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…

Sometimes, You’re a Loser

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but everybody is not always a winner.  We live in a society where everyone is scared to tell a kid that they lost and in a society where everybody gets a trophy or a ribbon, proclaiming they won.  This just isn’t real life.  How does this prepare a young player for the real world once sports are done?

Now, if you know me, you know that I am 100% always about making girls feel great about themselves and helping them become the best people they can be, not just the best players they can be.  But here is what I know: There is always a winner, and there is always a loser.  If there is not a winner or a loser, then there really isn’t a competition happening.  If we are teaching kids that everyone is a winner, then we aren’t teaching them real life; we aren’t preparing them for what’s ahead.  Knowing that there is a winner and a loser is what drives competitiveness.  That competitiveness is going to be needed and used long after softball is over.

The more competitive players are going to be the players who show up to the ballpark every day with a desire to WIN.  That idea of winning is going to be what motivates them to practice more, so that they can help out the team more when it is game time in order to WIN.  The idea of winning is always going to be what motivates them to stay focused during the game for the entire 7 innings, because they know that if they lose focus, there could be a bad inning, which could result in losing.   A will to win will also motivates them to be a leader and help their teammates become the best players they can be, thus ensuring more wins than losses.

Doesn’t this sound like the recipe for success in life? — Hard work. Focus. Leadership. Teamwork.

Hmm…those things sound familiar.  Oh right!  They’re the major keys to having success in life and success in a career.  But, if everyone wins, then players will not feel that sense of urgency to have a work ethic and drive unlike any other.  There has to be something at stake.  And every time you enter a game, winning is at stake.  Learn to win.  Learn to lose.  Hate losing more than you like winning.

Take an in-game example.  Other than just on the scoreboard, throughout the game there is a winner and a loser with every at bat that happens.  A pitcher either wins the battle or a hitter wins the battle.  Think of that tense situation with the bases loaded, 2 outs, tie ball game.  I want the pitcher in the circle or hitter up to bat on my team who KNOWS there is a winner and a loser. She doesn’t get scared of it.  She just accepts it.  BUT, she wants to win so bad that the will to win overcomes the fear of losing.  Sometimes this player with the will to win and uber competitive drive isn’t even the most talented player on the team, and that’s totally okay.  When it comes down to it, I want the competitive player over the talent.

Be so good they can’t ignore you.

If we aren’t coaching to win (to truly be the ONE winner), then we are not teaching to compete.  You must lose to truly be able to appreciate winning. The way we learn is to fail.  Losing is considered failing.  If everyone is always a winner, then we never truly learn to fail and won’t push ourselves as hard to become better, learn more, work harder and become more dedicated.  Losing is not a BAD thing. This is not a problem of erectile dysfunction. We’ve all been losers at some point.  BUT, I would be likely to say that the loss fueled your desire to win even higher.  It’s human nature.  Nobody WANTS to lose.  Everybody WANTS to win.  It’s not always about your record, but it IS about teaching how to lose and teaching how to win.  You can still be teaching these things and have a winning record.  I totally get that it’s not all about your record or all about the scoreboard.  However, the lessons to be taught by having a conversation about winning and losing, and teaching kids the meaning of winning and losing, has a lot to be said.

Hate the feeling of losing more than you love the feeling of winning.

Competitiveness is going to be what drives players and drives a teamA team understanding that there is always a winner and always a loser is one of the most important, fundamental concepts to learn about sports at a young age; let’s not ignore it. It’s there.  It’s real.  Teach it at a young age so it’s not a surprise once they become older, when the wins and losses and at bats have more meaning behind them.  By teaching winning, you’re teaching fight, leadership, focus, hard work and team work.  Sounds like a winning combination to me.

If you enjoyed this post, let me know in the comments or on Facebook.

What does it mean to be competitive? Part 1 – Competing Against Other Teams

(This month’s topic will be broken down into 3 parts, 1 in each of the next 3 weeks.)

 Competition Quotes

One of the words I most frequently heard at Texas A&M from head coach, Jo Evans, was “COMPETE.” 
 
Competition fuels desire.  Competition adds drive. Competing has become somewhat of a lost art for this generation of softball players, and one that I hear from many college coaches that is a characteristic they are searching for in their future athletes.  Nowadays, more often than not,competing is a quality that is having to be taught, instead of being innate.

 

When I use the word “compete” I am referring to that inner fire that burns to go out on the field and beat the team in the opposing dugout, to compete for a position and to compete against yourself to see just how good you can really be.
Competition is one of those lessons that sports builds in you, if you allow it.  However, being around the softball fields at the select and college levels, I see fewer and fewer girls who are showing up and just flat out competing when they are out on that field.

 

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

1) Competing Against Other teams

Competiting against other teams

 

The ability to be competitive against other teams…

 

 …sounds easy right?

 

Who would’ve ever thought that you would have to teach/motivate a player to just competeagainst another team.  This is your most basic form of competition a college coach is looking for.  This kind of competing involves stepping out onto a field and knowing that at the end of the game there is going to be a winner and there is going to be a loser, and dreadfully not wanting that loser to be you.  It’s these people who are the upmost competitive on the field who hate to lose more than they like to win.  Competing on the field against another teams means having an inner fire and inner desire to beat whoever is in the opposing dugout.  Most players will show up for the “big” game to compete, but it’s the most competitive players who will show up for the game against a team they know they SHOULD beat.  This kind of competitive player knows that at this time that all stats are out the window, and you compete knowing that anybody can beat anybody on any given day no matter who you’re going up against.

 

Even though this is the most basic form of competing, and some people take it for granted, I find that sometimes it has to be brought out in young girls playing today.  The mere idea that if there is a game being played, that you should want to beat the other team more than anything else going on in that moment at that time.  It comes out as a passion to win.  A passion to win should not just come out when there is a lot at stake for the game (ie. playoff games, nationals, championship games).  A passion to win should just come out because there is an opponent standing on the other side of the field in a different uniform.  A passion to win for those uber competitive players shines so much that it glows on other players on the team in attempt to lead the team and get everyone focused on the same goal.

 

One theory I hear all too often deals with the fact that nowadays, “everybody wins”, and “everybody gets a trophy”.  This is not how life really is when girls get older and are in the “real world”.  There are parents who are too overprotective and want to make sure that their daughter feels like a winner, even though she may have lost the championship game.  I am all for making a player feel better after a big loss, but there also has to come the honest truth and realization that there IS a loser.  By teaching a player that she lost, it makes her that much more hungry not to ever feel that feeling of losing again, thus creating that inner fire  to go out and win that much more when she steps out onto the field the next time.  More importantly, it pushes her work harder and get mentally tougher in game situations.  The idea that everybody wins is not realistic when you get to the “real world” and players are all grown up.  Build your desire to compete now, so that it pays off later even when sports are over.

 

In any type of game there will always be a winner and a loser, which is what makes sports so interesting to watch from the outside and from the inside, builds character.  It is that internal drive of simply not wanting to lose that makes the most competitive players stick out to college coaches when they are at the games.  College coaches are looking for more than a player who can hit a homerun or throw 68 mph.  They want heart, passion, drive and internal motivation so that when you get to their program, that is one less thing they have to teach.  Plus, if you are that player who is competitive, it can rub off on the other players on the team. Lead by being competitive.

 

Part of that inner drive deals with playing through injuries, sicknesses and being tough.  Competitive players compete through minor physical setbacks because they love to play so much and want to help their team win.  Players who are not as competitive look for reasons to get out of playing in games – a cough, a runny nose, bad weather, a broken nail.  Players who love to competeFOR their team and AGAINST other teams will do whatever it takes to be out on the field and play the game they love.

 

Are you competitive? Are opponents scared to play you?  Do your teammates look to you as someone they want to go to war with? Answer these questions truthfully so you know if you need to reevaluate your outlook and passion for this amazing game.
COMPETE EVERY PITCH.

 

Remember – We Are All in This Together

We’ve all had those LONG weekends at the ballpark, with early mornings and late nights, possibly 3-4 hours of sleep before you have to be back at the field for an 8am game. (8am games should be banned from our sport, by the way, they are just awful).  As softball players, coaches and softball families, we share these moments together.  Though our philosophies may be different on how to hit, pitch, throw or run a 1st and 3rd play, at the end of the day, we are ALL in this together and go through similar situations together, all involving things that actually make us more similar than sometimes it may seem or feel.

Amanda Scarborough we are all in this together softball

I used to get made fun of because I take pictures of EVERYTHING, from meals to desserts (I love food and I am not ashamed) to my friends & traveling across the country, you name it, I’ll probably take a picture of it. Sometimes my picture-attention is drawn to the sky and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets I see no matter where I travel to, no matter where or who I am coaching – the sky and the beautifulness of the earth remains a constant.

Amanda Scarborough sunset

It made me think, at the ballpark, we are all a part of different organizations and teams.  It feels like it can separate us because we are in different uniforms, wearing different colors, playing for different coaches.  We lay it all out on the field and may have different ways of competing, cheering and leading, but we all share a vision of beauty through a sunrise or sunset, where all of that individualism can go away, and we are able to share something together at a place that consistently feels like it divides us.

Because really, at the end of the day, we (coaches and parents) share a sunset just like we share the same vision to inspire and support as many girls as possible to get to the next level, and make every player out there the most beautiful player they can be.  This is REALLY what our game is all about.  A shared sunrise and sunset can be a daily reminder of our ultimate goal, and the very reason why we are even up there at the ballpark at all hours of the day.  We all share a common sacrifice of time and commitment.  However, so many times the true meaning of why we are out there is lost…

Next time you are at the ballpark and feel confused, frustrated, or annoyed, take a look at the clouds, stars, or moon and remember that no matter at who or why you’re frustrated, everyone out there shares stronger commonalities than differences.  If we keep it simple, and remember that we all SHARE a common vision, even though we may not be sharing the same colors we are wearing, the ballpark can become gathering place where familiar goals are trying to be achieved.

You see, out at the ballpark we are much more alike than we are different, even though sometimes the ballpark tends to bring out our differences, it should actually be bringing us together.

Amanda Scarborough sunset

Fastpitch Pitching Mechanics Analysis

You don’t have to be 6 ft tall to throw the ball in the upper 60’s.  I know for a fact that this is not true.  How am I so certain? Because I did it. It didn’t come easy and it didn’t come on my own.  With a strong work ethic and amazing pitching coaches growing up, especially one who taught me some of the BEST fast pitch mechanics from age 9-13, it can most definitely happen.

For someone under 6 ft tall or 5’10 or even 5’8, to throw in the upper 60’s, you’re going to have to have solid mechanics, especially with the lower half of your body.  Gaining MPH in your pitch comes from a great delivery, a solid foundation of base mechanics and using your lower half the correct way.

I want to tell you about my mechanics as I take you through a slow motion video and explain through each frame exactly what I am doing.  I also draw lines, circles and arrows for a complete video analysis. Enjoy!  Let me know what you think and if you have questions!

So, What Exactly Are College Coaches Looking For?

6 Things College Coaches Are Looking For

  1. Versatile / Athletic
  2. Can Produce Offensively
  3. Softball Savvy
  4. Competitive / Knows How to Win
  5. Good Attitude & Coachable
  6. Grades

One of the biggest questions in our game today is, “What are college coaches looking for in recruiting an athlete?”  There’s not just ONE thing that coaches are looking for.  In my mind, there are multiple things that add up to being a recruitable player.  Some are tangible, some are intangible.  What separates you from the thousands of other girls out there who are trying to be recruited who can hit, pitch and field a ground ball?

This question can be answered go into a very position specific answer with a coach once they identify a player (ie what a coach is looking for when recruiting a pitcher, what a coach looks for when looking at a swing), but there are definitely some factors across the board that all coaches are looking for to find a player who is going to come in and be able to make an impact on their program.

 1.  Versatile/Athletic

It’s great to be able to show versatility a player who can play multiple positions, especially if you are not a pitcher, catcher or short stop.  Pitcher, catcher, and short stop are those few positions out on the field where a coach is okay with finding a player that excels at JUST that position.  If you are a standout pitcher or catcher, it’s an added bonus if you can swing the bat and produce at the plate, as well.  However, college coaches are less likely to mind recruiting a pitcher who JUST pitches (pitchers really ARE special 🙂 ) and does not play any other position, and the same goes for a catcher.  An awesome defensive short stop is a specialized position, as well.

Coaches will bend over backward to find the dime-a-dozen pitchers, a catcher who can throw out a girl stealing who can run a 2.6 and a short stop who can save runs and command an infield. 

To have an impactful pitcher, catcher and/or short stop are game-changing positions.  If you have a pitcher who can shut teams down, you don’t really care if she can hit the broad side of a barn.  IF she can hit AND pitch, more power to her — then that player is probably one of the most highly recruited players, because coaches get more “bang for their buck” in getting a pitcher and a hitter in one player.

Also, if you are an awesome short stop, that means that you are most likely pretty athletic, as the short stop is usually labeled as the most athletic kid on the field.  If you play short stop well, a coach sees you as an athlete that he/she might be able to convert to a different position with ease.  Remember that once you get to college, every athlete on the team is solid, and there are only 9 positions on the field.  So the more versatile you can be, and have the ability to play multiple positions, the higher your chance is of getting recruited……And then, once you are there, being able to get playing time.   When I played at A&M, there were 5-6 players on our team who had played short stop in high school or for their travel team.  4-5 of those players ended up playing other positions than short once they got to college.

Please understand that I am not saying you have to be a pitcher, catcher or short stop to stand out.  But being completely honest, those are probably the 3 positions most looked at when a coach walks up to the field empty -minded and with no agenda as to which position they are looking at.

After looking at those positions, coaches are looking to see which ATHLETES stand out from both dugouts.  Coaches think that they can build off of pure athletes — turn them into any position if they are athletic enough.  Because athletic player have more body awareness, then it is easier to transform them and find a spot for them on the field.  If you have athleticism, show it off.  I think of an athletic player as someone who is strong, agile, quick, can jump, and is flexible.  You can have some of these qualities, or you can have all of them.  The more you have, the better of an athlete you are. 

Players who play multiple sports have higher chances of overall being more athletic because different sports develop different muscles and different athletic qualities.

Think of the jumping skills that come with playing volleyball.  That jumping makes you more explosive with your bottom half, and also works on fast twitch muscles, as volleyball moves so fast and is a reaction sport.  Think of the endurance that comes with playing basketball or track.

Your body can develop to become an amazing athlete by playing different sports.  Many college coaches LOVE multiple sport athletes because of the athleticism that it breeds.  However, at the same time, there are coaches that are impartial to multiple sport athletes.  I played for a coach who likes multi-sport athletes, so I am more partial to encourage players to play multiple sports IF, and I mean IF, they can get in quality time towards their main sport and continue to show progression in the right direction.  If they are staying the same or digressing in their main sport, that is when I feel it is time to cut back on playing multiple sports.  My theory: play multiple sports for as long as you can. (Some talented athletes can even pull this off for the entirety of their high school careers).

The more athletic and versatile you are, the higher of a chance you have at being noticed and recruited, and then once you actually make a college team, the higher chance you have at finding playing time.  Work hard to get stronger. Work hard to get faster. Work hard to develop athletic skills that do not just involve hitting or throwing or pitching a ball.

 

 2.  You produce offensively

Coaches are ALWAYS looking for solid offensive players.  It doesn’t mean you have to hit tons of homeruns and it doesn’t mean you have to hit tons of doubles.  Understand exactly what YOUR offensive game is so you can focus on it and capitalize on it. If you do have power, that’s awesome, but there are other offensive ways to catch attention, as well.  I would say in 90-95% of colleges, if you are one of the top offensive producers on the team, a coach will find a spot for you in the lineup and figure out a way to put you somewhere defensively.

The Big Power Hitter

Can you crush the ball? You’ll catch coaches’ attention.  In college, coaches are looking for the top 9 offensive producers to fill into their lineup.  If you are one of the top hitters and have a willingness and ability to show that you can play a position you’ve never played before, you can find yourself in a lineup.  Be sure you are a hitter who consistently shows that power and show that you’re not a “lucky” hitter.  When college coaches are there watching you, you string together quality at bats, where you have a good approach and are hitting the ball hard more often than not.  Take advantage of big RBI opportunities.   If you are known you’re your power hitting at the plate, then it is your job on your high school team, on your travel team, and it will be your job when you get to college to come through with the big, RBI hits.  A college coach wants a power hitter that thrives in clutch RBI opportunities.  A big power hitter looks at bases loaded with 2 outs as an OPPORTUNITY, not as a fear.  If you struggle in these RBI situations in tournaments or in high school, why would a college coach think you are going to be any different once you make it to the next level?

The Speedster

Do you have speed? Use it — consistently.  Speed kills in our sport.  Our sport is based around speed.  But it does no good to have that speed, be a lefty slapper, and not consistently be able to put the ball on the ground.

If speed is your game, show that you are player who consistently gets on base – some way, some how. That’s your job.

Have a great short game.  Remember to read the defense when you’re up to bat. Put the ball on the groundYour speed does NOT matter if you are popping the ball up.   Catch a coaches’ attention by consistently putting the ball on the ground and having great bat control. By putting the ball in play more often, you’re putting pressure on the defense, and if you have speed, you’re going to pressure them make errors, as they will hurry to get rid of the ball to get you out.

So, you have speed? You have speed AND power? Even better.  The toughest players to play against defensively are the players who can drop bombs and can also read the defense and know when to drop a bunt down the line to keep the defense off guard.  This greatly comes into play, too, because as a hitter you are going to go through slumps – it’s inevitable.  If you are in a slump, and you aren’t seeing the ball well, if you have a little bit of speed, you can lay down a bunt down the line and find another way to get on.  A college coach will notice if you are a player who is consistently finding a way on base. If you have speed USE IT, by putting the ball on the ground and causing havoc in the infield.  On base percentage is such an important statistic – even more important than batting average.

The Singles Hitter

Okay, so maybe you can’t hit the ball 300 ft and you can’t run a 2.7 to first base.  Then where do you fall?  If you are a player who is more of a singles hitter, embrace that!!  Don’t go up TRYING to hit homeruns, it’s only going to work against your game.  KNOW that you are more of a hitter who is looking to hit a single, make contact, advance runners, execute your short game.  A singles hitter can be a player who is one of the most “headsy” players on the team.  She is always looking for a way to help the team.

For example: There’s a runner at 1B with 1 out.  Your best power hitter is on deck.  Your execution job is to either lay down a sacrifice bunt OR hit behind the runner (hitting the ball to the right side).  If you happen to hit a single to the right side when you are trying to hit behind the runner, more power to you.  A singles hitter has to be a little bit more crafty in her thoughts and knowledge of the game. KNOW that you are more of a singles hitter, be a hitter that is consistently making contact, a hitter who has great at bats and and a hitter who is great at putting the ball into play.  I promise if you do this, coaches will notice (because coaches know the game and they understand that everybody has their own role), and you will be a benefit to have in the lineup.

Every offensive player in a lineup has a role.  All of these offensive roles are needed in a collegiate lineup to work together in a strategic lineup.  Don’t try to be something you aren’t.  Know your strengths.  Be consistent with those strengths.  Believe in your strengths.  Allow those strengths to flourish when college coaches’ eyes are on you.

 

3.  Softball “Savviness”

Coaches love finding players who just KNOW the game.  These are players who can think for themselves and trust their softball instincts.  I’ve noticed a lot of times, on tournament teams when I am out coaching, SO many player’s are programmed to just do exactly what their coach tells them – whether it’s when to swing or the exact defensive position to be placed in.  These player are learning to be robots, they aren’t learning to be instinctual players out in the field.  If you do not learn to think for yourself and position yourself in the game, you will not become the best instinctual softball player you can be.  A collegiate coach does not constantly want to be moving the robots out in the field during a game – there are way too many other things to worry about.

Softball savvy players are so aware of their surroundings and the game situation, that they innately know what to do almost every time the ball comes to them.

Coaches like this because then it’s less teaching they have to do about basic nuances of the game once you get to their program.  Becoming softball savvy comes from watching softball on TV, it comes from watching baseball on TV, it comes from asking questions, learning and then trusting in what you learned once you get out on the field.  If you do not trust your knowledge of the game, and you are second guessing every play and every situation, then it doesn’t matter how much you KNOW about softball, you’re not going to be able to make good decisions once you’re out on the field.

Is it in you? Are you learning or are you a robot? Don’t be a robot!!!!  Love this game so much that it just is molded into your brain and your movements out on the field.  Ask questions and learn.  TRUST what you learn and trust in yourself.  Do not be told what to do at all times — this is NOT learning.

 

4.  Competitive / Knows how to win

I’ve talked about this before in a different one of my blogs :: the ability to be competitive and have a fire in your belly that you want to win is a HUGE quality that cannot really be taught.  Knowing how to win might sound like an obvious quality, but it is a TRUE quality that college coaches are looking for in their programs.

They want players that come from winning teams (winning high school teams or winning tournament teams) because then the players get to their collegiate programs and EXPECT to win, because they don’t know anything else.   They like players who come from winning programs:: high school teams that win championships and go deep into playoffs and/or travel ball teams that play at the highest quality tournaments AND go deep into those tournaments.   Coaches are paying attention to how the teams you are apart of are doing and if winning is a culture that you are around day in and day out.  If you are used to winning, it drives you; it becomes a part of you and once you get to college, that winning attitude will stay inside of you.

Remember, college coaches keep their jobs by WINNING.  Their livelihood depends on it.  So they are going to put out on the field the best lineup that is going to give them the best chance to win.  If a player has played in a big championship game at a tournament level or high school level, then that player has championship experience at a young age, which prepares you to compete in championships at the collegiate level.

You can’t teach what it is like to feel a championship game.  You have to experience it.

The adrenaline is higher, the stakes are higher, the competition is higher.  You have to be able to control your emotions and get ready for THE BIG GAME.  So if a college coach knows that a player has championship experience, then this is an added benefit of coming to their team.  All coaches expect to be competing IN championship games for their conferences and for the post season.  Championship experience and having an attitude of “been there done that” entering the game will calm their team headed into an important game.   (No, I am not talking about players who are cocky with the “been there done that” attitude….I am talking about the players who don’t let their emotions get the best of them and are able to go into a big championship game and keep their emotions in check)

They want players who fight, who are internally competitive and hate losing.  College coaches want players who hate losing, because THEY hate losing. (Yes, I heard those of you out there who commented on my Sometimes You’re a Loser blog, and I am in agreement with you that there IS a right and wrong a way to lose. BUT in this instance, and in the Sometimes You’re a Loser blog, I am talking about an internal drive that causes you to hate losing and not want to FEEL what it’s like to lose).  But back to what I was saying about being a player who comes from a winning team–  think of it this way – the more you are winning, the more games you are playing because you stay in tournaments longer, and the longer you are in tournaments, the better the teams you are playing, so quality of competition increases. 

Overall, it’s just a win-win, no pun intended.  By playing better competition, you become a better player.  So you’re playing more games, you’re playing higher talent, and you’re learning what it’s like to truly compete in a championship atmosphere against the best of the best —– which is EXACTLY what you’re doing once you make it to college.  See why winning is important?

5.   Good Attitude & Coachable

What do your high school coaches and travel ball coaches say about your attitude and if you are a coachable player?

A coachable player is one who listens respectfully to any coach giving you direction.  A coachable player is one who does NOT think she knows more than any coach she comes across.

If a coach is giving her information, she is taking it in like a sponge.  A coachable player is someone who never stops learning and wants to continue to grow.  If your high school and tournament team coaches think that you are NOT a coachable player, then what would lead a college coach to believe that you would just magically become a coachable player whenever you got to their school?  College coaches want someone who is raw and has talent, but also someone who they can coach into an even better athlete once you get to their school.  If you are not coachable and you don’t want to learn, then you are not one of those players.

Along with being coachable, a coach wants a player who has a good attitude (This might sound cliche here, but it cannot be stressed enough).  College coaches and college players are around each other A LOT.  A good attitude makes people around you better, and you’re enjoyable to be around.  A bad attitude that is negative is not something that most of us want to be around, especially with the amount that a college team is around each other. Also, remember that our game is a game of failure — it just is! So a coach wants player who have the ability to deal with failure throughout a season because it’s going to be happening — a lot.  Sorry, but you’re not going to get a hit every time.  Hate to break it to you, but you’re going to give up a home run (or two…or twenty) in college.  A player with a positive mindset and attitude can rebound faster.  A player with a negative mindset holds on to these things.  You have to be able to move on, it’s a long college season. 

A good attitude involves caring about the team more than you care about yourself.

Players who throw fits in the dugout and show body language on the field, to me, are more worried about themselves than they are about the team.  Remember we play a team sport, because the end result of the team is more important than the end result of an individual player.  A player with a bad attitude and a selfish attitude is a cancer, I REPEAT, a cancer to ANY team.  You are only as strong as your weakest attitude.  Once you get to the collegiate level, it’s all about doing whatever it takes to win and compete.  Players who have bad attitudes hold teams back.  A coach, then, has to give that player more attention and more time than anybody else on the team, thus making that player a selfish player.

Be aware of your attitude AND your body language!! When coaches come to your games, they can see these things! Even if you don’t think are you giving off bad energy, you very well might be!  Coaches are around so many different types of players and WATCH so many different types of players; they are experienced in the arena of picking up on whether or not a player is a team player or not.  Work on your attitude and being a good teammate just like you work on your swing.  In order for a team to win a championship in college, they must have good team chemistry and a college coach does not want 1 player to hold them back from achieving their goals because that one player has a bad attitude. 

 

6.  Grades

You can’t talk about getting recruited to play college ball without the discussion of grades and what kind of student you are in the classroom. (In fact, I probably should have not put this one last on the list as it easily could be #1 and #1 for the simple reason that if you don’t pass, you don’t play…and then this whole talking about getting recruited thing is pointless).

You can be the most talented player on the field or even in an entire tournament, but if you don’t make the grades, then you can’t make it TO college or make it IN college.

I am not saying this because teachers sent me a check to write about this, or parents out there emailed me and wanted me to write about the importance of grades.  I am writing about this because this is real life and this is SOOOOO IMPORTANT.  With that being said, I am not saying that you have to make all A’s in high school; this might be achieavable for some student athletes, but definitely not for all.  I am not an expert on what exact GPA and SAT scores you have to have to get into certain schools, I will leave that research up to you.  What I do know, is that a college coach has SO much to worry about, that they don’t constantly want to have to be worried about if their players will be eligible to play due to their grades from semester to semester.  But let’s back up a second before talking about actually making the grades when in college….

….FIRST, you have to get IN to a college.  There are certain GPAs, ACT, and/or SAT scores you have to make to even be able to make it into a school to be able to play.  For some student athletes who don’t have the grades to get into a Division 1 school out of high school, some of them might even start at the junior college level.  **Remember that once you become a freshman in high school, EVERY GRADE YOU MAKE COUNTS.   So even though you  may think, “Oh I’m just a freshmen, my fall semester doesn’t count too much” — you’re wrong.

Study.  Make time for school.  Going to school and applying yourself in the classroom matters.

One of the first questions a college coach will ask after they spot a player on the field they are interested in is, “How is she in school?”  A lot of times this will make or break an athlete if they do not have good grades.  A coach looks at someone who doesn’t put in effort in school as someone that they are going to have to baby-sit once that player gets to college.  There are so many other things a college coach is worrying about and would rather worry about than making sure his/her starting centerfielder is making the grades every semester to stay eligible.  If you don’t make a certain GPA in college every semester and pass a certain amount of hours, then you become ineligible.  (Once again, I will leave it up to you to know exactly what that GPA is according to the NCAA).  If you are not making the grades at a college and become ineligible, it doesn’t matter if you have the capability of hitting 40 homerun in a season or striking out 400 girls in a year, if you don’t pass, you don’t play, and then you are unable to help your team win.

Another reason it is so important to show that you make good grades in high school is because your to-do list gets better in terms of how many different things you have to balance once you get to college.  You are on your own –  no parents to monitor how you are managing your time and if you are doing your homework.  You have a lot more on your schedule to handle and time manage — class, practice, weights, study hall, study hours on your own, when to eat, practicing on your own outside of normal team practice time, and oh yeah, a social life.  So it becomes important to know what your priorities are, and the two main ones are school and softball—- in that order.

There is A LOT that goes into being recruited by a college.  Things are happening so early now, with girls committing to play at a school when they sometimes are even in 8th grade or freshmen in high school.  It’s important to stand out.  Understand from a physical aspect what you do well – and excel at that, that’s how you can stand out.  It’s important to learn this at a young age, but at the same time, it’s never too late to learn this.  As a coach, communicate with your players about what is important and BE HONEST with them about what they need to get better at.  As a player, if your coach is trying to communicate with you about these things, it’s important to listen and be open minded.  Your coach is trying to help you get to the next level.  None of the things above matter if you don’t have a true love and passion for this game.  When you love the game, it shows.

Learn. Grow. Play hard. Be so good they can’t ignore you. 

Amanda Scarborough

Redefining Failure

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

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

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

So, how do you define success in softball?

Is a hit success?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find the Mini Successes

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

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

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

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

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

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

This game….haha, this game is tricky.

Softball is Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reliving One of the Most Memorable Moments of my Career

The picture speaks volumes.  I can still remember exactly what happened; it felt like slow motion.  I can still remember exactly how it felt when I was at the highest peak in the air at this moment.  It was probably the highest I have ever jumped in my life out of pure excitement, relief, joy, happiness and adrenaline.  Sports can bring out the best in us.  This was one of my favorite moments of my entire career, and I remember it like it just happened yesterday.

It was the 2007 NCAA Softball Super Regionals, and we hosted the University of Florida in College Station.  (For those who don’t know, Super Regionals is like the “Sweet 16” of softball during the post season.  It’s a best of 3 series with 2 teams.  During Super Regionals, there are only 16 teams left playing all around the country, vying for the 8 spots in the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, OK).  The magnitude and meaning of the game was so high.  The goals we had set as a team at the very beginning of the season, 4 months before this picture was taken, were all riding on this one game, and I was in the pitching circle, the one who had the ball in her hand for the 3rd game of a 3 game series.  There were big moments and 2 games that led up to my favorite moment…

This series, in particular of all the Super Regionals, was absolutely amazing.  It was two top notch and very talented teams, battling against each other, trying to get 2 wins to meet up with 7 other teams in Oklahoma City.  SEC vs Big 12, Texas A&M and Jo Evans going up against Florida and Tim Walton.  All of the games were nail biters.  We played the first game on Friday, May 25.  We won 2-0.  I pitched a complete game against Florida All American, Stacey Nelson. Winning the first game of a 3-game series is always SO important, and probably the most important game of the series.

Score by Innings                  R  H  E
-----------------------------------------
Florida............. 000 000 0 -  0  3  0
Texas A&M........... 011 000 X -  2  7  0
-----------------------------------------
Florida                IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Stacey Nelson.......  6.0  7  2  2  1  2 23 25 104  0.91

Texas A&M              IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Scarborough, Amanda.  7.0  3  0  0  2  8 23 26 105  1.00

We came back the next day, on Saturday, knowing we were just 1 win, potentially 1 game, away from Oklahoma City.  But Florida wasn’t going to go down without a fight.  Megan Gibson started the game 2 of the series.  She ended up pitching into the 5th inning, and then I came in in relief into a tie ball game.  The game continued to be tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the 7th inning.  Even though we were in College Station, Florida was the home team for game 2 of the series, as we were the home team in game 1 of the series.  With 1 out in the bottom of the 7th, Lauren Roussell came up and hit a solo home run off of me to end the game and send the Super Regional to 3 games.  I had given up a walk off home run.  We were 1 run away from ending it and making our way to Oklahoma City.  The game would go on to the third game of the series, and would be played immediately after that game.  I knew I would be getting the start in the circle for game 3.

Score by Innings                  R  H  E
-----------------------------------------
Texas A&M........... 200 000 0 -  2  6  1
Florida............. 001 010 1 -  3  6  0
-----------------------------------------
Texas A&M              IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Gibson, Megan.......  4.1  5  2  1  1  3 17 19  72  1.52
Scarborough, Amanda.  2.0  1  1  1  3  1  7 10  37  1.02

Florida                IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Stacey Nelson.......  7.0  6  2  2  4  6 25 31 109  0.94

Now to set the stage a little bit more for this amazing series…it was May in Texas, and it had rained that weekend.  It was hot.  It was humid.  The air was so thick, you could cut it with a knife (bad hair weather).  But, with Florida being from Florida, and us being from Texas, both teams felt right at home.  The series was so tense up to this point through 14 innings of play, we knew that game 3 would be an absolute battle. And it was.

Our offense ended up putting 2 runs on the board the entire game, 1 of which came in the bottom of the first inning, answering back right away from the loss just minutes before.  The fact that we wasted no time in scoring was absolutely huge for the morale and attitude of the team.  This was a team that never gave up.  Florida’s lineup was so tough.  I remember being in the circle and being so mentally locked in and focused.  I had to be.  One swing of the bat could totally change the ballgame, as they had proven against me in the game before.  Florida, with Tim Walton as their hitting coach, was and is an awesome, powerful, offensive team.

The energy on the field throughout this game, and energy from the stands ,was so contagious.  We were sweaty, we were hot, but we just had one goal in mind, and we were on a mission.  In the field behind me, the defense played amazing.  The team was locked in and there were tense moments and Florida base runners getting on in different innings in the game.   We remained strong, and kept them scoreless through 6 innings.  Finally, with a 2 run lead, we made it to the bottom of the 7th inning, and this time, we were the home team.

Thanks to the help of my defense, we got the first two hitters out, who were the 8 and 9 hitters in the lineup, and it brought back up, with 2 outs, the leadoff hitter of Florida.  I remember being in the circle, my feet on the rubber and already feeling the excitement running through me, feeling so many emotions knowing that we were 1 out away from the Women’s College World Series.  To be honest, I had to check myself and refocus on the task at hand, because you know how this game goes — it just takes one person to get on to start a rally.  I knew it was so important to get out this leadoff hitter to be the last out of the game.  I threw an inside drop to the left handed leadoff hitter, and she grounded out to second base.  In my mind, I can still feel the pitch come out of my hand, I see the swing, and I can see each bounce of the ground ball to our second baseman, Joy Davis.  I remember being a little tight just hoping that she would field it cleanly, and she did, and make the toss to Megan Gibson, who was playing first base.  The minute that Megan caught the ball, it was one of the best feelings in my life.  That out, that ground ball, secured our spot in heading to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 1988.  All the hard work and determination came out in that single jump as I looked around at all my teammates and knew what we had accomplished together.

Amanda Scarborough vs FloridaI love this picture and this moment of my career so much because the look on our face is priceless and what we had accomplished together spoke volumes to the rest of the country.  In the picture, Megan still has the ball in her hand, and in the background behind Megan, you can see Stephen Grove, our Director of Operations, jumping over the fence and heading out onto the field to celebrate.

I cannot begin to tell you how absolutely amazing it is to claim a spot in getting to go to the Women’s College World Series.  There are over 200 Division 1 teams that start out with this goal at the beginning of every season in February.  At the end of May, only 8 teams are left standing.  Texas A&M had not put a team in the Women’s College World Series before this moment since 1988, And we were the team to finally break through to get the Aggies back in Oklahoma City.

Score by Innings                  R  H  E
-----------------------------------------
Florida............. 000 000 0 -  0  5  0
Texas A&M........... 100 010 X -  2  8  1
-----------------------------------------
Florida                IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Stacey Stevens......  2.1  5  1  1  1  3 12 13  61  2.22
Stacey Nelson.......  3.2  3  1  1  1  4 14 15  69  0.95

Texas A&M              IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Scarborough, Amanda.  7.0  5  0  0  2  7 26 28 104  0.99

The college softball season is about to start.  When you have a chance to watch college softball on TV, know that these kinds of moments are constantly being created, especially in the post season.  If you are a player, you will be creating these kinds of moments this season.  Remember them.  Cherish them.  Live in the moment and know that there is nothing else out there like the feeling you get when you throw a big pitch or win a big game. The memories you get from sports are captivating, and they are moments that you can remember forever.

Amanda Scarborough vs Florida 2007 Texas A&M Softball

Amanda Scarborough vs Florida 2007 with Mark Scarborough

Dream Big Guest Blog by Kaylee O’Bryan

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an athlete as “a person who is trained in or proficient in sports, games or exercises that require physical skill and strength.” Athletes stick with their goals and are passionate about the sport that the are doing. Amanda Scarborough is my favorite athlete.

Amanda Scarborough was a softball pitcher for Texas A&M. Throughout her softball career, Amanda faced many challenges and never gave up. Her passion for the sport of softball has led her to coaching young girls and inspiring them to work hard and dream big. Amanda teaches lessons that will help young girls of all ages to become a better softball player, but also gives tips on how to succeed in life.

Amanda Scarborough was born on May 10, 1986 to her parents, Mark and Sally Scarborough, in Houston, Texas. Getting involved in softball all started when Amanda turned 5. Amanda knew right away that she loved the game and worked really hard both at lessons and at practice to become better. Softball did not necessarily come easy to her, like it may to some. Amanda quickly learned that she was going to be someone who would have to put in the hours to practice if she wanted to have success at the sport. “Amanda was always ready to play and practice. No moaning, no frowning…she inspired others to be better. There is no better definition of a leader,” Amanda’s high school coach stated. Through her hard work and dedication of the sport, Amanda lived her dream of playing for Texas A&M. During her time at Texas A&M, she earned many honors including, 2005 Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year, 2007 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, and was 2-Time First Team All American (2005 & 2007). Amanda continues to be passionate about the sport of softball through giving private pitching lessons, doing all skills clinic, and commentating on live college softball.

Although Amanda was successful and was able to live her dream, her road was not always easy. At one time, Amanda had to face the fact that another parent went up to her mother and told her that she would never make it as a pitcher and Amanda should probably just stop. Another time, while playing 1st base during practice she was hit on the right side of her head by a line drive, causing her brain to bleed. She had to take time off and if she wanted to go back in the game Amanda had to wear a helmet on the mound while pitching. She did whatever it would take in order for her to get back on the mound, even if it meant wearing a helmet and pitching at the same time. At first it was very embarrassing, but she badly wanted to be out on the field playing. Amanda eventually in her senior year had to quit because of an injury to her foot. She needed surgery, but this didn’t stop her from being a part of the team. She still helped out with her teammates by watching batters and helping her catcher call pitches for the pitcher. Even though she had some really tough times this didn’t mean that she gave up. Amanda found other ways to still be passionate about her life dream of softball.

Amanda’s passion for softball is contagious. Today she is running clinics and teaching private lessons to help girls of all ages get better at softball. She writes a blog that is always being updated with new ideas and different drills for girls to use to develop the right mechanics. Amanda has also become part of a new group with three other post-college players. They call themselves, “The Package Deal”. At their clinic they teach young girls the skills they need to be good ball players. How to catch, field, throw, and hit the ball. Most importantly, they show how their passion for the sport can impact lives on and off the field. They give life lessons that girls can use to become confident, strong adults. They believe in each and every girl who walks through the door and inspires them to write their own story, to follow their dreams. I recently attended one of Amanda’s pitching clinics. It was an incredible experience. I learned different techniques about pitching and skills to make myself a better athlete. Amanda’s speeches were very inspiring and motivational. I left feeling unstoppable. Like I could go as far as I could dream. I hope to someday go as far as Amanda and play softball in college.

What’s Wrong With Being a Beginner?

In a fast pace world, we are always thinking ahead and thinking what’s next? We are searching for bigger and better things. I think we can all say at one point or another that we have fallen victim to this. I especially notice this fast-forward thinking with pitchers and pitchers’ parents. Not many pitchers are ok with being a “beginner” pitcher for very long (usually less than a year). They are ready to move on to the next pitch or the next “level.” It’s that rushing before mastery can get them into trouble…

The beginning months and years for a pitcher are CRITICAL to the longevity and success of her future career. Beginning months should include LOTS of reps and drills working on spin, release point, balance and understanding the pitching arm circle. Ie. boring stuff for both parents and young players (I get it, I’ve been there). Too often, the foundational drills get glazed over like brussel sprouts in a buffet line.

Pitchers think that just because they have learned (not mastered) the beginner drills that are critical for a foundation and they have done them a couple of days in a row, that it’s time to move on to bigger and better things.

It’s just not true. You build that foundation by focusing on rep after rep after rep of the SMALL details.  The foundation you are aiming to build comes from muscle memory of doing these beginner drills relentlessly until you can do them in your sleep with the correct MECHANICS – not just looking at the result of ball or strike.

Too often when young pitchers are more focused on the result of balls or strikes or strikes, they let their mechanics go by the way side. They begin aiming the ball, not snapping the ball. Aiming results in slow speeds and less movement. By trying to throw strikes without solid mechanics, to keep the ball low for a strike, they lean their body forward instead of adjusting their release point and staying tall. Those are quick fixes in the game in order to get a result they want – a quick fix strike. Those mechanical quick fixes are not helping to build a foundation worth anything in years to come.

I am a HUGE advocate for starting a pitcher with months and months of drills, and in the first few months not even pitching from full distance/full circle (to an 8-10 year old, I know it sounds like a real life nightmare, but it’s worth it!).

I think getting the reward of pithing from full distance should be earned.

Getting to pitch from full circle is like a present! If you do the hard work, then you EARN your way back after mastering the progression drills. Pitching from full distance is the goal ahead…the end point, not the start point. Think of doing a crazy calculus problem, you’re not going to start with the problem, and then jump right ahead to the answer. You have to do all the little steps that make tape 30 min-an hour to get the answer to ONE problem.

It is very rare that I come across a pitcher and parents who are patient enough to put in the time to just focus on drills and not succumb to the pressure of wanting to move on to full pitch too soon. I love the idea of mastering one drill before you move on to the next progression drill. Master those progression drills before you pitch from full distance. Often pitchers and parents want to jump right into pitching from the full distance and aren’t willing to put in the foundational work that is done in the FRONT of the pitching rubber.

That foundational work is where pitchers can find REAL success later down the road.

The easy way out is to skip all the drills, or you do them, but not really DO THEM correctly (aka going through the motions to make your parents/coaches happy). Building a solid foundation takes more effort, which is why not everyone is going to do it. The true colors come out of the work ethic of a player and if they are willing to put in the time for the SMALL things that make BIG successes down the road. And let’s face it, it also is more work for the parents. The parents will need a better understanding of what mastery of a drill looks like. They will need to be knowledgeable about pitching and they should study pitching. This will help a pitcher know whether or not to move on because if the PARENT knows what the mechanics are supposed to look like, then they will be able to hold the pitcher back or encourage her to move on once the drill has been mastered with correct mechanics.

I’m not sure where the hurried pressure stems from – if the parents are getting pressure from the players or if the players are getting pressure from the parents. Maybe it’s the parents getting pressure from the coaches or the players getting pressured from their friends. Just like in life, we are always looking for the NEXT thing, I see the same thing with young pitchers. It’s almost like the pitcher gets bored with drills (similar to a hitter doing tee work). Every pitcher just wants to throw full distance and every hitter just wants to hit front toss or off of a pitcher only. They don’t want to do the DRILLS that are going to make them great down the road.

Think of this real life house foundation example that is comparable to a pitcher’s foundation:

A home starts with a concrete foundation. Before anything goes on top of that foundation, the foundation has to be SOLID and made sure it is poured correctly, because once you start to build a home on top of that foundation, there is no going back and fixing it. I’m sure the guys who pour the foundation would love to just find a piece of land and start pouring with little to no instruction, but those guys have to take their TIME to know ensure that foundation will be done right. A house with a compact foundation is a safe house, and one that will last forever. A foundation that is rushed and not done the right way may end up getting a crack in it. Thus, the house loses its value and it’s unstable. A home foundation that is not done correctly may look really good in the beginning, but years down the road, eventually the foundation will suffer and the overall house will suffer. It may look pretty and really good instantly, but then years down the road the truth comes out as time passes.

A pitcher has a mechanical foundation that is very similar to a house’s concrete foundation. It should not be rushed. A pitcher may be able to get by at first with rushing through the beginner drills and paying little to no attention to forming a solid foundation in the beginning years of pitching. Eventually, that poor foundation is going to get exposed the older the pitcher gets – whether it’s through not being able to learn new pitches because of incorrect body position due to poor mechanics or maybe that pitcher never gains more speed because they wanted to rush too quickly and not learn the proper leg mechanics. Also, years down the road, it will be MUCH harder to make mechanical corrections because of poor muscle memory when a coach is trying to work with you (just like trying to go in and fix the foundation of a house because so many things are sitting on top of the concrete foundation). I also see that those who rush through the beginner drills are those who stand out in 10u and 12u, but then they don’t get much better in 14u, 16u and 18u. (I am NOT saying this happens to EVERYONE, there are always exception to the rule). You have to ask yourself what is your long term goal? If you want to pitch in college, then you need to put in the foundational work NOW, not put it off until later, because LATER it will be MUCH more difficult to fix.

Before you move on from a drill or learn a new drill ask yourself these 2 questions. (Please remember, the answer must be yes to BOTH of them, not just 1 of them.)

  • Can I do the drill and throw 9/10 as a strike?
  • You can throw them as a strike, but are you doing that drill with the CORRECT MECHANICS? (have a check list made by either the paernts or pitching coaches so that there are expectations of the pitcher that she knows she needs to have)

It’s good if you can throw strikes – that’s the most important part of being a pitcher – being able to locate the ball where you want it. HOWEVER, if you are wanting to be a successful pitcher and pitch for years and years down the road, you must be able to throw strikes AND have correct form. Too many times form is sacrificed to throw strikes, especially in a game.

Always remember where you want to end up YEARS from now, not just next week. It’s so important to keep that in the back of your mind. Do you want to be the pitcher getting all the innings in 10U and 12U? ….or do you want to be the pitcher getting all the innings in 16U, 18U and in college? When I do these college softball games on TV, we definitely are not talking about a girl and the success she had in 10U or 12U. In fact, I can’t say that I have ever mentioned anything about 10U or 12U.

What are you rushing for? Is the reason that you are rushing and blowing past foundational drills more important than your daughter’s future softball career in high school and potentially in college? It can be hard, but focus on the future by focusing on the NOW at practice. Be aware of the future and have goals, but be present and understand each day a little pitcher’s foundation is growing. I can tell you right now, a pitcher is NOT measured by how quickly they can say they started to pitch from full distance or by how many pitches she has. Years down the road when your daughter is trying to make JV or Varsity, one of the questions at tryouts will not be, “So how many weeks and months did it take you to get back to full pitch?” Are you as a parent willing to show patience with your daughter and not RUSH her? Are you as a parent willing to not be pressured by the drills getting “boring” and instill in your pitcher that these drills are what are going to make her GREAT down the road? Create tenacity. Create work ethic. Create mastery.  Pitching will be full of drills from the beginning until the end. Hitting will be full of tees from the beginning until the end. They’re not going away, so a pitcher needs to learn to appreciate them and understand their importance!

ENJOY every moment of being a beginner at something. The beginning of something only gets to happen ONCE. Why rush through it? As a parent, take time to learn the DETAILS of pitching so that you KNOW whether or not it’s time to move on and you have a better understanding of the mastery of each drill. Ask questions of what to look for at lessons and google pitching drills and information online. If you are going to be her coach away from games and lessons, then it’s important that you have a foundational knowledge of what needs to be happening. You guys can learn it together.


 

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