My mission is to inspire softball players 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. Feel free to leave questions/comments, I’ll get back to them as soon as I can!

I pitched, hit and played first base in college, but I have a SPECIAL place in my heart for pitchers. While much of my motivation and many of my blogs can translate to any position on the field, most of what I write now is directed toward the leader in the circle with the ball in her hand.

I undertand, to the greatest extent, that pitching can take a toll on you and at times make you feel like you’ll never be good enough, you’ll never figure it out or like there’s no way you’ll make it through.

But you ARE strong enough to overcome.

You WILL build mental and physical strength along your journey. Let me help you…

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!!  

The Power of Shaking Off

As a pitcher, I’ve never understood a coach’s philosophy of  NOT allowing pitchers to shake off a called pitch. I, personally, never played for a coach that said, “Never shake me off,” or “You better throw what I’m calling.” 90% of being a successful pitcher does from feeling confident…feeling good….feeling comfortable.

How do you feel those things?

By being 100% invested in WHAT you are going to throw the next pitch. The slightest bit of uncertainty will show in your pitch if you are not fully committed. (Parents, I’m SURE you know what I am talking about and you can see it from in the stands.) Also, in my mind, being able to shake off a pitch holds higher implications than just trying to get the batter out.

As a little background….The majority of the time, my dad called pitches for me for my travel ball team. Occasionally, another dad would call them who also had a pitcher on the team, but nothing beat the comfort of having my dad call for me.

In high school, my catcher and I called the game together, as well as when I got to Texas A&M.

For 8 years I got my own practice and in-game experience of calling my own pitches with my catcher.  I had to think for myself through the ups and downs of a game or even in the ups and downs within an at bat. “What pitch should I throw next?” “What’s my next move?”

These are decision making skills being a pitcher teaches you. When the pressure is on, bases loaded, playing the best team you’ve played all year, tie game, one pitch can make the difference, and I got to be the one who had the last say. Pretty awesome when you think about it – giving a young woman that much power and leadership at a young age.

Of course, at first, the concept of knowing what I wanted to throw seemed like a different language to me. It was nerve racking. My brain was in constant work mode. But I learned. I distinctly remember (to this day) the feeling I would get of know exactly what pitch I wanted to throw after I delivered a pitch and my cacher threw it back to me. I was so focused and trusted myself so much that I already knew what I wanted to throw the next pitch before I even got back to the pitching rubber.  If you have ever pitched and taken control of a game before, you know this feeling I am talking about. It was a feeling that ran threw me after watching the outcome of the LAST pitch, and I would know instantly what I wanted to throw next. I was going to shake off until I got THAT pitch because that’s what I had the most confidence to throw.

When you have coaches who allow you to think for yourself and help you learn HOW to think for yourself, you grow as a pitcher; you grow as a young woman.

You learn to trust your gut instinct. Being able to trust your gut is such an important trait to have in life and that gut instinct can be a pitcher’s best friend and your inner guide. That instinct does not always come naturally, it progresses and can be felt over time.

In a game, if you throw 100 pitches, that means you have 100 chances, 100 reps, of learning to feel and trust your gut instinct if you are getting the opportunity to throw your own game.

You can still throw your own game even when your coach is calling pitches from inside the dugout if he/she is the type who allows you to shake off. You’re thinking EVERY pitch, focused on one pitch at a time in what you want to throw.

As with anything in life, the more you practice calling your own game, the better you get at it. Little by little you start to trust that feeling in your stomach more.

All too often, as pitchers and as human beings, we push that gut feeling aside and try to out-think the situation. But then when we look back, it was like we had the answer all along if we would have just trusted that initial feeling/thought.

This is a large part of how a pitcher grows and matures in the circle come throughout her career.

She learns to think for herself.

She learns to make her own decisions.

She learns to eat her own mistakes.

She takes responsibility.

She becomes a leader.

She might lose the opportunity to learn these important values if she is a robot out on the field, looking at a signal, getting no feel of the situation, and just automatically doing what someone else is telling her to do without the option of shaking off – the power of saying no.

Take a step off of the softball field for and think about that-  THE POWER OF SAYING NO.

Let it sink in for just a few moments.

The power of saying, “You know what, I don’t feel comfortable with that” or “I would rather not do that.”

How many times in life have you had the option of saying yes or no? MILLIONS. Every day.

Sometimes, saying no is not always easy, but it’s IMPORTANT.

You don’t always have to say yes, you can choose to say no.

A lot goes into our decision making, but practicing saying no and getting the confidence to do so on the softball field could translate to having more confidence to say no OFF of the softball field.

Think back to middle school, high school, hanging out with your friends, being confronted with situations where you have to make choices.

If you have relied on someone else to make a decision for you your whole life without the ability/care to say no (shake off) on the softball field, then why might at a high school party where there is peer pressure be any different? That kind of pressure feels just like when you are in the circle, all eyes on you, tie game, 7th inning, 2 outs. Added pressure and YOU get to pick what pitch YOU want to throw.

Pitching has the ability to teach us different versions of STRENGTH. Yes, the strength to throw hard and hit corners, but the real STRENGTH comes in being an individual in the real world who can make her own decisions.

Learning how to say “no” is hidden deep in the life lessons you learn when being a pitcher. Having the body/mental awareness to trust your gut instinct of whether a pitch feels right or wrong and whether an outside situation feels right or wrong. The more experience you gain in saying no, the easier it is to say no. 

Allowing your pitchers to shake off pitches is just one small example within softball to coach these girls the way you would want them to live their lives outside of the softball field.

Give them tools to gain strength every time you are with them at practice and in games that allow them to be independent thinkers, make decisions on their own and take ownership of those decisions.

Empower them to feel peace with the decisions they make – whether it turns out being right or wrong within the game. That’s the way you learn. That’s the way you get through to them through softball, which is where they are spending the majority of their time.  It’s where they can learn through trial and error the pressures and the ups & downs life will throw at you sometimes.

It means shaking off a pitch to get the pitch YOU want because you just feel it on the inside and there are specific details you have noticed that the pitch you want, if executed properly, will get the out.

Allowing a pitcher to shake off pitches is powerful BEYOND MEASURE.

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.

 

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.”

10 Ways to Stand Out At A Softball Clinic

So you go to a clinic, there are a lot of other girls there, and that means you need to find a way to stand out of the crowd. It could be at one of our Packaged Deal clinics, or it could be at the clinic of your FAVORITE university. Maybe you’ve never heard of the people who will be instructing, maybe you’ve been counting down the days until you got the chance to go to this clinic. Either way, there are ways that you can STAND OUT from the 40 or even 100+ girls you are at the clinic with. Don’t you want to make a good impression? Standing out (for all the RIGHT reasons) can only be a good thing, because you never know WHO people know, and who might be able to put in a good word for you somewhere down the road….

Take for example your goal is to play at the University of Michigan, but you’re from Florida and you’re at Packaged Deal clinic in Florida. There’s us (the four girls from PD), and then also guest instructors at our clinic. Though you’re thousands of miles away from Michigan, one of those coaches may know the Michigan head coach. It takes just one phone call or one text to Carol Hutchins (Michigan Head Coach) to say, “Hey Coach, you’ve GOT to see this girl from Florida play, she’s the type of kid you would want on your team.” Or…the opposite could happen. Maybe one of us run into Carol Hutchins at a tournament and she says, “Hey, have you ever worked with this one girl, she’s from Florida, really wants to come to Michigan she said she’s been to one of your clinics. How was she?”  We will have to respond with the truth. If you didn’t’ hustle, if you weren’t coachable…we have to tell her that.

There are things you can do to make a great impression and represent yourself the best so you have a better chance at achieving your goals. Be memorable…

  1. Walk in with confidence – even if you have to fake it.

Ok, so you’re a little nervous. You don’t know what to expect, you’ve never even been to the facility before. You don’t know how many people are already going to be there. You have ONE chance to walk in for the FIRST time – be aware of what you look like! Even if you have to fake it, walk in with confidence. Walk in with a look in your eyes of excitement. Walk in with the feeling of not caring what anyone might say about you. From the minute you get out of the car, own it….own how you carry your bat bag, to the way you open the facility door, to the way you put your shoulders back and walk like you BELONG.

 

  1. Meet a friend, introduce yourself to new people

 

You might not know anybody at the clinic, but that’s totally ok! It just means you have a chance to make a NEW friend. While you’re waiting for the clinic to start, you could go up to another person who looks like she is by herself and introduce yourself. Then, once the clinic starts, it feels like you know someone there. If you are broken into groups, take it upon yourself to meet your other group members. Find out their name, maybe even where they’re from. Who knows…you could meet a lifelong friend if you just put yourself out there!

 

  1. Eye Contact

 

THIS is a big one. When an instructor is talking to you individually or in the group setting, give them your BEST eye contact. Even if they’ve been talking for a little while, lock in and give your focus. This means…no playing with your glove or your shoe laces or looking across the facility at what distracting things may be going on. You’ll soon realize, the more eye contact you give, the more the instructor gives you because she knows you are LISTENING. Take away eye contact from a clinic and bring it to conversations with your parents, brothers, sisters, teachers, coaches and even friends.

 

  1. Hustle – No Walking

 

Hustling is infectious to the rest of the players who are at the clinic. It even makes the COACHES want to give more/ The minute the clinic starts, there is no walking. – similar to not walking in between the lines out on the field. Hustling from station to station allows you to get more work in. Hustle is the sign of an athlete wanting to get better and not wanting to waste any time. DO NOT walk. Even if it seems like a short distance, just pick up your pace and hustle over when you’re changing stations or going to get water.

 

  1. Try New Things

 

Come into the clinic and BE OPEN. The worst mindset you can have when you go to a clinic is to be close-minded and unwilling to change. A clinic can help grow you by making you feel uncomfortable and pushing you to try new things. If you are open to trying new things, you never know what new drill or piece of information can take your game to the next level…

 

  1. Don’t Make The Same Mistake Over and Over Again

 

A clinic will allow you to go through lots of REPS. Don’t make the same mistake over and over again without making an adjustment at each station. If you are making the same mistake, then you are not learning, and it gives the impression that you are uncoachable and/or that you do not care that you’re making the same mistake over and over. On the other hand, if you make quick adjustments, it gets noticed. Making quick adjustments shows that you have great body awareness AND that you are coachable. Being coachable is one of the BEST things someone can say about you to someone else. Especially a coach who might be recruiting you.

 

  1. Be Inspired

 

Be inspired by the instructors, not afraid of them. Sure, they might be a little intense, they might be loud, and they might pick up on things you’ve never heard before or done before. But, don’t be scared of them, be inspired by them. At the end of the day, they most likely have been in YOUR shoes in the past. Listen and hang on every word they are sharing with you because their goal is to have you leave the clinic feeling more motivated than when you came in.

 

  1. Make Sure The Station is Clean Before Rotating

 

If you’re at a station where you’re going through a lot of balls, do not rotate to the next station until every single ball has been picked up. Leave the drill like you found it. Do NOT leave one person to be the person who is always the last one picking up the balls. Do NOT rotate without your entire group. This may seem like a small thing, but it speaks volumes about your character and the type of teammate you are. Softball is a team sport, being a good group-mate more than likely means that you’re a good teammate. This I know with certain is Jen Schro’s #1 way to stand out for the WRONG reason if you leave balls behind…

 

  1. Write Down Important TakeAways

 

You just learned a TON of information. After the clinic is done, go WRITE DOWN (not text) things that you learned from the clinic. Maybe it’s a quote that sticks out in your mind that really hits home, maybe it’s a drill, maybe it’s a mechanical fix that someone helped you with that you need to work on. When you write things down, you’re more likely to remember them, and go practice them. This will help you elevate your game faster.

 

  1. Thank Your Parents

 

Say THANK YOU to your parents (and/or whoever brought you) for letting you attend the clinic. Never forget that almost every clinic you go to costs money to allow you to participate. That money comes from someone’s hard work. Your parents are working hard to earn that money so that you can enjoy a sport that you LOVE. What THEY love is when you show appreciation. Your parents would do anything for you, but saying thank you makes them feel good and makes them want to continue to do things for you. You can write them a note, send them a text, or tell them when you’re leaving the facility. Whichever way you feel most comfortable, make it happen and never take things that you have or get to do with softball for granted.

 

3 Things To Do Post Clinic:

 

  1. Follow all forms of social media.

 

By following on social media, you have a chance to stay connected with the instructors one your clinic is done. By staying connected, you can now ask questions, learn new drills they post and also find out when they will be back in your area. By staying connected, you are showing that you’re invested and passionate. Find new drills even AFTER the clinic, they’re there for YOU. Softball knowledge is posted daily and it’s all for YOU. So even though you might not be physically WITH the instructors, you’re still apart of their tribe and can benefit just from following their social media accounts – as a whole and individually.

 

  1. Practice the drills daily/weekly.

 

The only way the drills that you learned will work is if YOU work. So get to it. Go practice the drills or mechanically positioning you learned and WORK to get better. You will leave the clinic on a high of excitement. Use that feeling to build momentum to take into your practices, working on the drills you learned. Most likely you learned drills that you could do on your OWN, even without anybody else. How bad do you want it?

 

  1. Continue to thank your parents for the investment they are making to allow you to play softball.

 

Not just after the clinic, but for the rest of your softbsll career, thank your parents. NEVER take what they do for you for granted. Softball is a time investment and a financial investment and they do not HAVE to let you play softball. The gas, the time driving, your clothes, your cleats, your equipment – all of these things cost money. So, THANK your parents and be appreciative for them letting you play the sport you love.

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!

Softball Pitching Tips 101

Was just going back through old videos and came across this pitching mechanics one that has basic tips to help you out a long the way. What I love when I look back over this video is the fact that no matter what age you are at, you can always re-learn from going back over basic fundamentals and make sure your body is in check.

I would love to hear your feedback. Here is what others have said:

Thank you, you helped so much! I am 12 and I am going to try to be a pitcher for the fall at my school. I love how you say stuff like “it is just like opening a doorknob” those tips help sooo much!

-Rebecca S

This video helped me alot i am a 12 year old going into 12 -15 and im a pitcher thankyou so much ur amazing!!! 🙂

-SoftballPitcher22

This helped soo much! im in 7th grade and working on my pitching. i just wish i had a softball when i watched to remember where my hand goes! thanks team express!!

– Anna Williams

Thank-you I’m really new at pitching.This video is helping me with the basics.I am 12 and trying to become a good pitcher.I CAN DO. THIS!! 🙂

-pancakelover5656

 

Leave your comments below

Why Fastpitch Pitching Leaves So Many In Awe…

I love everything about fastpitch pitching. It’s an art – physically and mentally. A very small percentage of people in this world can say that they have taken a stab at it, and even fewer can say that they ended their career as a pitcher and made it through the whole way. There is a certain splendor in watching someone perform the action of underhand pitching, and actually doing it well.

Let me be the first to tell you – pitching is not easy because of how unique the motion is and how each part of your body does something on its own while it still contributes to one full, complete, pitching circle. Softball pitching leaves fans who aren’t around the sport jaw-dropped. Pitching is an act that so many people want to do, but very few last until the very end in the collegiate or professional ranks.

What makes pitching so beautiful is the motion, the dedication and the pressure.

Amanda Scarborough Pitching

The Motion

There is such a high percentage of parents, especially dads, who have thrown overhand and can teach their sons and daughters the general idea of how to throw a ball in an overhand motion. The percentage of those parents who have any idea on how to pitch understand is minute, which causes it to have a certain mystique to those who watch. The motion of fastpitch pitching is intriguing.

When watching a fastpitch pitcher, there is truly so much more to it than meets the eye, especially when it comes to physical mechanics of pitching. It’s not easy to perform the action, and it’s even harder to actually excel at being a great pitcher. Because of all the moving parts through one pitch, all of them add to the allure.

There is so much that goes into creating 1 pitch:

  1. Explosiveness – you get ONE BIG PUSH every time you go to complete the act to get the absolute MOST energy from your body. One burst of energy, then you get a break, then another burst of energy. This explosiveness is NOT just a step or a lunge – it’s a giant glide off of the pitching rubber. Amanda Scarborough Fastpitch Pitching
  2. Balance / Smoothness – while you’re making that explosive push out, your head and eyes must stay still, you must stick your finish like a gymnast on a balance beam after exerting a ton of energy through your pitch.
  3. Rules – while you’re trying to be explosive, you have rules you have to worry about concerning your pitch being a “legal” pitch by the rulebook.
  4. Timing –there are many moving parts throughout an underhand pitch, and all have them have to be in the right place at the right time in order to throw a strike. Not only is timing critical for accuracy, the timing is critical in order to have speed and spin. Timing is everything. The muscle memory and repetition to create that timing is the most important because think about the full motion and how many different things are moving at once at a HIGH pace – elbows, calves, legs, finger tips, shoulders, core, wrist. Pitchers are asking their bodies to move at the fastest rate possible, but also be on time every single time in order to throw strikes. Because of that, timing takes repetition after repetition to master.

There is no other motion in sports quite like the underhand delivery, which leads people to be in awe of pitchers.

There are so many things that need to go right in every single pitch in order to have success in a single game, nevertheless in an entire career. The feel of knowing when a good pitch is coming out of your hand is a feeling that cannot be created with any other action in softball. It’s a feeling of success, effectiveness and control and a feeling only pitchers can understand.   To create that feeling over and over again through hard work and dedication is what it takes to create a beautiful, fluid motion that leaves ordinary people in admiration.

The Dedication (aka Sacrifice)

What adds to the attractiveness of a great pitcher is the fact that they are dedicated to their craft. Because of the things listed above about the motion of a pitcher, it takes repetition after repetition to form the correct habits and mechanics. There are so many small drills you can work on as a pitcher to make a complete motion beautiful. You can skip those drills, but being dedicated to those small drills day in and day out is what adds to the absolute beauty of a pitcher with a solid foundation and will add to her success in the long run.

It takes so much time and you must be willing to put in the extra work – more work than any other position player may put into their swing or fielding a ground ball. Are you will to sacrifice giving up some other things to become a GREAT pitcher? If you are willing to, I promise the sacrifice will seem worth it when you look back.

A pitcher pays more attention to detail than any other player every time you go out to pitch, as pitching is the most intricate position to try to master.

It’s that attention to detail and dedication to practicing that creates body awareness, feel and smoothness in a pitcher’s muscles.  Yes you may be dedicated, but a pitcher’s motion is always a work in progress. Mentally, it can take a toll on a pitcher to put in the work and always having to correct or tweak a little something here and there. For as many things that are going correctly in your motion, there is always something to work on, always something you can be doing better or getting stronger at. The devotedness to practice for a pitcher should be relentless. With devotedness comes perseverance, all the while you are learning the greatest lessons about yourself.

When you look back, you realize the sweat, fatigue, pain and sacrifices were all worth it.

The Pressure

The pressure a pitcher goes through in a game is extraordinary. Think of how a playing field is called a “diamond.” Who is in the middle of that “diamond”?  The pitcher.  Remember, a real diamond is made from high pressure and temperatures. So, seeing as how a pitcher’s position is right in the middle of a diamond, the pressure will be high… Amanda Scarborough Fastpitch Pitching

A pitcher is battle tested so many times throughout a season. If you have never been on a pitching mound or in a pitching circle when the bases are loaded and the game is on the line, you have no idea what thoughts go through a pitcher’s mind and the intense pressure that an be felt at that point. All eyes are on you and you play a tremendous part in what the outcome of the game will be. From the stands, you may think you know, but it’s one of those things one must experience in order to get the full effect.

In the middle of the pitching circle there is no hiding. Everyone watching THINKS they know when you are doing well or when you are doing bad. Sometimes they are right with their assumption, other times they are completely wrong. BUT, as pitcher, you have the most chances out of anybody on the field for others to see your results.You can look at it as the most chances for opportunity to show the world what you’ve got, or you can look at it as the most chances to mess up – the choice is yours. In a game, a hitter may get anywhere between 0-10 swings in 4 at bats. A pitcher is throwing 100+ pitches in a 7 inning game. Your skills are put on display for everyone to see every time you release the ball.

The pressure is a huge part of what makes pitching even more beautiful to watch and take in.

Pressure adds adrenaline and fuel to the fire. Do you use this to get motivated, or do you let it get the best of you?? At the end of the day, if you can handle the pressure and learn to take the bad results like you take the good results, stay consistent with your emotions and be able to handle the pressure one pitch at a time, the sky is the limit for where a pitcher’s abilities can go. You learn to FEEL the pressure, embrace it, but not let it take over your emotions. The pressure will ALWAYS be there, it will never go away. But what makes a pitcher even more amazing, is when they handle the pressure and are able to move on to the next pitch, next inning and next game with a fresh, clear way of approaching it. The best pitchers will change their mindset of thinking of pressure as something negative, and start thinking of pressure as an opportunity.

Amanda Scarborough Pitching

Pitching. I love coaching it, I love still getting a chance to do it. I just think that everything about pitching is beautiful. It’s one of the hardest things to do in sports, which is why the victory of having success when you pitch is one of the biggest highs of the world. It’s the hard that makes it great. There’s a beauty to being in control and having the ball in your hand. You feel the seams under your finger tips and you may even feel your palms sweat a little while you hold the ball. This feeling is OUR feeling – the pitchers in the world who want to take not only the ball in their hand, but they want to take the GAME in their hand and lead their team. This is what it takes to be a great pitcher, are you ready?

Not everyone can pitch. It’s mysterious, it’s difficult, it’s a never-ending project.  When you pitch, you get to be in your own world, like tunnel vision. No one else knows what is going on in your head and your inner thoughts. When you pitch, you can actually become a different person; it’s almost like a yearly Halloween costume. It is your chance to enter a different place and become a different person. If you have never pitched before, it’s hard to even remotely understand what I am talking about, for being a pitcher is its own special breed.

If you can dedicate your time to trying to perfect your mechanics, while perservering through the pressure, then THAT will get you through til the end.

If it’s in you, never give up on being a pitcher. Finishing your career as a pitcher is an accomplishment in itself; it’s like entering into a exclusive sorority. Compared to the mass numbers, very few will be there with you, but if you make it, you share an exceptional bond that very few will ever know.

Amanda Scarborough Fastpitch Pitching

Never Give Up, Never Ever Give Up

Weeks ago, I was reminiscing and thought of a memory in my life that I look back on and realize it truly effected my life and softball career.  It’s a moment I know for a fact that a lot of young players go through – someone telling you you aren’t good enough or you’ll never make it.  I just don’t believe it.  The only way you won’t “make it” is it you don’t have passion for something and don’t work hard enough at it – with all my heart I believe that.  When you have passion for whatever your heart wants to take you, it drives you, it gives you direction and it gives you momentum.  Passion pushes you to your dreams and is the driving force behind your energy and motivation. 

Something that people don’t know about me: On my first travel ball team, I was the #4 or #5 pitcher- dead last. I was the pitcher who would throw against all of the really good teams because I threw so slow, and those teams struggled to hit slow pitching. If there were 13 players on the team, I would have been the 13th player to see playing time.

I wasn’t in the starting 9 on the lineup card. In fact, I rarely got at bats.

Oh, and also, I was told by another parent that I probably should quit pitching and I would never make it.

Fast forward 8-10 years after that. I earned a scholarship to play at Texas A&M as a pitcher and a hitter. My freshman year I was the starting pitcher for the first game of the season and threw a no hitter my first ever collegiate game. That year I was named Big 12 Player of the Year and Big 12 Freshman of the Year – the only freshman to ever have accomplished that in the Big 12. I was also named an All American.

People see me now as the All American who played at Texas A&M. I have been through so much more than just that. For the players who are told that you will never make it, I am living proof that if you love playing and are willing to sacrifice time, tears and effort to something you love, you CAN make it.

Lesson learned: Never, never, NEVER give up.

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Experience Makes You Shine

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

How are you going to handle your defining moment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE REACTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEEK OUT THE EXPERIENCE

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

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

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

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

PRESSURE IS PRIVILEDGE

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

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

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

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

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

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