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…

Top Five Q’s with A – II

Can You Pitch Too Much?

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

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

Getting Burned Out

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

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

Longevity of Pitching Shoes

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

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

Tendency to Pitch Too Inside

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

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

Rise Ball Spin for Fastball

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

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

You OWN Confidence

CONFIDENCE: a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something.

Definitions are reminders to us of the real meaning of a word – not the meaning that others have applied to it, or meanings that have formed in our head over time from up and down experience.  The thing that sticks out to me about this definition of confidence is that it only has 1 pronoun in it, “you.”  The true definition of confidence has nothing to do with other people who surround us or statistics on a sheet of paper.  The only place that confidence comes is from inside YOU.  Yes, you.  Our confidence belongs to us, no one else.  Every morning we wake up we have a choice at how we are going to believe in ourselves.  Too easily we forget, especially when we are in the middle of a whirlwind of a season, that every day we wake up is a new day, and you have a choice every morning if and how you are going to believe in yourself.  You own that belief.  No one else does.

In my opinion, a “belief” is stronger than a “feeling.”  It’s one thing to feel like you are confident (a feeling can vary from day to day, can be short term), but it’s another thing to believe you are confident (a belief can control your inner thoughts for the rest of your life, can be long term).  It’s important to not let those down feelings that we get on some days in our life to snowball into a belief that we are no longer worthy or no longer confident in ourselves.  A feeling can just be a feeling – a single act, a one time thing.  A belief runs deeper.

A belief runs down through your inner core that no matter what has happened in a game earlier that day or yesterday, that you know deep down, without listening to what anybody else has to say, that you are meant to do great things.  Because you are.  We all are.

In sports, we are never ever in a million years going to be perfect.  Let me repeat, we are never going to be perfect.  In fact, we are all perfectly imperfect.  And in a game of failure like the game of softball, it’s going to challenge us to our max to dig deep in our own thoughts and mind, and believe that there is a confident athlete on the inside, at all times no matter what.

Remember, don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself.  Unrealistic expectations get in the way of our belief.  It’s unrealistic that you’re going to go 4 for 4 every game or throw a 7-inning shutout every time you take the field.  If we make this an expectation, then we can only let ourselves down, because we won’t ever be perfect.  On top of that, we usually judge the outcome when we don’t meet the expectations we have set.  The important thing to remember is not to judge the result.  When we judge, we feel like we are letting ourselves down and others down, and then we stay down feeling like we failed.  It creates negativity in our mind to where we might not be as productive the next time.  Instead of judging, recognize instead what you did wrong – don’t attach a feeling or an emotion to the outcome.   By recognizing what you did wrong, you can still keep the belief of confidence inside of you, and have a high chance of making adjustments.  This is something that must be practiced and become routine.

Play bigger than a feeling.  Play with a belief that others might not be able to understand.

When you step out onto the field or into the batter’s box, you can’t go out there hoping that you don’t mess up and being scared to make a mistake.  If you think this way, you’ll play tight and you might get lucky throughout the game, but the game won’t come as easy and won’t be as fun.  Realize you are thinking this way.  Don’t judge it.  Just notice it, and change your thoughts.  Understand when you think this way, that not only do you give yourself the impression that you’re scared, you give others the impression that you are scared (coaches, parents, fans, opposing team).  That helps give others the upperhand.

I remember taking the field and trying to have the mindset, “I get to show the other team and the fans how good I am.”  This wasn’t to put pressure on myself and it surely wasn’t to be cocky (if you know me, you know I am far from it).  It was because I loved to play this game, and I believed in my preparation and how FUN the game can be when you really let your  negative thoughts go, and you play like you really believe in yourself.   “I can’t wait to show them how much I’ve worked on my pitch selection.”  ” I get to show that other team how much my change up has improved since last season.”

The thing that I chose to believe in was my preparation and hard work, more than any negative outcome that tried to take that belief from me.

Unfortunately in this world, others put their unrealistic expectations on us, watching us, thinking we are supposed to play perfect.  Other people around us may second-guess our physical talent or second-guess decisions that we make.  A lot of times, it’s parents questioning playing time or coaching decisions.  Go back to the definition of confidence.  It didn’t say “they” or “he” or “she.”  The only thing it said was “you.”  Because if YOU believe, then “they”, “he” and “she” don’t have any choice other than to believe in you, too.

Remember, it comes from a belief, not just a feeling.

It doesn’t matter what others think – it matters what you think and the belief that you truly feel deep down about your own self and your own abilities every day you wake up. That belief can feel quite liberating and can be used as a shield towards what anyone else has to say.

I know it can be hard to push what others say away.  At the end of the day, remember that other people’s opinions are never greater than the belief that you have in yourself.  But here’s the thing: YOU must believe you are worthy to be out there and believe in your preparation.  Believe it deep down.  Don’t let others take away from your own belief – your beliefs are some of the strongest things you own on any given day.

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

“To live is rarest thing in the world – most people just exist.”   To truly believe is to live.  When you let others or outcomes dictate your confidence, you are just existing.  Every day, when you wake up, make a commitment you are going to believe in yourself unconditionally, and you get to show the world (including yourself) that you are meant to do great things.

Amanda Scarborough Inspiration

What is Beautiful Fastpitch

You are beautiful
 Beautiful- 1) having beauty; possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about ; 2) of a very high standard; excellent.
Fastpitch players are beautiful.  There…I said it.  It’s true.  “Beautiful” is a big word.  It’s used limitedly because of the standard we have tied to it in our culture, and we know that something must be of upmost quality for us to tag that word on it.  Because of its limited use, it is put on a pedestal and rarely pulled out of Webster’s to describe something or someone.  But what if we used to describe the way a young girl played softball?  The word “beautiful” is not a daily softball adjective used out on the field or at lessons like “attack” or “swing hard” or even “aggressive.”  It’s a word people shy away from using because of the grandeur of the word and thinking that it only goes with a sunset in the afternoon or a model during a photo shoot.  But “beautiful”, is a word that can be used to describe softball players and the standard our sport should hold.
Playing softball beautifully has nothing to do with physical looks (ie. eye color, weight, hair color).  No – playing softball beautifully means playing it with poise, playing it with passion, playing it with positivity and calmness. It means slowing the game down in your mind, taking your time in your at bat, playing defense out on the field with head held high and excitement of anticipation for the ball to come to you.  It’s being able to control your emotions during the game so that you have that ability to slow down in your mind the ground ball coming to you or how fast your at bat is going.
FASTPITCH Softball
Softball has a fast pace to the game as it is.  When you’re a player, the game speeds up 10x in your mind and everything seems faster than it really is.  Ask anybody who has played – when you are out on the field, the game seems even faster because your mind is racing; there are a lot of unsure players, which makes the game go by faster and faster until before you know it, the game is over.  A player who is focusing on playing beautifully slows her breathing down, slows her mind down and ultimately, the pace of the game slows down, thus, no matter what kind of mechanics you have, will yield more results because you can actually focus one pitch at a time, one step at a time.
Does playing softball beautifully mean that you’re always going to get a hit and never going to make an error? Not a chance.  That’s our game.  Our game was designed for you to fail, and if we didn’t fail, there would be no fun in it.  However, it’s really when you fail, that your true beauty can actually be seen the most.
So how do we get our players to think this, feel this, believe this? It lies in our coaching and providing the information for them.  Teaching them at a young age that they were made to play beautifully and having an understanding of what that looks like and what it feels like.
Can a hit be beautiful? Absolutely. Is a pitch with a lot of movement on it beautiful? You betcha. But those are things we cannot always control when we are playing.  As a player, I can control my attitude during the game, my respect for my teammates and my approach at the plate during my at bat.  I can control how fast thoughts are going through my head.  THOSE are the real things that add beauty to this game.  Taking pride in your uniform, taking pride in being a good teammate, and taking the responsibility to make adjustments at the plate or in the circle.  Those are things of REAL beauty.  Unfortunately, those are the things that don’t go I the scorebook or the news paper article, they aren’t the things of our game that gets all the hype.
Playing beautifully is something (like anything) that needs to be practiced.  It will not just show up magically in the game.  By being aware of what we look like on the field in between pitches when we are up to bat or on the field, we have a better understanding of what impressions we are giving off.  I go around and watch a lot of softball through college and travel ball.  The players who are fidgety, always messing with their uniforms,  always touching their hair, having fast/quick movements up at the plate or on deck, those are the players I know will not remember the game and it will pass them by very fast.  Those are the players, to me, who will actually end up beating themselves.  The players who are playing beautifully have calm, slow movements.  They are slowing down the game in their mind with these movements, and thus, slowing down the game for their team.
Beautiful Softball field
As coaches, we get so caught up in mechanics and fundamentals (which believe me, are very important and need to be practiced), but the idea of playing fastpitch beautifully needs to be discussed.  For mechanics, every coach is going to coach something different – where to hold your hands, how to use your lower half, how to throw a rise ball.  But with playing beautifully, I think there is a general consensus of what this looks like and what it should feel like to the players.
Most of you, I’m sure, have watched the Women’s College World Series and know who Lauren Chamberlain is.  She is, in my opinion, the greatest hitter in our game right now, and maybe when she is done with her 4 years at Oklahoma, one of the greatest hitters to have ever play our game.  When you watch her play, look at her approach and her confidence in between pitches.  She has a routine in between pitches in her at bat.  She’s calm, she is not constantly fidgeting, she is not constantly looking back at her coach and messing with her uniform.  All of her movements have purpose and I guarantee she remembers everything about her at bat.  She is letting the game come to her.  Does Lauren Chamberlain have great hitting mechanics? Yes- without a doubt.  But without her approach, poise, and routine at the plate, she would not be able to use those mechanics to their fullest potential.  Chamberlain would be a good hitter without her calm approach, but WITH the calm approach, she becomes one of the best.
Playing beautifully takes your game to YOUR next level.  It’s going to be different for everyone, and you can’t compare yourself and your results to the person sitting next to you.  This idea of being a beautiful player comes with time, it comes with practice and it comes with experience – all of which the idea of “beautiful” is at the forefront of your mind.  Act it.  Feel it.  Know it.
You are beautiful
Beautiful – Don’t be scared to use the word, don’t be scared to try to be the word, and definitely don’t be scared to coach the word.  All players have that beauty inside, it just needs to be brought out of each one in order for players across the country to play at their very highest ability.   Through sports and coaching, lessons are learned – competitiveness, work ethic, determination.  These are lessons that when softball is over, allows softball to still stay apart of you.  Just like softball is a medium for life lessons, softball should be a medium to make girls feel good about themselves, to feel beautiful.  The more beautiful you feel, the more confident you are, the more motivated you are to go out and achieve your dreams and think the sky is the limit.  It all starts with an at bat or throwing a pitch, and noticing a different way of moving and holding yourself to resemble being the most beautiful player that you can be.

 

  And that is beautiful fastptich.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Along the way I have learned…

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

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

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

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

  1. Always remember your own values.

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

  1. Have your teammates back, respect each other.

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

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

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

Amanda Scarborough

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

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

Amanda Scarborough

10 Things to Know As A Softball Player

From one softball player to another, I wanted to give you a few things to do and know that can help you become the best softball player you can be. Here are 10 things to know as a softball player (no matter your age or level).

1.Take Care of Your Glove.

Your glove should not look like a pancake. Pay attention to how you care for your glove. Keep a ball in it. When you set it down on the ground, set it down with the palm down. It should not look flat. This doesn’t change no matter how old you are or the level you play at. The way you take care of your glove is representative of how much you take pride in small details of this game. Small details of this game are VITAL for success.

2. Train explosiveness.

Think about it – our game is nothing but quick, explosive movements. Running to first base as quick as you can. One explosive pitch. 10 steps to run down a fly ball as an outfielder. One step to snag a line drive as an infielder. It does no good to run 4 miles. It’s better to do agilities or sprints. It’s better to do movements that are explosive – squat jumps, box jumps, broad jumps, etc. Those types of movements will help create the habit over time to be more explosive in every softball movement you do. Running long distance is great if you are trying to shed a few pounds, but that is not how our sport is played. Our sport is quick and fast. And that’s how you should train.

3. Listen to your parents, they can help you.

A lot of times your parents have the answers to help you make corrections. I know it’s hard to hear, but it’s true. Listen to them. Respect them. Build a relationship with them by communicating with how you would like to be given corrections, how often you would like to hear them or if YOU are going to be the one to go up to them and ask for their help. If they’ve been to lessons, practice and games with you, more times than not they have information that can help you, so develop a plan WITH your parents in how that information will be relayed and shared. They need to be able to listen to you, too, as you coach them on how to coach you where you can HEAR what they are telling you.

4. It’s cool to work hard.

You will come across teammates who don’t want to work hard for one reason or another. They will come up with excuses to get out of practice with the team, practice on their own, and games. No matter what anyone else is doing, know it’s super awesome to work your hardest at anything you are doing. Limit excuses and go out and play.

5. You are not defined as a person based on how “good” you are at softball.

Remember there is more to life than softball. 20 years after you are done playing, your friends will not remember how many strikeouts you had or how many homeruns you hit. They will remember if you were a good teammate, a good friend, and if you set a good example for younger players. Those things are more important than being labeled a “good” softball player. The awards you win or do not win as a softball player is NOT a direct reflection of the type of friend, daughter, sister or person you are. When your softball career is over, you don’t’ want someone saying, “Yeah she was a really good short stop, but I would not trust her as far as I could throw her.” Be loyal. Be trustworthy. Don’t gossip. Stay humble. Be appreciative.

6. Being a pitcher is not about striking everyone out.

Even if you are NOT a pitcher, this is an important one. Defenders – your pitchers are not going to strike everyone out. Get used to it. Make plays behind her. Pitchers – get it in your head that you are not going to strike everyone out, and don’t TRY to. Usually when you TRY to strike someone out, it doesn’t quite pan out how you want it to. Know your pitching strengths and how you get outs. The defense should be aware of your strengths such as best pitch, which side of the plate you throw to and if you generally get more ground ball outs or pop ups.

7. There’s always something to do in a game.

If you are at the ball field on a team, you have a job to do whether you are in the starting 9 or on the bench waiting for your chance. Even if you are injured and are not going to play, you can still contribute. Pick pitches or signs, notice pitching tendencies, pick up your teammates who are down, chart pitches for YOUR pitcher, chart pitches of the opposing pitcher. Get creative with how you are finding a way to still help your team, because in the end, if you are on a team, you are wanting to WIN even if you are not the one starting at your position.

8. It’s good to play multiple sports.

Playing multiple sports makes you a more diverse athlete. Every sport is going to work different muscles and different athletic skills, so the more sports you play, the better athlete you become. Don’t live your life in fear of getting hurt – that can happen anywhere. Be ATHLETIC. It’s one of the biggest things coaches look for when you get older, and you can develop a more diverse athletic skills profile by tackling different sports.

9. With every rep you take, you are either getting a little better or getting a little worse.

If you are going to practice, make that time worth it. The most valuable thing we have is time. So if you are using your time to take reps, take those reps and get BETTER. If you are not paying attention to your reps and just going through the motions, you might even be getting a little worse. Every time you go out to practice, remember that day you are either getting a little better or a little worse.

10. You will not be perfect – accept it.

You chose to play softball. Understand that this choice comes along with the fact you will NOT be perfect. Find a way to balance trying to be perfect with the acceptance that it is not going to happen. The longer you hang on to being up set that you were not perfect in a game, at practice or for a certain rep, the longer it takes to recover and get better/grow. Learn from your mistakes more than you hang on to them. It’s ok not to be perfect. Every person you play with, against, or who you have watched played before and may even look up to, has not been perfect at this sport. You are not alone. Trying to be perfect and the inability to work through NOT being perfect is one of the biggest limiting factors your game can come up against.

Same Game Different Stage

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

 

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

 

1. Create goals, inspire dreams

 

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

 

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

 

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

softball team

 

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

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

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

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

….and parents….

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

 

How Often Should You Practice? Guest Blog: Savana Lloyd (SL Fastpitch)

Savana Lloyd, from SL Fastpitch, hit a hot topic, covering how often a pitcher should practice.  As pitching coaches, we CONSTANTLY get asked this question.  It’s everyone’s favorite!  There is no concrete answer…but Savana describes how YOU (as a pitcher and as a parent) can come up with your own, customized answer for pitching practice time.  Here below is a preview of the blog, to go ahead and skip to the full blog, click here

How Often Should You Practice?

“One of the most popular questions a pitching coach gets is, “how often should I practice and how many pitches should I throw?”  The reason this is the most asked question is because there is no simple or magic answer. One thing that always comes to my mind when I get asked this is not only how often are you practicing, but what are you practicing.  I am going to do my best to help answer this question in a way that YOU can determine your answer!

First, lets outline some of the questions you need to ask yourself…

Do you have a clear plan?

Practice is about excellence, educating yourself, being smart, and having a clear plan. To start, let’s determine your needs:

  • How much time can you give to pitching?
    • What can you commit and what is realistic?
    • Who is your catcher? Do you need a catcher every time you practice?
  • How old are you?
    • Younger pitchers need more drills to develop mechanics
    • Older pitchers need situational pitching in addition to basic maintenance on mechanics.
  • Are you having fun?
    • a. To have fun you need to have a certain amount of success and in order to have success you need to practice enough to get there.
    • Having fun is IMPORTANT
    • Losing the fun often leads to losing motivation

Becoming great at anything takes repetition, therefore pitchers who practice more often seem to have the most success. I notice pitchers who practice consistently for shorter amounts of time (5 days a week, 30-60 minutes) make adjustments faster than pitchers who go out for long workouts less often (2 days a week for 1-2+ hours).

With that said, practice too often can have a mindless approach: simply repeating drills and throwing pitches without thinking or having a specific focus will not help you. Your time is precious and it needs to be directed, not just random. What exactly is it that you need to work on; throwing strikes? your reaction when you throw a ball? your footwork? The older you get the more specialized these questions become, but you always need to ask them.

How to Set-up a Pitching Practice

  • Warm-ups
  • Before even picking up the ball its important to get your body moving. The movements you do in this part of the warm up should ask similar things of your body that your pitch will. For example, arms overhead, hips open like your stride, push-offs….”

To finish reading this blog, go to How Often You Should Practice by SL Faspitch.

Dealing With Injuries Part 1 – Attitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) ATTITUDE

In the paragraph above, I listed numbers 1-4 that I will be discussing.  Numbers 2, 3 and 4 are all affected by #1 – Attitude.  It all starts with your attitude.  If you don’t continue to have a good attitude, then nothing else that I talk about in any of the blogs on injury will be able to positively take place.  A bad attitude is going to make someone more unmotivated, selfish and a slower healer.

Believe me, I get it, it’s hard to be injured.  I know better than anybody.  I’ve been there and done that.  It’s okay to be sad at first, but then there comes a time when you have to continue to live on and change that attitude.

Your attitude affects EVERYTHING! Your attitude affects you, it affects your team, it affects your family and it affects your friends.

Remember, every day is a new day.  That’s the beauty of life.  Every morning when we wake up we have a choice in how we are going to take on the day, no matter what happened to us the day before.  Every single person reading this has their own problems.  An injury can be one of those problems, but are you going to let it affect the energy that surrounds you and your attitude to take on life?  Instead of letting it pull you down, allow an injury to actually make you STRONGER.

Look at an injury as something you are going to learn from, and in the end you will be stronger from it.  Turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts.  The more positive attitude you have, the faster you will be able to heal by not stressing and  wearing your body down even more.  A bad attitude affects your friends and family who are around you, too.

Don’t let your bad attitude affect those people and pull them down with you.

To keep a more positive attitude, think about how your body is healing itself.  That’s what our bodies are made to do! That’s a positive way of looking at it.  Know every day, your body is working to heal whatever wound you have.  When you look at it that way, you only know it’s a matter of time before you’re back out there playing!

Last thing I am going to say about attitude is, you choose it.  You can’t control injuries, they’re going to happen.  But every day you wake up, you can control the attitude that you bring to life.  Have an attitude that realizes the injury, accepts it, and thinks, “Okay, what can I do right now in this present moment to make the situation better?”  If you don’t have a solid attitude, then contributing to your team pretty much isn’t going to be able to happen, you will most likely stop practicing (or if you’re practicing, you have a bad attitude while you’re doing it, so it pretty much you won’t get anything out of it), and if you have a bad attitude, you’re going to be less likely to be proactive to go get treatment and find ways to make yourself heal even faster.

Don’t feel sorry for yourself!  To me, players who have that bad attitude after they get injured are selfish players and just want attention.  They think that bad attitude is going to get them the attention since they can no longer get attention on the field anymore.  Change that.  Don’t be that person.

You can get through anything with a great attitude.  Have patience.  Remember to breathe.  Look at an injury from the attiude that this can be a learning experience.  Approach every day as a new a day and make the most of it!

With or without an injury you have complete choice about what kind of attitude you will have daily!

5 Essentials of a Change Up

A Change Up is a MUST HAVE weapon for a pitcher!  For almost all pitchers, a Change Up is the second pitch that is learned after a Fastball. A Change Up is a pitch that should be anywhere between 10-20 mph slower than your fastest pitch. The speed differential is determined on how fast you normally throw.  Being able to change speeds is critical to have success for a full 7 inning game where you will face the same hitter 3 or 4 times in the same game.  For a hitter – timing is everything.  So as a pitcher, it’s important to disrupt that timing by mixing speeds throughout the course of a game to show the hitter something different to keep them off balance and guessing!

There are lots of different ways to release a Change Up! If there were 100 pitchers standing in front of me, there would be 100 different ways they would tell me they release it!  A Change Up release will be unique to each pitcher and needs to feel COMFORTABLE for that pitcher to believe in and trust in it. However, regardless of HOW you choose to throw YOUR change up, there are a couple of things that need to remain consistent:

1. “Sell” the Change Up to the hitter.

The hitter must never know a Change Up is coming! This means from the facial expressions you show from taking the signal from the catcher with the nod of your head and the look in your eyes, to the way that you FINISH your pitch without slowing down through your release, EVERYTHING must look identical to your routine of your other pitches. Your arm speed should stay the same from the wind up of your pitch to the end release of your pitch.  You must fool the hitter and hide it from them until it is coming at them!

2. Throw the Change Up LOW.

When practicing this pitch AND throwing it in a game, you would rather miss it low and in the dirt than belt-high.  It’s much easier for a hitter to hit that pitch when it is up in the zone than ankle high. Aim low! Work on keeping this pitch down by adjusting your release point (releasing it earlier generally keeps the pitch lower) and you can also adjust where your weight is at release (having your weight slightly forward will angle the ball down as well).

3.  Keep it UNPREDICTABLE.

No matter how you throw it, it’s important to prove that you will throw a Change Up in different counts. Too often a pattern is formed to throw a change up only on 0-2 and 1-2 counts.  Mix the Change Up in to different counts to keep the hitter guessing. Throw it for a first pitch. Throw it on a 3-2 count.  Another way to keep the change up unpredictable is to possibly not throw it for an inning (please note this should be based on how the other team is recognizing the pitch and adjusting).  Or maybe one inning you throw it once, another inning you throw it 10 times. Do not fall into a certain pattern for how often you are trying to throw the pitch in a single inning. Maybe you don’t even SHOW the other team your Change Up until the second time through the order! This can be very effective as well!  Your job as a pitcher is to keep the hitter guessing!

4.  Find the perfect SPEED.

A Change Up can be too fast and a Change Up can be too slow.  If it’s too fast, it doesn’t affect a hitter’s timing, their swing can stay the exact same and they have a high probability to “run into” a pitch and get a hit.  If it’s too slow, a hitter can reload, sit back, see the pitch coming, and put a good swing on it.  It’s important to find the perfect speed for your change up and be able to practice it at that speed. I suggest using a radar gun for this purpose – so you know if you are consistently throwing the pitch at a certain speed and/or if you need to speed it up/slow the pitch down. Some pitchers can get away with their Change Up being 10mph slower.  Other pitchers need their Change Up to be between 17-20 mph different.  Generally, the faster you throw, the more mph you will need to take off of your pitch.  If you throw 70mph, you will need to take around 15-20 off.  If you throw 50mph, then you may only need to take about 10mph off.  Monitor what speed you are throwing your Change Up at in a game versus at practice. Pay attention to how and if you are fooling hitters. Are they getting fooled? Are they barreling up to the ball? Play with it! Try different speeds to see what works the best! 

5. THROW it!

Even if your change up is not your best pitch OR if your Change Up is your best pitch but it is not working in a game, keep throwing it!!  Keep a good attitude about it, and keep showing it to the other team.  When the opposing team and the hitter up to bat sees you throw a Change Up, it keeps it in the back of their mind that it is a pitch they may have to face when the hit against you.  You always want them to believe that there is a threat of you throwing it.  Even when it is not working perfectly, you SHOWING it to the hitter disrupts their timing by their eyes and brain SEEING a pitch coming out of your hand at a different speed.

Do not give up on your Change Up!

Just because you may not use your Change Up as your strike out pitch, does NOT mean to stop throwing it! If it’s your weakness right now, it can always turn into your strength if you keep working at it.  Be aware of the way you are thinking about your Change Up! If you always say it’s your worst pitch, then it will stay your worst pitch. Practice your thoughts and what you are saying to your friends, coaches and parents about your Change Up! It does NO GOOD to speak negatively about it. What are you doing at your practices to make this pitch better?!  This pitch is a MUST HAVE tool for a pitcher!

 

It’s Possible…When You Have Passion

POSSIBLE • adj. able to be done; within the power or capacity of someone.

When you believe anything is possible, you are usually right.

When you set your mind to something and work hard at it, your possibilities with what you can do are absolutely endless. It’s so important to believe this at a young age and instill this in players.  They have to have someone who believes in them, and they have to believe in themselves if they want to have success on the field.

Our aspirations are our possibilities.

The picture above is from yesterday’s advent calendar for bellalete, as we continue the countdown to Christmas. My friend, and co-founder, Savana, made this and used my picture in it.  I was surprised and it gave me goosebumps when I saw it posted. And it made me think…

Passion enables possibility to grow.  When you are passionate about something, your work ethic increases because you love what you are doing and you can’t get enough of it.  Therefore, with an increased work load, the possibilities of where you can go in your sport grow, too. I am living proof of this. Softball is my passion, along with many of you out there – as parents, as players and as coaches.

What a lot of people don’t know about me, is that when I was young and first started pitching, there were people who told me that I shouldn’t pitch anymore because I wasn’t good enough.  I was not always the best pitcher on the team, by any means.  I may not have had the best stats or the best fastball, but what I had was a burning passion inside of me and parents who believed in me and believed in my passion. What if I would have stopped? Where would I be? I certainly wouldn’t be here now…I look at the picture above and I am so happy that no one took my possibilities away from me at a young age.  When I look at that picture I see more than just pitching mechanics;  I see someone who believes in endless possibilities. And if you know me, you know I truly believe that anything is possible for those who believe.

Players will go through ups and downs.  It’s inevitable.  The same thing happened to me, it happens to EVERY player.  Some downs may be longer than others, and some players will have to work much harder than others to achieve their goals. There is no set formula or math problem to give an exact answer of when it will happen.

I get asked the question from parents, “Do you think my daughter should continue to pitch anymore? or “Is my daughter where she is supposed to be for her age?”   My answer ALWAYS reverts back to questioning the passion for that player, as I answer, “Does she love to do it?”  You can’t teach passion, but you can teach mechanics.

If a player has passion, then who am I to say that she should not pitch anymore? With that being said, the actions must match up with the words.  If someone is saying they are passionate, does their work ethic reflect that? Because with passion comes countless possibilities; even for those who right now in this moment may look like they are “struggling” to the naked eye. When you are passionate, you look over the struggles you are going through and you keep on persisting because you truly believe in your head that the possibilities are endless.

Realize everybody comes around in their own time.  Don’t rush it just because you as a parent aren’t happy with the results going on in the moment – to me, that is selfish.  Don’t take away the passion from someone by being too results-oriented. Question the passion, not the results.

Passion is either in you for softball (or anything in life) or it’s not; eventually you can’t fake it anymore if it’s not in you.  That passion on the inside is going to help a player grow as a person in the long term much more than someone who is results-oriented with wins and losses.  Winning a game is great, but helping young players win at life is even better.  If a player is passionate and not getting the results that they want, why take something they care about so much away from them? That’s not teaching them a good lesson.

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

What are your passions? How important do you think passion is when it comes to creating possibilities? Players, parents, coaches — I’d love to hear from you and learn!

It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.

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