I asked for players to send in their favorite picture with their favorite quotes to go along with it! I got pictures in from all across the country, and here are the 5 winners I picked!
My mission is to inspire softball girls to DREAM bigger, WORK harder, and SMILE more often. I look to not only help to improve their physical softball skills, but also show them the importance of confidence on AND off the field. Through my website you will find information on all things softball—motivation, inspiration, blogs, quotes, videos, tips, preparation, etc. The options are endless for us to explore…
I asked for players to send in their favorite picture with their favorite quotes to go along with it! I got pictures in from all across the country, and here are the 5 winners I picked!
In ANY situation we come up against in life, there are going to be things that we can control and things we can’t control. It’s important to always take a step back in any situation, and understand which are which. Limit the excuses and understand what YOU can do better to get the most out of a situation.
You will recognize that my grievances have a common theme — worrying about yourself, controlling what YOU can, keeping a positive mindset and working as hard as up can. If you missed Grievance 1: Playing Time, then click here.
Uncontrollables: How fast a pitcher is throwing; ball/strike ratio of an opposing pitcher; how well the other team hits; how well your defense fields behind you as a pitcher
Controllables: Your intensity and focus in the circle; your intensity and focus at the plate; playing YOUR game at YOUR level; learning from game-like situations; making adjustments
Ok, fine. So maybe high school ball does not have as high of quality of players as the travel teams you play for during the summer, but really this excuse is laughable to me as an excuse of why they don’t like high school ball. Does this mean you’re going to use it as an excuse to play down to their level?
You have a choice to play down to the level of your competition or you can choose to shine!!
Controllable: Swinging at good pitches; trying to be on time; going opposite field; good approach at the plate
Oh boy, this one is pretty funny to me. Okay, so you face a pitcher that doesn’t throw “hard.” You should be thinking LUCKY me not POOR me! A pitcher who isn’t throwing a lot of strikes? Perfect! I can work on taking pitches, seeing the ball all the way in. and my pitch selection. Visualization training. Patience training. Working on patience at the plate and understanding your strike zone is essential to being a good hitter.
The BEST players will be the players who can adjust the FASTEST, no matter what is thrown at them.
A pitcher who doesn’t throw as hard as you’re used to gives you more time to see the ball, more time to make a decision whether it’s a ball, or a strike and gives you the ability to work on hitting opposite field. Hitting opposite field is one of the things I see out there that is hardest across all levels. EVERY PLAYER can pull the ball. But NOT ever player can have the patience to let the ball travel and work one riving it on the middle or to the opposite side of the field (right field for a right handed hitter, left field for a left handed hitter). Clearly, if you are someone who struggles with slower pitching, this means this is something that you need to work on with your swing. I promise, even in college, there will be slower pitchers that you have to face and YOU have to be able to make an adjustment.
When you face a pitcher who is throwing slower, take it upon yourself to try to hit opposite field. Work on keeping your wait back, work on pitch selection, work on letting the ball travel. This is showing bat control. You can work on this and be someone who is able to adjust to different speeds of pitching with no problem. If you are saying this pitcher isn’t “good” then you should be perfect with you plate appearances and get a hit in your first at bat every single time that you go up to bat. Set an example for your team on how to adjust to a pitcher.
If you are worried about not being ready for travel ball pitching speed, then take some time on your own to have your travel team pitcher throw to you or go to a batting cage where you can raise the speed and still work on having quick hands and making quick adjustments. Also, go to the cage next to it and go to the slower speed. Alternate going from cage to cage and see how quick you can make the adjustment.
Controllables: YOU; Work a little bit more off the plate to get swings and misses; mix speeds to get them to swing and miss; add more movement or better location to induce ground balls that are not well hit; keeping a good attitude/body language; learning how to work through long innings with endurance and precision
At some point in my playing career, I know I have either been on a team or been in an inning where my defense just can’t seem to make plays back behind me. Does not matter what kind of level you are at, you will go through an inning or a game like this. It’s one of those things like having a homerun hit off you – it’s going to happen, and then it’s probably going to happen to you again, and then probably again. So you can get frustrated and upset over it, or you can figure out a way to be a little bit better in the circle to get more swings and misses or to not have balls as sharply hit to your infielders or outfielders. This CHALLENGES you; it makes you think; it makes you be creative; it makes you be BETTER.
Pitchers who blame their defense behind them for reasons that they aren’t getting better as pitchers – I can’t stand that. This is another EXCUSE.
You’re working through real-game softball situations. You’re working through problems. These are problems you will be faced with again at some other point in your playing career. Think of it as a challenge; think of it as making you a better pitcher to be able to work through adversity — working on your attitude and keep your emotions in check. BE A LEADER.
What CAN’T happen is that you get a bad attitude and show it to your teammates. That is going to make your defense that much more tight behind you, and then they REALLY aren’t going to make a play for you. This is a great test of patience of pitchers. If you can get through a team that struggles to make defense behind you, it’s going to make you that much better mentally and physically when you get to a team that has a sharp defense. By having better body language and a better attitude, you will help your teammates stay confident behind you; ultimately you a making your TEAM better. By being more concerned with your own personal ERA or how many runs are scored off you, you are more worried about YOU than the team.
It’s ALL about how you choose to look at the situation and how you choose to view what you are getting out of it.
Also, this is a great time to work on being a good teammate. It says a lot about a pitcher, whose defense continues to make errors back behind her, but who continues to stay positive towards that teammate and not letting it negatively affect her attitude. This can be a challenge, but this is ONLY going to make you a better TEAMMATE to be around so that your teammates can trust in YOU and believe in YOU even more.
When your defense is struggling behind you, you should get STRONGER and step up. If your high school team doesn’t play great defense, in my mind, the easy way out is to quit, blaming that the defense isn’t good enough. You are NEVER bigger than the game. It is what YOU make of it. When you start feeling uncomfortable, do you rise up to the challenge, or do you surrender? YOU control how you handle it.
You can’t change your defense. Instead of complaining and blaming, step up YOUR game mentally and physically. CHALLENGE YOURSELF. Challenge your mind.
You can be getting better by being creative in what you are learning in tough game situations and thinking/analyzing situations to make yourself a more well rounded pitcher.
This is a perfect time for you to work on a different pitch you’ve been trying to learn or master. Maybe your curve ball is your favorite pitch, and you throw it 85% of the time, and you’re learning a drop ball. If you’re striking everyone out with your curve ball, then start working on your drop ball. Throw it in different counts. Work on placement of it and movement of it. Know that you can always go back to your curve ball when you need a strike or need an out. Working on a new pitch in a game situation is so important. This can create a new focus and determination to add another pitch that will help you, once you start facing more competitive hitters.
There is SO MUCH to be learned from game time experience, regardless of what THE OTHER team is or isn’t doing. Challenge yourself during the game to be the best teammate and lead be example. Any game-time experience is our greatest teach. Softball presents so many different situations in and throughout a game that practice cannot teach you. Be thinking one play ahead. Think one pitch at a time, but when you can be really creative and you’re a pitcher, think one pitch ahead.
Allow me to introduce Chez Sievers to you! I must start out by saying, Chez is a Longhorn, but I absolutely love her anyway. Chez is one year older than I am, and I played against her from across the diamond for 3 years- me wearing maroon, Chez wearing burnt orange. I remember Chez – not vaguely, but distinctly. Chez is a competitor. Chez loves the game. Chez knows the game. Most importantly, Chez respects the game of softball. I am THRILLED for her to write from HER perspective of what it was like to be a softball player with her much shorter frame. I think this is something that many players go through, so to get her own words on here is my pure pleasure….
Throughout my life, I’ve heard every short joke imaginable. It used to drive me crazy! My father taught me such a valuable lesson in my young life. Because I was small I had to do everything harder, faster, and more efficiently. I grew up with two older brothers who never took it easy on me. At the end of every practice baseball/softball and basketball practice, we would end with a competition. I never won one shooting game or one hitting game. It was incredibly frustrating, but I always felt that there would always be a chance for me to win because I had the opportunity to compete.
When I was 11, I played on two basketball teams and two softball teams. I played softball for my Bellflower Bobbysox softball league and the Tustin Wildcats, which my first travel ball team. I was a starter on every team except one, the Tustin Wildcats. I was by far the smallest player on the team and I either rode the bench or played left field in the late innings. During the course of the season, I began to get discouraged. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. Why wasn’t I playing? I hit and played whatever position they put me in.
Our national qualifier came around and I still wasn’t playing. The qualifier was double elimination. We lost to the Firecrackers and we were on to the next game against the Newberry Park Pumas. If we won, we would go on to Nationals in Oklahoma. I didn’t start, but I kept my head up and still supported my team. We were tied up in the bottom of the sixth with a runner on second. Tensions began to rise. That’s when I got the call to pinch hit. I put on my helmet, strapped on my gloves and grabbed my Steele bat. Finally! Here was my chance to play. As I walked up to the plate, the coach from the opposing dugout signaled to the outfield to move in. With a Cheshire grin, I dug into the batter’s box. I visualized crushing the ball in the left center gap hoping that they would be running for days. First pitch, ball. I stepped out and set my sights for the left center gap. Pitch two, I swung like my life depended on it. I crushed it into the left center gap for a triple. My adrenaline was pumping and my team and parents were going crazy. Pure satisfaction.
Looking back, I wasn’t bitter and I didn’t use my size as an excuse for why I couldn’t do something. In my mind, I was so hungry for the opportunity to compete. In my mind, I was fearless and 10 feet tall. I believed I could make every play on the field.
That was a defining moment in my playing career because I carried that mindset with me through high school and on to the University of Texas.
Playing at a high level no matter your size is all about your mindset and your work ethic. In life, you always encounter roadblocks, but it’s how you respond to those situations. You make the choice to overcome and persevere or give up. The power within is your greatest source of strength. If you believe in yourself and have the discipline to be great at everything you do, there is no limit to the things you can accomplish in this life.
You can find TONS of softball information on Chez’s website http://smart-softball.com. Her website includes podcasts with some of the TOP names in college coaching, instructional videos on hitting, instructional defensive videos, and her own personal blog. SO proud of her for what she is doing for our sport and her passion for the game!! Thanks Chez!!
The offseason for a college softball player is the fall semester August – December. When a freshman sets foot on campus, her life is about to greatly change when it comes to time management, responsibility and number of hours you are working out/playing softball. The different things you have to time manage for in the fall are:
Every university is different. I’ll give you a little insight as to what my schedule was like when I played at Texas A&M.
Coming into the fall season, right when school begins, most schools have a conditioning test to make sure that the players were doing work over the summertime. It’s usually a pretty big deal, as it’s the first glimpse at the team to see who put in time and effort over the summer to become better. I feel like during the conditioning test you learn a lot about your team; you even learn who are going to be the leaders. Not only did we have a conditioning test (ours was called the Gasser test), but we also had to get tested on our bench press max, vertical max, agility time, squat and deadliest. For the freshman, the first time you get all these numbers, it is used as a baseline. For the sophomores, juniors, and seniors, this number is used to monitor and compare to make sure you’re getting stronger, and once again, to make sure you worked out over the summer. For those sophs-seniors, if they did not come back in shape and pass all their tests, then they had to go to what we call Club Del Ray (our strength and conditioning coach’s name was Ray). CDR are extra workouts during the week first thing in the morning in the fall to get you BACK into shape…preparing you for season coming up in the spring.
As a freshman we were required 8 hours of study hall a week. This study hall takes place usually at night between the hours of 6-10. Those were the most popular hours athletes were getting in their study hall time. Athletes of all sports – football, basketball, volleyball, etc. You go, check in, get work done, check out and leave. The way you get out of study hall hours, is to keep a high enough GPA. At your freshman year, if your GPA is high enough, you will no longer be required to go to study hall on an hourly weekly basis. If your GPA drops at any time during your 4-5 years playing softball, then you’ll be required to go back.
As a freshman, we were required to live on campus. When I was there, we had to live with someone from a different sport; I lived with a golfer. Now, the girls at A&M generally live with another softball player their freshman year, and they still live on campus.
A typical “full time” course load is 12 hours. As a general rule, 3 hours = 1 class. So in any given semester, you’re taking at least 4 classes. Some players will take 15 hours (5 classes) depending upon how heavy the classes are and knowing how much required work will go into them.
Softball practice is a little different in the fall. During the fall, you will have about a month (the coach can decide when this takes place) of team practice. This means that the team will practice every week day from certain hours, say 3-6, and everyone gets to be out there together. Other than that month of team practice, you are doing what is called Individuals. Individuals are much more limited, as every player is allowed only 4 hours with the coaching staff per week. This is tough, especially for pitchers who hit, because you have to split up 3 things during that 4 hour week: hitting time with coaches, pitching time with coaches and defensive time. Now remember, the team practice time and individual time are limited based on the coach requiring you to be there. Outside of that required time, you can, and are encouraged, to get more work on your own.
6:30-7:00 – Wake up, eat breakfast
8:00-12:00 – Going to 2-3 different classes on campus, eat a snack before lift
12:30 – Weight room lift
5:00-6:00 Hit/Pitch on your own
Go home, regroup
6:00-8:00 Study hall
Home for dinner, then sleep
OR maybe it looks like this…
6:00 Team lift/Run
Eat lunch, go home, relax, maybe study a little more, run any errands
3:00-6:00 (0r 7:00) – Team Practice
Go straight from team practice to study hall
7:00-9:00 Team Practice
So that is just a basic schedule for a freshman, and everyone’s will vary based on class times during the day. The weekends in the fall are generally reserved for recruits to be coming into town (you hang out with the recruits as a team) and also reserved for football games! In that 1 month I told you about in the fall where you have team practice, you will also played around 10 games. Could be a little less or more. These games could be against anybody – Blinn Junior College or Texas State University. They will vary. They generally will be games with teams that are from close by to limit travel since and also teams that are not in your conference.
What’s your biggest worry about playing softball in college? What do you get most excited about when it comes to playing softball in college? Do you have any questions for me? — go ahead, ask below!
1) Competing Against Other teams
I look back over 2013, and I am somewhat in awe. I can honestly say it was the best year of my life. I am speechless about the opportunities that have come my way and the different places I have gotten to visit/events I have gotten to be a part of. The different friends I get to hang out with everywhere I go is so awesome, as everywhere I travel I either make new friends or get to reconnect with old friends. 2013 was definitely the most diverse year I have had when it comes to my career and new doors opening. Traveling, new adventures, new challenges, new learning, new friends, new opportunities — all in 2013. For a complete portfolio of my favorite pictures from 2013, click here.
January –New Years in Australia. 1st Speaking Engagements ever
The year started off in the southern hemisphere, as I brought in the new year in Sydney, Australia with the Texas Firecrackers Gold. New Years Eve we went out into Darling Harbor on a cruise for the evening and we were out on the water near the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge as we watched one of the most spectacular firework displays in the entire world. Sydney really does it up big because they are in the first time zone in the world to get to bring in the New Year. This was a trip that we all will remember for the rest of our lives. Australia was in incredible experience, as our team played several games against Australian teams, celebrated Christmas together in a foreign country and then brought in the New Year together. So many memories….
I got back and took on my first ever speaking engagements. One in Ohio, one in Houston and one in Waco at Baylor’s Winter Softball Camp. What a great learning experience and a way to work through some nerves. I got to meet a lot of high school coaches from Texas and Ohio at these engagements. Speaking in front of 100’s of people for the first time is a great way to quickly get over some nerves!
February – May : Covering the 2013 College Softball Season on ESPN and Longhorn Network
February-June is my favorite time of year because it’s the college softball season. My job during this time is a college softball analyst, which means that I analyze softball and talk about it on TV. Now, some people get super excited about college football and college basketball seasons (and trust me, I love those sports too), but nothing gets me excited like the college softball season. College softball is home. I LOVE staying involved in the game by getting to travel and see so many different teams play from all different conferences. Getting to talk about it on TV is the added bonus.
This past season I did over 25+ games on Longhorn Network (yes, I am an Aggie working for Longhorn Network). The cool part about the 2013 softball season was that Texas made it to the Women’s College World Series. They had such a strong team led by their senior class, so they were a lot of fun to watch and follow all the way to Oklahoma City. I also did about 15 games on the ESPN Networks, including ESPN 3. In addition to ESPNs family of networks, I also did my first game on Fox Sports Southwest and first game on CBS Sports Net. In all I got to do around 40-45 games in the 2013 softball season. I feel so very lucky to get these opportunities, as I know that there are a lot of people out there who would love to get a chance to do this amazingly fun job!
June – August : Traveling and Coaching the Texas Firecrackers
After the college softball season, our summer season with the Texas Firecrackers Gold gets pretty busy and serious. In these months we are playing in very competitive tournaments against some of the best teams in the nation. We play in various exposure tournaments, trying to get our girls recruited to play in college and also try to qualify for different national tournaments that take place in end of July/beginning of August. We have girls committed or signed to Texas, Nebraska, UTSA, University of Houston, Arkansas, Oregon, Lamar University and SFA.
August: RBI Softball Championship game in Minnesota on MLB Network
I had so much fun traveling to Minnesota and getting to cover the RBI Softball Championship game. I really did not know what to expect when I got asked to commentate this game for MLB Network. I was pleasantly surprised with the talent, passion and overall competitiveness of the teams I saw play in the tournament the weekend I was there. MLB Network just covered the Championship game, but I got to watch many of the games leading up to the Championship game, and let me tell you, RBI Softball is something that more people should know about. These girls were AWESOME. In the championship game, Houston played Atlanta and Atlanta ended up winning. I got to work in a 3-man booth with another familiar face, softball analyst, Cheri Kempf. Cheri has been around the game in all different ways for many years and she currently serves as the Commissioner for the NPF. We had a very good time together up in Minnesota getting to call this game together.
September – 2 Week Vacation to Thailand
After a whirlwind first half of the year, I was ready for a vacation. Other than softball, one of my big passions is traveling. I travel very often, and a lot of times my mom is my travel partner. I wanted to go to a place that I knew would be a once in a lifetime experience. Living in Houston, the Caribbean is a frequent vacation spot for us, and we wanted to do something that was not nearby. We got out a map and researched where all United flew to, as we both have frequent flier miles, and we wanted to try to use miles for our flight. We found Phuket, Thailand, which was also a place that my friend, Savana, had told us all about, too. Phuket is an island in Thailand with beautiful beaches and a hot travel destination, usually for Australians, because it is so close to them on that side of the world. So we booked it. All on our own we figured out our travel plans with no travel agent or anything. Thailand was AMAZING. I would recommend it to anyone. We both felt so safe. Beautiful beaches. VERY friendly people. Lots of different things to do and see. While we were there we went on a couple different island excursions by boat, rode an elephant, hung out with tigers, enjoyed the beaches and went on a helicopter ride over a chain of islands. If you are considering a vacation, go to Thailand!! Such a cool place. To see more pictures from my vacation to Thailand, click here.
October – First sideline reporting for college basketball on LHN
This year, along with being a college softball analyst, I wanted try to broaden and open up myself to other television opportunities like sideline reporting. So what does that mean exactly? Well, if you are ever watching football or basketball games, sometimes you will see or hear a sideline reporter covering a game and that person is down on the field or next to the court. There are the two main people in the booth who talk about the game, then there may be a reporter on the side of the field or court getting the scoop on human interest stories, injuries or any interest facts he/she may pick up while being on the side of the game. This fall I got to do sideline reporting for the first time for men’s and women’s basketball on Longhorn Network covering both the men’s and women’s teams in some games, as well as doing my first college football game: Western Kentucky vs Texas State. It’s definitely a new, learning experience to learn a new job and cover new sports! I am so thankful for these opportunities that have come my way and excited to see what the future holds.
November – Launch of bellalete (Nov 26, 2013) & DFW Softball Camp
It’s hard to tell you exactly which new adventure I am most excited about from 2013, but the launch and creation of bellalete might be at the top of the list. For those who don’t know, belllaete is a new athletic apparel line that I co-founded with my best friend, Savana Lloyd. bellalete is something that has been in the world and in our mind for over a year now, and on November 26, 2013, we officially launched it online and at a couple of different camps we had in Nov/Dec. Savana and I are both very passionate about empowering female athletes to help work on their self confidence and encourage big dreaming and big believing. Along with encouraging athletes to feel more confident, we are both very passionate about athletic clothes. So we put these two passions together to create bellalete. Our goal, through bellalete, is to spread a message throughout the country that confidence, happiness and strength is absolutely beautiful. Through comfortable clothing that feels amazing when it’s on your skin, to the words that are actually on the shirt, we want to help give females motivation to go out and take on the day and accomplish anything they can put their mind to. This is why we created bellalete.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, I was a part of a big softball camp in the DFW area run through ASA Softball. It was by far the biggest collection of coaches and athletes I had ever been a part of. The amount of coaches that got put together for this camp was amazing. We are hoping to make this an annual camp and get together for the weekend after Thanksgiving! Pictures from DFW Softball Camp!
December: A New Beginning Online With Launch of www.amanda-scarborough.com.
Another project and idea that had been in the works for about a year is a new website I wanted to create to be able to write blogs and connect with more softball fans, coaches, parents and players. I wanted my new site to also be a place to share my new adventures and travels. Over the past couple of years, I have really enjoyed writing and sharing different things that I have learned along the way – from being a player, to being a coach to being someone who travels and watches some of the highest level of college softball played for 4 months out of the year. I am still learning. I learn about myself. I learn about coaching. I learn how girls operate mentally. I learn about different mechanics, approaches and theories to coaching. I’m like a sponge and I never want to stop learning. Ever. So, because I like to write, and because I like to learn, I wanted to create a platform to share my knowledge and be able to help more people than just from around the Houston area. I want to hear from and share stories with people from all over! The one thing I could talk about all the time is softball, and amanda-scarborough.com allows me to get connected with people from across the country.
Miles Flown: 80,000 +
Foreign Countries visited: 2
New Career Adventures: Working college softball for 2 new networks; Sideline reporting for College Basketball & College Football; the creation and launch of bellalete
Favorite memory: Celebrating New Years in Sydney Australia. Taking a trip halfway around the world to Thailand with my mom.
Accuracy, movement & velocity. Those are the three core items we talk about that go into being a great pitcher.
To me, the most important one is accuracy.
Yes, speed and movement play a part in being a solid, successful pitcher! But, speed and movement should enhance accuracy. In my mind, accuracy should come first. At the end of the day (especially at the higher levels of play), it doesn’t matter how hard you throw or how much movement you have if you are unable to hit your spots. Being able to throw hard and not know where the ball is going will lead to you throwing 2 innings per game in college. Being able to throw hard and know where the ball is going will lead you to throw a complete game in college.
At the simplest form, our job as a pitcher is to get outs. No matter how those outs come – strike outs, fly balls or ground outs, it’s our job. You get outs by hitting spots accurately, consistently and with precision.
At any level, if you throw the ball over the middle of the plate, it’s going to get hit. We keep the ball on the corners because it’s a much harder pitch to hit, and a hitter has less chance of having success. The older you get, the further hitters hit mistakes. The harder you throw, the further the mistake is hit.
Every coaches nightmare is to see his pitchers give up walks (especially leadoff walks and walks to the 9 hole). No matter what level, 4 balls always equals a walk. It doesn’t matter if you throw those 4 balls at 75mph or 42 mph, a ball is a ball. Even if the pitch breaks a foot and has the best movement ever, if it doesn’t cross through the strike zone, then a ball is a ball.
If you cannot find the strike zone, or a hitter is not chasing your pitches, it’s going to lead to walks. This past year, even in the college game, I saw more runs walked in than ever before. You can’t defend a walk. Your defense can’t help you when you are giving away free passes and putting people on board because you as a pitcher cannot throw strikes. What did I say our number 1 job as pitcher is? To get outs. Our defense can’t make plays behind us if we do not have accuracy and are not able to find the strike zone. Walks are the death of pitchers and walks lead to runs. The more accurate you are, the less walks you give up. Hitters have to earn their way on base. Bottom line – If you don’t throw strikes (accuracy), then it’s going to be really difficult to win.
Nothing is better than calling pitches for your pitcher and knowing exactly what you are going to get. (If you are a pitch caller, you know exactly what I mean). Nothing is worse than calling pitches for a pitcher and having no clue where the ball is going to go. It almost makes it impossible and completely a guessing game. I tell our pitchers that if they put the ball to the spot I am telling them, there’s probably a 95% chance we are going to get that hitter out. To be honest, it doesn’t even matter WHICH pitch they throw to the spot I am calling, all they have to do is hit one spot, some way, somehow. That’s it. That’s their job. It’s all about hitting spots consistently and being able to move the ball in and out without a high risk of throwing the ball over the heart of the plate.
You’ve got to be able to know exactly where the ball is going so you can set a hitter up to get her out. The older you get, the more important pitch calling gets with setting hitters up, finding their weaknesses, and having scouting reports based off of what hitters can and cannot hit. Good hitters are going to hit mistakes and hit them hard. Even if a ball breaks 6 inches and it breaks right to the middle of the plate, it’s going to get hit. I promise. I’ve been there and done it and see it with my own two eyes.
Less accuracy makes it harder to adjust to an umpire’s zone…
As pitchers, we are going to have umpires we come across who have a small strike zone. Pitchers who have the best accuracy and can put the ball exactly where they want to will not have nearly as much trouble with these umpires. When you face an umpire with a small zone, it’s important to work inches and move the ball in a little bit more at a time to be able to find that umpires strike zone. Pitchers who do not have great accuracy end up making TOO BIG of adjustments and putting the ball right over the middle of the plate when they are trying to find the zone. They are the pitches who are more likely to get hit hard when facing an umpire with a smaller strike zone. The key to umpires with small strike zones is making small, tiny adjustments to try to find exactly where that umpire is going to call it. The more accurate you are and trust in hitting your spots, the easier it’s going to be for you to find strikes in a challenging strike zone.
Now…I will be honest with you, the harder you throw and the more movement you have, the more mistakes you are able to get away with, especially at the younger ages. This is why the pitchers who are younger and throw hard really stick out (if you are in 12U and even 14U, you know what I am talking about). And, at a younger age, these pitches can get away with throwing it over the middle of the plate and not get hurt. But, let me tell you, these pitchers aren’t learning anything other than throwing it down the middle works for them. It’s positive reinforcement to these pitchers to throw the ball right down the middle because hitters will swing and miss and they will get away with it. This method absolutely will not work for long as you get older and hitters get better.
Pitchers who just throw hard and throw it over the middle of the plate are just learning to be throwers and not pitchers.
(There is a huge difference, and I will save the comparison for another blog in a different day.) Now, these pitchers, as they get older and start facing better hitters, will soon learn that accuracy is the most important thing they could have learned at a young age.
The pitchers who don’t throw as hard have to learn to be more precise at a very young age because they will get hit if they don’t hit a precise spot since the hitter has a longer time to see the ball coming out of the hand. They learn from failure. I pitch it here and it gets hit here. They are learning where they can and cannot throw pitches in order to have success. They learn from their failures. They are learning from instant feedback on their mistakes about where not to throw the pitch. If these type of pitchers have the courage and passion to stick with pitching and work their tails off on being AWESOME a hitting their spots, then they will have a high chance of success. However, it is at this age that coaches are telling them that to be a great pitcher you have to throw hard and have 6+ different pitches. This is just not true. If these pitchers can work past all of the people who tell them that they aren’t a good pitcher just because they don’t throw hard, I believe they have a high chance of playing in college because they are learning from a young age to be pitchers who pitch with high accuracy and can put the ball where they want to in order to get outs.
I PROMISE you, from my own past experience, and currently watching hundreds of game every year, if you put the ball over the middle of the plate, no matter how hard you throw or how much movement you have, it has a very high chance of getting hit, and getting hit hard. It’s not all about speed and it’s not all about movement. Strive for accuracy and command, and be working on this continually at practice. It is not just about how hard you throw I PROMISE.
In a perfect world, you would have the best of all 3 – accuracy, speed and movement.
Someone who can hit her spots 95% of the time, throwing 70mph and every pitch she throws moves 6 inches. This is unrealistic. If you find a person who can do this, you will be showing me someone who is well on her way to be a National Player of the Year once she gets to college, so long as she has the mental toughness to go along with it. Learning accuracy at a young age is critical and not to be overlooked, as it becomes the most important part of pitching, especially when you get to the Gold and collegiate levels of play. When you’re pitching at a young age, learn good work habits and focus habits, thinking of accuracy and precision with your pitching on a daily basis. Even though you may be able to get away with pitches over the middle of the plate in the 12U-16U levels, think about how you want to play long term and play at the highest level you are capable of. Think towards big goals and the kind of pitcher that can get out the best hitters in the country. That pitcher will be a pitcher who pitches with such great accuracy on both sides of the plate, rarely gives up walks, and can make in-game adjustments to adjust to the hitter and to the umpire.
Weeks ago, I was reminiscing and thought of a memory in my life that I look back on and realize it truly effected my life and softball career. It’s a moment I know for a fact that a lot of young players go through – someone telling you you aren’t good enough or you’ll never make it. I just don’t believe it. The only way you won’t “make it” is it you don’t have passion for something and don’t work hard enough at it – with all my heart I believe that. When you have passion for whatever your heart wants to take you, it drives you, it gives you direction and it gives you momentum. Passion pushes you to your dreams and is the driving force behind your energy and motivation.
Something that people don’t know about me: On my first travel ball team, I was the #4 or #5 pitcher- dead last. I was the pitcher who would throw against all of the really good teams because I threw so slow, and those teams struggled to hit slow pitching. If there were 13 players on the team, I would have been the 13th player to see playing time.
I wasn’t in the starting 9 on the lineup card. In fact, I rarely got at bats.
Oh, and also, I was told by another parent that I probably should quit pitching and I would never make it.
Fast forward 8-10 years after that. I earned a scholarship to play at Texas A&M as a pitcher and a hitter. My freshman year I was the starting pitcher for the first game of the season and threw a no hitter my first ever collegiate game. That year I was named Big 12 Player of the Year and Big 12 Freshman of the Year – the only freshman to ever have accomplished that in the Big 12. I was also named an All American.
People see me now as the All American who played at Texas A&M. I have been through so much more than just that. For the players who are told that you will never make it, I am living proof that if you love playing and are willing to sacrifice time, tears and effort to something you love, you CAN make it.
Lesson learned: Never, never, NEVER give up.
“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
What’s the difference between mental toughness and feeling good to play good? Are they one in the same or completely different?
Mental toughness and feeling good to play good are different in my opinion. Mental toughness comes into play when a game is on the line and you can stay calm and focused when all of the pressure is on YOU. You are able to focus on the task at hand and ignore everything else that is going on around you (fans cheering, dugout hollering, the intimidating batter at the plate). It’s very similar to that idea of “clear the mechanism” in the Kevin Costner movie, For Love of the Game (if you haven’t watched this movie you need to!). Mental toughness also comes from ignoring tiredness that may be setting in or any kind of small pain you may be feeling. When you are mentally tough, NOTHING ELSE matters but the task at hand. Mentally tough hitters want to be the one up to bat with the bases loaded and 2 outs in a tie ballgame. Mentally tough pitchers want to be the one in the circle with a full count and the 4-hole hitter up to bat with the game on the line. Mentally tough players are not complaining about weather, umpires, opponents, soreness. Mentally tough players do not even notice these things. One thing about mentally tough players, they don’t even have to have the best mechanics — they are so mentally strong and their will to succeed is so high, they will do whatever it takes to win.
Feeling good to play good deals with the general feeling you get about the game itself. If a feel good to play good atmosphere is not created, then it will be more challenging for a player to be mentally tough in clutch situations. Feeling good to play good deals with the atmosphere and scene that is going on around the game itself. Do you feel like you have coaches who believe in you? Do you feel like you have parents who support you no matter if you strike out or give up home runs? Do you feel good in your uniform? Did you prepare enough at practice that week? When a player plays in an atmosphere that gives her confidence, she is going to flourish and surpass anyone’s level of expectations. Feeling good to play good is especially important for girls. Girls are different than boys. Girls have to FEEL good to PLAY good. And boys PLAY good to FEEL good. Surround a player in an atmosphere where it’s nothing but positivity, strong role models and a big support system, and you’re going to see a player SOAR when it comes to her results.
So I’m sure a lot of you played this weekend and are just getting done this Sunday. You probably even play next weekend (because yes, it’s THAT time of year). Here are some steps to get back prepared for next weekend:
1) Reflect on this past weekend. Ask yourself, what can I work on? Divide it with pitching, hitting and defense. (pick out 1-2 things, not 6-7. be realistic). Write these things down.
2) From those things, list HOW you are going to work on those things. (Drills that would be beneficial. If you don’t KNOW of any drills, google it, youtube it, ask a coach what are some good drills).
3) Pull out a calendar/schedule and look ahead to this week. Plan out some practice time. You might even want to take Monday off if you had a long weekend- your body NEEDS REST.
4) Make sure everything is accounted for to make this schedule happen – time, needed catchers, parents who need to be there and work schedules, social life, etc.
5) Commit to that schedule.
6) Go into next weekend feeling prepared and ready to get better at those things you worked on during the week. Your mind and body should feel more prepared going into the weekend.
7) After next weekend, repeat steps 1-6.
Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.
Below a picture of an example of what I am talking about. 🙂 Let me know below in the comments if you need any help thinking of some ways to work on the items that you list!