and developed physically towards my my final years of high school and into college.

 

Everyone comes around at a different time and it’s unfair to compare yourself to anyone else other than you.

Soooo….I am sorry that this is a longer answer, but this particular topic defines me, what I coach, how I coach and the career I lead. Never would I have thought that when I was 9-10 and someone told me that I never would be a pitcher that I would play at the D1 level, and then lead me past college to coaching clinics around the country and being a college softball analyst on TV. I can’t HELP but think and know that anyone else can find their own passion AND if you have a passion for it, if you REALLY have a passion for it, then things are going to work out. The things that don’t work out are the things that shouldn’t be forced and aren’t supposed to happen, anyway. There are ups and downs, but the ups are all greater than the downs if you truly love to do it.

 

If you don’t love it, then you let the downs define you, and you’ll eventually end up quitting. But in my mind, it just means you are meant to do something else anyway.

 

I can only talk about my experience and my own story….but looking back, I think it’s a pretty dang good one and it’s more the “norm” of what softball players across the country go through growing up WITHOUT being the #1 pitcher their whole life.

High School Softball Season Survivor Guide – Grievance 1: PLAYING TIME

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.

Grievance #1 : PLAYING TIME

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.

A Meeting With the Coach

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,

  • “Just wanted to know, what you see are some things I could work on this season to improve my game?”
  • If you are a pitcher – make sure you ask specifically about pitching and also hitting, if you pitch and hit.
  • How about the question that every coach will love, “Hey coach, I know I am not in the starting 9, but what would it take for me to be first off the bench in a pinch hit situation?”
  • or, “Hey coach, I know I’m not in the starting 9, but what are some things I can help with during the game to help the team out?” (ie chart pitches, try to pick opposing coaches signals, picking your teammates up).
  • Last one, “I want to gain your trust, do you think I could get a chance in a pinch hit situation?”

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.

Take Advantage of Your Opportunities!!!!

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.

  • If you get a chance to pinch hit, have a QUALITY AT BAT – take advantage of your opportunity
  • If you get a chance to start out on the field, don’t botch routine plays – act like you’ve been there
  • “No game experience” is not an excuse once you get to the high school level – make plays.

Be Able To Play Different Positions 

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.

  • Be diverse, be able to play multiple positions.
  • Learn from players who are playing in front of you.
  • Be ready to come off the bench in case of injury or in case you get called upon.

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.

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YOU Are YOUR Best Pitching Coach

Often, I will use the phrase, “Be your own pitching coach.”  You might not know exactly what that means or you might say, “But I have a pitching coach already…” and I would say that’s fine. BUT when it comes right down to it, and you’re in the middle of the circle with bases loaded and a full count on the hitter, that pitching coach can’t make the pitch happen FOR you. To “be your own pitching coach” means to learn to think for yourself, learn to FEEL for yourself and learn to make corrections on your own.

This just can’t magically happen in games, it has to be practiced at practice!

If you’ve taken lessons with me before, or come to one of my clinics, then you know one of my favorite things to ask is, “How did that FEEL?” I want a pitcher to slow her mind down, and actually have to take time to understand what her body just went through to create a certain pitch. In order to do that, you must take more time in between pitches to start to understand FEELING and let your brain figure out what exactly it did feel.  Feel is such a big part of pitching.

To feel means to understand what every body part is doing from fingers, down to hips down to knees and toes.

It means that someone can tell you an adjustment to make and simply by words alone, it can create a feel to that body part of what that body part needs to do differently the next pitch in order to make an adjustment. This is THE biggest thing to have as a pitcher. If you aren’t feeling, then you aren’t pitching. A pitching coach who is just going to tell the pitcher everything to do after every single pitch isn’t helping to create that feel. That’s making a pitcher a robot.  Robots don’t feel, they change on command. A pitching coach who tells his/her pitcher every single movement to make is not enabling that pitcher to think for herself

Being your own pitching coach is essentially like being your own boss.

How would you like it if your boss came into your office and said, “Do this…do that…no do is this way…no that’s not right…” Eventually, you would either get burnt out, or you would stop thinking for yourself.  Then, when it came time for you to change jobs or “perform” on a big stage, you might freeze, and not be sure of yourself because previously, someone had told you every single move to make.  Instead, I think it would feel more empowering to ask YOU, “What do you think about doing it this way?” or “How do YOU think we should do it?” Then you can answer, and think for yourself, and come up with an answer TOGETHER.  It’s teaching someone and not just TELLING them.  Teaching takes a little bit more time.  Just telling someone something is a quick way to get it over with, but it doesn’t help out the other person as much.  It’s the same way when a pitcher is learning not JUST what a pitching coach thinks, but also learning to form an opinion of her own about what she thinks works for HER.  By talking about what you feel with your pitching mechanics and having to actually talk about out loud about them, you learn to have more confidence and truly understand what your body does in order to make a pitch happen. You’re learning. You’re making mistakes. You’re growing. Most importantly, you are learning to take responsibility for YOUR pitching craft. It may be uncomfortable at first, but it is SO good for you, and you will eventually get more and more used to it.

Be your own pitching coach means thinking for yourself and being able to come up with an answer on your own without someone telling you what to do. Come game time, your pitching coach may not be at warm ups with you and he/she definitely won’t be out on the field with you. So how are you going to handle your own thoughts? How are you going to make your own adjustments and even REALIZE that it’s time to have adjustments? THIS is what pitching is all about. You can’t look to your parents for answers you can’t always look to your coach for answers. A lot of times, you have to look deep inside yourself. Don’t be a robot out there in the pitching circle. Be you.  Trust your thoughts in the game by learning to trust them in practice.

Look to yourself for the answers first.

Try new things. Be inventive. Something may work for you that a pitching coach didn’t TELL you to do, but if it WORKS (if it REALLY works), then you should be able to do it. I loved when I gave lessons and one of my girls would come up to me and say, “At practice, I was playing around with my curve ball, and I realized that when I throw it, if I put my hand HERE then it doesn’t work, but I slightly moved it back a little, and then it helped with the movement of it.”  <— THIS IS AWESOME…AMAZING…INCREDIBLE. If you can do this, if you are willing to even try new things on your own, you are going to grow and grow and grow. Nothing will stop you. This means that you are truly feeling what you are doing and are taking the time to understand pitching mechanics, think for yourself and isolating different body parts to make small changes along the way that will pay off to be big changes down the road.

At your next practice, think on YOUR OWN and be your own pitching coach. Think about what you FEEL is going wrong with a certain pitch or your mechanics. Slow your mind down to think about what your adjustment is. This pays off down the road. We should be free thinkers, able to express ourselves and come up with our own solution. It’s good to ask people for help, but it’s not good to ask people for answers ALL the time. Figure out some things on your own, it will stay with you longer and make you feel like later on when you need an answer or a quick fix, that the answer is already inside of you….just have to think about it a little to pull it out!

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