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…

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.

Questions Answered with Amanda: Wind Up, Drag & Follow Through Mechanics

Hi everyone! I was asked a really good question this week and I wanted to share with ALL of you as it goes over some very important, basic mechanical details of pitching that I feel like everyone can benefit from:

“Value your opinion of course so hoping for a response. My daughter is 8 and started taking pitching lessons a few months ago, from a reputable coach in our area and I do my research but there are a few things I would like your take on.

1) I notice most pro/college level pitchers cross drag, but he is teaching her to drag straight fwd. (I understand why, which is to close up fully) why is it that most do it the other way? Is it better, why or why not?

2) Also on the follow thru of the pitch (just a normal pitch no change up or curve) some people teach to cross the body? I personally prefer straight (keeping arm long of course and not hurting elbow) is there a right or wrong to this, or is this preference?

3) Also she is taught not to swing her arm back at the beginning of pitch she starts circle straight from glove. Reasons being A) not to show ball it will matter later B) prevents keeping arm from staying straight C) Although I do think it will take a few mph off her speed I feel starting in this position has more advantages, do you? I hope you have time to respond and don’t think my questions are to crazy! Loved your video on the power drive Coach Lisle posted, we utilize one all the time for pitching and hitting, you really helped me understand it better; you have a gift for coaching and explaining!”

Answers

1) I THINK I know what you mean by “cross drag.” I am picturing in my mind a drag that doesn’t just go straight towards the catcher. I call a “drag” a slug trail because if you look down at the ground when you are pitching in dirt, it’s like your drag leaves a slug trail from where your toes drug while you were pitching.  That slug trail is indicative of your mechanics and what your body is doing in your pitch – it is VERY important. A proper slug trail should look like a question mark. From the pitching rubber, it should go straight towards the catcher, and then after about a foot, it should go a little bit behind you. The little bit behind you part of the slug trail is when your hips and shoulders are opening up! Which is a VERY important part of the pitch. If the slug trail just stays a straight line towards the catcher, that would mean the hips are never getting completely open. I would not recommend a straight forward drag (we are girls, we have HIPS, and those HIPS needs to get out of the way of our release by getting OPEN in the middle of our pitch so our arm can clear our hips at our release point)

2) My personal preference for how to teach someone to finish is going to be where their hand NATURALLY finishes, not forcing a certain place to finish after the snap of the pitch. It’s called Pronation – it happens at the end of a pitch after a snap. When you throwing a ball overhand, you see pronation – baseball players do it as well as football players. I do not agree with the hand to shoulder finish or elbow up finish. That’s a forced position. The most natural place you can finish is with your fingers inside your wrist, wrist inside your elbow, elbow inside your shoulder. This forms a little bit of an angle with your arm.  (Hold your arm out in front of you and try to get into that position, it’s easier if you actually TRY to do it rather than just imagining it). The most important thing is that you are loose after your snap at your hip and don’t FORCE a certain finish. However, with that being said, the finish should be consistent and repeatable with a natural ability to relax to that position after the release.

 

3)[A] I like swinging the arm back because it felt like it generated more of a load and more energy at the beginning of my pitch. One solution if you want to do that is to hold multiple pitches the same way. i.e. Hold curve and change the same, so this way, no one can pick up what your grip is before the pitch is coming. Or rise and curve the same. Those are 2 totally different pitches. It’s best to hold a faster velocity pitch the same as an off speed pitch or change up since that is the pitch most coaches are trying to “pick.” You are seeing lots of college pitchers go away from swinging their arm back because of how often college coaches are picking up grips, BUT it is NOT non existent. There are definitely still ways to general power without an arm swing back – remember everything starts from the ground up (with your feet) and putting your lower half into a SOLID EXPLOSIVE position to get the most out of your leg drive with your hips and glutes.

[B] As far as a wind up with an arm swing preventing the arm circle from staying the straight, that is not necessarily so. You see LOTS of players who have their arm swing back, such as myself and also, Jolene Henderson, who is on Team USA. Any action can become repeatable by creating muscle memory with hard work and determination. Get in front of a mirror and look at yourself and repeat 100-200 pitches a night. THAT is one of the best ways to create muscle memory because you are FEELING and SEEING your body in certain positions. There is no one size fits all for every pitcher. Everyone has different muscles strengths to be able to get their body into the same position over and over again.

[C] Total personal preference regarding the advantages of taking an arm swing out of your windup. You are asking someone who did NOT do that wind up, and I was a 2-time All American and competed at the highest level in college. There are other pitchers who are out there who are super successful without starting with that wind up. It’s all about YOUR PITCHER and what can feel the best for HER. Other things can be changed to compliment your wind up, like I suggested before – changing grips to look the same if the wind up where your arm swings back seems to compliment your daughter better to get her more speed, more consistency and more spin.

**Important to note: Wind up is PERSONAL PREFERENCE. Whatever makes you feel comfortable and whatever you can do the most consistent to make the beginning of your pitch the exact same every single time. Make the BEGINNING of your pitch the same in order to help make the END of your pitch the same! No matter what:  that consistency in your delivery is key in order to maintain accuracy, increase and pitch at a consistent speed, and grow spin rates!

A Pitcher’s Confidence – Innate or Learned?

A pitcher’s confidence is not black and white. That would be too easy. You all message me so often and I can feel your helplessness and your worry about your little pitcher and her confidence, or lack thereof. You want the answer from me so badly. Without knowing, you are in a gray, undefined area and it scares you to death because maybe for the first time in your life you don’t have an exact answer for your daughter. It is unchartered territory. The answer takes time and it takes growth….

Mainly because as Americans we want an end result immediately, and we want to be able to verbalize exactly where we are in life. It’s the gray area that makes things interesting. That grey area is the divider between a pitcher who is going to make it and those who might not make it.

We are used to getting concrete answers in this world….all…the…time….

You’re confused? Google it.

You’re hungry? Go through a drive thru for quick fast food.

You’re sick? Here’s quick medicine to help you.

There is no fast answer or fast acting prescription to find confidence and “fix” the mentality of a pitcher. It is thousands of times slower than anything you do on a normal, every day basis. It’s the thing that keeps parents and coaches up at night. They all want answers, but the answer is TIME. The other answer, is that their confidence, or lack thereof, started before they even knew what softball was. How they were spoken to as a young child, what they were allowed to do, if they were kept from adventuring/taking risks, what personality characteristics they were BORN with – all of it goes into a pitcher’s inner confidence, her inner dialogue and what is going to either propel her career or end her career. The list could go on and on about what factors INTO someone’s confidence on and off the field.

PHYSICAL ABILITY + CONFIDENCE = EXECUTION

A pitcher’s physical ability has the potential to grow every day with every experience she goes through; the same goes for her mentality. The more you experience something, the better physically you get at it because it means you have more physical repetition, but it also means you’ve experienced the EMOTION behind it as well. Combining the physical hard work with the growth of a pitcher’s mentality (confidence) is what leads to EXECUTION in the game.

Sometimes, physical traits grow faster than mental. Sometimes, mental grows faster than physical. It would be too easy if they grew at the same speed and at the speed YOU wanted them to. As parents and as coaches YOU have to help define and navigate the gray area. Too many families get lost in the gray area as if it’s the black hole. Sometimes, I won’t lie to you, it’s going to feel like it. Some families never return….some families find a flashlight and the roadmap to get them out. In the gray area, there is lack of a definition about who their daughter is as a pitcher, and it scares them to death. As humans, we fear the unknown. Because we are so fearful of not being enough in the FUTURE, we fail to see small areas of growth RIGHT NOW. We want answers so fast, at times we can look over the main source of the current problem.

|Find SMALL SUCCESSES|

No matter how old you are as a pitcher, there is ALWAYS going to be something you can work at, aka, something you are FAILING at. So imagine every time you are pitching on your own, with your parents or with your coaches, more things are probably being pointed out to you that you are doing WRONG than you are doing RIGHT. It can absolutely wear on a pitcher. (It would wear on anyone, no one likes to fail). SO you have to be able to balance the failures with finding small successes instead of the scales leaning more on the failures. Talk about BAD for a pitcher’s mentality!! That is DRAINING. Are you ALWAYS pointing out to your daughter or player the things she needs to get better at? Or are you also combating it with the things she is doing well with mechanics, in game strategy, her body language, presence and her leadership abilities?

Notice none of those things deal with basing success off of balls and strikes. If you are basing success solely off of balls and strikes for your pitcher, it’s going to feel like a long road for everyone. Find success in her adjustments in the game. Find success in the way that she went at hitters and threw off the plate when she was ahead of hitters. Focus on how she LOOKED in the circle. Did she look confidence and poised? Focus on the way she LEADS on the field and in the dugout. All of those are ways to find small successes to fuel your pitcher so that she can stay positive. Positivity leads to confidence. Confidence leads to strength. Strength leads to longevity. Longevity leads to a pitching career.

| Pitch like no one’s watching GROWS to pitch like everyone’s watching. |

Most of us want to dance like no one’s watching… pitchers can feel the same way. Then we have those friends (who usually we envy), who love to dance. The spotlight was made for them. A pitcher is either going to have one mentality or the other – she would like to imagine no one is watching OR she wants to pitch, thinking that EVERYONE is watching.

Some pitchers will feed off of the fact that they are in the spotlight on the field with all eyes on them watching their every move…their every pitch. In their mind, they have the hitter beat before they even throw the first pitch. Often times these pitchers pitch better in games than they do at practice. They love the feeling of eyes on them and feel like they get to “show off.” (I do NOT mean show off in a bad way – I mean it in a way of they get to show everyone what they’ve got). These pitchers can also be called “gamers.” They might have had the worst practice two days ago, but come game time, they pitch better than they had all week. It’s a phenomenon.

Then, you have other pitchers don’t want to think about ANYONE watching them. In games, they can feel every eyeball on them and it weighs on them. They don’t want to let those people down. They are scared to make a mistake in the public eye. They want to believe that it’s only them and their catcher on the field – that’s it. This is the category I strongly feel the majority of pitchers fall under. These are the pitchers who have to find a way to fight through that feeling of letting everyone down and not being perfect. I do not believe this feeling ever truly goes away, but you find ways to fight through it and push it aside. You get used to it from the experience of competing while under what may feel like pressure.

You have to figure out which type of pitcher your pitcher is. I truly believe to be a successful pitcher there has to be a part of you, even if it’s the smallest part inside of you, that at times WANTS to feel like everyone’s watching. I am NOT saying you boast or are cocky or even say out loud, “Everyone look I’m going to throw this great pitch!”. It’s something that you feel on the inside where you think to yourself, “watch me throw this pitch, it’s gotten so good.” I know FOR A FACT from experience, that feeling of wanting to show everyone your best stuff is a feeling/emotion you feel DEEP down, and it has the potential to grow with you. It’s THAT feeling that you build off of. It has the potential to start as a small snow ball and tumble into an avalanche.

If you are 100% of the pitcher who does not at all want anyone to be watching, you will have a tougher time succeeding as a pitcher, and it may not be for you. Maybe you secretly want it. Maybe you secretly want nothing to do with it. The pitchers who deep down want nothing to do with it are the pitchers who are doing it for the wrong reasons. You can’t make a pitcher want it. You have to listen to your heart, gut instinct and all the signs to be able to tell if a pitcher REALLY wants to be a pitcher, or if the parent wants the pitcher to pitch more than SHE wants to.

|Working against pressure grows to working with pressure.|

You HAVE to learn how to work with pressure, not against it. To work WITH IT, you have to feel it and NOT instantly panic at the first feeling of it. Think of it in a real life situation – the calmer you stay, the more likely you are going to be to figure out a plan of execution to get out of a jam. The more frantic you are, the less likely a mental execution can be performed. It’s like in the movies when someone is being chased and they fumble their keys to the door and can’t get in. They feel the pressure. Their mind is moving faster than their body. But I would bet you, if that person had experienced that exact same situation 10 times, each time they would get better at it because their body would be able to handle the fear and the pressure.

How does your daughter watch you perform under pressure? You are setting the example for her every day with how you deal with every day things that come up. How do you make decisions? How do you handle every day problems? She models you. You are her every day teach for problem solving and being in the pressure cooker.

How has she dealt with pressure since she was a little girl? Have you always protected her from pressure? If she has never had to feel pressure before, then everything is a new feeling. She has to experience it to learn how to deal with it and work out of it. It takes TIME. When she was little, did everything have to be absolutely perfect for her? Did SHE have to be perfect? Perfection and pitching do NOT go together. So if she was raised that way, this will be soething much more difficult for her to overcome and her fear of NOT being perfect will start in her young career and she will have to learn to work through it.

These are perfect examples of why so many coaches stress “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” Have you heard that saying before? You’re GOING to feel uncomfortable so many times within ONE single game. And no two games are going to feel exactly the same. High stress situations are going to start to weight on ANYONE, but the more comfortable you are at dealing with them, the longer it takes to get to you. The more you PRACTICE feeling that uncomfortable feeling and finding yourself work through it, the easier it gets and the more you work with it instead of against it. Breezing through a game with no problem RARELY happens. If it’s happening more times than not, my biggest advice to you would be to get on a more competitive team. If your pitcher is not being pressured, then it is an unrealistic situation if she is wanting to go and play at the college level. Those situations of having your back against a wall are the moments of experience TEACHING her how to play with pressure and adversity.

By the way – It does not matter what age level you get to, your body knows when you are under pressure and a pivotal moment in the game. That feeling of pressure is either what keeps you coming back to the mound or it scares you away. Pressure is a real thing and it’s a divider of who is going to make it and who is not going to make it. What does pressure feel like? Your heart starts beating faster. Time starts moving quicker. Your body may feel heavy. Your finger tips may go a little bit numb. Pressure can literally be paralyzing, and a pitcher is faced with it almost every single inning.

| “I hope I throw a strike”* grows to “I’m going to throw a strike.” |

A pitcher may begin hoping to throw strikes – I guarantee it. They see that’s what they are supposed to do as a pitcher, and they hope that they are going to do it, too. Eventually that hope becomes KNOW. It grows to “know” by believing in your mechanics by practicing your tail off over and over again. You put your pitcher in uncomfortable situations AT practice so she can gain some experience in working through it. You hope, that after enough times, she can gain some confidence through those experiences. In the time of pressure, she can reflect back on the muscle memory and the positive reflection of achieving greatness at practice. Strikes come from consistency in mechanics. It’s much more difficult to have that consistency in your mechanics if your body feels different at practice than it does in the games. CREATE the same feeling at practice. You build an atmosphere of quality hard work that turns your hopes into knows.

Pitcher’s who “hope” to throw strikes will get fed to the wolves when they are older. Hitters end up smelling blood and picking up on the pitchers who “hope” they throw strikes.

|Thinks TOO much vs FORGETS To Think|

Often times our brains get in the way. The pitchers who are making good grades in school are the ones who seem to pay more attention to the game and have more body awareness. They often times psyche themselves out because they realize more what’s at stake or maybe when their body feels a little bit off warming up. That alone causes pressure and the inability to perform to the highest potential. For the people who think too much you have to find a trigger word or phrase to calm them down. The pitcher who thinks too much, you have to find time in between innings to be guiding and laying out a plan.

ALL of these things build a pitcher’s confidence and mentality. It doesn’t get better in a day or in a week, sometimes even in a year. It gets better over time once you realize how to talk to the pitcher and work with her on and off the field so that she can feel the most PREPARED physically and mentally going into the game. When you combine the physical preparation with the mental preparation/confidence, that’s where you want to be and grow even more from there. When these two things collide, that’s when a pitcher either a) grows and grows and grows or b) figures out that maybe pitching is not for them.

Happiness. Is. Beautiful.

For those who don’t know, I am 27 years old and I am on a mission to make our sport even better in whatever ways I can.  What do I mean by “better”?  I mean help more girls feel great about themselves, teach them how to be happy and confident to where yes, they may be great players on the field, but off the field, they are just as confident, self reliant and self assured.

 In essence, one word comes to mind – beautiful.

Now this is a big word, I know this.  But this is the word that should come to mind when you go out and watch your daughter or the other girls on your team play.  It’s a feeling.  It’s an attitude.  It’s a way of playing the game.  It’s happiness.  It has nothing to do with stats or wins or losses.  When you are doing what you love, it’s beautiful in every way.  When young girls are playing the sport they eat and breathe, they should not look fearful, timid, unsure or scared.  When you’re playing the sport you love, your inner beauty should come out, radiating happiness.

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I played it, I’ve been through ups and downs, and failure after failure and success after success.  Every player will go through this.  The different maker will be the role models and mentors she is surrounded by.  I was around parents who supported me no matter what and coaches who did not scream at me in the middle of games or at practices.  They weren’t controlling, they were helpful.  They didn’t yell, they developed me.  They taught without an ego.  Looking back, these adult influences played a major part in making me the player I was in college and the person I am today.  They played a huge role in a mindset that I carry with me every day I wake up — believing that I can do anything I put my mind to.

Amanda Scarborough Softball Players are Beautiful

We all want to win.  And at the end of the day, I am just as competitive as anyone and want to see my own girls I coach go out and get the W.  However, to me, the W’s come after they understand that feeling of playing beautifully and playing with happiness  & joy. With any sport, it’s sometimes forgotten of WHY we play.  Egos and winning percentages aside, we play to have fun and see the girls smile on the field like the beautiful, happy athletes they should be. THIS should be the standard.  THIS should be the norm.

Happiness is the secret to all beauty. There is no beauty without happiness.

Remember, we as coaches should be in softball to help girls feel their very best about themselves.  They are learning attitudes, emotions, and feelings on the field that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives off the field.  If we can teach them to feel beautiful while playing one of the most challenging sports and hardest sports in the world, they are more likely to feel beautiful out in every day life.  Softball is a sport where you are constantly dealing with failure.  While teaching them to handle their emotions and deal with failure after a poor at bat, I know that it will carry over to dealing with any other kind of failure or adversity that comes along in real life.  The more beautiful you feel in the inside, the easier that failure is to deal with – on or off the field.

Let’s encourage players to feel awesome about themselves and have confidence.  Why would we want anything else? As coaches and parents, don’t degrade a player because they performed poorly on the field.  No player fails on purpose.  Nobody fails on purpose.  No matter what their stats are or if you won, every player out there is still absolutely beautiful.  Softball players are beautiful.  Athletes are beautiful.

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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.

 

Mental Strength & Your Environment

What do you think is the most important part of being a mentally strong female softball player? (I’m going to skim the surface of a topic that people write entire books on…but it’s still helpful nonetheless…)

In my mind, one of the most important parts of being a mentally strong female softball player is the environment she is surrounded by.  There are a lot of pieces that add to this environment.  It comes from outside forces around the player: teammates, coaches, and parents. ALL of these outside forces can play into the mentality of a player. Some might call some of these “excuses” and things that players need to get over.  But to me, these are real issues that need to be addressed and can affect the mentality of a player. Each one of these could be their own topic, but I wanted to just cover the basics first, then get into more detail some other time. Here are questions to ask about each of the following that can effect a player’s mental game:

Teammates

Do you get along with your teammates? Is there drama on the team?  Do you feel like your teammates have your back? Do your teammates have as much passion towards softball as you?  When you don’t feel like your teammates have your back (especially as a pitcher in the field), you start to over think, overthrow, overswing and try to be too perfect.  When you pitch on a field where you know players are going to make plays behind you, you can pitch your game and feel more confident to throw strikes.  When you’re worried about the defense making errors behind you, it can be a tough thing to work through, but it’s actually a really good experience and one that almost all pitchers go through at one point or another.  Teammates affect what is going on in the mind of a player – for better or for worse.

Coaches

Are your coaches yellers? Do they embarrass you? Do you feel like your coaches believe in your talent? How do they tell you they believe in you? Do they help you set goals to achieve? Do you know their expectations for you? (short term and long term) Do they explain to you your role on the team?  Yelling adds pressure.  There are very few players who actually respond to coaches who yell.  There ARE some players who respond to this, but the majority do not.  The majority will shut down.  Especially the coaches who yell across the field to a player and let them know what they did wrong.  If I played for a coach like this, I would be terrified to make a mistake.  Being scared to make a mistake is NOT a fun way to play sports (especially when you play a sport that revolves around failing: i.e. a .300 batting average is good).  When you’re scared to make a mistake in front of your coaches, you can’t possibly be mentally strong.

Parents

How often do your parents tell you they believe in you? (Your kids want to hear it often and FEEL it, no matter what their results are)  Do they talk more about results or about how you felt during the game? (All players are well aware of their results after a game, whether they went 3 for 3 or 0 for 4, it’s not necessary to remind them.  Ask them about the process they went through in getting those results).  Are your parents yelling out mechanics to you during the game? (Game does not equal practice).  As parents, you are the biggest influence they have.  Don’t talk to them about mechanical/coaching things more than you talk to them about believing in them and supporting them no matter what.  I PROMISE they do and will remember the belief you had in them more than they remember the outcome of any game.  Trust me on this one…

So here’s the thing…becoming mentally strong doesn’t happen overnight. You work on your mental game just like you work on a curve ball or hitting an outside pitch.  This is an important realization for all of the parties involved, especially parents.  A lot of times adults think that just by simply saying to a player, “You need to get mentally stronger” that that is going to help.  False.  That’s not going to help.  You’re not giving her any tools.  You’re not giving her any true support.

One piece of advice: Start with positive self talk, regardless of what is going on around you in your environment.  In the game, are you telling yourself what NOT to do? Or are you telling yourself what you ARE going to do?  Example: Don’t swing at a ball above your hands. (that’s telling yourself what NOT to do).  Example: Swing at a strike. (that’s telling yourself what TO do).  It’s been proven that the brain does not hear the word “not” in the first example.  Start by practicing positive self talk at practice!  Just like you practice other things a practice, be conscious of the thoughts that are going through your head.  Let me tell you though – it’s easier for a player to have positive self talk when she is in a positive environment with positive outside forces.  All a player wants is someone to believe in her.  When a player as 3 different sets of people believing in her (coaches, teammates and parents) it takes pressure off, allowing a player to feel more relaxed, thus being more mentally strong. Create a habit of positive self talk and recognize the different in your game and how much more fun the game is to play when you’re out of your own head.

With all this being discussed about a positive environment, and as much as I think that outside forces an effect a player, I am not for sheltering a player from working through problems and working through adversity around her.  I also do not endorse quitting teams in the middle of a season (I know there are exceptions) or being a team hopper because you can’t seem to find that “perfect” environment.  There are always exceptions to every rule…

Which of these, in your experience, can have the biggest impact on a player? Leave me a comment and let me know!

The Pitching Staff – A Team Within A Team

A pitching staff is a team within a team. No matter which age group you are coaching, it’s important for the cohesiveness of your team that they understand that they are a team and they act and feel united. You can never start teaching and reinforcing this important lesson too soon – even at the younger levels. Start having the dialogue with them that the TEAM will do its best if they support each other and compliment each other.

The thing about a TEAM is that they should ball be working for the same goal. Maybe the team’s goal is to win a tournament. Maybe the team’s goal is to win Nationals. Maybe the team’s goal is simply to win one game.

No matter what the team decided is their goal, EVERYONE should be on board with that one goal and be on a MISSION to achieve that goal.

A team has a roster of maybe 12-18 players. The pitching staff will have somewhere between 2-5. The pitching staff has their own role in the team’s goal. There will be multiple pitchers on a team, and most likely no 1 pitcher will throw every single pitch. In most cases, there will be one pitcher who throws more than the others. That’s how it is on any team – travel team, high school and college, alike. As a pitcher on the staff, how do you handle this if you aren’t throwing in as many innings? As the parent of a pitcher, how do you handle it? As a coach, how do you speak to your pitchers? As the pitcher throwing the most innings, how do YOU handle it? EVERYONE has to work together to be united to work TOGETHER towards achieving the TEAM’S goal – pitchers, pitcher’s parents and coaches.

ANY player on a team should have a role. She owns that role. She embodies that role.

The acceptance and execution of that role helps work towards the team’s goal. Each member on the pitching staff should have a defined role, as well. It is ok for the role to change and evolve through the course of the season. That’s normal, and as a coach, you want this to happen. However, at any moment, a pitcher’s role should be clearly defined so that she can give her all to that role with no confusion. The most important part about roles is communication with honesty from the coaches – it forms clear expectations. The second most important part about roles is the acceptance of the role by the player – it means you’re a good teammate.

As an example, every team will have a #1 pitcher. Every team should WANT a #1 pitcher because it means you have found the player who is reliable in the big situation, it means you have found someone who has worked extremely hard, it means you have found someone who is consistent. Having a #1 pitcher definitely is not a bad thing, it’s a good thing for the team! Being a #1 pitcher is a role, and there’s nothing wrong with knowing you’re the #1, and there’s nothing to feel bad about. There could even be two #1s who share time fairly equally, but at the end of the day, one of those pitchers is going to be the one who the coaches choose to throw the Championship game, as we all know there can only be 1 pitcher in a game at a time. The other pitchers role is to support whatever pitcher is out there in the game. Another pitcher may own the role of being a great closer/finisher. Or maybe her role is to strategically throw against teams who can’t hit faster pitching or slower pitching. The options really are endless, but to me it’s all about the communication to form those roles. The more the pitching staff understands and accepts their roles, the more they are going to find success in games for their team. A pitcher’s role can even vary game to game. In that case, a coach’s communication to his/her pitching staff becomes even more important.

Often times I think where things go wrong is two fold…

  1. A coach not wanting to be completely honest with the pitching staff because they either are scared to tell the other pitchers they aren’t the #1, or maybe they themselves don’t quite know the role yet.
  2. PARENTS being unwilling to accept that their daughter is not the #1. They give more focus on that than the ultimate goal of the team – which is what EVERYTHING should circle back to – the team.

The thing about a pitching staff is that every pitcher has so much pride because of how hard they work on their craft. They want to get rewarded for their hard work with in-game pitching time because that has been the focus their entire life. Their practices have been so individual their entire life that it becomes difficult to take the focus off of yourself and place it on your TEAM and your team within the team, aka your pitching staff.

As a coach, from the very beginning, you have to make this known, and I think you will be amazed at the results it will yield if you have open and consistent communication with your pitchers from the beginning of the season until the end:

“Suzie, I want you to know you’re on this team because of the way you mix speeds, we are going to heavily rely on you to come in and be able to slow things down and keep teams off balance. Jill, you have ice in your veins when you are pitching. I see you pitching in a lot of close games in late innings because nothing phases you. Jenna, you have some of the top velocity in our area and I know we’ll be able to use that to go up against some good lineups.”

It takes time, it takes nurturing, it takes patience, but as a coach, it’s a MUST. They should commit to being the best for their team from the very beginning, and it should not get glazed over at the beginning. From day 1 your pitching staff should COMMIT to being the best for each other and being the best for their team. When you commit to specific expectations, especially in front of your team, it holds you accountable. Maybe you have them verbalize they’re going to commit, maybe you have them sign a sheet of paper that lays out the expectations you have of your pitching staff:

THE PITCHING STAFF…

Brings different strengths – mentally and physically.

You don’t want to pitch exactly how someone else pitches. You want to have your own strengths that shine when you get the opportunity.

Works together as ONE unit.

You win together, you lose together. When someone has a bad day in the circle, someone else comes in and picks them up immediately.

Has unwavering support for each other*

When you get taken out of a game, you support your other pitcher. Maybe that means giving her a high five as you get taken out and she is coming in. Maybe that means you have a glass of water ready to hand to her when she comes off of the field. Maybe that means you are yelling your hardest for her from inside the dugout. Be happy for her when she does well; feel for her when she has a tough inning.

* THIS IS THE BIGGEST ONE. If just ONE pitcher on the staff does not fully support the others, it makes it more difficult for the other pitchers to support her. Not saying it can’t be done, it just makes for an obstacle to overcome on the way to trying to reach the TEAM’S goal. No matter if you have pitched 20 innings in one weekend or 0, you COMMIT to support your pitching staff until the end – no exception.

Commits to making each other better.

They talk in the bullpen. They give each other tips during games and at practice. They learn to understand each other. They are not scared to help each other in fear that by helping someone else they won’t get to pitch as much.

Competes and pushes each other.

As much as you’re helping the other pitchers and wanting to make them better, you go out and compete your hardest and practice your hardest. When YOU compete harder and when you work harder, your pitching staff should feel that and want to work harder, too. Do not be scared of competition and when someone may be pitching better than you – that’s just an opportunity for you to work harder at your craft and you should thank them. Do not be scared to be great. You are pitch great for your TEAM, you pitch great so that you push your pitching staff to rise up as well.

THE PITCHING STAFF does NOT…

Pull other teammates aside and tell them why they should be pitching.

A big no-no. Absolutely 100% do not pull other teammates aside to your negativity and opinion. This causes friction on the team. Friction on the team means you’re hurting the chance at accomplishing the goal.

Pout in the dugout when they are not pitching.

Never ever cry/look sad/isolate yourself because you are upset that you are not the one in the circle. Don’t do it. Coaches, don’t accept it. Parents, don’t allow it. Under no circumstance, and I mean NO CIRCUMSTANCE is this ok. It is selfish and you are making the game about you. The game is never about one person.

Show an attitude when they get pulled from the game.

When you’re pitching and you get pulled, control your emotions. Your teammates, parents and coaches should have the expectations that showing an attitude when it is your time to come out of the game is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Showing this attitude is a direct reflection on the parents.

Forget about the ultimate team goal.

Every single action, pitch, play, practice is not about you, it’s about the team. It can be difficult for pitchers especially to remember this because a lot of pressure gets put on us, you are involved in a lot of plays, and there is high risk/high reward as a pitcher which brings more emotion to the table. At the end of the day, you are pitching for your TEAM, you are trying to throw strikes for your team, you’re trying to get outs for your team, you are trying to do your best to help the team WIN.

EVERY ACTION HURTS OR HELPS YOUR TEAM’S GOAL

When your team commits to expectations before the season even begins, they are now accountable for every single action because every action is either hurting or helping the TEAM’S goal. It’s better to tell the team the goal and expectations BEFORE any practices or games rather than having to go back and tell them the expectations you are wanting after an action occurs on the field that doesn’t support the team’s goal. Once they commit to this team’s goal, it’s no longer a coach being a bad guy when they call them out for their actions, it takes the blame off of the coach and on to the player. Your team should be held accountable from the very beginning. It is more difficult to go back and add the expectations you have of your team.

EVERY ACTION from the players and the coaches should support the team’s ultimate goal. This means the coaching decisions are made with integrity. This means each player is working hard on their own to get better for the TEAM’S goal. This means players accept their role in the lineup that day with grace and support of the other teammates. This means any bad body language on the field or in the dugout brings the team’s energy down, therefore hurts the chances of achieving the goal.

As a pitching staff, all eyes are on you. A pitching staff and how each pitcher understands her role is a direct reflection of the communication and leadership of the coaching staff. How a pitcher on a pitching staff chooses to handle her role is a direct reflection of her parents.

Players will only do what you allow them to get away with. Even at tryouts, it should be something you are seeking out in your pitchers –a complete pitching staff that you envision to fulfill different roles – they have different strengths and compliment each other. Find a complete pitching staff that you see as ones who will accept their roles – they have personality traits and parents who will commit to being their very best for their staff and for their team.

Players, Parents and Coaches ALL Have a Role

If you are the #1 pitcher – stay humble, earn your #1 position every single time that you go to pitch in the game, never take it for granted. If you are NOT the #1 pitcher, every time you go out to pitch is a chance for you to throw like you ARE the #1 pitcher. Every pitcher on the staff should have a presence that they ARE the #1. The ENERGY that comes from a pitching staff that ALL has confidence and works together is off the charts amazing, and it WILL take your team to the next level.

Pitchers, you are never entitled to any pitching time just because on the roster there is a “Pitcher” next to your name. You should earn EVERYTHING. Maybe you earn it by how you pitched the last time you were in a game. Maybe you earn it by how hard you’ve worked outside of the game at practice and at lessons. The opportunity for you to go in and pitch in a game is an opportunity for you to help your team towards its goal. Every opportunity is one that will be EARNED and it is YOUR job to take advantage of YOUR opportunity. 

Coaches, you are not automatically entitled to the trust of making coaching decisions, you have to earn that trust over time. The more trust you show the players & parents , the more they will accept and buy into their roles you are communicating to them. When decisions are made that do not support the team to reaching their ultimate goal, that is when drama starts to occur and people start to talk, and then players will not fully buy in to the decisions you are making. In essence, sometimes a coach will actually create his own problems by not making decision with one thing in mind – the team’s goal. Put politics aside, put parents aside, put ago aside and make decisions FOR your team because with every decision you are making about the team you are either hurting or earning trust.

Pitcher’s parents, your children will accept their roles in the same way YOU accept their role. If you are complaining, they will complain and not fully buy in. Often times they talk to their teammates and use the same quotes you say to them outside of the field. “I’m not pitching because our other pitcher is best friends with the coach,” or “I’m not pitching because we haven’t been with this coach for that long.”- Players don’t usually come up with these things on their own, they are hearing it from their parents.

When you are talking in the stands about topics that do not fully support the coach’s decisions, you are hurting the team from reaching their goal. It is ok for us as humans to not agree with every decision – that’s life. It is NOT ok to verbalize to others during practices and games and suck them in to your negativity/excuses. WAY too often parents become the cancers on the team because their pitcher is not getting the pitching time. Be real, be honest with yourself and support your child to become her very best. If she is doing HER best and she is still not getting THE most pitching time, it’s ok. Support your pitcher in her given role, remember what you committed to from the very beginning and keep pushing her to give her all.

Everything is about the team, EVERYTHING.

Finally, I know there will be the situations where as a family you decide that it might be time to change teams. Try to avoid leaving a team in the middle of the season. Stay loyal to that team and teaching your pitcher to stick things out and finish out the role she is in. Until after the last out is played of the last game on the team you are on, you give your ALL to that TEAM and try to help in any way you can. The only real time I support leaving a team in the middle of the season is if there is something major going on where there are coaches or players are being extremely negative or emotionally abusive, and it is affecting a player’s every day life/happiness. That’s a lesson in itself to get out of a negative situation. However, there is a clear difference between being sad/bummed out you are not getting pitching time and visibly being effected by the way a coach is talking/treating you and other teammates.

You will be amazed when a pitching staff buys in to being a real staff and SUPPORTS each other from the beginning to the end. Commit, think about every decision you make/action you take as either helping or hurting the team.

6 Steps to Prepare for Next Weekend

So I’m sure a lot of you played this weekend and are just getting done this Sunday. You probably even play next weekend (because yes, it’s THAT time of year). Here are some steps to get back prepared for next weekend:

1) Reflect on this past weekend. Ask yourself, what can I work on? Divide it with pitching, hitting and defense. (pick out 1-2 things, not 6-7. be realistic). Write these things down.

2) From those things, list HOW you are going to work on those things. (Drills that would be beneficial. If you don’t KNOW of any drills, google it, youtube it, ask a coach what are some good drills).

3) Pull out a calendar/schedule and look ahead to this week. Plan out some practice time. You might even want to take Monday off if you had a long weekend- your body NEEDS REST.

4) Make sure everything is accounted for to make this schedule happen – time, needed catchers, parents who need to be there and work schedules, social life, etc.

5) Commit to that schedule.

6) Go into next weekend feeling prepared and ready to get better at those things you worked on during the week. Your mind and body should feel more prepared going into the weekend.

7) After next weekend, repeat steps 1-6. 

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.

Below a picture of an example of what I am talking about. 🙂 Let me know below in the comments if you need any help thinking of some ways to work on the items that you list!

Amanda Scarborough Prepared

Remembering to Remember to Breathe

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


Amanda Scarborough ESPN

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

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

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

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

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

Learn. Grow. Repeat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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