Author - Amanda Scarborough

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.

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.

Dear Pitcher, You Are Not Alone

Dear Pitcher,

I’ve been meaning to talk to you for a while now. I would say I can’t imagine what you are going through, but that’s not true. I know exactly what you’re doing through. There are some things I’ve been wanting to share with you. I need you to know that what you are feeling is normal. It is tough being a pitcher, I don’t care who you are. You are gong to cry, you are going to laugh, you are going to fail, you are going to succeed. ALL of it is a part of being a pitcher – not just the good moments. The pressure you are facing on a daily basis is something that most of your friends will never go through. It is something that makes you special, and it is something that makes you remarkable.

If you haven’t already, you are going to have moments where you feel completely isolated and alone. But it’s in those moments, where I need you BELIEVING in the opposite – that you are never alone. At the same time you are feeling sadness and frustration, there is another pitcher somewhere out there feeling the exact same way as you. We have all been there.

Everything you have felt and everything that you have gone through, is totally normal, and I can tell you without hesitation that someone before you has already gone through it. We’re all in this together….

Dear pitcher, the biggest thing I need you to understand before I can tell you anything else is you were born to believe in yourself. That is where it all starts. Your journey of pitching never really starts to feel enjoyable until you have a glimpse into this inner belief. This one thing is THE key to you having success when pitching, really no matter what age you are. YOU have to believe in yourself before anyone else can. SEARCH for your belief. WORK for your belief. KNOW that your belief will come.

Easier said than done sometimes, trust me, I know….

Dear pitcher, I know some days you will want to cry – over not winning, over giving up a homerun, over not being able to make an adjustment, and maybe you’ll cry because you worked so hard, but you feel like you’ve gone no where. Your frustrations will start to build so much that tears may start to form in your eyes – fight them off and stay strong. The best place to show that emotion is in your own home, try your very, very hardest not to do it at the field – even though I know sometimes it can be hard. Other pitchers have cried before you, and sometimes it feels good just to let it out.

Dear pitcher, I can tell you that there will be days you are going to want to quit. Actually, there might be more than one of them. However angry and upset you are feeling, you are not alone. We’ve all been there. Being a pitcher is one of the hardest things you will ever try. It will test you and it will push you so much to the point where you feel like you can’t go any further with it. During those times, take a step back, take some time off if you can, and listen to where your heart is directing you after you get a few good nights sleep. It’s amazing how time is able to heal you and make the thoughts in your head more clear.

Dear pitcher, know that every single day, and I mean every day, you are getting better – even on the days you want to quit. It doesn’t matter if you just gave up the game winning homerun or if you struck out 15 in a game. There is always something to learn, and at the end of every day, you are progressing and getting better IF you are willing to learn through the “bad” days and the “good.” You will feel both every single time you go to pitch…and you are not alone.

Dear pitcher, you are never ever, ever going to be perfect. I know you want to be so badly. I know that you expect it of yourself, but no one else expects it of you. One of the hardest feelings to overcome is not feeling like you’re letting your teammates, parents and coaches down. It’s in those times where you need to remember that this is a team sport. I know that you want to be perfect, especially because you worked so hard at practice and at pitching lessons, but, perfection will never happen at any age or any level. You are not alone that you want to BE perfect, and you are not alone that you won’t ever be perfect. It’s ok to strive for perfection, it will motivate you, but don’t EXPECT to be perfect, it will destroy you.

Dear pitcher, this is a tough to hear, but there will be someone or some people who might say bad things about your skills as a pitcher. You are not alone. If you are considered the “best” pitcher, there will be someone telling you why you can’t make it. If you are not considered one of the “best” pitchers, there will be someone giving your opinion of why you’ll never make it. If YOU believe in YOU, that’s WHY you’ll make it. I want you to hear me clear when I tell you this, but their opinion does not matter. It just doesn’t. People, for some reason, just like to be negative. It’s your choice whether you listen to them or not. Every time, choose not to. Allow your belief in yourself to be greater than any outside noise you may hear. Don’t let it get to you.

Dear pitcher, your parents are always on your side. Your parents truly are your biggest supporters. You will have moments where you don’t want to hear what they have to say. You have two choices: You can either listen anyway, or you can ask for some time alone – you have every right to do so. I am not telling you or condoning doing this every time, but I totally get it. There are those moments where you just want to be alone in your own thoughts. Your parents just care so much about you and with everything that they do and say, it is FOR YOU to HELP YOU. Often times, your mom and/or dad can be your best pitching coach outside of your lessons. Allow them to help you as much as you possibly can. You are not the only pitcher in the world going through this struggle with your parents. Learn to work with them instead of against them. You are not alone.

Dear pitcher, you do not HAVE to be a pitcher. You should never feel like you HAVE to pitch, you should WANT to pitch. Being a pitcher truly is privilege, but it’s not something everyone wants to do deep down. I know there are players out there who have probably felt like it’s something their parents wanted them to do more than they actually wanted to do it. You’re not alone. Find something you full enjoy doing. Whatever it is – do it with all of your heart and have the courage to tell your parents and coaches that pitching is not for you.

Dear pitcher, trust your gut. You might not know what this means yet, and it’s ok…you soon will. Your body and mind is constantly talking to you. Can you hear it? Start paying attention to what your gut instinct is telling you. Don’t ignore that feeling in your stomach – it’s telling you something.

Dear pitcher, through all of your ups, stay humble, no matter what. Let others compliment you if it presents itself. You earned it, but you don’t need to tell others how good you are – your play will speak for itself. Also, when you have good games, remember to always credit your teammates – you are never playing the game by yourself. Don’t assume they are going to make plays for you, show gratitude towards them always. Every game tell your catcher good job and thank her for how hard she worked behind the plate.

Dear pitcher, remember this phrase – there’s no win in comparison. Every single pitcher is a different type of pitcher. It can be easy to be jealous of someone because they throw harder or have a better change up or their ball moves well. We do this in every day life about our body and our hair, but no one is YOU. Find what you do well. Know your strengths. Have pride in those strengths without comparison your strengths to someone else’s. It can be exhausting to compare yourself to someone else, so instead of easting the time doing that, spend time learning and recognizing your own strengths. Pitch to those strengths without comparing them to anyone else. Be you.

Dear pitcher, block out any negative energy towards the umpires and errors happening behind you. Remember how I told you that YOU are never going to be perfect? Well, neither are they. Your teammates may even make 5 errors in one inning behind you, but you won’t be the only pitcher who has ever gone through that. I’m telling you right now that there are going to be times that you have to actually throw 6 outs in one inning. It’s happened to every pitcher. But it should not change your attitude and your teammates who just made the error(s) should feel like you still have their back. You are not alone and you are not the first pitcher in history who has gone through a never-ending inning. Hold your head high. Don’t let it effect your game. Work through it. Be your very best, and it’s at that time when I need you to be the best teammate. 

Dear pitcher, find a way to balance competing for a spot with support and compassion for the other pitchers on your team. You are all doing the same thing – working for the same team goals – never forget that. Turn any jealousy into respect and support for her when she is pitching instead of you. Wouldn’t you want her to do the same thing? She should FEEL your support. And when you get an opportunity for innings in the circle, you have to make the absolute most out of them – no excuses. You have to step up. You have to step up for your team and you have to step up for yourself. Remember, each pitcher has an important role. Take so much pride in that role and more pride in being a good teammate than unhappiness that you aren’t the one who doesn’t get the innings in the circle. When you do get those innings, you gotta rock’em. If you are a pitcher who gets lots of innings, never get complacent. there is always someone who wants your spot. Regardless of how many innings you have, every day work on being a good teammate, even if it’s towards someone who you are competing with.

Finally, I want you to be the one who asks your parent to practice. Do not have them be the one who brings it up every single time. If this is what you want to do, you have to be hungry, you have to want it. You must consistently push yourself and allow to be pushed on the days where maybe you’re slacking. There will be those days where you may feel a little bit lazy. It’s normal, you are not alone. In those days where you can’t push yourself as much, have someone there to push you.

Work as hard as you possibly can. Know that you are going to fail, but failure is not something to be scared of. Every single pitcher will fail at some point. You are not alone. Push that fear aside and have the belief in yourself be stronger than any fear that starts to creep inside you. No one said this was going to be easy. If you are a pitcher, it is something that you ARE 7 days out of every week. You work harder than anyone else on the team, you have more pressure on your shoulders than anyone else on the team, and you get celebrated more than anyone else on the team. The reason you do it?  You can’t imagine your life without it.

So have fun, smile more, and when you’re not sure what to do, take a deep breath and remember that you are not alone.

The Power of Shaking Off

As a pitcher, I’ve never understood a coach’s philosophy of  NOT allowing pitchers to shake off a called pitch. I, personally, never played for a coach that said, “Never shake me off,” or “You better throw what I’m calling.” 90% of being a successful pitcher does from feeling confident…feeling good….feeling comfortable. How do you feel those things? By being 100% invested in WHAT you are going to throw the next pitch. The slightest bit of uncertainty will show in your pitch if you are not fully committed. (Parents, I’m SURE you know what I am talking about and you can see it from in the stands.) Also, in my mind, being able to shake off a pitch holds higher implications than just trying to get the batter out.

As a little background….The majority of the time, my dad called pitches for me for my travel ball team. Occasionally, another dad would call them who also had a pitcher on the team, but nothing beat the comfort of having my dad call for me. In high school, my catcher and I called the game together, as well as when I got to Texas A&M. 8 years I got my own practice and in-game experience of calling my own pitches with my catcher.  I had to think for myself through the ups and downs of a game or even in the ups and downs within an at bat. “What pitch should I throw next?” These are decision making skills being a pitcher teaches you. When the pressure is on, bases loaded, playing the best team you’ve played all year, tie game, one pitch can make the difference, and I got to be the one who had the last say. Pretty awesome when you think about it – giving a young woman that much power and leadership at a young age.

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

When you have coaches who allow you to think for yourself and help you learn HOW to think for yourself, you grow as a pitcher; you grow as a young woman. You learn to trust your gut instinct. Being able to trust your gut is such an important trait to have in life and that gut instinct can be a pitcher’s best friend and your inner guide. That instinct does not always come naturally, it progresses and can be felt over time. In a game, if you throw 100 pitches, that means you have 100 chances, 100 reps, of learning to feel and trust your gut instinct if you are getting the opportunity to throw your own game You can still throw your own game even when your coach is calling pitches from inside the dugout if he/she is the type who allows you to shake off. You’re thinking EVERY pitch, focused on one pitch at a time in what you want to throw. As with anything in life, the more you practice calling your own game, the better you get at it. Little by little you start to trust that feeling in your stomach more.

All too often, as pitchers and as human beings, we push that gut feeling aside and try to out-think the situation. But then when we look back, it was like we had the answer all along if we would have just trusted that initial feeling/thought. This is a large part of how a pitcher grows and matures in the circle come throughout her career. She learns to think for herself. She learns to make her own decisions. She learns to eat her own mistakes. She takes responsibility. She becomes a leader. She might lose the opportunity to learn these important values if she is a robot out on the field, looking at a signal, getting no feel of the situation, and just automatically doing what someone else is telling her to do without the option of shaking off – the power of saying no.

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

Let it sink in for just a few moments. The power of saying, “You know what, I don’t feel comfortable with that” or “I would rather not do that.” How many times in life have you had the option of saying yes or no? MILLIONS. Probably every day. Sometimes, saying no is not always easy. You don’t always have to say yes, you can choose to say no.

A lot goes into our decision making, but practicing saying no and getting the confidence to do so on the softball field could translate to having more confidence to say no OFF of the softball field.  Think back to middle school, high school, hanging out with your friends, being confronted with situations where you have to make choices. If you have relied on someone else to make a decision for you your whole life without the ability/care to say no (shake off) on the softball field, then why might at a high school party where there is peer pressure be any different? That kind of pressure feels just like when you are in the circle, all eyes on you, tie game, 7th inning, 2 outs. Added pressure and YOU get to pick what pitch YOU want to throw.

Pitching has the ability to teach us different versions of STRENGTH. Yes, the strength to throw hard and hit corners, but the real STRENGTH comes in being an individual in the real world who can make her own decisions. Learning how to say “no” is hidden deep in the life lessons you learn when being a pitcher. Having the body/mental awareness to trust your gut instinct of whether a pitch feels right or wrong and whether an outside situation feels right or wrong. The more experience you gain in saying no, the easier it is to say no. 

Allowing your pitchers to shake off pitches is just one small example within softball to coach these girls the way you would want them to live their lives outside of the softball field. Give them tools to gain strength every time you are with them at practice and in games that allow them to be independent thinkers, make decisions on their own and take ownership of those decisions. Empower them to feel peace with the decisions they make – whether it turns out being right or wrong within the game. That’s the way you learn. That’s the way you get through to them through softball, which is where they are spending the majority of their time.  It’s where they can learn through trial and error the pressures and the ups & downs life will throw at you sometimes. In if it means shaking off a pitch to get the pitch YOU want because you just feel it in the inside. Now being able to find that feeling on the inside – THAT is powerful.

 

10 Ways to Stand Out At A Softball Clinic

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

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

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

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

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

 

  1. Meet a friend, introduce yourself to new people

 

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

 

  1. Eye Contact

 

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

 

  1. Hustle – No Walking

 

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

 

  1. Try New Things

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

  1. Be Inspired

 

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

 

  1. Make Sure The Station is Clean Before Rotating

 

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

 

  1. Write Down Important TakeAways

 

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

 

  1. Thank Your Parents

 

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

 

3 Things To Do Post Clinic:

 

  1. Follow all forms of social media.

 

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

 

  1. Practice the drills daily/weekly.

 

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

 

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

 

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

10 Ingredients to Succeed in Elite Softball

Lessons. Practice. Travel. Games. Recruiting. Repeat. The ingredients of elite softball are all in the air. Getting lost in emotions, information and games can be an everyday occurrence. Some days are easier than others.  It’s a grind. Always remember there is light at the end of the tunnel, and the benefits of making it through the months ahead of you are completely worth it in the end.  As a parent, remember there are other parents going through exactly what you are going through. As a player, remember there are other players going through exactly what you are going through. It helps to remember you’re not alone. It also helps to keep some things in perspective along the way to help you and your family stay sane.

Realistic Expectations: There is a home for everyone.

I feel as though this is tougher for parents than it is for players. Players usually have a realistic understanding of their talent level and they can see through lenses that are not rose colored. When you start to get into elite softball, there is a general understanding and goal that you want to play at the next level. Period. Understand from the very beginning that at the top 25-30 schools, only 3-5 players will be recruited in your year. Putting expectations of only going to those 25-30 schools can be quite a letdown if you don’t make it. Put into perspective the amount of girls vying for those positions and how the probability is most likely higher that you won’t make it to that school.  BUT, if you love the game and are invested in continuing your career, you are going to find a better fit at a school that has your name written all over it. Playing with unrealistic expectations makes you play tight, and usually leads to being let down. There is a great home for everyone.

Stay Humble.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from my dad when I was in the recruiting process was to stay humble. I was extremely lucky that many bigger schools were after me. At the time, since recruiting was happening a little later than it is now, it was quite common for schools to send in questionnaire profiles through the mail early in the recruiting process. I would sit down after dinner in front of the TV and fill out every single questionnaire that was sent to me. It didn’t matter if it was a junior college, a mid major or a top division 1 school. My dad’s thinking was that I was not too good for any school. If they were interested in me, I was going to be appreciative and never turn my nose up to anybody. You never know what could happen and you don’t want to completely shut anyone out until you know for certain where you are going. What if you think you are going to go to a big D1 school and you have a major injury? What if you go through something major that mentally takes you out of the game? You never know what can happen. Be appreciative for attention. Stay humble with coaches who are interested in you. Stay humble around your teammates. The same can go for the opponent you are playing. You’re an elite team, but the game doesn’t know that. Go into every game with consistent emotions by respecting every opponent. Respect the game. The game doesn’t know…

Don’t Compare your Experience to Your Teammate’s.

You and each of your teammates will most likely have a different experience in how you get recruited and who is watching you. It takes too much energy to compare. That energy should be put into YOUR skills, mindset and plan. Worry about yourself. If you are doing all that YOU should be doing on and off the field, then what other people are doing should not matter! Be you. Do you. Grow you. YOU are awesome. YOU have your own story.

Make friends, not enemies.

This goes for players AND parents. With every person you come in softball contact with, you never know how much you might be around them in the future. I’ve noticed enemies in the softball world usually come from jealously. At every exposure camp, combine, all star event, opening ceremonies, make a good impression! A good impression could be just that, a good impression or it could be a lasting friendship. You just never know when you are going to possibly play with these people you meet again. You may meet someone at an exposure camp and may end up being college teammates with them. In the stands, be nice and supportive. Everyone you meet is going through exactly what you are going through. Don’t judge. Be respectful and just know that the softball world is a REALLY small world, so make a good impression. People talk, coaches hear. You want what they are talking about to be nothing but positive things about you and your family. With that being said – avoid drama.

Take Breaks.

As an elite athlete, you are pushing your body to its limits on a weekly basis. You have to pay attention to your body and realize when it’s talking to you and when you need a break. Be honest. Create that relationship with your parents and coaches from a young age where you can gain their trust and you can say “I need to take today off” or “I need a break.” Breaks are GREAT. They absolutely have to happen for your mind and for your body. You live a softball-is-life mentality, but mixed in there, there has to be time with no softball. You create your own balance. Figure out what that balance is so that you can perform the best. You want to love softball, not hate softball because at the end of this ride, softball continues to still pay off in your life – promise!

Own Your Role.

I get it, you want to PLAY; you don’t want to sit the bench. On an elite team, 15/15 girls on your team are GOOD and there are only 9-10 starting positions. The talent only gets better once you go to college.  Many times, a player will learn a new position just to find a way on the field. Be flexible and be studious. There are so many examples of players getting to the next level and not playing the same position they played on their travel team and in high school. If you are not physically out on the field, it does not mean you become a spectator to the game. There is always something to learn, to watch, to do.  Try to pick pitches. Try to notice pitcher’s tendencies. See if the defense is giving away anything. Create a role and totally own it. There is no time to feel sorry for yourself, you have a team to help, you have a game to win. Championship teams have roles and buy into those roles. This game is not about one person’s playing time, it is about the entire TEAM. Learn to contribute to the team and find a way to be involved in the game.  THIS is a team player. THIS is the kind of person a college coach wants to recruit. If you are on an elite team, you will be competing for championships, so find a way to contribute.

Parents – Stay out of it at the field.

Give your children responsibility for their softball career. Give them a voice. If it’s about playing time, have your daughter call a meeting with her coach to discuss what she can do better. Eventually your daughter will have to speak to a boss or another authority figure. Give her practice NOW so she can learn to communicate LATER.  Mentor her and help her with what she should say or when she should say it, but don’t say it FOR HER. Once warm ups start, parents should stay completely out of the way.  No bringing hot dogs and Gatorade to the dugout. No coming up to the dugout to remind her to keep her front shoulder in on her next at bat. The days of that are over. Elite softball is conducted in a businesslike manner. You’re there to compete; no distractions and you have a job to do.  IN the stands during the game, remember you never know who is in the stands WITH you. If you are going to cheer, yell only positive things. (I honestly feel that saying nothing positive nor negative can sometimes be your best bet. Just let them play the game.) If you are going to chat with another parent on the team, make it positive. You NEVER know who is listening. Your daughter is taken as a direct reflection of YOU.

Make good grades.

Even if you are not planning on going to some place like Harvard or Yale, your grades are so important. Your goal is to play at the next level right? Well, at the next level, if you don’t make the grades, you don’t get to play. Create good study habits and make school a priority. Because you are playing at an elite level and have big tournaments every weekend, some of which you are having to travel far, you are going to miss out on things with your friends because school + softball + family are more important. While you may be missing out on a birthday party or going to the movies, your friends are probably going to miss out on playing a sport collegiately. Rent the movie later and send her a birthday card/present to let her know you wish you could be there and you’re thinking about her. I PROMISE, getting the opportunity to play softball in college is WAY better than any movie or birthday party you miss. There is a much higher percentage of those you don’t play sports in college than those who do. Do whatever it takes to find time to study, write papers and do homework because this prioritizing is not changing any time soon once you make it to the next level.

Play on the best team where you can PLAY.

This is tricky, but I am going to give you my mentality on this. I encourage people to play on the BEST (most competitive) team they can possibly play on AND be in the starting 10-11 players on that team that get playing time. It goes no good to be on the “best” team in your area, and all you do is sit the bench. If you are only sitting the bench, you are missing out on college coaches being able to see you in action and gain the experience of competing on the field against top level teams and competing for championships. Again, I know people are going to have different opinions on this, and I am just giving you my perspective. Find a team with a solid tournament schedule. Two things I want you to remember while thinking about this: 1) The college coaches are going to be where the best teams/talent are. 2) Don’t be jealous of the best player on your team, that “best player” is most likely pulling college coaches in to watch. Don’t just think of those coaches as being there to watch that player, think of this as an opportunity to grab some attention and as a mini audition! You WANT that player on your team because she helps you win and she draws attention…especially standout pitchers.

Softball Does Not Define YOU.

Understand there is a difference between performance skills and moral skills. This, to me, is the most important thing a parent can teach a player. The way you teach it is completely up to you. Some examples of performance skills: hardworking, competitive, motivated, confident, disciplined. Some examples of moral skills: unselfish, appreciative, loyal, caring, trustworthy, caring.  There HAS to be a balance. When softball is all said and done, all you have is your character…your inner you.  This goes for players and it goes for parents. Parents, you are not defined by how your daughter is at softball or the scholarship she gets. Neither is she. She is defined by being a good teammate, a good friend, a good daughter. Start noticing the differences and explaining the differences to your daughter and your team. THIS will help make leaders out in the real world and empower them with a different skill set once they grown into WOMEN.

We are all in this softball world together – don’t lose sight of that. While everyone wants to be on the team that is the last team standing at the championship game, this sport is so much more than just that. Play softball not to just eventually grow to pitch 70mph and hit 20 bombs in a season. Play softball because it grows you together as a family and each individual as a family. Along the way, be genuinely excited for teammates who get the big hit, the big strikeout or the big verbal commitment. Remember karma is a real thing. No matter how good you are, never stop learning. Never stop being appreciative. The schedules and commitments can get a little crazy, but always remember to take a step back and see something bigger than the scoreboard. Big things are ahead of you….

10 Things to Know As A Softball Player

From one softball player to another, I wanted to give you a few things to do and know that can help you become the best softball player you can be. Here are 10 things to know as a softball player (no matter your age or level).

1.Take Care of Your Glove.

Your glove should not look like a pancake. Pay attention to how you care for your glove. Keep a ball in it. When you set it down on the ground, set it down with the palm down. It should not look flat. This doesn’t change no matter how old you are or the level you play at. The way you take care of your glove is representative of how much you take pride in small details of this game. Small details of this game are VITAL for success.

2. Train explosiveness.

Think about it – our game is nothing but quick, explosive movements. Running to first base as quick as you can. One explosive pitch. 10 steps to run down a fly ball as an outfielder. One step to snag a line drive as an infielder. It does no good to run 4 miles. It’s better to do agilities or sprints. It’s better to do movements that are explosive – squat jumps, box jumps, broad jumps, etc. Those types of movements will help create the habit over time to be more explosive in every softball movement you do. Running long distance is great if you are trying to shed a few pounds, but that is not how our sport is played. Our sport is quick and fast. And that’s how you should train.

3. Listen to your parents, they can help you.

A lot of times your parents have the answers to help you make corrections. I know it’s hard to hear, but it’s true. Listen to them. Respect them. Build a relationship with them by communicating with how you would like to be given corrections, how often you would like to hear them or if YOU are going to be the one to go up to them and ask for their help. If they’ve been to lessons, practice and games with you, more times than not they have information that can help you, so develop a plan WITH your parents in how that information will be relayed and shared. They need to be able to listen to you, too, as you coach them on how to coach you where you can HEAR what they are telling you.

4. It’s cool to work hard.

You will come across teammates who don’t want to work hard for one reason or another. They will come up with excuses to get out of practice with the team, practice on their own, and games. No matter what anyone else is doing, know it’s super awesome to work your hardest at anything you are doing. Limit excuses and go out and play.

5. You are not defined as a person based on how “good” you are at softball.

Remember there is more to life than softball. 20 years after you are done playing, your friends will not remember how many strikeouts you had or how many homeruns you hit. They will remember if you were a good teammate, a good friend, and if you set a good example for younger players. Those things are more important than being labeled a “good” softball player. The awards you win or do not win as a softball player is NOT a direct reflection of the type of friend, daughter, sister or person you are. When your softball career is over, you don’t’ want someone saying, “Yeah she was a really good short stop, but I would not trust her as far as I could throw her.” Be loyal. Be trustworthy. Don’t gossip. Stay humble. Be appreciative.

6. Being a pitcher is not about striking everyone out.

Even if you are NOT a pitcher, this is an important one. Defenders – your pitchers are not going to strike everyone out. Get used to it. Make plays behind her. Pitchers – get it in your head that you are not going to strike everyone out, and don’t TRY to. Usually when you TRY to strike someone out, it doesn’t quite pan out how you want it to. Know your pitching strengths and how you get outs. The defense should be aware of your strengths such as best pitch, which side of the plate you throw to and if you generally get more ground ball outs or pop ups.

7. There’s always something to do in a game.

If you are at the ball field on a team, you have a job to do whether you are in the starting 9 or on the bench waiting for your chance. Even if you are injured and are not going to play, you can still contribute. Pick pitches or signs, notice pitching tendencies, pick up your teammates who are down, chart pitches for YOUR pitcher, chart pitches of the opposing pitcher. Get creative with how you are finding a way to still help your team, because in the end, if you are on a team, you are wanting to WIN even if you are not the one starting at your position.

8. It’s good to play multiple sports.

Playing multiple sports makes you a more diverse athlete. Every sport is going to work different muscles and different athletic skills, so the more sports you play, the better athlete you become. Don’t live your life in fear of getting hurt – that can happen anywhere. Be ATHLETIC. It’s one of the biggest things coaches look for when you get older, and you can develop a more diverse athletic skills profile by tackling different sports.

9. With every rep you take, you are either getting a little better or getting a little worse.

If you are going to practice, make that time worth it. The most valuable thing we have is time. So if you are using your time to take reps, take those reps and get BETTER. If you are not paying attention to your reps and just going through the motions, you might even be getting a little worse. Every time you go out to practice, remember that day you are either getting a little better or a little worse.

10. You will not be perfect – accept it.

You chose to play softball. Understand that this choice comes along with the fact you will NOT be perfect. Find a way to balance trying to be perfect with the acceptance that it is not going to happen. The longer you hang on to being up set that you were not perfect in a game, at practice or for a certain rep, the longer it takes to recover and get better/grow. Learn from your mistakes more than you hang on to them. It’s ok not to be perfect. Every person you play with, against, or who you have watched played before and may even look up to, has not been perfect at this sport. You are not alone. Trying to be perfect and the inability to work through NOT being perfect is one of the biggest limiting factors your game can come up against.

The DNA of A Pitcher

What does it take to be pitcher?

My dad volunteered to pitch me when I was 8 years old because our team moved up an age group from coach pitch. I was the chosen one based off of willingness to try it out, and of course, if my dad thought it was a good idea, then, sure, put me in! At that time, I called myself a pitcher. NOW…I wouldn’t have been so quick to pull the trigger on that title knowing the true characteristics of what it takes to label yourself a Pitcher when you’re out there competing. At that time, I was filling a void on the field. I was playing a part like an actress in a play. What I later learned is that being someone who throws pitches to a catcher in an inning or two is different than being a Pitcher.

When I do clinics around the country with The Packaged Deal, the highest number of participants who want to pitch are probably between the ages of 8-12. At this age, the young girls are either trying it out or trying to fill a void on the team. They’re a little naïve, and it seems fun – to be the one who gets to hold the ball every play and be the one with the most physical action on the field. If you are a young player, or young parent getting involved in the sport, the first thing you pay attention to is the physical attributes that make a pitcher and you give most of your attention to the mechanical positioning of the pitch. What takes years to learn/experience and what you can’t see, is all that goes into being a pitcher internally.

The more you are around the sport and the older you get, the quicker you learn being a pitcher is not as glamorous as you once thought it was.

Eventually, either because of unwillingness to practice or lack of confidence, a high percentage get weeded out. I’m sure you’ve seen it – when you were younger you had 6-8 “pitchers” on your team, and then when you get older, you have 3-4 pitchers on your team.

Why does that happen? Because you learn that pitching isn’t just something you do, you learn that it’s a way of life and thought.  Most people don’t quit because of lack of physical attributes…but because of what it takes on the inside. They are lacking the DNA of a pitcher or they are lacking the patience to develop the DNA of a pitcher.

There are 4 different categories you can be placed into along the journey….

  • The Naturals– They’re born with “it.” What this feels like, I don’t know, because I definitely did not fall under this category. This person is born with the physical mentality to be a leader and the confidence to go out and beat anyone at anything they do. They are also born with some amazing athletic traits and can be considered naturally gifted.
  • The Renovators – These are pitchers who are not born with “it”, but given all the tools along the way to apply their knowledge and put it together. They get better with their tools the more experience they get.
  • The Static Ones – I think of a mouse running on one of those spinning wheels. They keep trying and trying. The Mice either aren’t given the correct tools, or are given the correct tools and can’t quite use the tools to put all the pieces together. Sometimes this is a pitcher who doesn’t have big goals as a Pitcher and they lack motivation to put it all together. Sometimes this is a pitcher who keeps trying and trying, but she fights herself so much without trusting, that the tools she knows become inapplicable. This is a pitcher who is not moving forward with her growth for one reason or another.
  • The Transfers – This is that majority who decide to pass on pitching early on. They likely enjoy another position more or they don’t want to spend the mental and physical energy towards pitching. They transfer out of pitching and focus on a different position or maybe even transfer to another sport.

Pitcher DNA Ingredients.

Your pitcher may have some of these, she may have even been born with some of them. Others may be working on all of them or working on some of them. In the end, to be a great pitcher, you have to eventually show that you can perform all of them. Those who are performing all of them on a consistent basis are the ones whose names you hear about on TV or read about in the newspapers. They are the ones somewhere along the way advanced from one of the “supporting actresses” to lead role on Broadway. Thing is – not everyone WANTS that lead role. Some people are ok with always being the supporting actress.

Ingredients when you are cooking all have to be put in the put together in order to make the best tasting dish. If you leave one out, you can still have a dish that might taste ok….but it won’t taste the same as when 100% of them are put in.

#1 – Pays Attention to Detail – To me, this all starts at practice. Pitching is one million small details all mixed together: how often to practice, what to practice on, what you are getting better at, what you need to work on, working on small little mechanics to build a strong foundation, pinpoint detail in hitting location. Think about how many pitches you will throw in a life. If a pitcher does not learn to pay attention to small details, then she will not learn along the way to be very successful. Paying attention to small details about mechanics and how to make small adjustments IS pitching. Learn to do this and you are setting yourself up for success along the way. If you do not have the patience for this, you most likely will hit a point where you are not getting better and other people around you will start to pass you up.

A Pitcher understands that all the small things add up to big things, and  gives upmost respect and attention to small details every step of the way.

Pay attention to little things throughout the day – take care of your uniform (no wrinkles), tuck in your shirt, hustle every single step instead of cutting it short, run out to your position, do every single rep (even when they may seem meaningless). Train yourself to start paying attention to details OUTSIDE of actual pitching and INSIDE of your bullpens. You will be amazed at how paying attention to small little details will change your game.

#2- Pursuit of Perfection mixed with Understanding Perfection is Unattainable – The biggest pro and con of every pitcher, no matter what age, is they want to be perfect. That pursuit of perfection should motivate a pitcher, but it should not paralyze her. In life, even outside of pitching, there needs to be a constant reminder that it’s ok to not be perfect. That reinforcement will play as a balancing act. Think of it this way- a pitcher might throw 100 pitches in practice with her dad. In an average practice, MAYBE 10 of them she will consider “perfect.” (Maybe you as a parent will consider more, but the pitcher is always going to be harder on herself). That means at that practice, 90 times she was not “perfect.” And not only was she not perfect, but she may have thrown those 90 imperfect pitches in front of her DAD, who she wants to be perfect for. Double whammy. So really it’s a lose-lose situation. We need to practice so we can try to be perfect, but we won’t ever be perfect. So we are just going to keep practicing, striving for perfection which will always be unattainable. A parent’s job is to combat this necessary evil. In just one practice a pitcher can get really down on herself, and then the practice becomes unproductive. If and when a pitcher can learn it’s ok to not be perfect, and move on to the next pitch to give that next pitch it’s best shot at being perfect, that’s when she starts to feel what it’s like to take that leading role.

#3 – Positive Self Talk – The thoughts inside of a pitcher’s head are more threatening than any physical attribute about her. More times than not when a pitcher is not having success in a game, I can almost guarantee it’s because before a pitch she is thinking, “Please don’t hit this”, “Please let this be a strike”, “Don’t throw a ball.” That kind of self-talk is exhausting and feels lonely. With that kind of talk, you are beaten before you even throw the pitch. Practice working on positive pitch thoughts in practice and lessons. Or instead of blank thoughts, turn them into positive thoughts. Maybe it takes having a moment by yourself where you “buy into” yourself. A lot of times it’s not a coach or a parent who can talk you into this. It has to be YOU. Maybe you’re in your backyard playing or in your room before going to sleep and you make the CONSCIOUS decision to have positive self-talk. Will it be there every day? Nope. I hate to tell you this, but no, you won’t feel it EVERY DAY. You have to work on it. But the more you train it, the more it becomes a habit, just like the physical mechanics of pitching. Like muscle memory – train your brain. It helps if you train your brain to do it in things outside of pitching. Even walking down the hall at school, thinking positive about what people might be saying about you, keeping your chin high and not letting negativity creep in. Start thinking consistent positive thoughts and you will be amazed at how you will FEEL and the results that it will lead to. 

#4 – Strong Focus – You have to be locked in and focused before anyone else on your team is. It all starts in the bullpen before the game. Have a soft focus of staying relaxed yet warming up and getting your mind focused on the task at hand. A strong focus once you get into the game will deal with pitch calling – remembering where you are in the lineup, remembering what the hitter did the last AB, thinking about what the count is, thinking about what you pitched the last time, looking at where she is in the box. You will have 100+ pitches in a game – that is 100+ times in a game will you have to focus intently on exactly what you are doing. Being a Pitcher, your mind is NOT on autopilot. You have to manually put yourself into gear every pitch you throw. When your team is hitting, you are thinking about who is coming up to bat the next inning. You are focused while other people on your team may be messing around in the dugout. Your strong focus takes over where you never lose sight of the task at hand. If you are not up for this kind of set focus on the games, pitching is not meant for you. Never just go through the motions. If your body is pitching, it is learning and you should be focused on making your craft better whenever you set the intention and set aside the time to practice. Train your mind to be focused in on the task at hand whenever you are in the circle.

#5 – Determination/Resilience/ResponseThese three ingredients go hand in hand with each other. Anything that is worth anything in life is going to have its down moments, even moments where you may want to quit. The best Pitchers you hear about on TV or in the paper, you read their names and see all the glory next it, but it fails to mention the times those players who are even considered “the best” wanted to quit.  I am going to tell you right now there are going to be multiple times as a pitcher you want to give up, but if you love it, you will keep coming back to it. There are going to be times you are injured…almost everyone will get injured as one point or another – it’s just a part of sports. Don’t feel sorry for yourself – find a way to get better and get healthy. The resilient ones will work hard to get back to the form they were in pre-injury. If you’re THAT determined and THAT resilient, you will see it in a game where you don’t have your best stuff. Not every day you are going to FEEL your best as a pitcher, but if you are determined to find a way to go out and compete and give it your all, that’s all anyone would ever ask. When you come upon adversity (we ALL will) go at it full force! Whether it be inside a game where you are getting hit really hard or you come upon an injury, always remember it is NOT that moment that defines you – it is how you RESPOND. Your response defines you as a pitcher, as a leader, and it defines your character. Be resilient. You are so much stronger than you think. If you love to do something…if you truly LOVE to do it, even through the toughest moments. If you feel it in your heart, DO IT.  

#6 – A) Will to WIN – You better believe that determination and resilience tie in with a will to win. I am not talking about those players who just sit there and say, “Yeah, I want to win.”

I am talking about those players who will do ANYTHING it takes to win every single pitch. You see them fighting. Why? Because they have a reason to fight. That reason? Simple. To win.

To be a successful pitcher, you HAVE to want to WIN. If you don’t have that internal drive to will your body to win, then you don’t have much chance of being a successful pitcher at a high level. A team plays harder behind a pitcher who possesses the will to WIN. If you don’t want to WIN, then you are probably just playing for a hobby. It goes back to the difference between someone who is just filling the role of throwing pitches to a catcher versus a pitcher who is throwing pitches to a catcher with the intent figure out a way to WIN. Those pitchers with the will to win you see their name more often. Their team fights harder behind them because the team knows every single pitch that pitcher is fighting for them. It works both ways. You either want to win, or you are just out there going through the motions just to get the game over with. Compete with yourself at practice, compete against your coach, and compete with your teammates.  Compete in healthy ways, but train yourself and your mind that you want to compete to be the best. Nothing will be given to you – not an out, not an inning, not a starting spot. You HAVE to have the will to win and the will to compete if you want to be successful. 

B) Know How To Win– Ok, so you WANT to win, but do you know how to win? There is a difference. First, you have to have the will. Then, you have to know what it takes to win – the way it feels to give your all every single pitch and come away with the W. Some pitchers may be great for the first 2 innings, but then maybe they lose their focus or the other team catches on to them, and they lose the game in the last 1-2 innings. Being good for the first couple of innings doesn’t count as a W.

You have to know how to win a complete game.

A complete game may feel like a marathon, but a Pitcher will be able to figure out how to beat an opposing team for an entire game, not just a few innings. First, you have to have the physical endurance – it will help with hitting consistent locations to last an entire game. You also have to be able to mix speeds to last an entire time- can’t just throw one. And finally, you have to be able to work BOTH sides of the plate – you can’t just live on one (it makes it too easy for a hitter to adjust to). When you have experiences to draw on where you mixed together the WILL to win and figuring out HOW to win, then you can go up against almost anybody and know you have a chance.

#7 – Want the Ball – Finally, the greatest pitchers I have ever witnessed want the ball. What does that mean? It means when the coach asks who wants to pitch the championship game, that player has her hand out waiting for the game ball to be put into it. The average pitcher won’t feel this. It takes courage and guts to be the one who puts her hand out. The average player doesn’t want the ball because they are scared to make a mistake and are scared to lose. In this game, you can’t pitch scared to lose. You can’t pitch scared to make a mistake. Every inning, every game, you have to be the one who wants the ball. You have to know what wanting the ball entails.

Wanting the ball does NOT mean you are going to be perfect.

If you put those two hand in hand, you are greatly wrong. Wanting the ball means you are going to give your all on every single pitch. It means you are committing to be locked in. It means you have a belief in yourself that you are going to be able to make adjustments when necessary. Wanting the ball means even if something does not go your way, you aren’t going to give in. And wanting the ball means you are determined and resilient with a passion to do what it takes to win. A pitcher who wants the ball may even call a meeting with her coach and be brave enough to say, “I want a chance to pitch in the championship game” or “I want a chance to pitch in the bracket game.” She doesn’t want this because her PARENTS want it, she wants it because it’s a feeling inside of her that she knows she can do it and succeed.  It says a lot about a pitcher who will meet with her coach and say aloud that she wants to be The One in the circle.

Always remember that you may have all these qualities as a pitcher, yet some days that means you last in a 11-10 game, and your team still wins. Some days that means that you fall on the other end of an 11-10 game. Other days you may win the 1-0 game. No two games are going to be exactly alike, but you can always strive to show the above ingredients and build the confidence inside of yourself to be the Pitcher who wants the ball. The biggest thing I know is that #1-6 do not matter if you don’t have #7.



What’s Wrong With Being a Beginner?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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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.

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