My mission is to inspire softball girls to DREAM bigger, WORK harder, and SMILE more often. I look to not only help to improve their physical softball skills, but also show them the importance of confidence on AND off the field. Through my website you will find information on all things softball—motivation, inspiration, blogs, quotes, videos, tips, preparation, etc. The options are endless for us to explore…

How to Get Mentally Tough in the Circle

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

PREPARATION GIVES MORE CONFIDENCE

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

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

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

WHAT ABOUT CROWD NOISE?

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

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

STAY WITHIN YOURSELF

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

I can. I will.

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

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

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

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

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

 

What Exactly is “Normal”?

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

Live, love and work doing the following things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are you Surrounded by?

Does being surrounded by players who share your values about confidence and being in the right mental state help you as an athlete?

 

 Being surrounded by players that share these values absolutely helps improve your mental state. Players can push each other on the physical side of the game, but can also push each other on the mental side. Players should be surrounded by other players who are reinforcing that feel good, play good mentality.  Try to get your teammates to hop on board with those same values. Confidence is contagious.  Be someone that your teammates can look to, who plays the game confidently and with a strong presence.

Be a teammate who makes your other teammates better and stronger.  By playing the game with confidence and with a strong mind, you make others around you play the game better, as well.  Not only will  you feel better and stronger off the field, but you will see positive results on the field — having more fun, winning more games, relaxing while you play.

These values not only affect you on the playing field, but off the playing field.  The confidence and the mental state you are learning on the softball field greatly affects you in every day life at school and at home.  To be completely honest, it doesn’t just have to do with players who share the same values, but with coaches who share similar values and are reinforcing a positive mindset and helping players to feel their most confident.

Confidence

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

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

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

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

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

Amanda Scarborough Confidence

The majority of players have to…

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

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

In practice I prepared, in games I trusted.

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

Amanda Scarborough Confidence Blog

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

Let me ask you these questions…

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

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

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

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

 

Ways to show/gain confidence:

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

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

Amanda Scarborough Confidence

For Love of The Game…

Throwback Thursday.  Freshman Year in 2005. Pitching with a helmet on.  Why? Because….

When you love the game, you’ll do ANYTHING to be able to play.

My freshman year, I had an injury at the end of the season.  On May 9, the day before our team was to leave to go drive to Big 12 Tournament, I got hit in the head with a line drive at practice.  I was playing first base (when I didn’t pitch, I always played 1B).  At practice, our pitchers would always throw live to our hitters to give them at bats.  But like I said, I wasn’t pitching, I was playing in the field and a left handed hitter was up to bat with a runner at 1B.  Because it was a bunt situation, I was expecting bunt, but instead, I had a line drive hit at me from an upperclassman who pulled the ball down the line.  This ball was crushed.  I had no time to react and get my glove up to protect myself.  It didn’t hit any part of my glove, it hit me on the side of my head.

They allowed me to go back to the dorm room for the night, but when me and my fellow freshmen classmates were at the dorm room, I couldn’t eat anything without throwing it up, not even tylenol would stay down, which is the sign of a concussion.  That night, I went to the Emergency Room..and from there it’s all a little blurry of what happened when.  Somewhere along the way I got a CT Scan where they found that my brain was bleeding a little where I got hit, and I had a small fracture in my skull.  I stayed in the hospital over night, and the next day, May 10,  the team left to go to Oklahoma City without me.  I was so bummed, I wanted to go so bad.  The Big 12 Tournament signified the official started of the post season in our minds.  On top of that, the Big 12 Tournament was played at Hall of Fame Stadium, where the WCWS is played.

May 10 is also my birthday. Double bummer to be stuck in a hospital.  When the team got to Oklahoma City, they didn’t start games the first day, they attended the Big 12 Banquet.  A banquet where all of the teams attend, and they announce the Big 12 Awards (Player of the Year, First Team, Second Team, Academic Awards, etc).  On that day, after the banquet, I remember laying in the hospital bed, and I got a call from Coach Evans.  She wanted to let me know that at the Big 12 Banquet I had been named Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Big 12 Player of the Year.  I was the only person in Big 12 history to achieve this.

After about a day, they were able to release me from the hospital because I was actually able to keep food down.  I went home with my parents while my team was in Oklahoma City, as no one really wanted me to do anything.  I didn’t understand.  Yes my brain was bleeding, but all I wanted to do was be with my teammates at the field! Why couldn’t I go?  I remember being at my parent’s house in Magnolia and listening to my teammates on the radio broadcast in our computer room play Oklahoma State (I think it was).  It was SO WEIRD to listen to them on the radio without me being there.  BUT…I talked my parents into driving me to Oklahoma City if we won that game.  Well…..we won! So guess what…we drove to Oklahoma City!!!

I remember being so happy to get to be with the team.  Our semi final game against Baylor was on Fox Sports, and since I couldn’t play, they invited me into the broadcast booth for a half inning.  Maybe you could call this my big break into TV?! We ended up losing that game and I drove home with my parents while my teammates rode home on the bus to start practicing for the post season, as NCAA Regionals would be that next week.

We hosted Regionals in College Station, as that year we were at Top 8 National Seed.  I did not get to play…apparently this whole brain bleeding and fractured skull thing was a big deal.  Who knew!!  We won that Regional, and the next week we were to face Alabama in Super Regionals, hosting them in College Station.

Amanda Scarborough Sharonda MCDonald

What we called “Club 190.” In between innings, the players who were not playing out in the field would run down to left field to keep legs fresh. It was always a time where we had fun, stayed loose and made some smiles. You see Sharonda McDonald and I in tennis shoes. We were both injured and unable to play.

The week going into Super Regionals, it had been about 2 weeks since I had gotten hit, and the doctors, trainers and my parents said I could play in Super Regionals BUT I would have to wear a mask when I hit, and if I pitched, I would have to pitch withs something protecting my head.  Me, Jamie Hinshaw, Jami Lobpries and our trainer, Leah, made a trip to Academy to figure out something I could put over my head.  We tried soccer headgear, wrestling headgear, and none of it was satisfactory.  I couldn’t pitch if we didn’t figure something out.  So…..we decided I would have to pitch with a batting helmet on if I wanted to play.  In order to get a little breeze, they cut a whole in the back of the helmet where my hair bun could go through, and a little air could circulate through.

I practiced 1 or 2 days before Super Regionals started, and Coach Evans wanted me to throw to some hitters with the helmet on to see if I could do it and how it felt– a trial run for what was to come in the actual game.  The first hitter I pitched to was Jamie Hinshaw, a fellow freshman teammate, left handed hitter.  She came up and in her first at bat against me at practice, ironically, I hit her in the head!  We laughed about it and one of the local reporters was there, and he ended up writing about it.  Good times.

Super Regionals started as Pat Murphy and Alabama came in to College Station.  We lost the 1st game of the Super regional, I pitched the second game of the series the following day.  It was May in Texas and it was SO HOT.  In between innings for my warm up pitches, I wouldn’t pitch with the helmet on, I would leave it off in the circle, and then I would put it on when it came game time.  Yes, it was a little embarrassing, but I just wanted to play, and I would have done anything to play because I loved it.  I’ve never seen anyone do this before…maybe no one has had to.  But we had to be creative, even if it meant pitching with a BATTING HELMET on my head against University of Alabama.

Amanda Scarborough Amanda Scarborough

Amanda Scarborough

Amanda Scarborough Pitch with Helmet on

We ended up losing that Super Regional, falling short of the Women’s College World Series. We were seeded higher than Alabama, and had SUCH a good team.  We had won the Big 12 Conference that year, and had such high hopes of this team in 2005 making it to Oklahoma City.  Unfortunately, in the last conference series of the year, our amazing center fielder and lead off hitter, Sharonda McDonald had tore her ACL sliding into home when we were in Columbia playing Missouri.  And then a week later, I got hurt.  These were 2 major blows to a team, terrible timing for injuries, especially to 2 starters.

What I did my freshman year to pitch with a helmet on, I would do again.  I didn’t know any better.  If there was a way that I could play, I would figure it out.  If you love the game, you’ll do ANYTHING to be able to compete at the sport you love.

GUEST BLOG: Jami Lobpries …TEACH ‘EM HOW TO BRAND!!

TEACH FEMALE ATHLETES HOW TO BRAND, TEACH’EM, TEACH’EM HOW TO BRAND!!

What exactly is a brand? Simply put: a brand is an IDENTITY. It is a set of associations we make with products or services and what differentiates particular products and services from competitors. In sports, we have popular apparel brands like Nike and Under Armour, league brands like the NFL and NASCAR, team brands like the Yankees and Manchester United, and athlete brands like LeBron and Tiger.

Wait, are athletes brands? Similar to the associations we make with products and services, a personal brand is the set of associations we make with a particular person. Athletes with strong brands can benefit from lucrative endorsement deals during and after their careers. Even after their careers end, well-branded athletes can transfer their brand power to entrepreneurial endeavors, appearances, or other business aspects. Want to be like Mike still?? He’s over 10 years removed from his playing days and his Jordan brand is stronger than ever. Well-branded athletes not only earn more, but they have the ability to influence larger masses and opportunities to transfer their brand power beyond the playing field.

So what about the not-as-well-branded or not-as-well known personas in sport? Are they still brands? Tom Peters says: YESSS! Peters is the author of the article titled “A Brand Called YOU” where he claims we are all brands. In fact, we are all CEOs and brand marketers…of our own brand. The way you dress, style your hair, the friends you associate with, the books you read, the food you eat, the car you drive, the content you post on social media. All of this makes up YOUR BRAND. As brands, we each have our own unique name, reputation, credibility, and image. We all have our own brand personalities, or the human element of your brand. We all have different qualities…..

To read more on how branding affects you, click here: Women’s Sports Blog.

YOU Are YOUR Best Pitching Coach

Often, I will use the phrase, “Be your own pitching coach.”  You might not know exactly what that means or you might say, “But I have a pitching coach already…” and I would say that’s fine. BUT when it comes right down to it, and you’re in the middle of the circle with bases loaded and a full count on the hitter, that pitching coach can’t make the pitch happen FOR you. To “be your own pitching coach” means to learn to think for yourself, learn to FEEL for yourself and learn to make corrections on your own.

This just can’t magically happen in games, it has to be practiced at practice!

If you’ve taken lessons with me before, or come to one of my clinics, then you know one of my favorite things to ask is, “How did that FEEL?” I want a pitcher to slow her mind down, and actually have to take time to understand what her body just went through to create a certain pitch. In order to do that, you must take more time in between pitches to start to understand FEELING and let your brain figure out what exactly it did feel.  Feel is such a big part of pitching.

To feel means to understand what every body part is doing from fingers, down to hips down to knees and toes.

It means that someone can tell you an adjustment to make and simply by words alone, it can create a feel to that body part of what that body part needs to do differently the next pitch in order to make an adjustment. This is THE biggest thing to have as a pitcher. If you aren’t feeling, then you aren’t pitching. A pitching coach who is just going to tell the pitcher everything to do after every single pitch isn’t helping to create that feel. That’s making a pitcher a robot.  Robots don’t feel, they change on command. A pitching coach who tells his/her pitcher every single movement to make is not enabling that pitcher to think for herself

Being your own pitching coach is essentially like being your own boss.

How would you like it if your boss came into your office and said, “Do this…do that…no do is this way…no that’s not right…” Eventually, you would either get burnt out, or you would stop thinking for yourself.  Then, when it came time for you to change jobs or “perform” on a big stage, you might freeze, and not be sure of yourself because previously, someone had told you every single move to make.  Instead, I think it would feel more empowering to ask YOU, “What do you think about doing it this way?” or “How do YOU think we should do it?” Then you can answer, and think for yourself, and come up with an answer TOGETHER.  It’s teaching someone and not just TELLING them.  Teaching takes a little bit more time.  Just telling someone something is a quick way to get it over with, but it doesn’t help out the other person as much.  It’s the same way when a pitcher is learning not JUST what a pitching coach thinks, but also learning to form an opinion of her own about what she thinks works for HER.  By talking about what you feel with your pitching mechanics and having to actually talk about out loud about them, you learn to have more confidence and truly understand what your body does in order to make a pitch happen. You’re learning. You’re making mistakes. You’re growing. Most importantly, you are learning to take responsibility for YOUR pitching craft. It may be uncomfortable at first, but it is SO good for you, and you will eventually get more and more used to it.

Be your own pitching coach means thinking for yourself and being able to come up with an answer on your own without someone telling you what to do. Come game time, your pitching coach may not be at warm ups with you and he/she definitely won’t be out on the field with you. So how are you going to handle your own thoughts? How are you going to make your own adjustments and even REALIZE that it’s time to have adjustments? THIS is what pitching is all about. You can’t look to your parents for answers you can’t always look to your coach for answers. A lot of times, you have to look deep inside yourself. Don’t be a robot out there in the pitching circle. Be you.  Trust your thoughts in the game by learning to trust them in practice.

Look to yourself for the answers first.

Try new things. Be inventive. Something may work for you that a pitching coach didn’t TELL you to do, but if it WORKS (if it REALLY works), then you should be able to do it. I loved when I gave lessons and one of my girls would come up to me and say, “At practice, I was playing around with my curve ball, and I realized that when I throw it, if I put my hand HERE then it doesn’t work, but I slightly moved it back a little, and then it helped with the movement of it.”  <— THIS IS AWESOME…AMAZING…INCREDIBLE. If you can do this, if you are willing to even try new things on your own, you are going to grow and grow and grow. Nothing will stop you. This means that you are truly feeling what you are doing and are taking the time to understand pitching mechanics, think for yourself and isolating different body parts to make small changes along the way that will pay off to be big changes down the road.

At your next practice, think on YOUR OWN and be your own pitching coach. Think about what you FEEL is going wrong with a certain pitch or your mechanics. Slow your mind down to think about what your adjustment is. This pays off down the road. We should be free thinkers, able to express ourselves and come up with our own solution. It’s good to ask people for help, but it’s not good to ask people for answers ALL the time. Figure out some things on your own, it will stay with you longer and make you feel like later on when you need an answer or a quick fix, that the answer is already inside of you….just have to think about it a little to pull it out!

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.

Top Five Q’s with A • I

Hey everyone, I constantly receive awesome questions from you guys and I wanted to share some of the ones that I think would benefit all of you. Keep them coming and know I will do the best that I can to get to as many of them as possible. If my responses benefit you, please show your support by liking the blog or sharing it with someone you think it could benefit!  Thanks for all of your questions and trusting in me and my answers!

Benefits of 30 min Pitching Lessons

Q1: I have a question. My daughter is 9 and taking private pitching lessons from a girl in college. She charges $25 for 30 min. Is 30 min enough time for a lesson? We only get to see her once or twice a month. It just doesn’t seem like enough time. Thank you

A1: Yep! When I was giving lessons I did 30 min as well, ESPECIALLY for a 9 year old. BUT with that being said, I give a lot of detailed information within that 30 min….so it’s up to YOU and your daughter to go and work on the little things while you are on your own. So pick the 2-3 things in that 30 min that you can go and focus on at practice on your own, master then before your next lesson, learn a few more things at the next lesson, master them on your own, repeat. It’s a cycle and it’s how your young pitcher will get better instead of trying to learn 52 new things in an hour lesson and not know exactly what to work on. Also, that is a great price, I charge $45 for 30 min, so you’re getting a good deal. Don’t try to learn too much too fast! One step at a time.

Does pitching improve your hitting?

Q2: Question? When you started pitching did your hitting get better? After working with you that one day and her pitching coach this summer she is now “squashing” the bug with her back foot and driving balls deep into the outfield. Lexi made the U8 fall team, but want her there before or after practice for pitching so they can move her to U10. She really wants to work with you again so let me know the next mini camp in Houston.

A: Hey there! To be honest, at a younger age I was a better hitter than I was pitcher. Hitting came more naturally to me than pitching did. So I didn’t really connect them together at a younger age thinking that one affected the other! Maybe just overall she has gotten more excited about pitching and softball in general to get her more confidence and overall joy towards the game, which gives her more happiness to go out and play the game!

Amanda’s Training Availability

Q3: Hi Amanda! Where are you located and do you still do training? 

A3: Hi! I am in Houston! At this time I am not taking on any private lessons since I am traveling around the country a lot during the year and cannot keep a regular lessons schedule! I will do clinics across the country with The Packaged Deal (www.packageddeal.com) and I also will throw together small clinics in the Houston area about once a month to try to reach out to our community!

Q4: Just a reaching out as a curious recreation director here in Darlington South Carolina. What could we possibly do to get a clinic here in our area. We are in somewhat of a hotbed for softball and I think we could possibly have a successful clinic here! What do we need to do?

A4: Hi Lee! All of my pitching clinics are being done through The Packaged Deal. The Packaged Deal is a group of 4 girls (including myself) who offer catching, pitching, infield, and hitting sessions at facilities and fields around the country. We have come together to travel around for different people to host us! You can find more information at http://www.packageddeal.com/who/ . There, if you click on “Book” on the Navigation Bar, you can look more into how to host us near you!

Strength Training for Softball

Q5: Hi Amanda! My name is Lane Welch and I coach high school football and head coach our HS softball team! I would first like to say how much I love seeing your post and reading about the passion you have for softball and teaching youth and coaches around the world the knowledge that you have! I have been fortunate to have been in strength and conditioning by some of the most knowledgable people in the world! I strength train my softball team and know that I have very positive results from it over the years. Some of my players don’t understand it and have parents tell them that it holds them back. I truly do not believe that, but would love to know your thoughts on strength training in softball as you have played on such a high level! I am from west monroe, LA and love reading all your postings. Please keep doing what you do.

Q5: I totally agree with it! Think it’s very important and I noticed a drastic difference when I was in college of overall strength I felt playing the game. We did EVERYTHING – bench press, dead lift, power cleans, conditioning, lots of core works, shoulder stability exercises, agilities, sprints. The one thing we did NOT do was long distance training, since softball is such a quick, explosive sport and you need to be fast on your first step (of fielding a ground ball, first step out of the box, big push step when pitching). I feel like some people complain because they don’t want to put in the extra work. Strength and conditioning can be built into your practices and overall weekly routine if you are wanting to become a better ATHLETE and softball player. When I think of S&C for softball players I think of strengthening the lower half, strengthening the core and working on explosiveness. The more time you want to sacrifice to put into your training, the better results you are going to see on the field! 

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