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…

A Palm Springs Weekend

Went to Palm Springs for the Mary Nutter Softball Classic at the Big League Dreams Park.  What an amazing weekend of watching high level softball, getting to listen in on interviews from many of the top teams’ coaches and players, and then an awesome video shoot with a camera called the Phantom that shoots at 3200 frames per second.  (In comparison, this video was shot at 1000 frames per second).  By the way — the views you will see in these pictures are stunning.  AWESOME weather with sunny skies and beautiful backdrops! The teams that were there at the tournament included Tennessee, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nebraska, Texas, Stanford, Texas A&M, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Cal St Fullerton, UCLA, Cal, LSU, Pacific, Cal State Northridge, Oregon State, UNLV, Missouri, amongst others! To see all of the results of the many, many great match ups from this weekend, click here.

What I learned: I love this game more than anything, this weekend was definitely a reinforcement for that. But what I also learned, is that the talent at the D1 level is spread out amongst all conferences.  In the past, there were just a few schools who would “take the cake” year in and year out.  What’s so fun about going out to a game now, is that you really don’t know who is going to win simply by looking at the names on the uniforms.

Who I enjoyed watching: I really enjoyed being able to see Ellen Renfroe pitch in real life.  She is someone who doesn’t really throw above 60mph, but her spin is amazing.  She is a true pitcher.  She is not going to blow the ball by you, she is going to be crafty in her locations and precise in her spots by mixing up her pitches in different quadrants.  I highly recommend being able to go and watch this senior pitch in real life or on TV to see a real pitcher and not just a thrower.  She is living proof that you do NOT have to throw hard to have success at the collegiate level. (If you remember, she helped pitch Tennessee to the National Championship game last year in Oklahoma City to go up against Oklahoma).

Offensively, I enjoyed watching Stanford third baseman Hanna Winter. She plays third base and she hits left handed.  If you want to see someone who might be one of the quickest, most athletic players in the country, she’s your girl.  I saw her make some amazing plays at 3B, and the way she runs bases and has such great bat control front the left handed side of the plate is just awesome.

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Tatum Edwards, senior All American pitcher for Nebraska, throwing against senior, All American short stop, Madison Shipman, on Fenway at Big League Dreams in Cathedral City. Great drop ball and change up that Edwards has and throws about 65mph.

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All American, senior pitcher, Ellen Renfroe led the way for Tennessee, So awesome to get to watch her pitch from back behind home plate. The first time I had seen her pitch live. Remember the National Championship Series last year when she went up against Oklahoma and threw an amazing game against them? Some of the best movement and spin of any pitcher in the country.

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Always a packed Wrigley Field whenever UCLA takes on anybody at the Palm Springs Classic. Californians love to come out and see their Bruins play. Check out the background and getting to play in the mountains.

LSU vs Oregon softball

Senior pitcher for LSU, Ashley Czechner, going up against Oregon senior third baseman, Courtney Ceo on Fenway!

Cal vs Texas A&M

Texas A&M taking on Cal on Yankee.

Throughout Friday and Saturday, teams were stopping by to take go through different stations, taking pictures, getting video footage and also interviewing with Holly Rowe and Jessica Mendoza.  I tagged along for some! They interviewed over 12 teams this weekend, and next weekend they will go out to another big tournament in Orlando, to get some of the top teams there, too.  I got to hear about so many different team’s cultures and head coaches talking about individual players who make a difference on their team.  There were tons of good stories from the head coaches and the players, many of them you will be able to catch on ESPN’s coverage of the regular season and post season, which will start at the end of March.

Coach Jo Evans Texas A&M

Head Coach of Texas A&M sitting down and talking to Holly Rowe about the 2014 Aggies, their experience in the SEC, approaching 1000 career wins, and previewing their televised match ups against Florida and Tennessee.

Ellen Renfroe

Senior pitcher for Tennessee talking to Jessica Mendoza about her senior year and last year’s WCWS National Runner Up season.

John Rittman and Jessica Mendoza

Stanford Head Coach, John Rittman, talks with Stanford alum, Jessica Mendoza. Cool moment to get to see them interact, as he used to coach her when she was a player in the PAC 10.

Saturday morning, the ESPN crew met up at the field to use an incredible camera that shoots at thousands of frames per second — 3200 frames per second to be exact. Kristyn Sandberg, who played at Georgia and currently plays for USSSA Pride, caught and hit, I pitched, and Jessica Mendoza also came to hit, too.  This camera was so awesome – the detail it catches of every little thing is so amazing.  They zoomed in on my release from a side angle, my drag from a side angle and then they filmed from back behind Kristen catching me to get the ball coming out of my hand, too.  They also shot some catching, fielding and hitting clips all done by myself, Kristyn Sandberg and Jessica Mendoza.  These will be used for different shots throughout the coverage of college softball.  You most likely won’t be able to see or tell that they are me or Kristyn, because they were more about cool shots like the look of a ball coming out of a pitcher’s hand at release, the look of a pitcher’s feet dragging, the ball coming off the bat, a tag being made at 3B.  WE will know that the shots were of us, but not very many people will probably be able to tell!

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Jessica Mendoza

What is Beautiful Fastpitch

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

 

  And that is beautiful fastptich.

 

Understanding The Strike Zone – As a Hitter

A discrepancy that comes up in about 90% of all games is the umpire’s strike zone.  Pitchers complain about it.  Hitters shake their heads in the box about it.  Coaches whine about it.  And parents in the stands let the umpire know exactly what they think about the zone.

An umpire’s strike zone should NEVER be used as an excuse of not performing well.

Can you control the umpire’s zone? No. What can you control? Keeping your emotions in check to be able to adjust to his/her zone.  What are you going to choose to do about it DURING the game? An umpire should establish his/her zone within the first two innings.  All you can ask of that umpire is to be consistent with what he is calling, and as a player, it’s your job to pay attention to his/her zone.  You can actually use an umpire’s strike zone to your advantage if you look at it as an opportunity instead of disadvantage…

As a hitter..

Recognize if the umpire has a wide zone (calls a lot of strikes) or small zone (doesn’t call a lot of strikes).  You can recognize this by paying attention to the first couple of innings when you are in the dugout or out in the field.  Even when you are not up to bat, you always need to be paying attention to your surroundings.  If you do not hit at the top of the order, or if you are a hitter who did not start the game, your job is to pay attention to your teammates at-bats and recognize where exactly the umpire is calling strikes, and where he is not. Sometimes one side of the plate might be wider than the other side.  Sometimes he may be an umpire that has a lower strike zone.

Small zone

A game should be controlled by the offenses when there is a small strike zone.  Games with small zones usually lead to higher scoring games.  When there is a small zone being presented, it’s your job as a hitter to have patience at the plate.  With a smaller zone, you change your game plan and approach to not be as aggressive, especially in an important situation.  You want to challenge the pitcher to throw strikes.  Don’t help her out until she proves that she can find the umpire’s strike zone consistently. With a smaller strike zone, comes more walks.  It’s important to pay attention to the hitter in front of you.  Did the pitcher just walk that hitter on 4 straight pitches?  If she did, then you probably should not swing at the first pitch of your at bat, since clearly that pitcher is struggling to find the strike zone.

Finding a way on base is critical in our game.  Realize that a walk is just as valuable as a hit.  It may not seem the same to you as a hitter statistics wise, but taking that walk puts you 60 feet closer to scoring than you were before you started your at bat.  Have patience at the plate, and definitely challenge yourself not to swing out of the zone.

When you’re up to bat, look for a mistake in your at bat.  With a smaller strike zone comes more added pressure to the pitcher, not the hitter.  With added pressure, a pitcher is more likely to be more tense and frustrated.  She will probably start aiming the ball a little bit more trying to find the strike zone, and she is going to be more likely to come over the heart of the plate.  LOOK FOR THIS MISTAKE.  Don’t fall asleep at the plate just because a pitcher is throwing more balls than strikes.  Be ready to hit.

In the dugout, be paying attention to the pitcher’s body language.  If she is getting down on herself and showing that she is not confident with what she is throwing, then it’s even more important to not help her out in your at bat.  Don’t give a pitcher any confidence when she is struggling to find the zone by helping her out and swinging at a pitch that is not a strike.  That gives her a little bit of positive energy and could be exactly what she needs to get back into her groove. When a pitcher is struggling, offensively, it’s your job to keep her struggling.

Wide zone

A wide strike zone can be a hitter’s worse nightmare.  If the umpire is going to have a wider zone, you can be a little bit more aggressive.  You still never want to get out of your true strike zone.  If an umpire strikes you out on a pitch that was clearly not a strike, don’t get discouraged or consider it a failure.  Don’t let that at bat take you out of your next at bat, and more importantly, don’t let the wide strike zone carry over into the next game and get you out of your zone.

When I was playing and there was an umpire with a wide zone, I made it my goal to get not get 2 strikes.  I wanted to hit a strike early in the count so that the umpire didn’t even have a chance to strike me out! YOU can control hitting early in the count. You CAN’T control the umpire calling you out on a pitch that is out of the zone.  So be aggressive early in the count so that you get a better pitch to hit, and you don’t stand a chance of getting struck out on a pitch that is out of your zone.

Also, if an umpire has a wider zone, DON’T SHOW EMOTION.  Players show emotion at the plate when they get strikes called against them just to make sure everyone else knows who’s watching that they didn’t think it was a strike.  Control your emotions.  Don’t let your opponent know that something is wrong with you – that fuels them and let’s them think they have you right where they want you.  If you’re showing body language (i.e. rolling eyes, shaking head) after a certain pitch, and I am pitching against you, I am probably going to throw you that exact same pitch again, since you just clearly showed me disgust after the umpire called that strike against you. Why would I throw you anything else? Clearly you are not looking to hit that pitch that you were just shaking your head about…

Understand which part of the plate the umpire is being “wide” on.  For example: Is it the outside pitch to a right handed hitter that he’s calling way off the plate? If this is the case you have 2 options: 1) Go up looking for an INSIDE pitch, if the pitcher is still showing you that she is working on that side of the plate. 2) If the pitcher is controlling the outside corner because that of where the umpire keeps calling it, crowd the plate the very most you can, and take away that outside pitch so that it doesn’t seem as far outside to you.  The same can be applied for the inside corner by backing way off the plate and looking for that pitch.  If an umpire has a higher strike zone, it’s important to not swing at pitches that are too far high and out of your zone.  Something I did when facing a pitcher who threw higher pitches in the zone was to hold my hands a little bit higher when I was in my stance before the pitch was thrown; this adjustment helped me keep my hands on top the ball so that I was not as likely to pop up.  This was a small adjustment on my part to be able to able to win the “battle.” Your job is to win the battle and do whatever it takes to come out on top – no excuses necessary.

The best players are going to be able to adjust during the game, no matter what is thrown at them!  Softball is a game of adjustments.

Instead of complaining about a wide zone, be proactive in practicing during the week about the approach you will take as a hitter or as a team if you come up against an umpire with a wide strike zone.  It’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of time.  By practicing this, you’re turning what some think as a disadvantage, into something you can feel more confident about at bat when it happens in a game.  Have the discussion before it happens about how your approach changes at the plate when facing different umpires.  An umpire is never the one who comes away with a win in the win column at the end of the game.  By letting the umpire beat you, you indirectly are letting the other team beat you.  Quit the excuses, and use an umpire to your advantage when you’re up at the plate by adjusting how YOU approach YOUR at bat.

 

High School Softball Season Survivor Guide – Grievance 1: PLAYING TIME

Around this time of year, I always receive a lot of different questions and grievances relating to the high school softball season.  Playing a sport for high school is a unique situation – you don’t get to pick your coaches, you don’t get to pick your teammates.  And on the other side of that – the coaches don’t really “pick” you either.  Some players and parents choose to think it is more of a forced situation because many compare high school ball to travel ball.

 Two different teams; two different sets of problems; one similar mindset — control what you can, let go of what you can’t.

In high school, players get challenged in ways that make them uncomfortable. – as a leader, as a teammate and as a player.  Honestly, to me, it shows a lot about a player’s character and passion.  During the high school season, I hear a lot of excuses…but I don’t hear a lot of players (or parents) trying to see the positive side of things to make the situation better.  What can we do right now in this very moment to learn, to grow and to get better?

Remember a player (and her parents) are not going to agree with 100% of decisions made.  Do you agree with ALL of the decisions your boss makes at work? Think of your favorite sports team: do you agree with the starting lineup every single night a game is played? Probably not. Everybody will always have their own way of doing things, because we are all unique, that’s what makes us US. You don’t have to AGREE with everything that is going on, but you can choose to accept it, see the positive and figure out a way to work with it.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned and problems you can either choose to work through or choose to let bother you. I like to always try to choose to make the most of a situation….

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.

Grievance #1 : PLAYING TIME

Uncontrollable: Making the lineup and teams; playing time.

Controllable(s): Your attitude every day at practice and games; how you can contribute to your team; supporting your teammates; how you push yourself to get better; not talking about the person who is playing in front of you.

Playing time is the #1 grievance parents and/or players complain about (not just in high school ball, but also on tournament teams and college teams).  Every person thinks they are good enough for the starting role, and every player thinks they should be on varsity.  That’s a great attitude to have, if you channel it in the right way.  Always remember that playing time is a decision made by the COACHES, not the parents. I encourage every coach out there to remember your own roots and make your own decisions.

If a player has a question about playing time, then the PLAYER should schedule a meeting with the coach NOT the parent.  Parents, as a gentle reminder, I can’t name you one coach that likes to talk to parents about playing time.  It’s not your job.  Take that energy and encourage your DAUGHTER to make a meeting with her coach, even if she is a freshman.

A Meeting With the Coach

Controllables: PLAYER meeting with the coach NOT parent; The TONE in which you ask your question; keeping your emotions in check during the meeting; respecting what your coach is telling you.

So you want to know why you’re not playing? Talk to your coach! This is a big deal – I get it!  It’s hard as a 15 year old to go up and talk to someone about a serious subject.  Think of this as a learning experience! Everyone has a first time of when they had to approach an adult and ask a tough question.

A player gets to set up a meeting with an adult to discuss “grown up” things.  This is similar to what will happen in college and this is similar to what would happen in a job situation.  At your own current job now, you wouldn’t call on your own parent to go and talk to your boss about a raise or a promotion.  Meeting with a coach can be the first real life opportunity a player has to discuss something on their own that is a priority and that they are passionate about.

A player might think she is doing EVERYTHING she can do to earn playing time.  But just because the PLAYER thinks that she is doing everything, doesn’t mean that the COACH is having the same view.  Remember, we all come from different perceptions and our perception is our reality.

Parents, you can help and get involved not by calling the coach, but by sitting down with your daughter and making a list of things to bring up to her coach whenever she goes in for the big meeting.  Have a list of questions you want to remember to ask and that list can be comfort going into the meeting.  Allow your daughter to come up with these questions as much as she can – not YOU.  It’s not about you, sorry!

A player calling a meeting with a coach shows maturity, and it’s a great experience for the player to take responsibility of having a voice.  Don’t complain to your teammates – it makes you look bad and you are just looking for them to tell you, “Yes, Susie, you should be playing.” Nobody wants to hear someone complaining about playing time all the time – it makes things awkward, especially if the people you are complaining to are every day players.  Even if the people you are complaining to are NOT every day players, then you guys complaining about each other become a cancer to the team.

Remember everything that comes out of your mouth and all of your actions are either positively or negatively affecting your team’s goal and mission.

If you’re not happy with your playing time, there is only one person you should be talking to on your team – your coach.  It’s totally okay to talk about playing time in the walls of your own house with your parents – that’s private time.  Outside of that, it should not be happening because it starts to take away from the TEAM.

It’s all about your approach when you have the meeting wit your coach.  Look your coach in the eye when you are talking or when he/she is talking. Go into the meeting knowing what you want out of it. Think your questions through. Instead of just asking, “Why am I not playing?” – that question has a negative connotation to it, especially if that is the ONLY question you ask.  How about asking things like,

  • “Just wanted to know, what you see are some things I could work on this season to improve my game?”
  • If you are a pitcher – make sure you ask specifically about pitching and also hitting, if you pitch and hit.
  • How about the question that every coach will love, “Hey coach, I know I am not in the starting 9, but what would it take for me to be first off the bench in a pinch hit situation?”
  • or, “Hey coach, I know I’m not in the starting 9, but what are some things I can help with during the game to help the team out?” (ie chart pitches, try to pick opposing coaches signals, picking your teammates up).
  • Last one, “I want to gain your trust, do you think I could get a chance in a pinch hit situation?”

At the end of the season, if you were not an every day player, a great thing to ask your coach is, “Coach, what can I work on during the off season to become an every day starter for you?”  Make sure the communication is clear cut, so that you are actually working on the exact things he/she said to work on to become that every day player.  Too many times things are lost in translation, and players THINK they worked on the things their coach asked them to, and they show up, and it wasn’t EXACTLY what they wanted. Remember if you are not willing to make the adjustments your coach is asking of you, then when you come back the following season and your coach sees no changes, you will be in the same spot you are this year.

The worst thing is to be left in the dark about why you aren’t playing or feeling like you did something wrong. Open communication from player to coach is always the best thing you can do.  Once again – parents, this is not your job.

Take Advantage of Your Opportunities!!!!

Okay, so you’re not an every day player, but your coach decides to put you in to pinch hit with a runner at 3rd, who is the game winning run.  WHAT a position to be in! Your coach is giving you that chance that you asked him/her about in the meeting.  NOW is your chance. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR OPPORTUNITY.  Want it bad enough.

Go up, have a quality at bat, and try to hit the ball hard. Doesn’t HAVE to be a hit.  You just need to look like you are prepared for your at bat and that you are focused.  A QUALITY AT BAT is considered taking advantage of your opportunity.  If you go up and strike out on 3 straight pitches, I’m sorry, that’s not a quality at bat, and it’s not taking advantage of your opportunity. That’s looking like you were unfocused since you were not an every day starter.

Same idea defensively – if you get a chance to go out and play on defense, and the ball is hit to you, and you make an error, then why would a coach feel confident in you?  Even if that is the first ground ball you’ve gotten all year in a game, you MUST be able to come up with a play – no excuses. I hear that excuse all too often, “Well I made that error because I hadn’t played in a game in a while.” NOPE – stop. That’s the easy way out. The hard way is to go into that game and be so determined that nothing will stop you and you will go in and shine.

In high school and in college, it’s ALL about taking advantage of your opportunities, especially when you are not an every day player.  You must be ready for them defensively and offensively. After the fact, if you don’t have success with your opportunity, you CANNOT blame it on the fact that you don’t play all the time.  To me, that’s a cop out.  That is giving yourself an out for not taking advantage of your opportunity.  Don’t be that player.

  • If you get a chance to pinch hit, have a QUALITY AT BAT – take advantage of your opportunity
  • If you get a chance to start out on the field, don’t botch routine plays – act like you’ve been there
  • “No game experience” is not an excuse once you get to the high school level – make plays.

Be Able To Play Different Positions 

Maybe you are a short stop, but the player in front of you is an upperclassman who is the best player on the team.  So of course, she is going to be playing there at that spot.  A good thing to ask your coach is, “Is there another position I could work on to earn a starting spot?”

Make yourself diverse.  There may be a spot defensively that is open, and YOU can take advantage of getting in there even though you have never played that position before.  Go take some time on your own to practice that position either on off days from high school ball or after team practice is complete.  Work at it.  EARN YOUR SPOT.  The more positions you are able to play, the higher of a chance you have of going out there and making a difference at the team.

If there is a very talented player in your spot, LEARN from that player.  She is good for a reason.  Even if she is the same age as you, there is ALWAYS something you could be learning from her.  Instead of being jealous of her, look at her at practice and in a game and watch how she moves, what she does well and what makes her a great player.  There’s nothing wrong with giving her credit, understanding what she does well and trying to emulate her. This way, when you get your chance, it’s an easier transition and you have grown as a player.

This is especially true of pitchers, because a pitcher sitting on the bench can be understanding and learning pitch calling, noticing locations and spots and studying hitters to see what a hitter does well or not well.  In the dugout, you can be visualizing what you would be throwing in certain situations.  This is important, as well, because what if the starting pitcher gets hurt suddenly.  You need to be mentally ready to go into a game. IF you have been studying the opposing team’s hitters and understanding what their weakness is, you can be ready to pick up right where she left off seamlessly.

  • Be diverse, be able to play multiple positions.
  • Learn from players who are playing in front of you.
  • Be ready to come off the bench in case of injury or in case you get called upon.

PS…if you work hard at practice, your coach is going to be more likely to put you in when that injury happens or maybe your coach just gets a feeling in her gut that she wants you to go in to an important situation. You EARN going into a game. You EARN that playing time. How do you earn it? PRACTICE. If he/she sees how hard you are working and how invested you are into the team, he/she is going to be more likely to rely on you.

Did You Know I have an Online Shop?

How Many Days A Week Should I Practice?

THE most asked question I get is how many pitches and/or how many days a week should my daughter pitch? Sometimes I think parents just ask me this question so that their daughter can hear me say or read that I say 1000 pitches a week or 6 times a week. It’s like parents are trying to use me as their backup and be able to say, “Seeeee, Amanda said you should pitch x amount of pitches every time we pitch.” Unfortunately, there is no magic answer for this question! I totally wish there was (it would make my answering questions a lot easier with an answer less lengthy).

I can easily say this as a GENERAL RULE. If you are practicing 3 times a week, you are most likely just staying the same. 4+ times of practice a week you are getting better and less than 3 times a week, hmmm how can I put this….? you probably aren’t getting better. (Please remember this is not a one size fits all rule, this is just a general statement. There are ALWAYS exceptions). I could throw out so many different workouts, but here is a general one where you can start if you are not pitching in games yet. 4 times a week, 100 pitches a day.

That answer is the easy way out! There is no uniform answer for every single person who asks me this question. In fact, every person will be extremely different. We are built differently with different strengths, flexibilities, minds and overall athleticism. We learn differently. We adapt differently.

But let’s try to work through this……The biggest question I can ask BACK TO YOU to answer is, “Are you getting the results you want on the weekend when it’s game time?” The answer is either yes or no. If it’s no, then you need to practice more. If it’s yes, then you can keep doing what you’re doing.

“But wait…I can’t remember what I did at practice this week…”

Write it down! Write down how many pitches you throw and exactly what you work on for every practice. This way, if you have a successful weekend, YOU can come up with YOUR OWN game plan about how you want to attack your practice plan.

I’m going to be completely honest…sometimes life isn’t fair….

Some pitchers may only have to pitch 1 time a week on their own and still go and dominate in a game. Those are the pitchers we are all so envious of. They are the naturally gifted athletes who are competitors and come from a genetic gene pool we can all only dream of.

Some pitchers may have to practice 4 times a week before they are able to go and dominate in a game.

The one thing I know is certain – you can’t compare yourself to anyone else. You are you.

This whole pitching thing is a LOT of work, I tell ya. It’s more than just learning how to pitch the ball and learning different pitches. Pitching is taking the time to understand what works for YOU and a big part of that is practice routine. It’s impossible to remember and make a practice routine without writing it down. It’s your own personal way of trial and error. Have a pitching journal that is YOURS and be able to write down any thoughts or feelings or anything you are working on in that journal.

“Okay on this week I pitched 2 times a week and threw 100 pitches, but I could have done better on the weekend. So next week I will pitch 3 times a week and throw 75 pitches each day and work on my spin every day while watching my favorite TV  show.” For every pitching practice, have a focus (i.e. leg drive, endurance, accuracy, spin, location, attitude, body language.) Mix it up! Try to engage the pitcher and have her pick what SHE wants to work on! You can even There is ALWAYS something you can be working on. Even the best of the best have something they need to work on!

You see this question of how many times to practice a week is such a blank canvas for YOU! I can tell you what worked for ME, but I am not YOU. What I can tell you is that I had to work my tail off to get to the level I played at. I can tell you there were days I didn’t want to practice, but did anyway. I can tell you there were days I didn’t want to practice and ended up just taking a day off and listening to my body. I can tell you there were days my parents pushed me to pitch when I didn’t want to (although they were way fewer than the days it was initiated on my own). And I can tell you every week was probably a little bit different. Life happens and causes us to not get out as much as we “should” on some weeks. But the week after that, do you continue to be “busy”, or do you sacrifice and find time to make the next week better than the week prior?

It is MUCH easier to just ask me to tell you a magic number of pitches to throw a week and you go and do it and we hope for the best. But to me, it is way more fun to figure it out on your own. It’s like a mystery and a puzzle. Every person who asks me the question of how many times their daughter should practice is at a different level than the next person who asks me. Remember, every month may be a little different for what your body needs. Take the time to listen to it. Take the time to go through your results from the weekend and investigate.

Ask yourself some questions so that you can have an a better understanding of how you pitched:

  • When I gave up hits, were they good pitches?
  • In the game, did I throw as aggressively and intensely as I possibly could have thrown?
  • Was I getting ahead of hitters?
  • Was I able to try out the new pitch I have been working at in the game?
  • How did my change up work?
  • Were my outs coming mainly from pop ups or ground balls?
  • How was my stamina? Did I get tired later in the game (this means you need to pitch longer in each session during the week)
  • What pitch did I throw the most?
  • What pitch did I throw the least and need to work on?
  • (Side note: If you do not know what any of these terms mean or are confused about any of these questions, you need to ASK someone!)

I firmly believe YOU are your best pitching coach, I promise!! It just takes a little bit more work and belief in yourself and your knowledge. As a family, come up with a schedule TOGETHER, as a team for what fits best with your schedule, what you need to work on, and reflect back on your past outings! If you can, pitch 6 days a week! If you are questioning whether to go out and practice or not, GO! The more reps you can get in, the better you are going to become and build a better foundation for your future! Pick up a ball and spin it in your living room or pick up an orange and spin it in the grocery store! There’s so much more to becoming a great pitcher than just pitching FULL distance from the pitching rubber!

Love to pitch.

Dealing with Injuries Part 2 – Contributing to Your Team

Injuries are going to happen.  They are a part of sports; they are a part of being an athlete.

Some injuries are definitely more severe than other injuries.  As athletes, we are pushing our bodies to the limit to get the most out of them.  Some may keep you out for a weekend, some may keep you out for an entire season.  But other than keeping you out of a game, an injury can teach you life lessons.  If you’re injured now or have gotten injured in the past, how have you responded?

Your response defines your character….An injury shows if a player is selfish or selfless.  There is a VERY big difference.

To me, an injury is a way that our body is telling us to slow down.  An injury is also telling us that it may be time to change some mechanics, thus getting better so that our body can perform at the highest level possible.   An injury can bring attention to some things we need to change in making sure we take the best care of our bodies possible, as this is the only body we are going to have.

As we live each day, we are writing our own book.  Are you going to let an injury just be a couple of pages in a chapter of your book? Or are you going to allow an injury to be 4-5 chapters of a book?  Your response will be very telling.  The choice is up to you.  Now, I understand that there are the severe, catastrophic injuries that most likely will impact someone’s life in different ways for the entirety, but still I ask, how are you going to respond?  Every day we have choices.  Are we going to rise up to a challenge? Or let adversity overcome us?

With in injury, there come a lot of decisions in how you are going to handle yourself.  1) You now have a choice in the attitude you are going to have towards taking on life after the injury.  2) You have a choice in how you are going to still contribute to your team.  3) You have a choice in how you are going to try to figure out a creative way to practice to keep up with your skills.  4) You have a choice in how you are going to get treatment for your injury and take care of yourself.  ALL OF THESE THINGS affect life lessons and define your character,

and in the end, will help define what kind of player you will turn out to be after the injury.

For Part 1 of Dealing with Injuries – Attitude, click here.

2. CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR TEAM

So you’re injured.  You know you’re not going to get up to bat.  You know you’re not going to throw a pitch or take a ground ball or have an at bat.  Does this mean that you won’t be able to help out your team because you physically can’t do anything? NO WAY!

Just because you cannot physically be out on the field playing does not mean that it’s okay for you to mentally check out and be uninvolved during a game.  To me, the selfish thing to do as a player is to not help out your team and not stay involved.  Don’t be a distraction in the dugout or at practice just because you are not taking reps or getting at bats.

Your job as a teammate changes whenever you are injured.  Don’t be a selfish teammate.  If you are a distraction in the dugout, you are making things about YOU and not about your TEAM.  The team always comes first. The team is bigger than you.

There are always things you can be doing in the dugout to help contribute to every game and every practice!  If you are injured, it’s always a good thing to have a clip board (or a notebook), pen/pencil and a sheet of paper in your hand throughout the game.  This way you can take notes, maybe even help keep score, and stay INVOLVED in the game.  I’m going to give you a TON of things in a game you can do to still stay involved and help figure out a way to help your team win:

  1. Chart pitches of the opposing pitcher to look for tendencies (Example: every time the opposing pitcher gets 2 strikes, she throws a change up).
  2. Chart pitches of your own pitcher to see if she is having any tendencies (Example: for first pitch of the last 5 hitters that have come up to bat, your teammate has thrown to the inside corner, which is a tendency the other team could pick up and start to use to their advantage)
  3. When you are in the dugout, and your team is on defense, and there is a runner on first base, your job is to watch that runner to be able to shout to your catcher if the runner is going or not.  Every pitch, you can make it your job to be a helper for the catcher to let her know what that runner is doing.
  4. When you are in the dugout, and your team is on defense, watch the hitter.  At first movement of her hands moving down the barrel of the bat to try to sneaky bunt, yell “BUNTT” to help your teammates on the corners.  Try to be the first one to spot a bunt. Don’t fall asleep in the dugout
  5. Also, when you are in the dugout, and your team is on defense, and there is a runner at 3B,  your job can be to watch the runner at 3B to see if the other team is running a squeeze.  If you see that runner at 3B take off on the pitch to try to head home, yell “squeeze” as loud as you can so that you can help give your infield a heads up to be on top of the play at the plate.
  6. Help your pitcher, catcher and defense remember who is coming up to bat next inning and where they hit it.  Say the leadoff hitter comes up to bat for the 2nd time in the game, and she hit it to your centerfielder, Jami.  You yell, “Hey Jami! She came to you last time.” Help your defense stay in the game and remember the play that happened before.
  7. When your team is hitting. and everybody is in the dugout, make it your job to try to pick up any signals from the opposing coach or catcher.  Try to figure out the other team’s signals so you can help out your hitter.  Even the catcher may be showing everybody her signals by not keeping her hand close to her while she is giving signals.  If you can see them, try to figure them out to help give your teammate an advantage up at the plate.
  8. When your team is hitting, take a look at the pitcher and see if she has any tendencies with her body when she throws a certain pitch.  Maybe before she throws a changeup her head tilts a certain way, or you can tell she gets a special grip in her glove.  Consider it a challenge that you are going to sit there and watch that pitcher to see what exactly she is giving away.  All pitchers give away information every single pitch – it’s up to you to be able to identify it.
  9. Another job that you could help do, is when your team is on defense and you are in the dugout, help get the 3 hitters who are due up the next inning’s gear ready for them to come into the dugout to slip on – heltmet, batting gloves and bat.  You can have that at the front of the dugout ready for them, so they can come in and make a quick transition to go up to bat.  Help them get focused sooner.
  10. If your coach calls pitches from inside the dugout, and you are a pitcher or a catcher, go sit by that coach.  Ask what he/she is calling and why they are calling it.  Learn how to set up hitters.  Be a sponge.  Even though you are physically not throwing pitches and getting better physically, you learning how to set up hitters and learning a method behind calling pitches is going to make you a stronger pitcher or catcher once you are healthy and get back out there.
  11. Be the your team’s biggest cheerleader.  More than that, be a leader.  Be supportive of your teammates, keep them up in the dugout.  If someone had a bad at bat or seems down during the week, try to have a talk with them and bring them back to being more positive.  What will speak the most about you and your character is the communication and support that you have towards that person who is in your spot.  Say, you you’re usually the starting short stop, but you can’t play because you rolled your ankle.  Now, the back up short stop is in, who doesn’t have that much experience.  You can take it upon yourself to help her know where to be in all situations.  Coach her throughout the game and monitor over her to make sure that she is always in the right spot.  Also, give her encouragement or any kind of helpful hints that you know from playing that position.  You now become that new short stop’s biggest fan.  You want her to do well, because if she does well, then your team has a better chance of winning.
  12. Make it your job when your team is hitting to make sure that whoever is supposed to be on deck is ready and knows that their turn to bat is coming up.  Make sure there is always someone on deck and always someone in the hole. Help your teammates be ready and focused so they have the best possible chance to have success when they are up at the plate.
  13. Overall, it just comes down to being a student of the game.  Study hitting, pitch calling, body language, situations.  When you cannot play, you can go into more of a coaching/observation role to help take your game to the next level.
  14. Read the defense when your team is on offense.  A lot of times teams have their middle infielders or outfielders shift depending upon which side of the pate the pitch is going to be.  So sometimes the defenders are giving away to the hitter which side the pitcher is going to throw to.  Example: A right handed hitter is up, you see the short stop move more towards 3B, and the centerfielder move more towards LF before the pitch is thrown.  They’re positioning themselves for an inside pitch to come to the hitter).  Look for this, and if you notice it, make sure you call together a little team meeting and tell your teammates what you see.  You may be able to pick something up, to once again, help your teammate deliver a hit while she is up to bat.  It might even be the game winning hit that you help her get.

What do all have these things have in common? You’re still contributing to helping your team WIN.  By finding ways to still contribute, you are putting attention on the team and taking attention off of yourself.

After an injury, you should actually come back to the game as a smarter player once you can play again.  Take an injury as time to become a smarter player and think more like a coach.  Ask questions and become a leader while you are contributing to your team. An injury is not an automatic ticket to become a spectator during your teams games.  An injury means you step up and find a new role to help your team win.  Every day you are a part of a team you should ask yourself, “What can I do today to help my team win?”

Put your team before you.  Even if you are injured, you are still a part of a team.

For Part 1 of Dealing with Injuries – Attitude, click here.

Dealing With Injuries Part 1 – Attitude

Injuries are going to happen.  They are a part of sports; they are a part of being an athlete.

Some injuries are definitely more severe than other injuries.  As athletes, we are pushing our bodies to the limit to get the most out of them.  Some may keep you out for a weekend, some may keep you out for an entire season.  But other than keeping you out of a game, an injury can teach you life lessons.  If you’re injured now or have gotten injured in the past, how have you responded?

Your response defines your character….An injury shows if a player is selfish or selfless.  There is a VERY big difference.

To me, an injury is a way that our body is telling us to slow down.  An injury is also telling us that it may be time to change some mechanics, thus getting better so that our body can perform at the highest level possible.   An injury can bring attention to some things we need to change in making sure we take the best care of our bodies possible, as this is the only body we are going to have.

As we live each day, we are writing our own book.  Are you going to let an injury just be a couple of pages in a chapter of your book? Or are you going to allow an injury to be 4-5 chapters of a book?  Your response will be very telling.  The choice is up to you.  Now, I understand that there are the severe, catastrophic injuries that most likely will impact someone’s life in different ways for the entirety, but still I ask, how are you going to respond?  Every day we have choices.  Are we going to rise up to a challenge? Or let adversity overcome us?

With in injury, there come a lot of decisions in how you are going to handle yourself.  1) You now have a choice in the attitude you are going to have towards taking on life after the injury.  2) You have a choice in how you are going to still contribute to your team.  3) You have a choice in how you are going to try to figure out a creative way to practice to keep up with your skills.  4) You have a choice in how you are going to get treatment for your injury and take care of yourself.  ALL OF THESE THINGS affect life lessons and define your character,

and in the end, will help define what kind of player you will turn out to be after the injury.

1) ATTITUDE

In the paragraph above, I listed numbers 1-4 that I will be discussing.  Numbers 2, 3 and 4 are all affected by #1 – Attitude.  It all starts with your attitude.  If you don’t continue to have a good attitude, then nothing else that I talk about in any of the blogs on injury will be able to positively take place.  A bad attitude is going to make someone more unmotivated, selfish and a slower healer.

Believe me, I get it, it’s hard to be injured.  I know better than anybody.  I’ve been there and done that.  It’s okay to be sad at first, but then there comes a time when you have to continue to live on and change that attitude.

Your attitude affects EVERYTHING! Your attitude affects you, it affects your team, it affects your family and it affects your friends.

Remember, every day is a new day.  That’s the beauty of life.  Every morning when we wake up we have a choice in how we are going to take on the day, no matter what happened to us the day before.  Every single person reading this has their own problems.  An injury can be one of those problems, but are you going to let it affect the energy that surrounds you and your attitude to take on life?  Instead of letting it pull you down, allow an injury to actually make you STRONGER.

Look at an injury as something you are going to learn from, and in the end you will be stronger from it.  Turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts.  The more positive attitude you have, the faster you will be able to heal by not stressing and  wearing your body down even more.  A bad attitude affects your friends and family who are around you, too.

Don’t let your bad attitude affect those people and pull them down with you.

To keep a more positive attitude, think about how your body is healing itself.  That’s what our bodies are made to do! That’s a positive way of looking at it.  Know every day, your body is working to heal whatever wound you have.  When you look at it that way, you only know it’s a matter of time before you’re back out there playing!

Last thing I am going to say about attitude is, you choose it.  You can’t control injuries, they’re going to happen.  But every day you wake up, you can control the attitude that you bring to life.  Have an attitude that realizes the injury, accepts it, and thinks, “Okay, what can I do right now in this present moment to make the situation better?”  If you don’t have a solid attitude, then contributing to your team pretty much isn’t going to be able to happen, you will most likely stop practicing (or if you’re practicing, you have a bad attitude while you’re doing it, so it pretty much you won’t get anything out of it), and if you have a bad attitude, you’re going to be less likely to be proactive to go get treatment and find ways to make yourself heal even faster.

Don’t feel sorry for yourself!  To me, players who have that bad attitude after they get injured are selfish players and just want attention.  They think that bad attitude is going to get them the attention since they can no longer get attention on the field anymore.  Change that.  Don’t be that person.

You can get through anything with a great attitude.  Have patience.  Remember to breathe.  Look at an injury from the attiude that this can be a learning experience.  Approach every day as a new a day and make the most of it!

With or without an injury you have complete choice about what kind of attitude you will have daily!

Be Your Own Boss

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

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

Your coaches are a reference…

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

Tweet Smart…

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

Lead…

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

Observe….

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

Contribute…

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

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

 

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

 Serinity

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

Teach your kids life lessons….

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

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

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

The journey…

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

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

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

Raise your stock

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

 

Sometimes, You’re a Loser

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but everybody is not always a winner.  We live in a society where everyone is scared to tell a kid that they lost and in a society where everybody gets a trophy or a ribbon, proclaiming they won.  This just isn’t real life.  How does this prepare a young player for the real world once sports are done?

Now, if you know me, you know that I am 100% always about making girls feel great about themselves and helping them become the best people they can be, not just the best players they can be.  But here is what I know: There is always a winner, and there is always a loser.  If there is not a winner or a loser, then there really isn’t a competition happening.  If we are teaching kids that everyone is a winner, then we aren’t teaching them real life; we aren’t preparing them for what’s ahead.  Knowing that there is a winner and a loser is what drives competitiveness.  That competitiveness is going to be needed and used long after softball is over.

The more competitive players are going to be the players who show up to the ballpark every day with a desire to WIN.  That idea of winning is going to be what motivates them to practice more, so that they can help out the team more when it is game time in order to WIN.  The idea of winning is always going to be what motivates them to stay focused during the game for the entire 7 innings, because they know that if they lose focus, there could be a bad inning, which could result in losing.   A will to win will also motivates them to be a leader and help their teammates become the best players they can be, thus ensuring more wins than losses.

Doesn’t this sound like the recipe for success in life? — Hard work. Focus. Leadership. Teamwork.

Hmm…those things sound familiar.  Oh right!  They’re the major keys to having success in life and success in a career.  But, if everyone wins, then players will not feel that sense of urgency to have a work ethic and drive unlike any other.  There has to be something at stake.  And every time you enter a game, winning is at stake.  Learn to win.  Learn to lose.  Hate losing more than you like winning.

Take an in-game example.  Other than just on the scoreboard, throughout the game there is a winner and a loser with every at bat that happens.  A pitcher either wins the battle or a hitter wins the battle.  Think of that tense situation with the bases loaded, 2 outs, tie ball game.  I want the pitcher in the circle or hitter up to bat on my team who KNOWS there is a winner and a loser. She doesn’t get scared of it.  She just accepts it.  BUT, she wants to win so bad that the will to win overcomes the fear of losing.  Sometimes this player with the will to win and uber competitive drive isn’t even the most talented player on the team, and that’s totally okay.  When it comes down to it, I want the competitive player over the talent.

Be so good they can’t ignore you.

If we aren’t coaching to win (to truly be the ONE winner), then we are not teaching to compete.  You must lose to truly be able to appreciate winning. The way we learn is to fail.  Losing is considered failing.  If everyone is always a winner, then we never truly learn to fail and won’t push ourselves as hard to become better, learn more, work harder and become more dedicated.  Losing is not a BAD thing.  We’ve all been losers at some point.  BUT, I would be likely to say that the loss fueled your desire to win even higher.  It’s human nature.  Nobody WANTS to lose.  Everybody WANTS to win.  It’s not always about your record, but it IS about teaching how to lose and teaching how to win.  You can still be teaching these things and have a winning record.  I totally get that it’s not all about your record or all about the scoreboard.  However, the lessons to be taught by having a conversation about winning and losing, and teaching kids the meaning of winning and losing, has a lot to be said.

Hate the feeling of losing more than you love the feeling of winning.

Competitiveness is going to be what drives players and drives a teamA team understanding that there is always a winner and always a loser is one of the most important, fundamental concepts to learn about sports at a young age; let’s not ignore it. It’s there.  It’s real.  Teach it at a young age so it’s not a surprise once they become older, when the wins and losses and at bats have more meaning behind them.  By teaching winning, you’re teaching fight, leadership, focus, hard work and team work.  Sounds like a winning combination to me.

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