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…

Confidence

CON . FI . DENCE : a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities

I like definitions. Too many times we use a word and the true meaning gets lost from our day to day use of the word or overuse of it. So to me, definitions serve as important reminders as what we are trying to convey in our every day speech.

Players, coaches and parents know that confidence is important to feel in order to have success as a team and as an individual player. The biggest question stems from where does it come from? Parents and coaches automatically assume that their players will just be confident by merely bringing it up in a post game meeting or in a car ride home. Confidence doesn’t come from a conversation.

Confidence doesn’t come from two conversations. For most players, confidence happens over time.

In my mind, there are two different types of players – 1) the player who is innately confident, and 2) the player who learns to be confident. You know these players who are innately confident – they are the ones who ever since they picked up a ball or a bat just knew they could do it. I played with one of these players, Megan Gibson, current assistant softball coach at Penn State University. Megan is my one of my oldest friends and long-time teammate from Texas A&M and well before the college days. Megan was a two way player who hit, pitched, and played first base when she was not pitching. For as long as I can remember, Megan was just plain confident no matter what – at practice, in games, socially, etc. I looked up to her because I recognized that this was something that was not naturally inside of me. Megan had the type of mentality that she knew she could beat you, even if statistically the other player was supposed to “win” when she was pitching or hitting. Just by merely stepping out onto the field, she had a confidence that was unlike any other, and the rest of our teammates fed off of it. She was just confident because that’s just who she was on the inside for as long as I could remember. From my experience, those who just are innately confident are not the norm, they are the outliers. As coaches, you wish every player could be like Megan, and just step on the field to compete and think they could beat anyone. It’s a quality you can’t teach and that few athletes are born with. These are the players who just have “it.”

Amanda Scarborough Confidence

The majority of players have to…

learn to be confident, just like players have to learn to throw a ball. It’s a process and it gets stronger the more it’s practiced. I, personally, learned to be more confident through hard work and practice.

My confident feeling was created through repetition before it came game time to ease my mind that I was prepared. I knew the more I practiced, the more comfortable I would be for a game and the likelihood would go up that I would have success at the plate or in the circle. I gained confidence with every practice knowing I was putting in the time outside of the game.

In practice I prepared, in games I trusted.

The times I didn’t practice as much, I didn’t feel as comfortable with my playing abilities, which caused me to be less confident and have less results come game time. I was the type of player, especially in college, that would come to practice early or stay late when the majority of my teammates were already gone. The hard workers are the players who are putting in extra time outside of the scheduled practice times. They are doing things on their own when no one is telling them to, trying to gain confidence in their personal craft so they can have success when it really matters. Preparation breeds confidence.

Amanda Scarborough Confidence Blog

Instead of telling a player she needs more confidence, try asking her if she feels confident, and have her answer using her own words.  Ask her what she can do in order to feel more confident.  Confidence is a feeling.  It’s an attitude.  Confidence is shown by behaviors on the field in every move that you make from the way that you take the field to the way that you go up to bat.  Confident behaviors are calm.  They are smooth.  When you are confident the game slows down. Even just by ACTING confident with your body language on the field, the game starts to slow down in your mind.  It is when the game slows down in your own mind that you are going to be able to flourish with confidence and results.

Let me ask you these questions…

What do you look like in between pitches at your position? Do you look like you’re nervous? Or do you look like you’re calm, cool and collected? ….as if anything can come your way and you’ve got it. If you don’t look this way, what are you going to do to change it? Video your player if her opinion of what she is doing is different than the coach’s or parents opinion.

When you’re up to bat are you constantly fidgety and always looking down to your third base coach? ….or are your thoughts collected and you’re involved in your own routine, and then you merely glance down at your coach to see if he/she is going to give you any signals?

If you’re a pitcher, do you make eye contact with other players on the field with you? That eye contact signals confidence that you have in yourself and confidence you have in your teammates. In the circle are you constantly looking at your coach for reassurance, or do you keep your gaze maintained on what is going on with your catcher and the batter in front of you. Confident players aren’t afraid to make eye contact with the opposing hitter. They aren’t afraid to make eye contact with their own teammates when things start to unravel a bit out on the field. The eye contact is needed most at this time so that your teammates feel like they are behind you and that you in the circle are still confident- everyone is working together.

Confident actions start when you’re getting out of your car to walk to the field – how you’re carrying your bat bag, the way you speak to your coaches.  Confident actions are bred OUTSIDE of the softball field.  How do you walk down the hall when you are at school?  Is it confidently? Or is it fearfully?

 

Ways to show/gain confidence:

–  Consistent eye contact when someone (peer, coach or parent) is talking to you or you’re talking to them
–  Making your own decisions without looking to your friends to see what they are going to do
–  Becoming better friends with someone on your team/at your school who doesn’t normally run in your circle of friends
–  Keeping your eyes up when you’re walking into the ballpark, down the hall at school, running onto the softball field
–  Hands stay still without pulling at your jersey or messing with your hair whenever you’re in the dugout, on deck or out in the field – think about what your hands are doing, they say a lot about your confidence
–  Meet new people
–  Speak up in a team meeting
–  Take on more responsibility around your house / on your team
 Speak clearly, don’t mumble

How are you practicing your confidence? More importantly, are you practicing confidence?  This is a daily characteristic to think about.  Will you feel more confident by preparing more? Do you gain confidence by changing your body language? What works for you?  Shine on the field and play beautifully, the way you were born to play.

Amanda Scarborough Confidence

Texas A&M HOF Induction Night

On October 31, 2014, I got inducted into the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame with 5 other Texas A&M athletes. Another softball player (Megan Gibson), a track runner, a football player, a soccer play and a volleyball player. 5/6 inductees were female – the most ever inducted in one year into the Texas A&M Hall of Fame. To write a Thank You Acceptance speech for such a meaningful honor made me stop and think about ALL of the people who had played a role in my life to get me to the level I played at when I played at Texas A&M. It wasn’t just my parents, it wasn’t just my A&M Coach; No. There were more than that. I could have written an entire novel on all of the different people who impacted my life for the better and have contributed to my success on the field. I am profoundly thankful and proud to have play at Texas A&M University.

Although when I got up there to give my Thank You speech I did not go verbatim from this speech, it gives a pretty good idea of how the speech went, and I wanted to share it because many of you had asked wanting to see it. So here it is!

“Never would I have dreamt I would be standing in front of you, getting inducted into the Texas A&M Hall of Fame. I am so unbelievably proud to be an Aggie and deeply believe choosing Texas A&M was the best decision I have made in my life.  From the minute I walked onto campus I understood very quickly that “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.”

First, I feel honored to be standing on stage with these decorated athletes and to forever hold a place with them in a hall filled with history, memories, championships and an Aggie’s most sacred word, tradition. To all those Aggies who played before me, thank you for setting the standard for tradition. It is the tradition that is the heartbeat of all athletes and of Texas A&M. That sacred word Tradition was the daily reminder that I played for something bigger than myself.

Second, to the selection committee, thank you for voting me in. As if being selected into the HOF wasn’t enough, hearing that I was selected with one of my oldest and best friends was nothing short of a dream come true. Tonight would not feel complete without Megan Gibson up here by my side.

Megan, I don’t know softball without you. We grew up around the ball field wearing the same uniform and having friends AND family (including our parents) calling us the wrong name. “Amanda, I mean Megan. Megan, I mean Amanda.” We would always laugh. We were the same age. Both blondes. Both pitchers Both hitters. Both from Houston. It was so fitting that we would both choose Texas A&M.

You pushed me physically. You made me stronger mentally. You made me a better competitor and together, we supplied each other with the criticism necessary to become more successful than we ever thought possible.  Without you, I am not sure I would be standing here today.  To Megan’s family, Darren, Sharon and Krystal, you guys are like MY family. Getting to be coached by you, Darren, with the deadly combination of my dad, was so much fun and I wish we could go back and relive those memories. Thank you Gibson family for being such a big part of my life and career.

I can’t think of playing ball at A&M without thinking of our 2 other classmates, Jami Lobpries and Jamie Hinshaw. They’re to this day some of my closest friends. Our senior year, Coach Evans pulled us together and asked us to think about what we wanted to leave as our legacy; it was the conversation she had with every senior class that comes through the program. After the conversation, we didn’t have to say it out loud. We knew the mark we wanted to leave.  Our legacy only partly consisted of competing for a National Championship, but it’s roots were much deeper than that. We wanted to be  known as gritty, determined, fearless teammates who were dedicated to leaving every piece of everything we had on the field every time we competed. For each other, for our teammates, for the 12th man, and for the university. Thank you Jami, Megan and Jamie for the accountability you provided in our relentless perseverance to execute our legacy.

I had the privilege to play for a head coach who made me a better softball player, all the while making me a stronger woman. I do not have enough time to give her the amount credit she deserves in how much she has impacted my life. She taught me a refined way of leading, how to fight and most of all, she taught me how to trust in myself and in my preparation. She reinvented the word compete, didn’t just tell me, but showed me every day at practice. Little did I know, what she was really doing, was teaching me out to compete in the real world.

Coach Evans, thank you for choosing me to play ball at Texas A&M and trusting that I had what it took to be an Aggie. I was born to play for you. You believed in me more than I believed in myself.  You were able to pull the VERY BEST out of me and you played one of the biggest roles in all that I accomplished. Even though I no longer get to practice with you every day the role that you played in my life is present daily.

To Joy Jackson, Rich Wilegiman and Mary Jo Firnbach, each of you influenced me in your own unique way and helped me to grow. Your support and guidance throughout my career meant the world to me.

A player’s goal is always to leave college better, stronger, and wiser than when she comes in. Looking back, it was because of Coach Evans and her staff that I can honestly say I did that.

An honor like this doesn’t happen without being surrounded by incredible coaches before I stepped foot in College Station. As a softball player, it’s critical to your success to find private coaches you can trust. Ironically, my first ever pitching coach at age 9 was Robert Andaya, who was Texas A&M Hall of Famer and softball great, Shawn Andaya’s father. At that time, I didn’t even know what Texas A&M was, I didn’t know what the word scholarship even meant, but looking back, he was the first person I remember talking to about these things and the first person who officially taught me how to pitch.  How fitting that years later, I would receive a scholarship and play for the same school as his All American daughter. My other private coaches, Ron Wolfworth, Jill Rischel,  Ken Hazlewood, and Richard Schriener…you all came into my lives at different times, but you all taught me my foundation and pushed me every week. Thank you so much for all of the time you dedicated to working with me and not just becoming my coaches, but lifelong friends.

My family moved to Magnolia my freshman year. Lucky for me, I moved to a highly competitive high school playing for Coach Renee Bialas and Coach Sheryl Tamborello.  Playing at Magnolia High School gave me my first memories of competing for a championship. I remember this being a time I really started to come into my own on the softball diamond. Thank you, both of you, for your unwavering support throughout my high school career and beyond.

My family became a fastpitch-loving group of people – aunts, uncles cousins and grandparents, alike. They may not have been fans of softball before me, but by golly did they become fans along the way. Thank you each and every one of you for putting up with my crazy softball schedule that I’ve had since I was 10, and continue to have at age 28. Even in times when you were not present, I could feel your love and support from afar.

And finally, but most importantly, to my parents, Mark and Sally, when I think of you both, I think of the word “presence.” You guys were physically present for everything, but your presence went beyond that. It was and is a presence full of positivity, happiness and overwhelming love. Taking the field would have felt so different without your presence in the stands (as my parents only missed a handful of games home or away).  It felt amazing to play and travel, knowing you were there to constantly cheer me on. Through the ups and downs of a season – Win, lose, strikeout or homerun, your love felt unconditional from the time I picked up a ball at age 6 to now at 28.

Thank you for encouraging me to follow my heart and trust in my own decision making. That is what led me to the best 4 years of my life: playing softball at Texas A&M. My heart overflows with gratitude when I think of the 2 of you and lasting impact you have made in my life. I wouldn’t be here without your sacrifices, effort and influence.

This induction is for all of you – friends, family, coaches and teammates. You guys believed in me. You helped give me the confidence to go out and play the sport I love with a growing confidence. Each and every one of you played a part in helping me perform to the highest of my ability.

My time at A&M was more valuable than I could have ever imagined.  This University, the 12th man, the academic staff, the athletic staff, my teammates and my coaches each taught me values that I now have the privilege of paying forward…and for that, I am eternally thankful.

Thanks and gig ’em.”

141031_E28Q4766 photo 2 141031_E28Q4567 141031_E28Q4564 photoAmanda Scarborough and Megan Gibson Texas A&M HOF

 

What does it mean to be competitive? Part 2 – Competing for your position

(This month’s topic will be broken down into 3 parts)
Two weeks ago, I sent out Part 1 of this topic “Competing Against Other Teams.”
To see Part 1 of this topic click here
One of the words I most frequently heard at Texas A&M from head coach, Jo Evans, was “COMPETE.”
 

Competition fuels desire.  Competition adds drive. Competing has become somewhat of a lost art for this generation of softball players, and one that I hear from many college coaches that is a characteristic they are searching for in their future athletes.  Nowadays, more often than not,competing is a quality that is having to be taught, instead of being innate.

When I use the word “compete” I am referring to that inner fire that burns to go out on the field and beat the team in the opposing dugout, to compete for a position and to compete against yourself to see just how good you can really be.

Competition is one of those lessons that sports builds in you, if you allow it.  However, being around the softball fields at the select and college levels, I see fewer and fewer girls who are showing up and just flat out competing when they are out on that field.

Competing is one of the biggest things college coaches are looking for in players right now.  Many times, they are claiming that it is a quality that is missing In recruits across the country.  Some coaches will even take that desire to compete over a player who has better talent.  It’s that competitive nature that makes you a great teammate and allows you to be a player that other coaches and teammates would want to go to war with.  It’s not always about the player who has the most talent; it’s about the player who has talent and has a fierce competitive drive that runs deep inside of her.

 Competing for a position

 

Now this form of competition isn’t as basic as competing against other teams.  This one is a little bit tougher because it involves competing against your own teammate.  This is specifically tricky with girls because most girls don’t want to hurt other girls feelings.  Having competition at different positions around the field is so important for a team’s success because you get the very most out of your players.  If there is no competition for positions, players can get complacent and never really grow.  Competing for a position pushes both players to become the best they can be knowing that if they perform better than the other player, then they get to start in the big game.  Competing for positions is a big reason why college teams will carry more players on their roster than a select team.

Steve Martin Quote

Competing for a position is THE BIGGEST lost form of competition, and I will tell you why.  There are more select softball teams across the country than there ever have been before, meaning there are more options; and if someone is not happy with playing time, it’s very easy for them to pick up and leave and go to another team where they can fine more playing time.  I’m sure you know them, the typical team hoppers who leave because everything just isn’t right.  They always have different excuses for leaving the team, but in general, the biggest reason people leave teams is because their daughter isn’t getting enough playing time.  So let’s think about this for a second.  By allowing your daughter to change teams based on playing time, you’re telling her that she doesn’t have to earn that spot and compete for that position because if we aren’t getting what we want, then we can go find it somewhere else.  The easy thing to do is pick up and leave and find another team so your daughter can play.  The hard thing is to challenge up and stay on the team to earn that spot.   I promise, in the long run, she will be better because of it.

If a player isn’t playing…I guarantee there is a reason for it other than the coach just simply having favorites and/or not liking the player.  If I am the player who is not playing, I am going to find out why I am not playing (by asking the coach myself, NOT my parents) and then work hard on whatever the reason is when I am practicing.  Maybe the reason you are not playing is because you are not clutch with runners in scoring position.  Maybe the reason is because you make scary throws to first base on a ground ball.  There is going to be a reason, but there is NO reason not to go work hard on whatever it is it may be.  But here is the catch: if the player is NOT making the changes to become a better player, then WHY would the coach put them in?

Earning a spot can be difficult; earning a position can be challenging; but earning a position is one of the most rewarding things that can happen to a player.  If you’re not getting playing time and you think you’re working hard enough?  Work harder.  Do you think you’re putting in a lot of time? Well put in more. Want it more than that other person.  Eventually, you’ll get it; but it’s not going to come easy.  A big part of competing for a position is taking advantage of your opportunities.  For example: maybe a player doesn’t start but she is called upon to pinch hit with a runner at 3B and less than 2 outs.  Does the player cave in this situation? Or does she get mentally tough to embrace this opportunity and make the most out of it by hitting a SAC fly and getting the RBI?

Another example of making the most of your opportunity is if the player who plays defensively in front of you makes an error, and your coach calls your out to go play in the field.  The first ground ball that comes to you, do you boot it?  Or do you make the play cleanly?  TAKING ADVANTAGE OF OPPORTUNITIES will be a way that you earn your spot and catch your coach’s attention.  If you are NOT taking advantage of opportunities, then why would your coach want to play you?  To take advantage of opportunities, you must be focused, you must know the situation and you must be mentally strong to believe in yourself.  Someone might make an excuse after not taking advantage of your opportunity such as, “well I didn’t come through because I don’t get to play as much as the other players.”  This is just an excuse for not coming through, and it doesn’t apply.  If you’re putting in the practice time and fall into the trusting mindset in the game, you will be better served to take advantage of these opportunities physically and mentally.

Find a way or fade away

Don’t teach your daughter the wrong thing – that if you’re not happy with something, it’s okay to pick up and leave.  Teach her work ethic by teaching her competition within her position.  Make sure you have a coach that is teaching this same philosophy, because maybe your daughter is the one at the “starting” position.  Is she being pushed? Is someone right there next to her at practice pushing her with every swing and every ground ball?  If not, then I can guarantee she will not become the best player she can be because there is no one right there next to her breathing down her neck wanting to take that position.  That is pure competition.

Competing for a position will prepare her for college.  The ultimate goal of any college team is to win, a coach’s livihood at his/her schools depends on it.  So you better believe that the best players will play and that coaches want this friendly competition out on the field within their team so players are day in and day out pushing each other.  If your daughter is not preparing for it now, she won’t be ready for it when she makes it to the next level, whichever level that may be – high school, all stars, league team, college.  Encourage competition, don’t shy away from it.  Teach your daughter that if she wants something, she has to prove a point and send a message by working harder than she’s ever worked before to be named the game day starter.

Lastly, an important thing to remember for this kind of competition is not to give up.  Anything can change.  Maybe the person you are competing with stops working hard, but you continued to work your very hardest and you end up beating them out at the end of the season.  If you want it bad enough, you will work hard enough to achieve your dreams.  If you don’t put in the work or make the changes, that tells me you never wanted it in the first place.  Every player wants playing time, but it should always be earned.  The reward is getting to be out on the field come game time. Passion, or lack of passion, is shown when competing for a position.  How bad do you want it?

Is there competition at your position?  Are you being pushed by your teammate?  Are you pushing your teammate?  Are you caving when you have opportunities?  Make the most of your opportunities…be so good they can’t ignore you. 

COMPETE EVERY PITCH.

 

Welcome

Amanda Scarborough - Welcome

A big welcome to my new website!  You definitely will see a different look with more interaction from me to you.  I wanted to build a site to form a place where softball fans could come and read/research a little bit, as the game of softball is still a big part of my life; but at the same time, I wanted a website that was able to track my career and show all of my life adventures, as I really am never in the same place for too long.  I’m so excited to share this with you as I continue to grow and evolve as a softball coach, a sports broadcaster, a clothing creator and overall as a person.

I feel like I lead a unique life.  I can’t tell you in 1 sentence what I actually do for a career, because there are so many things that I get to do for a “job.”  A typical month for me includes traveling across the country, working with youth softball players, being on TV for some kind of sports game and working on my new clothing line I just co-founded with my best friend, Savana Lloyd, called bellalete. This website serves as a medium to bring all of these different things together to show all of the different parts of my life and things that I am working on.

My original website, www.amanda9.com , served as more as more of a business card.  It was a place on the internet where people could find out information about the softball services that I offer. That website was made 3-4 years ago, and my how things have changed!!  At the time I made that website, I thought I would solely be a pitching instructor and travel across the country putting on camps/clinics.  This is no longer the case.  Over time, I have evolved into something that is more than that, and every year, my life changes a little bit as more and more opportunities come my way.  I have been SO SO unbelievably lucky with where my life has led me to get to do what I do now.   I wanted to share it with you all….

So let me be the first to officially welcome you to amanda-scarborough.com.  It’s a place to read, it’s a place to learn and it’s a place to interact.  You have the ability to use it however you would want.  Take a look around and let me know what you think!

Before you go and check it out, if you wanted to read a little bit more about each of the different things I do in my career, I wanted to give you a little insight…

I’m Amanda.  I’m a pitching coach, a softball tournament team coach, a softball clinician, a sports broadcaster, a clothing designer and a motivational speaker. There.  I answered it in one sentence!  The two questions I get asked so often (especially on a plane) and the two questions that are the most difficult for me to answer in one sentence are:

Why do I travel so much?

The odd thing about everything I do in my career is that if you would have asked me during my senior year of college what I wanted to do with my life, I would not have told you one of these things listed below.  My answer would not have involved softball, and it definitely would not have involved speaking in front of people, because speaking in front of a big group of people, or even walking in front of a group of people used to terrify me.  Everyone is looking for their passion and ironically, I found it in things that I honestly felt like I had no interest in doing.  With that being said, I feel like softball has helped build the confidence inside of me to do these things listed below.  So what exactly do I do? Well allow me to explain…

Private Pitching lessons

I still give lessons in the Houston area, but it is not nearly as often as it once was.  I still want to give pitching lessons because I enjoy the girls that I work with so much, and I still absolutely love learning about pitching and coaching; it never gets old to me.  Over the past couple of years I have received emails from parents and pitchers all across the country wanting to fly in and work with me.  I LOVE working with pitchers, I consider it one of my passions, however my time has been much more limited with this.  I have learned over the past years that I know pitching mechanics pretty well, however, I know that when I give pitching lessons, my relationship with the pitcher is much more than just teaching them mechanics.  Over the years, I have learned that I can truly make an impact in these girls lives on and off the field.  I genuinely love helping a young player learn about herself, gain more self-confidence and find ways to deal with any kind of mental issue she may stumble upon playing the game of softball.  I have also learned that, at the end of the day, pitching mechanics are important, but what is more important is a girl believing in herself and being surrounded by someone that believes in her.   When a young player has this, that is when she is going to go out and become the best player she can be.  When it comes down to it, it’s not about just softball, it’s about building girls who will turn into strong women and helping them build confidence that they can go out and take on anything that comes their way.  My pitching lessons, and softball in general, go much further than just teaching a rise ball or a power drill.  My job as a pitching coach is to teach those things, but also serve as role model that a young girl can look up to and go with any kind of question.

Softball Camps/Clinics

I definitely still work camps and clinics, but instead of them being more localized around the Houston area, I have been getting to work more camps that are outside of the Houston area.  I truly enjoy working camps because it is a way that I am able to work with and touch more girls.  I am always open to working camps and clinics outside of the U.S., and in fact, I am working a camp in Canada in January.  Another reason I like working camps is because I get to meet so many different people outside of my state.  I am always up for answering softball questions with all the different people I meet.  Simply put, I love talking about this game of softball.

ESPN/Longhorn Network College Softball Analyst

What does a college softball analyst do you may ask?  Well, some people get paid to analyze numbers or the way a machine works.  I analyze the game of softball during the college softball season, which is February – June.  This new adventure started for me in 2009, when I got a chance to work 3 games in a Super Regional during that season.  I immediately fell in love with it and wanted to do more, but at the time there just wasn’t the coverage of softball that it has grown to currently have.  Over the past 3-4 years, the television coverage of the sport has grown across ESPN’s networks and also across other network.  With the growth of that coverage, I have seen growth in the numbers of games every season I have gotten to cover.  Two years ago, I made a 3-5 year goal that I wanted to do 50 softball games in 1 season.  Last year, in the 2013 season, I got to do about 40-45.  I couldn’t believe it, goal almost met!  It is so much fun to be able to travel across the country, meet different coaches, see how  different softball programs operate and cover different softball conferences.  I learn a lot about the different programs and coaching styles when I get the chance to cover a school doing their game on TV.  I still pinch myself when I think about it.  I am living a dream.  I cannot believe that I get the amazing opportunity to talk about the sport I love on TV.

College basketball/college football Sideline Reporter

From being a college softball analyst, I have now been given opportunities for sideline reporting for college basketball and college football during the fall.  This is one of the newest of all of my adventures, as it truly is just getting started, as I just did my first college basketball games about 2 months ago on Longhorn Network, and also did my first college football game about a month ago, too.  I am hoping that I will continue to get more opportunities to be able to cover more games!  I have 6-7 college basketball games coming up in Austin for Texas men’s and women’s basketball game as a sideline reporter.  A sideline reporter is a job much different than my softball analyst position during the softball season.  As a reporter, my job is not to analyze what’s going out on the field.  I’m checking out injuries, doing human interest stories and always trying to get the scoop to report on what is going on on the court or on the field that the two people in the booth calling the game cannot see.  I am so excited to see where these opportunities lead me…  

Texas Firecrackers Gold assistant coach

I work with the Texas Firecrackers, out of Houston Texas.  We are a part of the Firecrackers organization that is continuing to grow across the country.  Now something about me is that I always swore I would never coach with a tournament team,. However, what I found with the Firecrackers is that they were spreading a message via softball that I really connected with and felt like I aligned with.  What stood out to me about the Firecrackers is that they have a message that is more important than just wins and losses.  They stress a message of building players to be strong women off the field by the way that they are treated ON the field. I think that this is so important, because when I look back at my own youth career, it has shaped me so much to become the woman that I am today.  From a young age, I was always surrounded by coaches who didn’t yell at me and degrade me on the field.  I could not have played for a coach like that and I do not believe in coaching like that.  That may be for some people, but it is definitely not for me.  A coach should be someone who is a role model for their players and is teaching them on the field lessons.  What I realized through coaching is that how players allow coaches to talk to them on the field will affect  how they allow people to treat them and talk to them as they grow up and become young adults outside of the softball field.  So don’t get me wrong, I love to win; but what I love more than winning is teaching young girls to have self confidence and be mentally strong, and I feel like I do that through helping coach with the Texas Firecrackers.

A new clothing line – bellalete

This was one that I guess you could say was on my bucket list.  My best friend, and co-founder, Savana Lloyd, came up with the idea a couple of years ago to create an athletic apparel line made by softball players for softball players.   Being around the softball field on a regular basis, whether it’s covering college softball, working camps/clinics or working with the Texas Firecrackers out at tournaments, I’ve noticed that there has never been clothes designed specifically for softball players.   Savana and I kicked around the idea for quite a few months, then we finally decided to break down and go for it.

Why is this important to me and Savana? Well, if you know me, you know that I love athletic clothes, because I am always in them.  I love to work out in them, I love to travel in them and I love to coach in them.  Savana is the exact same way.  Since we are always in them, we thought it could be pretty cool to make our own clothes, while also adding a little style to the softball field, but more importantly, have the ability to spread an important message.   About a year and a half ago, we decided that we officially wanted to do it and invest time and thought to create something that isn’t out there.  That is when we came up with bellalete.  “bella” is Spanish for beautiful.  And “lete” is the last 4 letters in athlete.  Put those two things together and you have a beautiful athlete.  bellalete.

When we thought of bellalete, our initial reason to do so was to be able to toudh more girls than just through our softball coaching with an inspiring message.  Through our coaching, we are consistently trying to empower girls and help them with their own self-confidence so that they feel better about themselves, which inevitably helps with their results on the field.  When you feel good, play good.  That’s just how it is.  (feel good can apply to what you feel on the inside and what you feel like you look like on the outside).

We originally thought that bellalete would just be around the softball field, but we soon realized that the message we wanted to send out through bellalete was a message that could apply to more than just softball players.  It’s a message that can apply to all female athletes and women around the world.  When we think of bellalete, we think of a combined effort through comfortable clothing that helps spread a message to empower women to be strong, encourage them to be happy and to inspire them be confident.  These are the keys to having success in anything you take on in life.

Motivational Speaker

I’ve had the opportunity to be around some pretty amazing people with great leadership abilities.  I would say the biggest mentor I have had is my coach from Texas A&M, Jo Evans.  That woman can move an entire room when she speaks.  I remember listening to her in post game meetings or during practice, getting goose bumps and, getting so fired up to go out and play.  She gave me all the tools I needed to set me up for success after softball simply by teaching the value of staying under control with your emotions and the value of hard work.  So much of what I know about motivating and talking about passion comes from her and getting to listen to her for 6 straight years.  I try to take what I learned from her, and also what I learned from my own parents, and bring it to the softball players and the youth to try to make a difference.  I always give a post-camp speech at all of my camps, and honestly.  I know that I have been given a gift to talk about softball, passion, work ethic and attitude; I’m not really sure exactly where it comes from, but I do intend to use it.  It’s so crazy I am saying this, because like I said before, I used to be terrified to talk in front of people, ask a question in class or even walk in front of people on a stage.  Now I talk about softball on TV for millions of people to listen and also give speeches in front of sometimes hundreds of people.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this gives you a little bit more of an idea about what I offer as a softball coach and what exactly I am doing when I am not on the softball field!

Redefining Failure

Simply put, the definition of failure is “lack of success.”

So if that’s the case, then we can’t define failure until we define success. How do YOU define success? Is it getting a hit? Is it pitching a no hitter? Is it having a quality at bat? Is it moving the runner? Do you even know how you are defining success to your team, to your daughter and to yourself?

In order to help their players define what success is, it’s important for coaches to have a concise message of what it is that they are defining as success. A clear cut message so that the staff is all on the same page, delivering the same message to a team no matter what the circumstances are. You don’t want to send conflicting messages of what is and is not success, then you end up with confusion, which leads to insecurity and tightness while playing.

So, how do you define success in softball?

Is a hit success?

If you are basing your success off of average and average alone, then yes, a hit for you would be considered success. However, batting average is the trap most players, parents and coaches fall into.   Basing success off of batting average is like falling right into quick sand. The sand looks solid, it looks like you will be able to successfully cross over to the other side by going over the quick sand. But as soon as you step on the quick sand, what happens? It falls through.

Few college coaches these days are paying attention to averages in recognition of their own team’s success. They are basing success more off of on base percentage and execution in a game. They base success off of how hard their team competed for the full 7 innings and how hard they fought for each other.  Those are the real successes throughout the game to notice.

Think about how a solid batting average is .300-.400. That means that 3/10 times you are getting hits (“success”) and the other 7 times you are not getting hits (“failure”). Well this would drive anybody nuts, and it would be hard to stay positive since in our game, when hits are defined as a success, we know that even the BEST players fail more than they succeed.

When you are focused more on batting average, you are focusing more on yourself and your own failure than the team.

When you are focusing more on competing, executing, and getting on base, the success becomes more focused around the TEAM rather than the individual.  Competing, executing, moving runners and getting on base represent items that help the team towards their goals.

If players are just thinking about to get a hit or not to get a hit, players allow the game to feel stressful to them, because of the amount of times you will “fail” in the eyes of your teammates, coaches, parents and yourself. It’s not fun to fail in front of people. And in softball, everybody knows when you strike out, everybody knows when you give up a homerun and everyone knows when you are the one that gets the big hit. It’s never a secret out on the field.  Where coaches and most parents don’t see success are the smaller things, like when a player comes up with a runner on 2B with less than 2 outs and hits a ground ball to the right side of the field.  The runner advanced to 3B on the ground ball, the hitter got throw out at first.  In my eyes – that runner moving up a base, is success.  However, most parents simply see it that their kid didn’t get a hit, therefore that at bat was a fail.  Not true.

As Americans we are prone to be individualistic and also because of technology, we all look for that instant gratification all day every day. In the game of softball, these are not good for our definition of success.  Instant gratification rarely comes in this sport, it is more about sticking with “the process.”  And I could see how one could get confused about it being an individual sport with so much pressure being put on one person at one time, but since its conception, this is a team sport, and always will be. 

So, what if we redefine what success is in our game and we stressed that new definition to girls the moment that they picked up a bat and a ball? Then they wouldn’t know anything different. We only know what we are taught. If no one has ever given us a different definition of success other than hit or no hit, then how could we ever know there is anything different? If we are taught that it is more about our individual results and less about the team’s results and process, then why would we think anything different?

Find the Mini Successes

Sometimes, success and failure are not that black and white in the game of softball. However, as humans, we like black and white definite answers. Black and white is easy. We don’t have to search. We just have an answer right in front of us, easily accessible. However, in a sport known for failure, sometimes you have to look deeper to find the “mini successes” throughout the game.

I always try to find the positives in any situation.   I coach and look for mini successes along the way. I like to stress to my students that you can’t go from striking out 3 times in a row to hitting 3 homeruns in a row. That MAY happen to someone, but it’s not very realistic. I look for successes that are realistic and achievable so that a girl can stay positive and not feel any negative energy, thus having a higher chance of having a better at bat the next time she goes up in order to help her team. The minute negativity starts to creep in and get compounded in a girl’s mind, then the real chances of her going up and getting a hit with a runner at 3B are slim to none. “Mini successes” can also be known as staying “in the process” and staying present.

So let me define “mini successes” a little bit more using examples….

Say a girl struck out in her first at bat chasing a rise ball that is over her head. If the other team is smart, what are they going to throw her again in her next at bat? That same rise ball. Well say that girl goes up for her second at bat of the game. She doesn’t swing at that rise ball, but she still strikes out on a curve ball that would have been a called strike had she not swung. What’s the mini success? Not chasing a rise ball. It could easily be looked at as a failure because she struck out 2 times in a row, but that’s not staying in the process and trying to stay positive in the moment. As a player it’s so easy to get caught up in the fact that you just struck out again and make that the take-away from your last at bat, instead of recognizing that you didn’t chase the rise ball. Because you didn’t chase out of the zone, you are giving yourself a higher opportunity to put the ball in play the next time and stay positive by not focusing on the fact that you struck out, but focusing on the fact that you didn’t chase out of the strike zone. That’s a mini success. Mini successes help stay positive for the benefit of the team.

Let’s use a pitcher for another example. Maybe the last time the pitcher had an outing, she walked 5 people in 7 innings and they lost the game. Her next outing, she walked 3 people in 7 innings and still lost the game. If that pitcher throwing balls and walking batters was an issue, I don’t want to put the focus on wins and losses, I want to put the focus on the fact she had more command that game and got ahead of hitters better. So what you lost. It’s all about staying in the process and reminding her of little successes along the way. Staying in the process is going to help the team more down the road in the future.

With these mini successes, not only does a player have higher chances of helping her team and becoming a more “successful” player in the long run, she also really learns the game. She learns to think about the game on a different level, thus becoming a higher IQ softball player and learning to think deeper than just wins/losses, balls/strikes, strikeouts/homeruns.

This game….haha, this game is tricky.

Softball is Life

This game will laugh at you.  It sets us up to fail in so many different ways, so we have to beat it by trying to set OURSELVES up for success. The easy route is to fall into the failure pit and get lost mentally in all the different failures that the game teases you with every time you step on a field. Then…you let the game win. Coaches get lost. Parents get lost. Players for SURE get lost. It’s most important parents and coaches don’t fall into the failure traps – they’re everywhere. Coaches and parents are the major influences for building a players understanding of the game. Players are looking to you and you will be the difference makers to helping them define what their success is.

In practice and post game talks with your team, how are you defining success to them? In the car ride home with your daughter (which in my mind is the place that makes or breaks a relationship with a daughter and her parents, but that’s a different blog for a different day), how are you helping her define success and helping her realize the positive takeaways from the game she can put in her back pocket for her next day’s work?

The better question to ask yourself is, do you know enough about the game to find those mini successes so that you don’t fall into the traps of the big failures that are out there?

Look deeper than the traps…those traps are set up for the individualistic players who only see the game as home runs, hits and strikeouts.  This game deserves more than that.  When you’re putting the team first, you don’t fall into those traps and you start to see the game differently.  However, it takes more effort, it takes more knowledge and it takes more explaining.

The big failures and the big successes in the game of softball that are easy to see (hits, homeruns, strikeouts) are for those people who are looking for that instant gratification and only define their success by results. This game is intricate. This game is detailed. This game is much more than wins, losses, strikeouts, hits and homeruns. The average fan, coach and parent go by the “big” fails and successes to define how their team approaches the game day in and day out.  Don’t be average.  Be extraordinary.

Coaches and parents look for quick fixes and quick judgments to determine whether or not a player and a team is “good.” Our game and our players deserve so much more respect than that, simply by being taught that it’s not about instant gratification, it’s about the process along the way by pointing out mini successes when it seems like all we have done is failed. LIFE is not about instant gratification, it’s about the long run.

Because believe me, there will be times in this game when you feel like this game has kicked you in the face, you’re a failure and no one on earth has ever felt what you are going through.

I know every player has felt this at one point or another. How are you going to get through this moment?  If you keep defining your success with instant gratification, you will keep feeling that awful punch in the gut.  Stay present and remember it’s not about you, it’s about the team.

It’s so easy to define and recognize a homerun as success and a pitcher striking someone out as success. The critical part is to look deeper than that. Our game is so much deeper than just that. If you are looking for the quick fixes and big successes, then honestly, this game is not for you. This game is about the long run. LIFE is about the long run. Pick successes that can build your confidence over time and stay in the process. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, but you can’t see the light if you fall into the trap of all the failures trying to pull you down.

What Exactly is “Normal”?

What really is “normal”? “Normal” has a different picture or movie next to it for every single person out there – in sports, careers, relationship, etc. We all have different experiences, we were raised differently and we all have different perceptions. Who’s to say that MY version of “normal” is the correct version or your very own version of normal is “right”? YOU get to personally give “normal” a definition in your own dictionary…

Live, love and work doing the following things:

1) Do what makes YOU happy – pay attention to what speaks to your heart.

2) Learn from your mistakes – there will be mistakes, they’re in the past, move forward.

3) Configure your personal equation of balance – every single person will have a different equation of what their balance looks like.

4) Envision where you see yourself in the future – all of your actions should reflect where you want to be.

5) Have faith in yourself – invest in your happiness, without fear, believe you have these thoughts and goals for a reason. TRUST in you.

Notice that none of the above things have anything to do with anyone else. They deal with YOU. You are on a journey, as is every other person you come in contact with. How each of us will go about this journey will be a little different. Each of our equations of balance will vary. The only thing you can worry about or control is yourself. Instead of deeming something as “wrong” or “not normal”, what if we spent that time celebrating our different endeavors, how hard someone is working and helping each other push towards goals and vision.  What if we chose to support each other instead of pointing out all of the different things that are “wrong” with what someone is doing and trying to bring that person down?

A perfect example is that infamous question of “how much should I/my daughter practice?” That is the number 1 question I get asked. There is usually a conflicting difference between how much you should practice and how much you want to practice. The amount a person “should” practice will be different person to person. The amount a person wants to practice will be different person to person.

But here is the thing: if you want to achieve things you’ve never achieved before, you have to do things you’ve never done before. 

Reflect over the above pointers. Once you do that, your answer for how much you should practice is already within you based on what makes you happy, what you’ve done in the past, how many things you personally have to balance, and where you want to be in the future. You are choose every day how much time you want to dedicate and how hard you want to work. If you feel you want to practice 6 days a week – go for it! If you feel you only want to practice 1 day a week – then that is your choice, but remember whatever your goal is, your actions (all of them) should reflect it. Your goals are yours. They should make you happy and excited when you think about them and the future. They should motivate you to where sometimes that scale of “balance” looks a little different than other times. It will teeter, it will never stay the same.

Worry more about you and what you are doing than what anybody else is doing. The biggest person you compete against is yourself. Make sure your dreams give you a clear vision. Make sure the way you are trying to achieve your dreams is by WORKING for them. Make sure you know when you need time for a break, time for family, time for friends and always make time to smile and enjoy the ride. Trust yourself when it comes time to shine. You are you, nobody else will be just like you. Work as hard as you can, support others, stay positive and strive to be happy.

High School Softball Survivor Guide – Grievance 3: Teammates

(In case you missed the first 1 grievances, Grievance 1: Playing Time and Grievance 2: The Competition. )

Grievance 3: Teammates

Uncontrollable: Who is on your team; Other players attitudes; Other players work ethic;

Controllable: Being a good teammate; being a good leader; leading by example; not talking about people behind their back; putting the team first; being loyal

“I don’t get along with some of my teammates.”

“Most of my teammates have a really bad attitude.”

“My teammates don’t care as much I do.”

Well, you’re stuck with them!  So you can either figure out a way to handle different situations that are presented, or you can opt out to quit.  In high school, you don’t really have a choice of who you get to play with, what their attitude is like, how they treat people like and what their work ethic is like.  When you get a job, you don’t really get to have much of a choice either. You can never change people, but you can always have a voice and try to lead by example in your own actions.  When speaking up in a team meeting or to a teammate, have good intentions with where you are coming from with your statements.  It’s always about the team, not always about you. Trying to prove yourself as “right” usually does not work in conversations with a teammate. Leading, reminding of a vision, reminding of the mission of the team works better than pointing fingers. 

If you have a teammate who doesn’t have a good attitude, and you think it’s affecting the team, it’s completely acceptable to pull that player off to the side and let her know how you feel.

I recommend doing this before you go days upon days talking to your other teammates about the girl who has a bad attitude. Then it festers. Then it just makes the other teammates turn on her. It grows to become a cancer.  Say something to her before you talk to all of you teammates constantly about it. It’s HER job to take it the correct way, so long as you are telling her in an appropriate manner.  

Sometimes, before even going directly to the player, you can try to have team meetings. This works best without your coach even TELLING the team they need to get together. Be a leader and pull together the team before your coach recognizes that the team needs to meet together to talk some thing out.

If you are truly a leader on the team and want the best for the team, you are ok with standing up for what you believe in and what is truly going to benefit the team the best. 

Remember, you don’t have to want to hang out with every player on your team OFF the field and be best friends. But ON the field, it’s your duty to find a way to get along with each other and take care of each other. From the outside looking in, nobody should be able to tell that you are NOT best friends. Supporting someone on the field does not mean you have to go to the movies with that person on the weekend. It’s a very mature thing to do to be able to separate the two.  The same can be said in an opposite situation: your best friend plays on the team, but she is showing a bad attitude and not trying hard. It says a lot about you as a leader if you are able to tell your good friend that how she is acting is not helping the team, it is only hurting the team. You all have the same mission: winning together.  And THAT should be what is remembered when it comes time to compete on the field and at practice

  • TEAM comes first
  • How can you find a way to communicate with someone
  • On the field, get along and fight for each other; off the field you don’t have to be best friends
  • Think about what you say before you say it or repeat what someone told you.
  • Work as hard as YOU possibly can.
  • I’ll say it again, no matter what, TEAM COMES FIRST

There is only so much you can say and so much you can lead by example when you notice it’s just not working, but that doesn’t mean it has to pull YOU down. When someone has a bad attitude around you, if you’ve already tried saying something, it’s best to ignore it. The strength of the team has to move forward to try to drown that person out.  Don’t give that person energy. Don’t give that person time. If they’re not going to change, they’re not going to change. There will always be those “inbetweeners” on a team. Do you know who I’m talking about? Those are the players who could go either way – they can pull more toward the strong leaders or they can gravitate more toward the cancers. It’s your job as leaders to try to get them on YOUR side. They become the difference makers on the team. Empower them to feel the difference of what it’s like to be more on the positive side than the negative side.

Don’t get caught up in team drama!!!! Don’t do it! I know it’s temping, and it’s there (a lot).  If you hear someone talking about another person, say you don’t want to hear about it. Maybe even tell them not to talk about that in front of you. Maybe you can tell them that if they have a problem with that person, they need to go talk to that person directly.

It’s not “cool” to be the teammate who talks about other teammates behind their back once you leave the field. I PROMISE. 

What is your character like? What do you want it to be? It speaks volumes about you, not just as a player, but as a person, for the drama to end with you. It’s ok to be that girl who other teammates know they can’t talk about other teammates in front of! Be a loyal teammate. A loyal teammate does not talk about other teammates behind their back. For 4 ways to learn how to be a loyal teammate, click here.

Learning to communicate is one of the biggest things we can learn in this world.

Communication is SO VITAL in life and with your teammates. Learning to talk to someone in the right tone, and have a conversation, not a fight, is important in terms of respecting each other. Learn to say what you want to say with words without yelling.

Just because you are yelling doesn’t mean that someone is listening or understanding you that much better.

Set expectations and standards of how your team plays. Control your own attitude and your own work ethic. If you’ve tried to have a one on one talk and a team talk, and it’s just not working, don’t let it effect YOU. When talking in a team setting, it’s ok to say stuff out loud that you believe in and you know that’s right. At the end of the day, remember that every action is either hurting or helping the mission of the TEAM. I don’t know about you, but I like to win. Team chemistry and trust are huge parts of winning. Set a good example, treat your teammates the right way and do all that YOU can to help the mission of the team. 

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.

Understanding The Strike Zone – As a Hitter

A discrepancy that comes up in about 90% of all games is the umpire’s strike zone.  Pitchers complain about it.  Hitters shake their heads in the box about it.  Coaches whine about it.  And parents in the stands let the umpire know exactly what they think about the zone.

An umpire’s strike zone should NEVER be used as an excuse of not performing well.

Can you control the umpire’s zone? No. What can you control? Keeping your emotions in check to be able to adjust to his/her zone.  What are you going to choose to do about it DURING the game? An umpire should establish his/her zone within the first two innings.  All you can ask of that umpire is to be consistent with what he is calling, and as a player, it’s your job to pay attention to his/her zone.  You can actually use an umpire’s strike zone to your advantage if you look at it as an opportunity instead of disadvantage…

As a hitter..

Recognize if the umpire has a wide zone (calls a lot of strikes) or small zone (doesn’t call a lot of strikes).  You can recognize this by paying attention to the first couple of innings when you are in the dugout or out in the field.  Even when you are not up to bat, you always need to be paying attention to your surroundings.  If you do not hit at the top of the order, or if you are a hitter who did not start the game, your job is to pay attention to your teammates at-bats and recognize where exactly the umpire is calling strikes, and where he is not. Sometimes one side of the plate might be wider than the other side.  Sometimes he may be an umpire that has a lower strike zone.

Small zone

A game should be controlled by the offenses when there is a small strike zone.  Games with small zones usually lead to higher scoring games.  When there is a small zone being presented, it’s your job as a hitter to have patience at the plate.  With a smaller zone, you change your game plan and approach to not be as aggressive, especially in an important situation.  You want to challenge the pitcher to throw strikes.  Don’t help her out until she proves that she can find the umpire’s strike zone consistently. With a smaller strike zone, comes more walks.  It’s important to pay attention to the hitter in front of you.  Did the pitcher just walk that hitter on 4 straight pitches?  If she did, then you probably should not swing at the first pitch of your at bat, since clearly that pitcher is struggling to find the strike zone.

Finding a way on base is critical in our game.  Realize that a walk is just as valuable as a hit.  It may not seem the same to you as a hitter statistics wise, but taking that walk puts you 60 feet closer to scoring than you were before you started your at bat.  Have patience at the plate, and definitely challenge yourself not to swing out of the zone.

When you’re up to bat, look for a mistake in your at bat.  With a smaller strike zone comes more added pressure to the pitcher, not the hitter.  With added pressure, a pitcher is more likely to be more tense and frustrated.  She will probably start aiming the ball a little bit more trying to find the strike zone, and she is going to be more likely to come over the heart of the plate.  LOOK FOR THIS MISTAKE.  Don’t fall asleep at the plate just because a pitcher is throwing more balls than strikes.  Be ready to hit.

In the dugout, be paying attention to the pitcher’s body language.  If she is getting down on herself and showing that she is not confident with what she is throwing, then it’s even more important to not help her out in your at bat.  Don’t give a pitcher any confidence when she is struggling to find the zone by helping her out and swinging at a pitch that is not a strike.  That gives her a little bit of positive energy and could be exactly what she needs to get back into her groove. When a pitcher is struggling, offensively, it’s your job to keep her struggling.

Wide zone

A wide strike zone can be a hitter’s worse nightmare.  If the umpire is going to have a wider zone, you can be a little bit more aggressive.  You still never want to get out of your true strike zone.  If an umpire strikes you out on a pitch that was clearly not a strike, don’t get discouraged or consider it a failure.  Don’t let that at bat take you out of your next at bat, and more importantly, don’t let the wide strike zone carry over into the next game and get you out of your zone.

When I was playing and there was an umpire with a wide zone, I made it my goal to get not get 2 strikes.  I wanted to hit a strike early in the count so that the umpire didn’t even have a chance to strike me out! YOU can control hitting early in the count. You CAN’T control the umpire calling you out on a pitch that is out of the zone.  So be aggressive early in the count so that you get a better pitch to hit, and you don’t stand a chance of getting struck out on a pitch that is out of your zone.

Also, if an umpire has a wider zone, DON’T SHOW EMOTION.  Players show emotion at the plate when they get strikes called against them just to make sure everyone else knows who’s watching that they didn’t think it was a strike.  Control your emotions.  Don’t let your opponent know that something is wrong with you – that fuels them and let’s them think they have you right where they want you.  If you’re showing body language (i.e. rolling eyes, shaking head) after a certain pitch, and I am pitching against you, I am probably going to throw you that exact same pitch again, since you just clearly showed me disgust after the umpire called that strike against you. Why would I throw you anything else? Clearly you are not looking to hit that pitch that you were just shaking your head about…

Understand which part of the plate the umpire is being “wide” on.  For example: Is it the outside pitch to a right handed hitter that he’s calling way off the plate? If this is the case you have 2 options: 1) Go up looking for an INSIDE pitch, if the pitcher is still showing you that she is working on that side of the plate. 2) If the pitcher is controlling the outside corner because that of where the umpire keeps calling it, crowd the plate the very most you can, and take away that outside pitch so that it doesn’t seem as far outside to you.  The same can be applied for the inside corner by backing way off the plate and looking for that pitch.  If an umpire has a higher strike zone, it’s important to not swing at pitches that are too far high and out of your zone.  Something I did when facing a pitcher who threw higher pitches in the zone was to hold my hands a little bit higher when I was in my stance before the pitch was thrown; this adjustment helped me keep my hands on top the ball so that I was not as likely to pop up.  This was a small adjustment on my part to be able to able to win the “battle.” Your job is to win the battle and do whatever it takes to come out on top – no excuses necessary.

The best players are going to be able to adjust during the game, no matter what is thrown at them!  Softball is a game of adjustments.

Instead of complaining about a wide zone, be proactive in practicing during the week about the approach you will take as a hitter or as a team if you come up against an umpire with a wide strike zone.  It’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of time.  By practicing this, you’re turning what some think as a disadvantage, into something you can feel more confident about at bat when it happens in a game.  Have the discussion before it happens about how your approach changes at the plate when facing different umpires.  An umpire is never the one who comes away with a win in the win column at the end of the game.  By letting the umpire beat you, you indirectly are letting the other team beat you.  Quit the excuses, and use an umpire to your advantage when you’re up at the plate by adjusting how YOU approach YOUR at bat.

 

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