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…

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.

 

Why Does Accuracy Matter?

Accuracy, movement & velocity.  Those are the three core items we talk about that go into being a great pitcher.

To me, the most important one is accuracy.

Yes, speed and movement play a part in being a solid, successful pitcher!  But, speed and movement should enhance accuracy.  In my mind, accuracy should come first. At the end of the day (especially at the higher levels of play), it doesn’t matter how hard you throw or how much movement you have if you are unable to hit your spots.  Being able to throw hard and not know where the ball is going will lead to you throwing 2 innings per game in college.  Being able to throw hard and know where the ball is going will lead you to throw a complete game in college.

At the simplest form, our job as a pitcher is to get outs.  No matter how those outs come – strike outs, fly balls or ground outs, it’s our job.  You get outs by hitting spots accurately, consistently and with precision.

At any level, if you throw the ball over the middle of the plate, it’s going to get hit.  We keep the ball on the corners because it’s a much harder pitch to hit, and a hitter has less chance of having success. The older you get, the further hitters hit mistakes.  The harder you throw, the further the mistake is hit.

Why accuracy matters

Less accuracy can lead to more walks…

Every coaches nightmare is to see his pitchers give up walks (especially leadoff walks and walks to the 9 hole). No matter what level, 4 balls always equals a walk.  It doesn’t matter if you throw those 4 balls at 75mph or 42 mph, a ball is a ball.  Even if the pitch breaks a foot and has the best movement ever, if it doesn’t cross through the strike zone, then a ball is a ball.

If you cannot find the strike zone, or a hitter is not chasing your pitches, it’s going to lead to walks.  This past year, even in the college game, I saw more runs walked in than ever before.  You can’t defend a walk. Your defense can’t help you when you are giving away free passes and putting people on board because you as a pitcher cannot throw strikes.  What did I say our number 1 job as pitcher is? To get outs.  Our defense can’t make plays behind us if we do not have accuracy and are not able to find the strike zone.  Walks are the death of pitchers and walks lead to runs.   The more accurate you are, the less walks you give up.  Hitters have to earn their way on base. Bottom line – If you don’t throw strikes (accuracy), then it’s going to be really difficult to win.

Less accuracy makes it harder for someone to call pitches…

Nothing is better than calling pitches for your pitcher and knowing exactly what you are going to get. (If you are a pitch caller, you know exactly what I mean). Nothing is worse than calling pitches for a pitcher and having no clue where the ball is going to go.  It almost makes it impossible and completely a guessing game.  I tell our pitchers that if they put the ball to the spot I am telling them, there’s probably a 95% chance we are going to get that hitter out.  To be honest, it doesn’t even matter WHICH pitch they throw to the spot I am calling, all they have to do is hit one spot, some way, somehow.  That’s it.  That’s their job.  It’s all about hitting spots consistently and being able to move the ball in and out without a high risk of throwing the ball over the heart of the plate.

You’ve got to be able to know exactly where the ball is going so you can set a hitter up to get her out.  The older you get, the more important pitch calling gets with setting hitters up, finding their weaknesses, and having scouting reports based off of what hitters can and cannot hit.  Good hitters are going to hit mistakes and hit them hard.  Even if a ball breaks 6 inches and it breaks right to the middle of the plate, it’s going to get hit.  I promise.  I’ve been there and done it and see it with my own two eyes.

Less accuracy makes it harder to adjust to an umpire’s zone…

As pitchers, we are going to have umpires we come across who have a small strike zone.  Pitchers who have the best accuracy and can put the ball exactly where they want to will not have nearly as much trouble with these umpires.  When you face an umpire with a small zone, it’s important to work inches and move the ball in a little bit more at a time to be able to find that umpires strike zone.  Pitchers who do not have great accuracy end up making TOO BIG of adjustments and putting the ball right over the middle of the plate when they are trying to find the zone.  They are the pitches who are more likely to get hit hard when facing an umpire with a smaller strike zone.  The key to umpires with small strike zones is making small, tiny adjustments to try to find exactly where that umpire is going to call it. The more accurate you are and trust in hitting your spots, the easier it’s going to be for you to find strikes in a challenging strike zone.

Now…I will be honest with you, the harder you throw and the more movement you have, the more mistakes you are able to get away with, especially at the younger ages.  This is why the pitchers who are younger and throw hard really stick out (if you are in 12U and even 14U, you know what I am talking about).  And, at a younger age, these pitches can get away with throwing it over the middle of the plate and not get hurt.  But, let me tell you, these pitchers aren’t learning anything other than throwing it down the middle works for them.  It’s positive reinforcement to these pitchers to throw the ball right down the middle because hitters will swing and miss and they will get away with it.  This method absolutely will not work for long as you get older and hitters get better.

Pitchers who just throw hard and throw it over the middle of the plate are just learning to be throwers and not pitchers.

(There is a huge difference, and I will save the comparison for another blog in a different day.)  Now, these pitchers, as they get older and start facing better hitters, will soon learn that accuracy is the most important thing they could have learned at a young age.

The pitchers who don’t throw as hard have to learn to be more precise at a very young age because they will get hit if they don’t hit a precise spot since the hitter has a longer time to see the ball coming out of the hand.  They learn from failure.  I pitch it here and it gets hit here.  They are learning where they can and cannot throw pitches in order to have success.  They learn from their failures.  They are learning from instant feedback on their mistakes about where not to throw the pitch.  If these type of pitchers have the courage and passion to stick with pitching and work their tails off on being AWESOME a hitting their spots, then they will have a high chance of success.  However, it is at this age that coaches are telling them that to be a great pitcher you have to throw hard and have 6+ different pitches.  This is just not true.  If these pitchers can work past all of the people who tell them that they aren’t a good pitcher just because they don’t throw hard, I believe they have a high chance of playing in college because they are learning from a young age to be pitchers who pitch with high accuracy and can put the ball where they want to in order to get outs.    

I PROMISE you, from my own past experience, and currently watching hundreds of game every year, if you put the ball over the middle of the plate, no matter how hard you throw or how much movement you have, it has a very high chance of getting hit, and getting hit hard.  It’s not all about speed and it’s not all about movement.  Strive for accuracy and command, and be working on this continually at practice.  It is not just about how hard you throw I PROMISE.

In a perfect world, you would have the best of all 3 – accuracy, speed and movement.

Someone who can hit her spots 95% of the time, throwing 70mph and every pitch she throws moves 6 inches.  This is unrealistic.  If you find a person who can do this, you will be showing me someone who is well on her way to be a National Player of the Year once she gets to college, so long as she has the mental toughness to go along with it.  Learning accuracy at a young age is critical and not to be overlooked, as it becomes the most important part of pitching, especially when you get to the Gold and collegiate levels of play.  When you’re pitching at a young age, learn good work habits and focus habits, thinking of accuracy and precision with your pitching on a daily basis.  Even though you may be able to get away with pitches over the middle of the plate in the 12U-16U levels, think about how you want to play long term and play at the highest level you are capable of.  Think towards big goals and the kind of pitcher that can get out the best hitters in the country.  That pitcher will be a pitcher who pitches with such great accuracy on both sides of the plate, rarely gives up walks, and can make in-game adjustments to adjust to the hitter and to the umpire.

Remembering to Remember to Breathe

April to the beginning of June tests me every year. Post season college softball starts to heat up which has me traveling across the country for various studio appearances or college softball games, where I serve as a college softball analyst. I break down players/teams, which is why this part of year is so busy, because it’s the part of the season that matters most, and at the end of it, a National Champion will be crowned.


Amanda Scarborough ESPN

I have people around me who have to remind me to breathe and take it one day at a time.

These people each challenge me to be better in their own unique ways. I tend to look ahead to the days and weeks ahead in the future and think of everything I have to get done and can start to feel overwhelmed. Not only do I want to get it done, but I want it to get done perfectly.

Most athletes, especially pitchers, for better or for worse, are perfectionists.

We want everything to be perfect RIGHT NOW. With everything I do in life, I want to be great at it…I can’t help it, guess you can say I am competitive with myself. I’ve been that way ever since middle school, I think, where I really wanted to prepare for tests and study hard. I had to in order to make good grades; and I didn’t just want good grades, I wanted all A’s. I wasn’t really competing against anybody else, just myself.

Because I have that perfectionism side to me, it’s so good to have people around me who remind me that things don’t have to be perfect in order for them to be okay. I kindly accept people in my life who remind me to breathe, because sometimes I feel like I forget. My mom loves to tell me just because it doesn’t get done today doesn’t mean it can’t get done tomorrow – something so simple, but always good to hear(If it were up to me, everything on my to do list would get done in one day). (I love to do lists) But that’s not realistic, not everything can get done in one day. Those are unrealistic expectations. It’s just like on the field, it’s on every players’ “to do list” to be an All American, but you can’t be one by the age of 12. It’s unrealistic. You have to learn first to be able to become that All American down the road.  You can’t jump over the steps of the process to go from A to Z over night in anything in life.

Learn. Grow. Repeat.

I am still like the average girl athlete, even as a 28 year old, only thing that is different is the setting. Instead of on a field practicing, I am on a plane flying from one location to the next. I still get stretched in ways I never thought possible with my time and sacrifice for the things I am passionate about. I am a perfectionist. I want to please everyone. And I want things to get done – fast. But sometimes…they can’t….and I am realizing that that’s ok

For the majority of the time, I understood on the field that results couldn’t come instantly, nor could they come perfectly.

I didn’t like it. But I understood it. Life is the exactly same way. You work at something (a job, a relationship, a hobby, etc) and you might not figure everything out in a day. But it’s okay not to figure it out in a day. It’s okay not to have answers right away. (Patience is a virtue). It might even be months or years before you see the exact results you are looking for, and that’s ok. Better yet, maybe the results came differently than you anticipated, and they ended up being better than imagined.   I remind myself, in the end everything will be ok, if it’s not ok, then it’s not the end. I love that because it can apply to anything in life you let it apply to. (the key word there being “let”)

It’s so important to have those people around me reminding me to take it one task at a time, one day at a time.

One pitch at a time, one at bat at a time. Same song, different verse.

Those people around us who remind us we are ok when we are struggling and don’t judge the struggle are the ones who can matter the most and truly affect us.

They recognize when we are at our worst, or on our way to the worst, and they catch us from falling and pull us back up. Those people are the ones who keep us sane and make us take a deep breath and realize everything will be ok.  We are so lucky to have those people. Be thankful and appreciative of whoever that person or people are. Tell them now how thankful you are for them being in your life. Don’t wait to tell them, you know who they are now.  Let them know.  Most importantly, open yourself up and allow those people to be there for you.

When you’re fighting yourself, don’t fight others.

Whether it’s your teammates, friends, sisters, brothers or parents, allow someone to pick you up when you’re at your worst. The hardest time to listen can be when we are most frustrated, and ironically that is when we need to listen most. Really listen to the advice they are trying to give you. The benefit can make you feel better on a day where you feel stressed, imperfect or unworthy.

Those people are like our little angels flying all around us, but they can only help if we let them.

Inspirational Photo Contest!!!

Okay y’all! I want to see you and hear from you! From NOW until Friday, March 14  at 11:59pm CT I want you to send in playing pictures (pitching, hitting, teamwork, teammates, fielding, etc) WITH a your favorite QUOTE that goes with the picture! Be creative!

— Quotes and pictures can be about ANYTHING – happiness, passion, working hard, dream, determination, focus, fun, beauty, energy, role model, etc. Think of something that motivates you or you believe in. Whatever you think the word could be, it’s totally ok! It’s all about YOU.

— One picture per email please WITH the quote in the body of email. Also, full name, age and team! (You can send however many emails you’d like!)

— Email picture and quote to amanda9pictures@gmail.com with the subject of the picture you are sending in. Ex. “Happiness” Ex. “Passion”

— There will be at LEAST 5 winners that will receive a signed (optional) Amanda Scarborough t shirt. The winner may also find your picture in an EBOOK to be written this year by me!

— **By sending me your picture, you are giving permission to be my social media or my website. If you are not okay with picture going public, please specify in the email!**

SHARE this with your teammates, friends, family, whoever!!

My picture here is an example of the quote about a picture to send in like I am talking about.

Subject: Passion
“Do it with passion or not at all.”

Amanda Scarborough

“Do it with passion or not at all.”

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.

 

Are You Willing to Learn? BE COACHABLE!

One of the things every coach is looking for at any level are coachable players. Coachble means a willingness / openness to try new things and to learn new things. In order to be coachable…..

1) Show Humility – Have a sense of humbleness; a modest view of one’s own importance. You can always get better. There is always something to be learned. There are always people out there better than you.  You can learn from anyone.

2) Have Faith in Others – Trust others. Everyone has had experiences.  Be open to learning different points of views and seeing the best that others bring to the table.  You must trust yourself first before you can trust others.

3) Be Approachable – Have fun! Don’t take yourself too seriously.  When you are having fun, you are inviting other people to have fun with you, teach you and learn with you.  The more people who want to give you information the better! Now you have all this information, you get to try it and sort through what works and what does not work!  Invite people in to help you, don’t push them away.   

4) Look Attentive – Look at someone in the eyes when they are talking to you. No matter who is talking, looking at someone in the eyes is a sign of respect.  Your coaches, your teammates, family and your friends deserve this attentiveness from you.  When you are attentive, your brain is soaking more things in!

5) Be Curious – When given feedback, ask questions.  It shows that you’re more interested in digging deeper into what someone is trying to help you with. A lot of times people aren’t coachable because they are afraid to try new things and are scared of not understanding what is being asked of them.  To fully understand, take a pause after someone tells you something, take a moment to understand and process, and THEN make a decision of whether you do or do not fully understand.  If you do not fully understand, organize a question to dig deeper more into a better understanding.  Ask questions!

At all times – listen with intent to learn.  All of these fall under the umbrella and goes without saying, to have a good, positive attitude.  The more coachable you are, the more enjoyable you are to be around as a teammate and as a player under a coach.  

Understand if you are or are not coachable.  If you are getting feedback from others that you are not coachable, be willing to change.  If you are getting this feedback numerous times, quit blaming that it is other people, and understand that it is you not them.  Accept it, commit to making a change and DO IT.  There is always time to change and make a difference in your own life.  You can do it!  Have faith in yourself and have courage that you can become the best player you possibly can be!!  It all starts with being coachable!!  

3 Things to do When Approaching a Pitcher During a Game

So a pitcher is in a bit of a pickle, and as a coach, you know you need to call time out to go and talk to her. A big part of coaching, in my opinion, is knowing when to call that time out to go and talk to a pitcher. Timing is everything with those time outs. That time out can serve as a tool to calm down your pitcher and/or defense. It can also serve as a way to slow down the other team. You must have a feel for the game and understand when that time out needs to be called!  Sometimes it can be called too early and sometimes it can be called too late.

EVERY pitcher has been through those tough innings; innings where you can’t throw strikes, innings where your pitches can’t seem to miss a hitters bat. Negativity is most likely already running through a pitcher’s head, and if that is the case, it’s going to be hard to get outs with all of those negative thoughts piling up in a pitcher’s mind. If a coach is going to call timeout to go and talk to her, don’t make it worse! Be positive for her. Be a rock. Be a source of information that is going to HELP her get through this icky situation.

Remember, when a time out is called it is all about HER in the circle.

Give Her a Small Mechanical Fix

Amanda Scarborough Texas A&MMaybe ONE thing mechanical might be helpful. I’m not always one to like to talk about mechanics during a game, in fact I do not really endorse it, but in some situations I do think it can be helpful. I know from being a pitcher myself that pitchers look for quick fixes in practice and in games. Them trying to think about one small mechanical change can help get their mind off of the pressure they are feeling in the circle and they can feel like that one mechanical fix can be the one thing that turns their game around. I know it sounds silly, but pitchers are funny and quirky like that!

We are so used to hearing coaches tell us what to do, and knowing that when a coach tells us a mechanical fix that we get better results, that this could actually work during a game. I am all for a pitcher thinking for herself and being her own pitching coach in the circle during the game, BUT I also know that sometimes the game passes you by very fast when nothing is really going your way, and you need that shoulder to lean on to try to help dig you out of the hole you got yourself into.

I am NOT saying to go out and reinvent the wheel, but one thing a pitcher could key on. “Hey make sure you have a quick back side.” “Hey make sure you’re not falling off.” “Let’s get some faster arm speed going on and attack this hitter.” There are certain comfort mechanics that makes every pitcher feel better and put back at ease. Find out what those comfort mechanics are for each pitcher.   The worst mechanic you can tell her to fix is the one she has been trying and trying at practice to work on but can’t seem to get.  Tell her just one quick thing, not 5-6 things.  That one thing could get her in the right frame of mind to mentally take on the next hitter with a positive attitude.

Mind you, the mechanical fix might go in one ear and out the other if she is not used to working with you. She won’t trust what you’re telling her, so she is less likely to feel better and stronger in the circle after you talk to her. You better build a relationship prior to calling the timeout with your pitcher. 

Stay positive, stay calm

If you go out there and look like you are in a panic, then your pitcher and infield will start to panic – I GUARANTEE it. Girls are so good at picking up on emotions and tightness from people, especially their coach. So even if you THINK you are being calm and are collected, are you really? Panic mode does not help anybody, and it really doesn’t help your team stay calm through a tough situation and feel like they can work out of a jam and end up making a come back. Nobody plays well tight.

Amanda Scarborough Texas A&MThings like “let’s throw strikes” might seem like the ideal thing to say and may seem positive because it doesn’t have a negative word in it, but it really doesn’t have a great connotation to it. A pitcher is fully aware when she is or is not throwing strikes. It’s pointless for you to tell her “let’s throw strikes” if you are not going to tell her anything after that comment to help her do so. It just makes her more frustrated, and you’re stating the obvious.

Every pitcher wants to feel like her defense and coaches believe in her.

“I know you can do it.” “You can work through this.” “I believe in you.” Mind you, this must be said with good body language and a good attitude coming from the coach or they are pointless comments and actually work against you. Give her a sense of comfort, not disappointment. The last thing girls want to do is disappoint anybody. Girls are such pleasers.

Things that are generally good to say to every pitcher are, “Slow yourself down. Take a little bit more time in between every pitch and remember to breathe.” A lot of pitchers get in trouble because when things start to go downhill they start to work faster and take less time in between pitches. By slowing down, it gives you extra breathing and extra time to think/focus on the task at hand.

Tell her the plan for going at this next hitter

We all like plans. Plans can give us a bit of ease and confidence. Knowledge gives us comfort. If you go out to talk to your pitcher, a helpful thing can be letting her know how you’re planning on throwing the next hitter. “Hey this girl got out on a change up her last at bat, you made her look really bad on it. Let’s try to set up that pitch again in this at bat.” OR “I noticed that this girl CANNOT hit the outside pitch. Let’s throw her out there and see if we can get her to swing and miss or roll over a ground ball to the left side.”

Amanda Scarborough Texas A&MOR “Hey this girl is seeing the ball well, we are going to try to pitch around her, not give her anything good to hit. You’ve had success against the girl on deck, let’s try to go at her.” THIS is helpful information.

If she has had 3-4 hits off her in the game, where the hitters have really squared up on a ball, then it can be good to tell her the plan is to start mixing speeds a little bit more OR remind her to work slightly more down or slightly more off the plate. Minimize the adjustment. It’s not a BIG one, just being able to work inches in order to have more success against the hitters in getting them to miss.

Help a pitcher recognize what pitch is working best for them. As a pitcher sometimes you get so caught up in the inning and in the moment that everything is going by really fast. You’re just throwing. You’re not pitching. That time out can be used as a reminder to point out what is working well for a pitcher, “Hey your screw ball is looking awesome, let’s stick with that pitch and go at these hitters and see if we can get out of this!” (Now..realize sometimes as pitchers we can be delusional and think that one pitch is working, when it’s really not…)

You as a coach have to be really in tune with the game and really in tune with your pitcher.

If you are not going to go out there and give her helpful information, then your timeout is only really going to be used to slow down the other team, but your pitcher isn’t going to mentally be getting anything out of the meeting.

One of the coaches on the team should be dedicated to working with the pitchers so that they can develop a relationship and an understanding of each other. It’s hard for a pitcher to listen to 3 different coaches giving her information.  All 3 coaches may think they know pitching, and they may be giving a pitcher different information and different things to work on.  That is mixed signals and can be confusing.  One coach working with the pitchers is the best in order to develop a strong relationship and keep things simple mentally for the pitcher.

Every pitcher is different with how she wants to be approached (we all have different personalities). Every pitcher is different with the things she keys on with her mechanics. Instead of thinking about what YOU like to say or teach, or what YOU like to hear, really understand what SHE likes to hear. Work with her before the game, and understand what her pitches are looking like. Understand what some of her “quick fixes” are when she is pitching and things she likes to hear that make her feel comfortable outside of the game.

The more a pitcher feels like you are trying to get to know HER, the more likely she is going to be to listen to you. Where coaches get into trouble is that they make it all about them and are not customizable with how they approach or work with a pitcher. Remember there may be things that you are saying that seem like good mechanical fixes to YOU, but doesn’t resonate well with a pitcher. She might not understand it; it might not click with her. So it’s up to you as a coach to communicate differently to truly speak to her. Challenge yourself to come up with something different. Or here is a novel idea, ASK her what she wants to hear during a game that can help her get through a tough situation. If she doesn’t know because she has never thought of it before, then tell her to take a couple days to think about it, and get back to you.

Amanda Scarborough Texas A&M

The DNA of A Pitcher

What does it take to be pitcher?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pitcher DNA Ingredients.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You have to know how to win a complete game.

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

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

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

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

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



How to Get Mentally Tough in the Circle

You’re inside the circle, both feet are on the rubber, it’s a 3-2 count with bases loaded, tie ball game and the clean up hitter is up to bat.  What’s going on in your head? Do you hear the opposing team in the dugout?  Do you hear your own thoughts more than the loud voices in the stands?  Is your mind clear?  The more important question that helps you feel good about answer these questions is, how did you prepare for this moment?  You’ve got to slow the game down….

PREPARATION GIVES MORE CONFIDENCE

To me, it all comes down to preparation for the big moments.  Preparation breeds confidence. The more prepared you are, the more confident you can feel to handle any situation that comes your way in a game.  Preparation gives you tools to handle adversity or tense situations.  Practice competitive, tense situations at practice during the week.  By putting players under pressure at practice to perform, they are going to be more used to the feeling when it comes game time.  If you have players who never practice pressure situations, then most of them are going to get tense and fail when it comes down to it.  Give the loser a consequence. OR give the winner a reward.  It doesn’t have to be anything major.  But, they need to learn what it feels like to be put under pressure and learn both – what it feels like to succeed and what it feels like to fail.  To appreciate both, you have to learn both.

In order to be successful in a tense, important situation, the one thing that has to happen, is that you have to be confident.

With confidence, you are SURE of which pitch to throw to get that clean up hitter out.  With confidence, the game slows down.  When the game slows down in your mind you have better chances of breathing.   If you’re not breathing, there’s no way to get oxygen into your body.  That oxygen is going to be another form of fuel so that your body uses so it can perform to it’s highest potential. Instead of giving focus to being nervous, give focus to remembering to breathe and slowing your breath down.  When your breath slows down, the game slows down.

WHAT ABOUT CROWD NOISE?

I’ve gotten asked, “How do you drown out crowd noise?”  Those players who slow the game down do not often hear crowd noise.  They are so focused on the task at hand and living presently in every single moment and every single breath, that outside forces do not affect them as much.  You are able to truly give focus and belief in yourself by preparing before game time comes.  If you are not as prepared, you are going to be the player who gives outside forces more attention and focus, and be the one who hears the crowd or dugout trying to rattle you.

PRACTICE IDEA: Have a pitcher and a catcher out on the field with a better up, with the rest of the team in the dugout yelling at them for an entire at bat.  This is going to help the pitcher focus, this is going to help the batter focus.  PRACTICE noise.  Practice working through adversity so that you are a little bit more prepared for it, or at least FEEL more prepared for it, when it comes down to a significant in-game moment.

STAY WITHIN YOURSELF

Stay in your own thoughts. Remember to have positive self talk. Don’t talk yourself out of the positive talk that should be going on in your head.  Be confident and so focused that nothing else matters other than the catcher who is in front of you behind the plate.  Be so focused you don’t even see the batter standing in the batter’s box – she doesn’t matter.  The only thing that matters is what YOU do.  Remember you are in control.  Remember if you put the ball where you’re suppose to, and you are 100% behind the pitch with confidence before you throw it, you will have success.

I can. I will.

SITUATIONS CREATE FEELING – (this to me is the most important to understand)

In this critical moment in a game, instead of letting thoughts run through your head about what might happen if you don’t succeed (i.e. she gets a hit off of you, you throw a ball, you a hit a batter), only let positive FEELINGS run through your mind before the pitch.  Yep, FEELINGS. What do I mean by this? Everything we go through in life creates a certain feeling (a reaction) when it is happening (happy, sad, mad, nervous, etc), even sports.  There is an instant feeling of excitement or happiness created after you throw a strike (if you’re a former player, you know exactly what I mean!).  There is an instant feel of madness or sadness after you walk someone or give up a hit. Whether you know it or not, those feelings are being created….

Before you throw the pitch, let a situation run through your head where you see yourself having success in an event that happened in the past. (This could be the pitch you threw before that was for a  strike on a corner; it could be a game winning strike out a year ago; maybe even you had been in a tough situation earlier in that game and you got out of it).  When you think about that moment, your brain automatically connects with the feeling that was created in that moment to give you more positive energy and positive feel for the task you have at hand.  When you see yourself having success, your body feels like it wants to create that same positive feeling again.  (Warning: it can happen for the negative situations too….so when you think about not wanting to walk someone, your brain thinks about those negative feelings and doesn’t want to feel it again, which makes you way more tense).  So, draw from past experience to create positive feelings in your head that you will feel throughout your entire body, so that you are entering the most important pitch in the game feeling nothing but positive energy towards what is about to happen. Have belief in yourself and confidence in your skills and preparation.

Being mentally tough in the circle is a huge thing to work on as a pitcher.  The more tense situations you are put in, the more experience you get with it, and the better you will be able to handle adversity when it comes along.  The best advice I can give is to be the most prepared person on the field; you gain confidence from that preparation.  Also, start paying attention to your feelings and being able to draw on past experiences and what they felt like.  Be in touch with your body and what you are feeling. Know how to talk about them, articulate them, and recreate those positive feelings!

What are other ways that you have found that help to be mentally tough in the circle?

 

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