Author - Amanda

Welcome

Amanda Scarborough - Welcome

A big welcome to my new website!  You definitely will see a different look with more interaction from me to you.  I wanted to build a site to form a place where softball fans could come and read/research a little bit, as the game of softball is still a big part of my life; but at the same time, I wanted a website that was able to track my career and show all of my life adventures, as I really am never in the same place for too long.  I’m so excited to share this with you as I continue to grow and evolve as a softball coach, a sports broadcaster, a clothing creator and overall as a person.

I feel like I lead a unique life.  I can’t tell you in 1 sentence what I actually do for a career, because there are so many things that I get to do for a “job.”  A typical month for me includes traveling across the country, working with youth softball players, being on TV for some kind of sports game and working on my new clothing line I just co-founded with my best friend, Savana Lloyd, called bellalete. This website serves as a medium to bring all of these different things together to show all of the different parts of my life and things that I am working on.

My original website, www.amanda9.com , served as more as more of a business card.  It was a place on the internet where people could find out information about the softball services that I offer. That website was made 3-4 years ago, and my how things have changed!!  At the time I made that website, I thought I would solely be a pitching instructor and travel across the country putting on camps/clinics.  This is no longer the case.  Over time, I have evolved into something that is more than that, and every year, my life changes a little bit as more and more opportunities come my way.  I have been SO SO unbelievably lucky with where my life has led me to get to do what I do now.   I wanted to share it with you all….

So let me be the first to officially welcome you to amanda-scarborough.com.  It’s a place to read, it’s a place to learn and it’s a place to interact.  You have the ability to use it however you would want.  Take a look around and let me know what you think!

Before you go and check it out, if you wanted to read a little bit more about each of the different things I do in my career, I wanted to give you a little insight…

I’m Amanda.  I’m a pitching coach, a softball tournament team coach, a softball clinician, a sports broadcaster, a clothing designer and a motivational speaker. There.  I answered it in one sentence!  The two questions I get asked so often (especially on a plane) and the two questions that are the most difficult for me to answer in one sentence are:

Why do I travel so much?

The odd thing about everything I do in my career is that if you would have asked me during my senior year of college what I wanted to do with my life, I would not have told you one of these things listed below.  My answer would not have involved softball, and it definitely would not have involved speaking in front of people, because speaking in front of a big group of people, or even walking in front of a group of people used to terrify me.  Everyone is looking for their passion and ironically, I found it in things that I honestly felt like I had no interest in doing.  With that being said, I feel like softball has helped build the confidence inside of me to do these things listed below.  So what exactly do I do? Well allow me to explain…

Private Pitching lessons

I still give lessons in the Houston area, but it is not nearly as often as it once was.  I still want to give pitching lessons because I enjoy the girls that I work with so much, and I still absolutely love learning about pitching and coaching; it never gets old to me.  Over the past couple of years I have received emails from parents and pitchers all across the country wanting to fly in and work with me.  I LOVE working with pitchers, I consider it one of my passions, however my time has been much more limited with this.  I have learned over the past years that I know pitching mechanics pretty well, however, I know that when I give pitching lessons, my relationship with the pitcher is much more than just teaching them mechanics.  Over the years, I have learned that I can truly make an impact in these girls lives on and off the field.  I genuinely love helping a young player learn about herself, gain more self-confidence and find ways to deal with any kind of mental issue she may stumble upon playing the game of softball.  I have also learned that, at the end of the day, pitching mechanics are important, but what is more important is a girl believing in herself and being surrounded by someone that believes in her.   When a young player has this, that is when she is going to go out and become the best player she can be.  When it comes down to it, it’s not about just softball, it’s about building girls who will turn into strong women and helping them build confidence that they can go out and take on anything that comes their way.  My pitching lessons, and softball in general, go much further than just teaching a rise ball or a power drill.  My job as a pitching coach is to teach those things, but also serve as role model that a young girl can look up to and go with any kind of question.

Softball Camps/Clinics

I definitely still work camps and clinics, but instead of them being more localized around the Houston area, I have been getting to work more camps that are outside of the Houston area.  I truly enjoy working camps because it is a way that I am able to work with and touch more girls.  I am always open to working camps and clinics outside of the U.S., and in fact, I am working a camp in Canada in January.  Another reason I like working camps is because I get to meet so many different people outside of my state.  I am always up for answering softball questions with all the different people I meet.  Simply put, I love talking about this game of softball.

ESPN/Longhorn Network College Softball Analyst

What does a college softball analyst do you may ask?  Well, some people get paid to analyze numbers or the way a machine works.  I analyze the game of softball during the college softball season, which is February – June.  This new adventure started for me in 2009, when I got a chance to work 3 games in a Super Regional during that season.  I immediately fell in love with it and wanted to do more, but at the time there just wasn’t the coverage of softball that it has grown to currently have.  Over the past 3-4 years, the television coverage of the sport has grown across ESPN’s networks and also across other network.  With the growth of that coverage, I have seen growth in the numbers of games every season I have gotten to cover.  Two years ago, I made a 3-5 year goal that I wanted to do 50 softball games in 1 season.  Last year, in the 2013 season, I got to do about 40-45.  I couldn’t believe it, goal almost met!  It is so much fun to be able to travel across the country, meet different coaches, see how  different softball programs operate and cover different softball conferences.  I learn a lot about the different programs and coaching styles when I get the chance to cover a school doing their game on TV.  I still pinch myself when I think about it.  I am living a dream.  I cannot believe that I get the amazing opportunity to talk about the sport I love on TV.

College basketball/college football Sideline Reporter

From being a college softball analyst, I have now been given opportunities for sideline reporting for college basketball and college football during the fall.  This is one of the newest of all of my adventures, as it truly is just getting started, as I just did my first college basketball games about 2 months ago on Longhorn Network, and also did my first college football game about a month ago, too.  I am hoping that I will continue to get more opportunities to be able to cover more games!  I have 6-7 college basketball games coming up in Austin for Texas men’s and women’s basketball game as a sideline reporter.  A sideline reporter is a job much different than my softball analyst position during the softball season.  As a reporter, my job is not to analyze what’s going out on the field.  I’m checking out injuries, doing human interest stories and always trying to get the scoop to report on what is going on on the court or on the field that the two people in the booth calling the game cannot see.  I am so excited to see where these opportunities lead me…  

Texas Firecrackers Gold assistant coach

I work with the Texas Firecrackers, out of Houston Texas.  We are a part of the Firecrackers organization that is continuing to grow across the country.  Now something about me is that I always swore I would never coach with a tournament team,. However, what I found with the Firecrackers is that they were spreading a message via softball that I really connected with and felt like I aligned with.  What stood out to me about the Firecrackers is that they have a message that is more important than just wins and losses.  They stress a message of building players to be strong women off the field by the way that they are treated ON the field. I think that this is so important, because when I look back at my own youth career, it has shaped me so much to become the woman that I am today.  From a young age, I was always surrounded by coaches who didn’t yell at me and degrade me on the field.  I could not have played for a coach like that and I do not believe in coaching like that.  That may be for some people, but it is definitely not for me.  A coach should be someone who is a role model for their players and is teaching them on the field lessons.  What I realized through coaching is that how players allow coaches to talk to them on the field will affect  how they allow people to treat them and talk to them as they grow up and become young adults outside of the softball field.  So don’t get me wrong, I love to win; but what I love more than winning is teaching young girls to have self confidence and be mentally strong, and I feel like I do that through helping coach with the Texas Firecrackers.

A new clothing line – bellalete

This was one that I guess you could say was on my bucket list.  My best friend, and co-founder, Savana Lloyd, came up with the idea a couple of years ago to create an athletic apparel line made by softball players for softball players.   Being around the softball field on a regular basis, whether it’s covering college softball, working camps/clinics or working with the Texas Firecrackers out at tournaments, I’ve noticed that there has never been clothes designed specifically for softball players.   Savana and I kicked around the idea for quite a few months, then we finally decided to break down and go for it.

Why is this important to me and Savana? Well, if you know me, you know that I love athletic clothes, because I am always in them.  I love to work out in them, I love to travel in them and I love to coach in them.  Savana is the exact same way.  Since we are always in them, we thought it could be pretty cool to make our own clothes, while also adding a little style to the softball field, but more importantly, have the ability to spread an important message.   About a year and a half ago, we decided that we officially wanted to do it and invest time and thought to create something that isn’t out there.  That is when we came up with bellalete.  “bella” is Spanish for beautiful.  And “lete” is the last 4 letters in athlete.  Put those two things together and you have a beautiful athlete.  bellalete.

When we thought of bellalete, our initial reason to do so was to be able to toudh more girls than just through our softball coaching with an inspiring message.  Through our coaching, we are consistently trying to empower girls and help them with their own self-confidence so that they feel better about themselves, which inevitably helps with their results on the field.  When you feel good, play good.  That’s just how it is.  (feel good can apply to what you feel on the inside and what you feel like you look like on the outside).

We originally thought that bellalete would just be around the softball field, but we soon realized that the message we wanted to send out through bellalete was a message that could apply to more than just softball players.  It’s a message that can apply to all female athletes and women around the world.  When we think of bellalete, we think of a combined effort through comfortable clothing that helps spread a message to empower women to be strong, encourage them to be happy and to inspire them be confident.  These are the keys to having success in anything you take on in life.

Motivational Speaker

I’ve had the opportunity to be around some pretty amazing people with great leadership abilities.  I would say the biggest mentor I have had is my coach from Texas A&M, Jo Evans.  That woman can move an entire room when she speaks.  I remember listening to her in post game meetings or during practice, getting goose bumps and, getting so fired up to go out and play.  She gave me all the tools I needed to set me up for success after softball simply by teaching the value of staying under control with your emotions and the value of hard work.  So much of what I know about motivating and talking about passion comes from her and getting to listen to her for 6 straight years.  I try to take what I learned from her, and also what I learned from my own parents, and bring it to the softball players and the youth to try to make a difference.  I always give a post-camp speech at all of my camps, and honestly.  I know that I have been given a gift to talk about softball, passion, work ethic and attitude; I’m not really sure exactly where it comes from, but I do intend to use it.  It’s so crazy I am saying this, because like I said before, I used to be terrified to talk in front of people, ask a question in class or even walk in front of people on a stage.  Now I talk about softball on TV for millions of people to listen and also give speeches in front of sometimes hundreds of people.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this gives you a little bit more of an idea about what I offer as a softball coach and what exactly I am doing when I am not on the softball field!

Power Drive Photo Shoot

About three years ago I was searching pitching and pitching tools, and I stumbled across the Softball Power Drive.  I spent some time on their website truly studying the tool and soon realized that it was a tool that helped teach exactly how I taught my pitching students.  Immediately I searched for a contact email and sent an email to Softball Power Drive explaining who I was, how much I loved their tool and if there was any way we could work together.  I thought that email was going to go into a black hole, but it didn’t.  I got contacted back a few weeks later by the inventor of the Softball Power Drive, John Miller, and his father Brad. After that conversation, we have worked together ever since.

We made this video in Indiana about 2 years ago with a high tech camera that shoots at 1000fps.  What’s so cool about this video is that it shows how to use the Softball Power Drive while also showing fastpitch mechanics at a speed where you can actually see where the body is supposed to be.

I was very lucky growing up; I had tremendous pitching coaches who taught me solid mechanics and how to put my body into the most efficient spots to get the most out of my size and muscles.  I stand at not even 5’6 but could touch 70mph.  Think of the normal pitcher you see in college and most of them stand above 5’6, lots of them over 6′ tall.  So I get asked where I got that power from a lot.  My answer to them is: I used my lower half in the right way in order to get the most energy out of my frame.

This video has over 400,000 views on youtube and does not include the numbers of views it has had on the Softball Power Drive home page.  I haven’t really found anything else out there on the internet that shows the fastpitch mechanics in slow motion at 1000fps like this video does.  So please share or leave any comments and questions! Enjoy!

Personal Branding

What is your personal brand saying about you through social media?

Definition: Personal branding is the process of developing a “mark” that is created around your personal name or your career. You use this “mark” to express and communicate your skills, personality and values. The end goal is that the personal brand that you develop will build your reputation and help you to grow your network in a way that interests others. They will then seek you out for your knowledge and expertise.
Vision and Branding - Sports

 

Personal brands affect each and every one of us daily.  Few players realize that they are building their personal brands NOW, at age 12 or at age 17.  This no longer applies to just famous celebrity adult athletes out in the “real world.”  Social media, in my eyes, is affecting personal branding the most with young players.  Every tweet, every picture, every post is defining how you want the world to view you and how you are making your own unique “mark” on the world.  Young players are unaware that the image they are portraying now, even at as preteen, could be affecting where their career is headed when it comes to playing in college and also in post college careers past softball.   Personal branding affects a player trying to play softball in college just as much as it affects the current college softball standout.

Why is this important when it comes to softball?  A softball player’s brand is not simply built on batting average, ERA, or wins and losses.  Though that is PART of a player’s brand, it truly is much more and deeper than just statistics and swag on the field.  Every second of the day it’s either getting stronger or getting weaker. A player is not the only person who has a personal brand in our game – coaches and parents also have their personal brand which is being defined with every game, every win, every loss and every taught skill along the way….but a coaches and parents brand discussion will have to be discussed on a different date.

What players are putting out on social media is writing their personal brand through words and pictures that will live forever — Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Vine, etc.  This is something that 10-15 years ago, players like myself did not have to worry about as much, as the concept of Personal Branding really started to come around in the late 90’s. It is through technology and apps that define your brand and really what you are all about on the inside.  As I’ve watched and monitored over our own team’s tweets and posts, I’ve noticed some common themes along the way that need to be redirected and given better, more positive energy than some of the negativity I read.

 

Think of these things as you build YOUR brand before you post anything on any of your apps:
  1. What is your vision and purpose?
  2. What are your values and passions?
  3. What are your goals? Long term and short term?
  4. What makes you happy?

Be original - motivation

I’ve explained to our own Firecracker team before that Twitter should not be a medium to release any and all personal problems that vary between how you’re playing on the field to relationship problems to family problems.  I totally understand 100% that players feel like these forms of social media is a way to express themselves…but there are some things that should be left to be expressed to your coach, friends or family in a one on one CONVERSATION, not a public conversation on the Internet.  Remember that there are other ways to be heard and people who care about what you are feeling who are actually close to you – your friends and family.

If you’re not playing well on the field…why would you tweet about it? Do you want your competition to know that you’re not seeing the ball well or your change up is struggling? Instead of tweeting about it, go practice.  Take that energy and use it towards something good.  If you have time to tweet about it, usually you have time to go out and practice or get better at whatever it is you’re complaining about.  The more your thoughts are negative, the longer you will struggle.  Along those same lines, are your tweets helping your team or hurting your team?  Handle team problems off the field not through social media.

When you’re tweeting, think about the language you are using.  No curse words or putting other people down or bullying.  Anything negative only brings other people down who are reading it and makes YOU look worse.

When you’re posting pictures, before you post, think about if that exact picture was on the front of USA Today, would you be ok with it? What would your parents think if they saw it on the front of the paper?

Don’t complain about relationship and friendship problems via social media.  These problems fall under that personal umbrella that should not be shared with the world. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that there will be problems, we all have them.  However, there is a place to talk about them, and it’s not over a social media medium.  The negativity and complaining take away from your personal brand.

 

When you are tweeting and posting, think about posting things that shape YOU in the light that you want to be seen in and the characteristics that you want put next to your name.  If you’re having a bad day, where you maybe can’t think of anything nice or positive to post, then just go ahead and don’t put anything that day.  Putting nothing is better than putting something negative or sad.  Nobody else defines you, YOU define you.  Do you want to be seen as pessimistic, critical, a bad teammate, depressed and someone who has self pity? Or do you want to be seen as charismatic, happy, motivated, inspired, passionate? When you put yourself in a college coach’s shoes, which characteristics do you want your players to have and be around every day? What kind of energy are you giving off to the public with your posts?

Have an effect on others that is positive.  Before you post, think is this helping or hurting my brand? It’s so important to realize that every day your image can be seen in a negative or positive light, which will have an effect on not only YOU but college coaches, tournament team coaches, opposing players and also your career once softball is finished.  Right now, what kind of brand are you creating and what kind of “mark” are you leaving on the world?  The brand you are creating on a daily basis now has an impact on your life years and years down the road.  Make the most of it NOW, don’t start later.
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Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands.  The personal-branding concept suggests that success comes from self-packaging. Personal branding also involves creating an asset by defining an individual’s appearance and areas of knowledge in a way leading to a uniquely distinguishable, and ideally memorable, impression.
Dr. Suess Motivational Quotes

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

What does it mean to be competitive? Part 3 – Competing Against Yourself

(This month’s topic will be broken down into 3 parts)
This month, I have sent out Part 1 and Part of this topic “Competing Against Other Teams” and “Competing For Your Position.”
To see Part 1 of this topic click here
To see Part 2 of this topic

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.

Competing Against Yourself 

In my mind, this is the form of competition that drives a player the most and is the deepest form.  This is the competition that actually drives the other 2 forms of competition (competing for a position and competing against other teams).  As important as it is to have drive to go out and compete against another team and to beat someone out for a position, it all comes down to a player competing against herself.  The drive for the other 2 forms of competition comes from pure competition against your own self.

What does it mean to compete against yourself?  You can answer that question by answering what are you doing when no one is watching?  When no coach’s eyes are on you, who is pushing you?  When there are no other players around at practice, who is pushing you?  The answer to this must lie internally that you become your own coach and your biggest motivator to compete against yourself.  True passion comes out when no one’s eyes are on you.  This includes not cheating the number of reps and not always looking around to make sure that your coaches aren’t watching you.  Nobody should be having to make sure you are doing the right thing at all times other than yourself.  Take pride in being your own coach and your biggest motivator. If someone is constantly pushing you to try to get you to compete and to be motivated, maybe it’s time to re evaluate whether this is the sport for you.

Me against myself

These moments of competition come by trying to become a better player with every swing you take or every pitch you throw.  It’s this internal motivation that will push you to become a great player.  When you’re competing against yourself, you don’t even need anybody else to push you.  This is something learned at a young age.  I believe it’s important to try to teach players the want to practice on their own.  The more they are forced, the less competitive with themselves they will be since they were forced to be out there in the first place.  An internally competitive person will ask the dad to go out and catch her pitching, instead of the other way around.  An internally competitive person will take the tee outside on their own to hit in the backyard with no one prompting her to do so.  When you compete with yourself, you can’t wait to practice to get better and work hard to see just how good you can really get.

Work for a cause not for applause
I believe some players are scared to compete with themselves because they don’t want to see how good they can actually get because they don’t want to let someone (coach, parent, friend) down on the field.  More importantly, they don’t want to let themselves down.  Let me explain this a little bit further and give an example:

“I’m Amanda and I am a pitcher.  I know that the more I practice, the better I get.  Every time I go out to practice I feel like I get better and have good command of my pitches.  I look great in the bullpen.  When I go out to a game, I walk a lot of people, give up a lot of hits and I feel like I am letting my coaches down.  I am letting myself down, too.  So I might as well not even practice, because if I am going to let people down anyway, maybe it will look like I’m not trying as hard and that’s why I don’t have good game results.”  The fear of letting someone down is greater than the drive to compete, and it takes over mentally. Being a girl myself, and a former player, I know for a fact that girls think this.  It might sound crazy or fake, but it’s a well known fact that girls are pleasers and want to make everyone happy.  So this absolutely goes through their head.  The less a player feels like they are going to let their coach or parent down, the more their inner competition will be able to thrive.  The only person a player should play for is herself and the rest will fall into place.

Creating a positive atmosphere with coaches and parents will actually increase a player’s ability to compete with all of her heart.  It’s important as a coach and a parent to communicate that no matter what happens or how a player performs, your relationship will be okay, and nothing from the softball field possibly the end of the world.  When a player is surrounded in this atmosphere, she will push herself the most and be the most competitive player.  Always remember happiness is beautiful.

You have to compete with yourself first before any competition can happen with anybody else or any other team.  When you learn to compete with yourself, the sky is the limit to what you can achieve.

Practice as if your're the worst

 

COMPETE EVERY PITCH.

What does it mean to be competitive? Part 2 – Competing for your position

(This month’s topic will be broken down into 3 parts)
Two weeks ago, I sent out Part 1 of this topic “Competing Against Other Teams.”
To see Part 1 of this topic click here
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.

 Competing for a position

 

Now this form of competition isn’t as basic as competing against other teams.  This one is a little bit tougher because it involves competing against your own teammate.  This is specifically tricky with girls because most girls don’t want to hurt other girls feelings.  Having competition at different positions around the field is so important for a team’s success because you get the very most out of your players.  If there is no competition for positions, players can get complacent and never really grow.  Competing for a position pushes both players to become the best they can be knowing that if they perform better than the other player, then they get to start in the big game.  Competing for positions is a big reason why college teams will carry more players on their roster than a select team.

Steve Martin Quote

Competing for a position is THE BIGGEST lost form of competition, and I will tell you why.  There are more select softball teams across the country than there ever have been before, meaning there are more options; and if someone is not happy with playing time, it’s very easy for them to pick up and leave and go to another team where they can fine more playing time.  I’m sure you know them, the typical team hoppers who leave because everything just isn’t right.  They always have different excuses for leaving the team, but in general, the biggest reason people leave teams is because their daughter isn’t getting enough playing time.  So let’s think about this for a second.  By allowing your daughter to change teams based on playing time, you’re telling her that she doesn’t have to earn that spot and compete for that position because if we aren’t getting what we want, then we can go find it somewhere else.  The easy thing to do is pick up and leave and find another team so your daughter can play.  The hard thing is to challenge up and stay on the team to earn that spot.   I promise, in the long run, she will be better because of it.

If a player isn’t playing…I guarantee there is a reason for it other than the coach just simply having favorites and/or not liking the player.  If I am the player who is not playing, I am going to find out why I am not playing (by asking the coach myself, NOT my parents) and then work hard on whatever the reason is when I am practicing.  Maybe the reason you are not playing is because you are not clutch with runners in scoring position.  Maybe the reason is because you make scary throws to first base on a ground ball.  There is going to be a reason, but there is NO reason not to go work hard on whatever it is it may be.  But here is the catch: if the player is NOT making the changes to become a better player, then WHY would the coach put them in?

Earning a spot can be difficult; earning a position can be challenging; but earning a position is one of the most rewarding things that can happen to a player.  If you’re not getting playing time and you think you’re working hard enough?  Work harder.  Do you think you’re putting in a lot of time? Well put in more. Want it more than that other person.  Eventually, you’ll get it; but it’s not going to come easy.  A big part of competing for a position is taking advantage of your opportunities.  For example: maybe a player doesn’t start but she is called upon to pinch hit with a runner at 3B and less than 2 outs.  Does the player cave in this situation? Or does she get mentally tough to embrace this opportunity and make the most out of it by hitting a SAC fly and getting the RBI?

Another example of making the most of your opportunity is if the player who plays defensively in front of you makes an error, and your coach calls your out to go play in the field.  The first ground ball that comes to you, do you boot it?  Or do you make the play cleanly?  TAKING ADVANTAGE OF OPPORTUNITIES will be a way that you earn your spot and catch your coach’s attention.  If you are NOT taking advantage of opportunities, then why would your coach want to play you?  To take advantage of opportunities, you must be focused, you must know the situation and you must be mentally strong to believe in yourself.  Someone might make an excuse after not taking advantage of your opportunity such as, “well I didn’t come through because I don’t get to play as much as the other players.”  This is just an excuse for not coming through, and it doesn’t apply.  If you’re putting in the practice time and fall into the trusting mindset in the game, you will be better served to take advantage of these opportunities physically and mentally.

Find a way or fade away

Don’t teach your daughter the wrong thing – that if you’re not happy with something, it’s okay to pick up and leave.  Teach her work ethic by teaching her competition within her position.  Make sure you have a coach that is teaching this same philosophy, because maybe your daughter is the one at the “starting” position.  Is she being pushed? Is someone right there next to her at practice pushing her with every swing and every ground ball?  If not, then I can guarantee she will not become the best player she can be because there is no one right there next to her breathing down her neck wanting to take that position.  That is pure competition.

Competing for a position will prepare her for college.  The ultimate goal of any college team is to win, a coach’s livihood at his/her schools depends on it.  So you better believe that the best players will play and that coaches want this friendly competition out on the field within their team so players are day in and day out pushing each other.  If your daughter is not preparing for it now, she won’t be ready for it when she makes it to the next level, whichever level that may be – high school, all stars, league team, college.  Encourage competition, don’t shy away from it.  Teach your daughter that if she wants something, she has to prove a point and send a message by working harder than she’s ever worked before to be named the game day starter.

Lastly, an important thing to remember for this kind of competition is not to give up.  Anything can change.  Maybe the person you are competing with stops working hard, but you continued to work your very hardest and you end up beating them out at the end of the season.  If you want it bad enough, you will work hard enough to achieve your dreams.  If you don’t put in the work or make the changes, that tells me you never wanted it in the first place.  Every player wants playing time, but it should always be earned.  The reward is getting to be out on the field come game time. Passion, or lack of passion, is shown when competing for a position.  How bad do you want it?

Is there competition at your position?  Are you being pushed by your teammate?  Are you pushing your teammate?  Are you caving when you have opportunities?  Make the most of your opportunities…be so good they can’t ignore you. 

COMPETE EVERY PITCH.

 

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.

 

What is Beautiful Fastpitch

You are beautiful
 Beautiful- 1) having beauty; possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about ; 2) of a very high standard; excellent.
Fastpitch players are beautiful.  There…I said it.  It’s true.  “Beautiful” is a big word.  It’s used limitedly because of the standard we have tied to it in our culture, and we know that something must be of upmost quality for us to tag that word on it.  Because of its limited use, it is put on a pedestal and rarely pulled out of Webster’s to describe something or someone.  But what if we used to describe the way a young girl played softball?  The word “beautiful” is not a daily softball adjective used out on the field or at lessons like “attack” or “swing hard” or even “aggressive.”  It’s a word people shy away from using because of the grandeur of the word and thinking that it only goes with a sunset in the afternoon or a model during a photo shoot.  But “beautiful”, is a word that can be used to describe softball players and the standard our sport should hold.
Playing softball beautifully has nothing to do with physical looks (ie. eye color, weight, hair color).  No – playing softball beautifully means playing it with poise, playing it with passion, playing it with positivity and calmness. It means slowing the game down in your mind, taking your time in your at bat, playing defense out on the field with head held high and excitement of anticipation for the ball to come to you.  It’s being able to control your emotions during the game so that you have that ability to slow down in your mind the ground ball coming to you or how fast your at bat is going.
FASTPITCH Softball
Softball has a fast pace to the game as it is.  When you’re a player, the game speeds up 10x in your mind and everything seems faster than it really is.  Ask anybody who has played – when you are out on the field, the game seems even faster because your mind is racing; there are a lot of unsure players, which makes the game go by faster and faster until before you know it, the game is over.  A player who is focusing on playing beautifully slows her breathing down, slows her mind down and ultimately, the pace of the game slows down, thus, no matter what kind of mechanics you have, will yield more results because you can actually focus one pitch at a time, one step at a time.
Does playing softball beautifully mean that you’re always going to get a hit and never going to make an error? Not a chance.  That’s our game.  Our game was designed for you to fail, and if we didn’t fail, there would be no fun in it.  However, it’s really when you fail, that your true beauty can actually be seen the most.
So how do we get our players to think this, feel this, believe this? It lies in our coaching and providing the information for them.  Teaching them at a young age that they were made to play beautifully and having an understanding of what that looks like and what it feels like.
Can a hit be beautiful? Absolutely. Is a pitch with a lot of movement on it beautiful? You betcha. But those are things we cannot always control when we are playing.  As a player, I can control my attitude during the game, my respect for my teammates and my approach at the plate during my at bat.  I can control how fast thoughts are going through my head.  THOSE are the real things that add beauty to this game.  Taking pride in your uniform, taking pride in being a good teammate, and taking the responsibility to make adjustments at the plate or in the circle.  Those are things of REAL beauty.  Unfortunately, those are the things that don’t go I the scorebook or the news paper article, they aren’t the things of our game that gets all the hype.
Playing beautifully is something (like anything) that needs to be practiced.  It will not just show up magically in the game.  By being aware of what we look like on the field in between pitches when we are up to bat or on the field, we have a better understanding of what impressions we are giving off.  I go around and watch a lot of softball through college and travel ball.  The players who are fidgety, always messing with their uniforms,  always touching their hair, having fast/quick movements up at the plate or on deck, those are the players I know will not remember the game and it will pass them by very fast.  Those are the players, to me, who will actually end up beating themselves.  The players who are playing beautifully have calm, slow movements.  They are slowing down the game in their mind with these movements, and thus, slowing down the game for their team.
Beautiful Softball field
As coaches, we get so caught up in mechanics and fundamentals (which believe me, are very important and need to be practiced), but the idea of playing fastpitch beautifully needs to be discussed.  For mechanics, every coach is going to coach something different – where to hold your hands, how to use your lower half, how to throw a rise ball.  But with playing beautifully, I think there is a general consensus of what this looks like and what it should feel like to the players.
Most of you, I’m sure, have watched the Women’s College World Series and know who Lauren Chamberlain is.  She is, in my opinion, the greatest hitter in our game right now, and maybe when she is done with her 4 years at Oklahoma, one of the greatest hitters to have ever play our game.  When you watch her play, look at her approach and her confidence in between pitches.  She has a routine in between pitches in her at bat.  She’s calm, she is not constantly fidgeting, she is not constantly looking back at her coach and messing with her uniform.  All of her movements have purpose and I guarantee she remembers everything about her at bat.  She is letting the game come to her.  Does Lauren Chamberlain have great hitting mechanics? Yes- without a doubt.  But without her approach, poise, and routine at the plate, she would not be able to use those mechanics to their fullest potential.  Chamberlain would be a good hitter without her calm approach, but WITH the calm approach, she becomes one of the best.
Playing beautifully takes your game to YOUR next level.  It’s going to be different for everyone, and you can’t compare yourself and your results to the person sitting next to you.  This idea of being a beautiful player comes with time, it comes with practice and it comes with experience – all of which the idea of “beautiful” is at the forefront of your mind.  Act it.  Feel it.  Know it.
You are beautiful
Beautiful – Don’t be scared to use the word, don’t be scared to try to be the word, and definitely don’t be scared to coach the word.  All players have that beauty inside, it just needs to be brought out of each one in order for players across the country to play at their very highest ability.   Through sports and coaching, lessons are learned – competitiveness, work ethic, determination.  These are lessons that when softball is over, allows softball to still stay apart of you.  Just like softball is a medium for life lessons, softball should be a medium to make girls feel good about themselves, to feel beautiful.  The more beautiful you feel, the more confident you are, the more motivated you are to go out and achieve your dreams and think the sky is the limit.  It all starts with an at bat or throwing a pitch, and noticing a different way of moving and holding yourself to resemble being the most beautiful player that you can be.

 

  And that is beautiful fastptich.

 

Same Game Different Stage

softball same gam different stage - motivation
Well, televised games start THIS WEEKEND on the ESPN family of networks.  The first game will be #7 Tennessee @ #3 Florida this Saturday, March 16 on ESPNU at 11am ET.  These are two teams going up against each other who just this past week, both defeated Alabama, as Florida gave Alabama their first loss over a week ago in a mid week Wednesday game, and Tennessee beat Alabama 2/3 in their series this past weekend in Knoxville. Before last week, Alabama was ranked #2 in the nation and was undefeated. So far there has been some great matchups and upsets along the way and it’s only going to continue as we move through the season.  If you know me at all, you know this is my favorite time of year.  I love being able to follow the teams, the players, the seniors, the freshmen and seeing which teams are living up to expectations, and which teams are falling short.  It’s so interesting to see when different teams will peak in the season, each team trying not to hit their peak too early in the year.
ESPN is putting more regular season games on TV than they ever have in the past.  Year after year the amount of televised collegiate games is growing across all networks, and it’s really cool to see.  This year in the booth for ESPN during the regular season you will be able to catch 6 softball analysts calling the games at any given time: Myself, Jessica Mendoza, Michele Smith, Jennie Finch, Cheri Kempf & Garland Cooper. For a complete game schedule of ALL televised games on the ESPN Family of Networks: CLICK HERE
Other sites I use for good college softball info:
Great week by week information of who is hot and which teams are playing best. Graham Hays is someone who knows his stuff, always enjoy reading about what he has to say and he covers which teams week by week are playing best.
This is where you can find the college polls (rankings) and also who is the National Player of the Week.  Every week there is a new National Player of the Week and a new top 25 Poll.
Want to know where your team or favorite player ranks statistically in the nation? Click there.  Individual statistical rankings (ex. Lauren Chamberlain’s batting average) and team statistical rankings  (ex. Oklahoma’s team batting average.)  There are all kinds of stats you can see ERA, home runs per game, batting average, stolen bases, walks, on base %).  The first rankings for this season just came out this week, and they will update weekly.
Some fun stats for this week:
The highest on base % in the nation goes to Devon Wallace, who plays for Arkansas.  She gets on base almost 7/10 times with an OB % of .691.
The lowest team ERA goes to Oklahoma, whose team ERA is .80.  With the amount of great competition and the amount of top 25 teams Oklahoma has faced this year, that is a an amazingly low ERA.  And it does not just have to do with senior All American pitcher, Kelani Ricketts. She is ranked 5th in the country with an ERA of .87 in 80 Innings Pitched , however, Oklahoma has another senior left handed pitcher, Michelle Gascoigne who actually is leading the entire country with a .70 ERA in almost 60 Innings Pitched.

 

So why should you watch softball on TV?
 
Being able to watch college softball on TV can be used as a valuable learning experience in so many different ways for players and for families.  Below are 3 reasons if you’re a young player or a softball family, you should watch as many collegiate games on TV as you possibly can.

 

1. Create goals, inspire dreams

 

With the amount of college softball games on TV, young players are able to see role models right before their eyes playing the game they love at a higher level.  Being able to watch it on TV can put the dream right in front of them that they, too, one day, may be able to make it to that level and be able to compete at the game they love.  Our game of softball has come so far, and a major reason is the amount of games that are now being televised.  By watching these games, young players can be inspired to create a goal in their mind of a future level they want to compete at.  It’s so important to have these futuristic dreams to have something to work towards and look forward to.  It’s the dreams and goals that push you every time you go out to practice to become better.  Every day at practice you are either becoming better or worse.  By watching these collegiate games, players are able to visually see other who have achieved their dreams, and make goals to some day be playing on that same field.
Quotes about goals
2.  Learn about colleges who are recruiting you or colleges you think you have an interest in dreaming of playing at.
I personally love being able to be a part of these televised games becuase I get to learn so much about different programs from across the country.  I get to meet with their coaches, somtimes even their players and ask them a lot of questions and really try to dig deep to learn about their programs and what kind of program the coach is trying to build or has already built.

 

Watching two teams go up against each other in a televised game is a great way for YOU to learn about a school’s program, too.  You get to watch the coaches, you get to watch how the players swing & pitch, you get to watch how the teams act in the dugout and how they take the field.  There are so many different variables that define a program other than their wins & losses record.  If you’re REALLY watching a game, you can pick up on a lot by the attitudes and body languages of a team.  Things to look at:

 

– How do the players wear their uniform (is it wrinkly? is the shirt untucked? is it sloppy looking?)
– When the team gets down, do they fight until the end of the 7th inning, or do they give up once they got down?
– How do the players interact with each other?
– How does the coach interact with the team?
– What is their energy like throughout the entire game?

softball team

 

Who is your favorite team? What do they LOOK like on the field?

 
These might seem like small things, but it’s all the small things that add up to big things and really characterize a school’s program.  When you are actually playing college softball, it becomes less about the statistical numbers that make you a player and a team, but more about what is going on outside of those things that make the heartbeat of a team and program.  By watching as many games as you can, you’re able to get an understanding of each team you watch simply by paying attention to the energy of the players and the energy of the coaches.  Also, not to mention, during the broadcasts, there are usually stories about the team and their coaches, maybe even possible human interest stories that can also help you get to know a team.  If you are getting recruited by different colleges across the country, try to watch them as much as possible in person and/or on TV if you get the chance.  If you do not know where you are wanting to go to college, watch different games and see if you can get the “feel” of a team through the TV screen to see if they gain your interest in the way that they are playing the game.  Watch the games on TV for more than just balls and strikes.  Look deeper and you can learn.

3.  Same Game, Different Stage – They make mistakes too (good for players AND parents to realize this)

When you’re a young player, an error or giving up a homerun feels like the end of the world.  – It feels the same the exact same way for a college player, trust me.  You struck out looking?  – College players do that too…but instead of never hearing the end of it from their parents, it’s their coach who gives them an evil eye as they run back to the dugout.  Same feeling, different authority. You have players on your team who sometimes don’t run a fly ball out?  – SAME THING still happens in college! (maybe just not as much)
softball same gam different stage - motivation
You see, this game…is the exact same…just with bigger girls, further homeruns and smaller strikezones.  By young players being able to see these televised games, they can see that even the college players are human and make mistakes, too.  Young players, especially young girls, feel like they get people down when they are not absolutely perfect on the playing field.  If they are able to see their role models make mistakes on the same field, it makes them better, and puts less pressure on them the next time they are going out to go play a game.  Less pressure on yourself = more fun = better results = more wins.
When I say that this is the same game, I mean to the “t” this is the exact same game no matter if you are in a rec league, on a tournament team or play in college.  A leadoff walk more times than not, will lead to a run.  A pitcher falling behind in the count means a hitter will be more aggressive on a 2-0/2-1 count.  A ball missed down the middle of the plate will get hit well.

….and parents….

More importantly than the young girls being able to watch these players make mistakes,  is the importance of the parents being able to see an All American hitter strike out and a Player of the Year have a homerun hit off of her.  In being around this game at so many different levels, parents get so ashamed of their kids when they are in the stands if they make an error or do something that is not actually benefitting the team.  Remember as a parent, these older girls are making the exact same mistakes – and it will never go away for as long as you’re around the game.  Remember that when something happens in a negative light to your daughter, it’s not a reflection on YOU at all, unless you make it about you with the way that you react.  Take the attention off of you in the stands and put that energy into how you are going to make your daughter feel better about herself by the words you say after the game, the body language you have during the game and the efforts you are going to take with her AFTER the game to make her a better player and to make her feel better about herself.
Watch these games to dream.  Watch these games to learn.  Watch these games to take pressure off of yourself.  Enjoy getting to learn about the NCAA Division 1 college season and have favorite players and teams to root them on.  All of the girls on the field have been in the same position as all of you young players and they worked their tail off to make it to this collegiate level.  They, too, had a goal of playing at the next level.  They also are just like you and have parents who are just like yours.  THe games you are watching through the television screen is the same game you are playing in all different aspects.

 

Be Your Own Boss

I recently was introduced to the book Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence by Davis Casstevens, and I absolutely feel in love with it. It has great stories, very motivational and inspiring, right up my alley in so many different ways. In one of the chapters, Riding the Pines, Casstevens writes about an article he himself had read about being your own boss, thus leading him to come up with the idea for an athlete to “inc” himself/herself (ex. AmandaScarboroughInc) and the idea that your “company” (ie YOU) are a stock. Everything you do increases or decreases your value to the public. The “public,” in my eyes, can either be considered your current team OR the “public” can be a college recruiting you. OR, if you are a player already committed, the “public” is your current college you committed to, as they are wanting to see your stock continue to increase in value before you actually set foot on their campus.

Even if you are not the star player of your team, you are still a commodity to your team. However, being a commodity is not just handed to you, you have to make yourself a commodity by earning it. Every day you have to work on getting your “stock” to climb…this could apply to every day starters, players who are injured or players who are not in the everyday starting lineup. Ask yourself the question every day when you are playing or practicing, what are you doing to get YOUR stock to climb? Having a bad attitude would decrease your value, not giving your best every single second at practice also would decrease the value of YOUR stock. Those of you who are not in the starting rotation have to remember, you are ONE PLAY away from being a starter. At any second the person in front of you could get injured, and then it could be your time to shine. It would be YOUR opportunity and YOUR chance to make the very most of it. Don’t you want to be the one prepared for that opportunity?

Your coaches are a reference…

If a company (ie college coach) is going to ask about acquiring your company (ie you as a player), what are your coaches going to say about you? Are they going to say you have a good attitude, works hard, coachable, and a real team player? Or are they going to say the complete opposite? Your coaches’ opinions do actually hold weight and college coaches take that into their opinion when thinking of whether to buy your stock (recruit) you or not.

Tweet Smart…

Along the same lines of this is social media with Facebook and Twitter. Before you put something up for the world to see, ask yourself, if my coach saw this, would this increase or decrease my value as a stock? Before putting your entire life and every personal move on twitter, be careful and think twice when it comes to language, relationships, friendships or any kind of social scene. Ask yourself, “is this tweet or status going to increase or decrease my value?” Twitter and Facebook should not be used to show that you are an emotional rollercoaster. A college coach is looking for someone who is positive, steady, and a leader. And remember, at any second, a college coach can get online, and go and check out these social media outlets.

Lead…

On the field, every inning think about if your stock is decreasing or increasing in value. This is not necessarily simply performance based, but think of other things that help raise your “stock” like being a leader and helping out your younger or new teammates . Are you going to be the teammate who watches as someone sturuggles to learn the system or to learn a drill? Or are you going to be the teammate who goes over and helps them work through things, thus increasing YOUR value and your TEAMMATE’S value? If you are the “boss” of a company, you aren’t just worried about yourself, you’re worried about the employees who work for you, too.

Observe….

If you are injured, because let’s face it, injuries are GOING to happen, but consider it a perfect time for you as player to start thinking about situations, pitch calling, trying to pick up grips of opposing pitchers, trying to pick up the opposing team’s signals, making sure your teammates are in the right spot on defense, helping to keep your team’s energy up. There are SO MANY things you can be doing during the games and at practice. If you are a player who is injured, and you are not doing anything to help your team on a consistent basis, your stock value is dropping. You can do nothing or use the time you are injured wisely, the choice is yours. Observe. Visualize. Go through situations mentally, so once you get into the game and get back out there, it’s like you’re picking up right from where you left off. You possibly could be a bit behind physically wise from not being able to practice, but mentally pick up right from where you left off because you still visualized yourself being out there in any situation, and your mind is still as strong as it was when you were healthy.

Contribute…

In Mind Gym, Casstevens talks about “can-do” planning. This is when a player makes a list of things you can do when you’re “riding the pines,” whether you are injured or just not in the start lineup. The list is made up of things you can still be doing to help contribute to your team, and I listed a few things above such as studying your opponent by trying to pick signals (defensive and offensive), trying to pick pitches by seeing if the pitcher tips any pitches, cheering your teammates on, or exercising in the weight room. Write these things down and see all the different ways you can still contribute to your team and to yourself.

One thing in the game of softball we NEVER can control is the lineup, and who is in the starting 9. One thing we ALWAYS can control is our attitude and how we accept that lineup. Everyone wants to be playing, without a doubt. Have the attitude though, that you are continuing to learn and at any moment you could be called upon to action. You can control that aspect of the game, always. Be so ready in the dugout, that if someone gets hurt who plays in front of you or you get a chance to pinch run or pinch hit, that you are ready for that opportunity. Make it be as if that opportunity doesn’t come as a surprise to you during the game, because mentally you are ready, and it’s as if you were already in the starting 9. When you get that opportunity to go into the game, you’ve got to be able to make the most of it, and take it and run with it. THOSE are things you can control. Remember you can never never, (as a parent or a player) control the lineup of a coach. Casstevens quotes the serenity prayer in Mind Gym,

 

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

 Serinity

 A simple quote that many players and player’s parents can really learn from and keep in their back pocket to remember.  This is a helpful motto not just in our game of softball, but in life in general.

Teach your kids life lessons….

From a perspective of being a coach, I see parents all too many times who are not necessarily helping with this idea of their players being all they can be and “increasing their value” even if they are not in the every day lineup.  They actually KEEP the player from increasing their value because of what is being said in the car ride home from games or in between games, or wherever the conversation may be taking place.

Let me say, that I totally understand that some players and families are not going to be happy, and there will be players who switch teams.  It happens.  It’s a part of our game, and I do think it is important to be in an environment and in a situation where everyone can be happy, as it’s a two way street with the team and also the player. A player will THRIVE in a positive situation, as it’s important to find a place where your daughter can feel the most beautiful (ie. happy) when she is playing. However it’s how you handle it before the move that decreases or increases the “value” of your daughter as a player and the lessons you are teaching her with such an important change.  Even if you are not happy with your situation, it should NOT be shown in the stands or on the field.  There is a time and a place for everything, and if you want your daughter’s “stock” to be at the highest value for the “trade,” then it is important to handle it in an appropriate manner.  Even if you KNOW you are switching teams at the end of the year, or whenever it may be, still enable your player to get better every single game and practice no matter the situation.  There is always learning to be done in any situation.  Switch teams when the time may come for that change, but up until that last second, encourage your daughter to continue to increase her stock.

Teach young players that it’s  NOT just about the players who are in the starting 9, that there are lessons to be learned that are outside of softball and bigger than the game of softball.  Kids are so observant and are always learning and picking up things.  Even if you are not happy with your team and situation, it is not an out to not work hard and not continue to invest in yourself.  Teach your young players that even when there is a tough situation, you work through it until the time comes for the actual change  Don’t teach them that when a tough situation comes up, it’s okay for them to “check out” of practice and games by having a poor attitude towards their teammates and coaches and not working hard.  Commit to being your very best, at all times, even when no one is watching.  Player’s stock value is dropping or increasing due to the lessons that parents and coaches are teaching them by their actions, especially by what parents are saying to them outside of the actual field.

The journey…

Important for all of us to remember as players and as coaches that:
Carl Lewis

What lessons are you allowing your players to learn along the journey?  A lot of times we get caught up on the outcomes (wins and losses), but really when we look back, it’s not all about championship rings and innings played and batting averages.  I don’t remember those things as much as the lessons I learned from my parents and coaches, the way that those people made me FEEL and the great mentors I met along the way who have made me the person I am today.  We get caught up in the moment and forget about the longrun.  It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  We all learn from mistakes and from failing, much more than we learn from when we don’t fail.  Allow your players to fail, this allows them to learn.  The failing is part of the journey.  “Failing” could be striking out.  “Failing” could be making an error.  “Failing” could be not being in the starting lineup.  Once you define a fail, more importantly, define how you are going to learn from it.

EVERYTHING is a process in life, and your goal is that that your “stock” is TRENDING upward.  This means you’re going to have moments of downs, we all do.  But when you look back, you hope to see that if your playing career or life was a graph, you would see the trend increasing over an amount of time.

Raise your stock

My “company” was surrounded by mentors who helped increase my “stock” every day, and I was not faced with the social networking animals of Twitter or Facebook (until I got to college). Whether you’re injured, not an every day starter, or you’re in the starting 9, engage in can-do planning and recognize the things you CAN change vs the things you CANNOT change and see the difference. Every day, commit to increasing your value, as a player and as a person, whether it’s on or off the field. Remember that there are bigger goals ahead for you, and the actions that you have now are going to effect what happens to you later.

 

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