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…

You OWN Confidence

CONFIDENCE: a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something.

Definitions are reminders to us of the real meaning of a word – not the meaning that others have applied to it, or meanings that have formed in our head over time from up and down experience.  The thing that sticks out to me about this definition of confidence is that it only has 1 pronoun in it, “you.”  The true definition of confidence has nothing to do with other people who surround us or statistics on a sheet of paper.  The only place that confidence comes is from inside YOU.  Yes, you.  Our confidence belongs to us, no one else.  Every morning we wake up we have a choice at how we are going to believe in ourselves.  Too easily we forget, especially when we are in the middle of a whirlwind of a season, that every day we wake up is a new day, and you have a choice every morning if and how you are going to believe in yourself.  You own that belief.  No one else does.

In my opinion, a “belief” is stronger than a “feeling.”  It’s one thing to feel like you are confident (a feeling can vary from day to day, can be short term), but it’s another thing to believe you are confident (a belief can control your inner thoughts for the rest of your life, can be long term).  It’s important to not let those down feelings that we get on some days in our life to snowball into a belief that we are no longer worthy or no longer confident in ourselves.  A feeling can just be a feeling – a single act, a one time thing.  A belief runs deeper.

A belief runs down through your inner core that no matter what has happened in a game earlier that day or yesterday, that you know deep down, without listening to what anybody else has to say, that you are meant to do great things.  Because you are.  We all are.

In sports, we are never ever in a million years going to be perfect.  Let me repeat, we are never going to be perfect.  In fact, we are all perfectly imperfect.  And in a game of failure like the game of softball, it’s going to challenge us to our max to dig deep in our own thoughts and mind, and believe that there is a confident athlete on the inside, at all times no matter what.

Remember, don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself.  Unrealistic expectations get in the way of our belief.  It’s unrealistic that you’re going to go 4 for 4 every game or throw a 7-inning shutout every time you take the field.  If we make this an expectation, then we can only let ourselves down, because we won’t ever be perfect.  On top of that, we usually judge the outcome when we don’t meet the expectations we have set.  The important thing to remember is not to judge the result.  When we judge, we feel like we are letting ourselves down and others down, and then we stay down feeling like we failed.  It creates negativity in our mind to where we might not be as productive the next time.  Instead of judging, recognize instead what you did wrong – don’t attach a feeling or an emotion to the outcome.   By recognizing what you did wrong, you can still keep the belief of confidence inside of you, and have a high chance of making adjustments.  This is something that must be practiced and become routine.

Play bigger than a feeling.  Play with a belief that others might not be able to understand.

When you step out onto the field or into the batter’s box, you can’t go out there hoping that you don’t mess up and being scared to make a mistake.  If you think this way, you’ll play tight and you might get lucky throughout the game, but the game won’t come as easy and won’t be as fun.  Realize you are thinking this way.  Don’t judge it.  Just notice it, and change your thoughts.  Understand when you think this way, that not only do you give yourself the impression that you’re scared, you give others the impression that you are scared (coaches, parents, fans, opposing team).  That helps give others the upperhand.

I remember taking the field and trying to have the mindset, “I get to show the other team and the fans how good I am.”  This wasn’t to put pressure on myself and it surely wasn’t to be cocky (if you know me, you know I am far from it).  It was because I loved to play this game, and I believed in my preparation and how FUN the game can be when you really let your  negative thoughts go, and you play like you really believe in yourself.   “I can’t wait to show them how much I’ve worked on my pitch selection.”  ” I get to show that other team how much my change up has improved since last season.”

The thing that I chose to believe in was my preparation and hard work, more than any negative outcome that tried to take that belief from me.

Unfortunately in this world, others put their unrealistic expectations on us, watching us, thinking we are supposed to play perfect.  Other people around us may second-guess our physical talent or second-guess decisions that we make.  A lot of times, it’s parents questioning playing time or coaching decisions.  Go back to the definition of confidence.  It didn’t say “they” or “he” or “she.”  The only thing it said was “you.”  Because if YOU believe, then “they”, “he” and “she” don’t have any choice other than to believe in you, too.

Remember, it comes from a belief, not just a feeling.

It doesn’t matter what others think – it matters what you think and the belief that you truly feel deep down about your own self and your own abilities every day you wake up. That belief can feel quite liberating and can be used as a shield towards what anyone else has to say.

I know it can be hard to push what others say away.  At the end of the day, remember that other people’s opinions are never greater than the belief that you have in yourself.  But here’s the thing: YOU must believe you are worthy to be out there and believe in your preparation.  Believe it deep down.  Don’t let others take away from your own belief – your beliefs are some of the strongest things you own on any given day.

When you take the field or look at yourself in the mirror, YOU must be the one to believe that YOU are meant to do great things. YOU get to show everyone what you are made of and your love for the game.

“To live is rarest thing in the world – most people just exist.”   To truly believe is to live.  When you let others or outcomes dictate your confidence, you are just existing.  Every day, when you wake up, make a commitment you are going to believe in yourself unconditionally, and you get to show the world (including yourself) that you are meant to do great things.

Amanda Scarborough Inspiration

Dream Big Guest Blog by Kaylee O’Bryan

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an athlete as “a person who is trained in or proficient in sports, games or exercises that require physical skill and strength.” Athletes stick with their goals and are passionate about the sport that the are doing. Amanda Scarborough is my favorite athlete.

Amanda Scarborough was a softball pitcher for Texas A&M. Throughout her softball career, Amanda faced many challenges and never gave up. Her passion for the sport of softball has led her to coaching young girls and inspiring them to work hard and dream big. Amanda teaches lessons that will help young girls of all ages to become a better softball player, but also gives tips on how to succeed in life.

Amanda Scarborough was born on May 10, 1986 to her parents, Mark and Sally Scarborough, in Houston, Texas. Getting involved in softball all started when Amanda turned 5. Amanda knew right away that she loved the game and worked really hard both at lessons and at practice to become better. Softball did not necessarily come easy to her, like it may to some. Amanda quickly learned that she was going to be someone who would have to put in the hours to practice if she wanted to have success at the sport. “Amanda was always ready to play and practice. No moaning, no frowning…she inspired others to be better. There is no better definition of a leader,” Amanda’s high school coach stated. Through her hard work and dedication of the sport, Amanda lived her dream of playing for Texas A&M. During her time at Texas A&M, she earned many honors including, 2005 Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year, 2007 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, and was 2-Time First Team All American (2005 & 2007). Amanda continues to be passionate about the sport of softball through giving private pitching lessons, doing all skills clinic, and commentating on live college softball.

Although Amanda was successful and was able to live her dream, her road was not always easy. At one time, Amanda had to face the fact that another parent went up to her mother and told her that she would never make it as a pitcher and Amanda should probably just stop. Another time, while playing 1st base during practice she was hit on the right side of her head by a line drive, causing her brain to bleed. She had to take time off and if she wanted to go back in the game Amanda had to wear a helmet on the mound while pitching. She did whatever it would take in order for her to get back on the mound, even if it meant wearing a helmet and pitching at the same time. At first it was very embarrassing, but she badly wanted to be out on the field playing. Amanda eventually in her senior year had to quit because of an injury to her foot. She needed surgery, but this didn’t stop her from being a part of the team. She still helped out with her teammates by watching batters and helping her catcher call pitches for the pitcher. Even though she had some really tough times this didn’t mean that she gave up. Amanda found other ways to still be passionate about her life dream of softball.

Amanda’s passion for softball is contagious. Today she is running clinics and teaching private lessons to help girls of all ages get better at softball. She writes a blog that is always being updated with new ideas and different drills for girls to use to develop the right mechanics. Amanda has also become part of a new group with three other post-college players. They call themselves, “The Package Deal”. At their clinic they teach young girls the skills they need to be good ball players. How to catch, field, throw, and hit the ball. Most importantly, they show how their passion for the sport can impact lives on and off the field. They give life lessons that girls can use to become confident, strong adults. They believe in each and every girl who walks through the door and inspires them to write their own story, to follow their dreams. I recently attended one of Amanda’s pitching clinics. It was an incredible experience. I learned different techniques about pitching and skills to make myself a better athlete. Amanda’s speeches were very inspiring and motivational. I left feeling unstoppable. Like I could go as far as I could dream. I hope to someday go as far as Amanda and play softball in college.

Do you Have Short Term Memory Loss?

Before you get scared- NO, this is not a spam post ad for some overseas medicine coming to America to help with short term memory loss!  In sports, a player NEEDS to have short term memory loss.  What do I mean by that? I mean you have to forget mistakes you make in a game – quickly.  Sports are filled with failures, but also filled with a lot of opportunity.  How are you looking at your next at bat or your next pitch you throw after you make a mistake? Are you looking at it as an opportunity to succeed or as a chance you might fail?

We all are going to make mistakes throughout the game.  It’s all about how we recover from that mistake that matters. We must understand that one play does not define you as a player – for better or for worse. We have to be able to move on from a play within SECONDS of it happening, in order to have full focus on what is still happening during that same play while it is being completed. Then, we must move on on to the next play, the next pitch, the next at bat.  Sports like softball move very fast.  The game will move on with or without you – hopefully, it’s with a fully focused, fully positive you – ready to make a new impact on the game when you have another opportunity.

If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes. – John Wooden

A hitter might have 4 at bats in a game, an infielder might have 3-4 plays chances to make a play in a game, but a pitcher is touching the ball 80-130(ish) times a game.  A pitcher has more opportunities to make a mistake than any other person on the field, but also more opportunities to rebound from a mistake…more opportunities to have a chance to shine.  You have to be able to let things go. Forget about the last mistake you made. The game isn’t nearly as much fun when you are WORRIED about mistakes and hanging on to things that weren’t done “perfectly.” If you are worried about pitch number 24 you threw in the game, while you are throwing pitcher number 44, there is no way to throw pitch 44 to its highest ability.

It isn’t making mistakes that’s critical; it’s correcting them and getting on with the principal task.  – Donald Rumsfeld

The best pitchers are going to be the pitchers who move on with a new, clear focus on the next pitch.  After you throw a pitch, you CANNOT hang on to it.  You have to accept the outcome, do not JUDGE it.  It’s when we judge the outcome that we are more likely going to be hanging on to it and unable to move on.  You have a chance the very next pitch to redeem yourself to your coaches, team, and to yourself.  How are you going to rebound?

As athletes, we all want to be perfectionists.  It’s impossible to be perfect in sports.  We are trying to achieve perfection every time we take the field or the court, and perfection never going to be attainable. If you are a competitive athlete, you are always going to want to be better and better and better, and there never truly is perfection.  Even if you throw a “perfect” game, it doesn’t mean that you threw 100% strikes and had 21 strike outs in a game.  (If someone has had this, I applaud you, but I am not sure that this exists out there).  Go into a game not EXPECTING to make mistakes, but understanding that they might happen.  The best thing you can do is accept that you made a mistake, and move on.  The ability to do this can make a good player a great player.

Once you accept that you’re imperfect and are ok with making mistakes, it’s the most liberating thing in the world.  We are all perfectly imperfect.

Whether you are hitting or pitching, you must have the mindset of NEXT PITCH.  You took a pitch that was right down the middle for the first strike of your at bat? So what, next pitch.  In our game, you have the OPPORTUNITY to recover from a mistake within seconds of making that mistake.   Think of the next pitch as an immediate opportunity to bounce back whether you are at the plate, in the field or in the circle. If you are still down when that next pitch is happening, your chances of having success aren’t going to be very high because you are still hanging on to the past. Let go of the past, focus on what you can do NOW.

The first step in this whole process of getting better at having short term memory loss is PRACTICING having short term memory loss at practice and at lessons, even throughout the day in regular, every day activities.  If you cannot recover from a mistake in a lesson quickly, it’s going to be 1000 times harder to recover from a mistake in a game because a game moves faster and a game has more pressure.

Someone who does not have short term memory loss must first come to the realization that you are not good at letting go of mistakes before you can begin to change it.  Once you realize it, you become aware of it, and you can actually make a change.  If you never realize it, you are not going to change, and you will stay lost amongst the high percentage of players who hang on to the mistakes they make throughout a game and throughout a tournament.  When you hang on to mistakes, it’s exhausting and the game doesn’t seem fun anymore. Practice having short term memory loss in your lessons.

Know you made a mistake, do NOT judge it, learn from it, and commit to the next pitch with a fresh mentality.  By practicing it in lessons or at team practice, you will have a much better chance of putting into play your short term memory loss into a real game.

Don’t be so hard on yourself! Remember, sports should be fun!  Even though you are intense, and expect to be great every time that you go out onto the field to play, you are GOING to make mistakes.  The longer you hold on to that mistake, the less fun the game is going to be.  We are all perfectly imperfect and are allowed to make mistakes!  What is going to separate you from the rest of the players out there is how FAST you move on from mistakes!

Why She Has 1000…

As you grow up and reflect on the years of your life, you can probably count on 1 hand the people who have made a major impact on you.  You are told to surround yourself by people who make you better; a search to seek out the people who pull out the very best in you.  But what if one of those people actually found YOU, knowing she could be the one to get the very best out of you?  And then, what if you were surrounded by that person for 4 years, 40 weeks out of the year, 6 days out of the week, 4-5 hours of every day?  Do you think this person would have a major influence on you in your life?  I know firsthand, the answer is yes. I know from having the opportunity to be around Jo Evans, Head Softball Coach at Texas A&M, who just recently won the 1000th game of her career.

Amanda Scarborough Coach Jo Evans Texas A&M

When deciding where to play ball in college, some players look at what majors a school has to offer, some decide based on athletic and academic facilities, others may look at a previous win-loss records or national championships.  I looked at Coach Evans.

I saw a coach who could make me a better player, but more importantly, I saw a coach who could make me a better person.

I still remember being 15 or 16 years old, and seeing Coach Evans in the stands recruiting me and watching me play.  I get asked often if I always knew I wanted to go to Texas A&M.  To be honest, I wasn’t one of those players who ALWAYS knew she wanted to go to Texas A&M.  I have no family members who went there and had no real ties to the university before I made my decision.   When I was that age, I had no idea where I wanted to go to school!  But then…Texas A&M showed interest in me, and it was almost as if I knew instantly that I wanted to play for her from the moment I met her.  Jo Evans is what pulled me in.

The decision to play at Texas A&M for Jo Evans is definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.  When I was there, taking the field every day in College Station, I didn’t realize the magnitude of all that she was teaching me on a daily basis.  In those 4 years, I was constantly growing as a player, growing as a leader, and helping to grow a program, all by the guidance of a spunky red head, named Jo.

Coach Evans makes a “big deal” about leaving a legacy, as she asks every senior class, “What’s going to be your legacy?”  She reminded our senior class, as she does with every senior class, that we are leaving a lasting mark on a program, and we got the chance to control what it was going to be.  From her, we knew we would be leaving a legacy at Texas A&M, but what she did not know at the time, was that she, too, was leaving a lasting legacy on us.  A first impression may stay with you for weeks, a lifetime impression stays with you for eternity; it’s one that will stays with me well after I left my cleats on the field in Oklahoma City signaling my playing career at Texas A&M had come to an end. Coach Evans makes lifetime impressions on the players who play for her at Texas A&M University.

Coach Jo Evans 1000 wins Texas A&M Softball

Little did I know when I was 16 years old, making the decision to play for Coach Jo Evans, that I would be playing for a coach would achieve the 1000 wins mark.  That coach, the one who chose ME to come and play for her at her school, had a monumental weekend, as she won her 1000th career Division 1 game this past Saturday.  Quite a milestone, as she becomes the only active coach in the SEC to have 1000 career Division 1 wins and becomes the 8th coach in the country to achieve this.

But in my mind, Jo Evans is more than a softball coach piling up scoreboard victories under her belt.

What has helped lead to those thousand victories is the fact she is a coach who teaches more than the game of softball through the game of softball.  She genuinely cares about her players, and has the ability to get them each in the right mindset to go out and compete to their highest talent level, thus the ability to compete for championships.  By caring, by teaching, by directing, she is making them better women when they leave her program to go and take on the real world, once their cleats are left on home plate.

It’s a college coach’s duty to teach more than the game of softball, as those 4-5 years of a player’s life are preparing them for the rest of their lives in more ways than one.  I know in my heart that many other players feel like I do about the relationship they have or had with their college coach. I speak from my heart and from my own experience as to what I was taught in those 4 years that has honestly, completely changed my life and made me into the woman I am today.

I could write an entire book about what all Coach Evans has taught me.  (I laugh because this article is already going to be long enough.) Looking back, I honestly cannot tell you which of these things are the most important and rank them in any particular order, but I do know that they all continue to change my life.  Jo Evans left her legacy on us, just like she told our senior class to do on the A&M program.

1)   Plain and simple — She taught me the game.

I really learned the ins and outs of the game from Jo.    At practice she’s teaching, in the game she is teaching, after the game she is teaching.  Doesn’t matter big or small, she will see it, and she will use it as a teaching moment at many point at practice or in a game.  At practice, I learned the details of defense from her. In between innings, during a game,  I remember her going over pitch calling with me for different situations and letting me know what I could have done better or chose differently.  I learned a little bit deeper about what the whole “make adjustments” thing meant as a hitter and as a pitcher, alike.

Jo Evans 1000 wins

In post game talks, she would let us know down to certain at bats and certain pitches/counts within that at bat what went wrong, what should have gone differently, and why it changed the energy and outcome of the game or an inning.  Because she taught us, we could be more aware of different situations in future games to be able to make adjustments on our own when we experienced that same situation again.   She was the best at reminding us of plays of execution throughout the game, that may never go down in the scorebook or get written about in the newspaper, but they were parts of the game that you can’t be a championship team without.  During and after the game, she reminded us which plays were a “big deal” for our team.

A huge part of this game is knowing your role on a team. She made me look at the game in a whole new way when it came down to actually playing the game itself, but also, she taught me every player has a “job.”  She pointed out different roles that were an integral part of a team; roles that went deeper than the star pitcher and the homerun hitter.  Every single player on a roster has value and has a job to do.   When you are being reminded that everyone has a role and a job to do at any point in the game, it brings a team together.  EVERY player has value.

The more you respect each other’s roles, the better you play together, thus leading to more wins.  You keep it simple and worry about doing YOUR job, not someone else’s.

This idea of roles and doing your own job made the game much more simplified.  It was important to remember what YOUR job was, and not try to do everybody else’s.  You have a job.  You execute it.  You succeed.  “What can YOU do to help OUR team win?” — love that quote.

Looking back, her teaching me the knowledge of the ins and outs of the game has helped me immensely in my career as a softball analyst on ESPN.  We did not learn to play as robots on the field – we learned to take responsibility and ownership for every situation throughout the game. Because I wasn’t a robot, I learned quicker and the concepts I learned were able to stay with me longer.  Now, I can talk about an array of situations that happen on the field defensively and offensively, taking that knowledge I learned playing under her to relaying knowledge to the viewer on TV listening and watching the game.  I know the game from Jo.

Amanda Scarborough and Jo Evans

 2.  Respecting the game

Coach Evans takes more of an “old school” approach.  She loves textbook softball when it comes down to execution and more importantly, upholding a certain standard to which the game should be played and respected on the field.

Our game has history and our game has value, and she is a coach that doesn’t just ask for her players to respect that history, she demands it.  Respecting the game is one of the few things Coach Evans demanded of us, as she is really not a demanding coach.  For the few things that she “demanded,” we knew that they were of extra importance, because her demanding anything from us, were things we knew WE could control.

Along with respecting the game, comes respecting the players who played in front of you.  Not just at YOUR school, but the players who paved the way to get our sport to where it is today.  This is a respect of what they sacrificed, and what they have accomplished ahead of you.  Our sport is growing, and our sport is beautiful.  This didn’t happen over night. It was made this way from those who laid the foundation before us to make this sport as we know it today.  And for that, every time you take the field, you are playing for something that’s bigger than yourself.

Texas A&M Softball

What else does respecting the game mean?  It means you play hard.  It means you leave it all out on the field.  It means that when you step out onto the field, nothing else matters – not school, not relationships, not any personal problems. It means keeping a good attitude.  It means by knowing that if you stick with the process, the game will reward you.  If you are player or former player, you know exactly what I mean.

Coach Evans 1000 Wins

I had never really thought about the game in this way until I had played for Coach Evans.  Yes, I loved to play hard, but I did it a little selfishly, not understanding the real importance of respecting the game.  However, she taught me to play hard, for something bigger than myself.   Because she loves and respects the game of softball, it’s something that she has pulled out from inside of me to the forefront.  Not that it wasn’t always there, because it was, but she showed it to me in a way I had never thought about the game before.  If you know me, you know I love EVERYTHING about this game.   Coach Evans brought that out of me.

3.  Respect Your Opponent

With respecting the game comes respecting your opponent.  Jo kept us humble with wearing that Texas A&M across our chest.  Yes, we played at a school who week in and week out, usually found ourselves ranked in the Top 25; but she taught us the game doesn’t know who is supposed to win when you step on the field.  She taught us that no matter who we were going up against, they deserved our upmost respect, because anybody can beat anybody on any given day.  The more I’m around this game, the more I see this, and it’s actually one of the things that still gives me the most excitement about spots in general.  As sports fans, we live for the underdog to get the big win.  It happens, and it gives everyone out there a little bit of extra hope, as we all feel like an underdog at some point in our lives.

She taught us that even though we respected our opponent, no matter who they may be, a win and a loss 90% of the time comes down to a team playing THEIR game and not worrying about what the other team was doing.  She taught us to give so much more attention to ourselves than to the other team, and control the things that WE could control.  This is something that as we were playing, made the game seem a little bit more simple.  Wow, what a thought – I don’t have to worry too much about the other team, because if we play OUR game, the way WE are supposed to play, then we will put ourselves in a position to win.

Coach taught us a part of respecting your opponent is winning and losing graciously.  Any kind of attitude towards another team or disrespect of the game was not allowed.  To be honest, we never even really came across anything like this during a game, because we were so engrained to respect our opponent, that it never was really an issue.  Respecting your opponent means playing with class and playing within yourself.  Jo reminded us of this.

4.  Ownership Of OUR Team/ OUR Actions

At the very beginning of the season, Coach Evans will remind a team, “This is YOUR team.”  The players are supposed to run the team, with the help of the coaches – it’s not the other way around. This gave us accountability for all of our actions.  We monitored and patrolled each other for everything – whether it was about tucking in our shirts at practice, making in game at-bat adjustments or making the right social decision outside of the field.   It’s kind of like when your parents buy you a car versus when you buy a car yourself.  When you buy the car yourself, then the responsibility and accountability seems to go WAY up.  It’s YOUR investment and it’s YOUR car.  Every decision you make from that point on has more weight on it.

Amanda Scarborough

With ownership of your own team, came ownership of our own pitch calling.  As a pitcher, I loved being able to call my own game.  It made me LEARN.  It made me a better player, and it made me a better coach after college was done.  I loved challenging myself and having to think  constantly throughout the game.  In a way, it gave me independence and confidence in my own decision making.  Think about it – I threw 100+ pitches in a completely game, which meant I was making 100+ decisions every time I was in the circle.  I don’t know if this was supposed to be a direct bi-product of pitchers/catchers calling their own game, and I’ve never really thought about it this way before, but I think it’s pretty awesome, and it gave me accountability and confidence with my own decision making.

When the players take ownership of THEIR team, it’s astounding how much more accountability and investment it creates.  You no longer want to just worry about yourself and YOUR actions, you worry about the TEAM more than you worry about yourself.  The team comes first. Because of this, the team starts thinking big picture, monitors each other, and really, the team should pretty much be able to run itself.  I can still hear her saying in our team meetings, “This is YOUR team,” and it was true.  When we ran OUR team, it gave us more ownership of every win and every loss.

5.  COMPETE

Jo Evans loves to compete.  She HATES to lose.  “Compete” was a word that we heard daily at practices and in games.  The idea of not competing is just like not respecting the game. It’s a long season of over 50 games and Coach expected us to compete for all of them.   She wanted us to go out and compete to represent the name on the front of our jerseys.

We had a duty to wear that jersey proudly with Texas A&M represented on the front, and we knew we were representing the 12th man and our incredible university.  By not competing, we weren’t just letting our team down, we were letting the 12th man down.

Texas A&M CompetePart of competing is that never give up mentality.  To compete and to fight go hand in hand.  Not every game is going to be an easy win.  There are going to be times you fall behind and need to come back.  When you have a coach with the experience and drive that Coach Evans has, she teaches to her team that there is always a chance to win if there are outs left in a game.   If she thought that and believed it, then why wouldn’t we, as players, believe it, too?

I remember being a freshman and losing games for the first time early in the season.  Some of the losses, we were just beat.  Other losses we beat ourselves.  But, a loss was a loss.  A loss was to be taken seriously with no laughing and cutting up after the game.  Our freshman class learned this very fast from our seniors (remember, we patrolled each other).  A loss in college was taken much differently than in high school or tournament ball.  I learned to hate the way it felt after a loss.  As a team, we hated disappointing ourselves, but more than that, we hated disappointing Coach Evans.   We hated the way losing made us feel, and we didn’t want to have to feel that feeling very often.  We learned from our losses, and were able to move on, but losing was never fun.

Because she was so competitive, our team was competitive.  Because she had fight, our team had fight.

Individually, we were expected to compete, and as a team we were expected to fight until the very end.  It wasn’t a demand, it was an expectation.  It is because of her I am more competitive and have more fight in me than when I entered her program.  If you want to win, you’ve got to learn to compete and learn how to fight until the very end, because you never know when the game can change if there are any outs left…

6.  Loyalty

I sincerely believe that Coach Evans taught me the true meaning of what it is to be loyal.  She constantly talked to us about loyalty throughout my 4 years.  Loyalty means allegiance and trust.  When you build a loyal team, you build a team that is going to trust each other and play better together on the field.  She encouraged us to be loyal to the program and to our teammates.  If we were supposed to take ownership of OUR team, then a big part of that is feeling loyalty from and towards our teammates.

Texas A&M Softball

It feels good as a player to be surrounded by loyal teammates.  It’s a long season.  Not everything is going to go your way.  There are going to be team talks, team meetings, and adversity.   There are going to be things that are said in a team meeting that need to stay within a team.  A loyal team keeps those issues within the team.  It is so important to be a loyal teammate.  Loyalty establishes faith and belief, and helps with team cohesiveness. Loyalty forms a team who plays for each other8

A team has to feel united at the end of the season to win games and win championships.

When you are a loyal teammate for 4 years, it becomes a habit in your every day life outside of softball.  Because Coach Evans taught me the true meaning of loyalty, I bring that quality into my relationships with my friends and family.  I hope that they call me a loyal friend – that might be one of the biggest compliments someone can give me.  So much of being a good teammate and a good friend comes down to being loyal and trustworthy.  If you have teammates who represent those things, then your team chemistry is going to help you get more W’s than otherwise, as Coach Evans taught us throughout the years.

 Texas A&M Softball

7.  Motivation

As I saw in Coach Evans, motivation stems from passion.  Coach Evans has the ability to speak in a room and motivate everyone who is listening – from the trainers to the managers to the players.  Even now, in the rare cases where I get a chance to hear her speak to the team in a pre game/post game talk, it’s moving.  It makes me want to go play.  It doesn’t just make me want to go play, it makes me want to be great.

She can move you and change your mindset with the passion in her each of her words.  Even when it can seem like there is nothing positive to build on after a bad game, she can find it.  She can turn a room of emotions from defeat to compete within a few minutes of listening to her speak.  She is an extraordinary speaker, because she speaks right from her heart.  You can tell it comes from deep within a place built by experience and a place of confidence.  It’s hard to NOT be motivated before a game when Jo Evans is your heard coach.  It’s that motivation that gets her players ready to play before any given game.

8.  She “Gets” Her Players

USA11_196Coach Evans genuinely cares about her players on and off the build.  She takes the time to get to know each player, and figure out a way to coach and communicate with them.  Because of the way she forms relationships with her players, a sense of family is built within the program, firmly assembled on the foundation of respect.  She can tell her players the hard thing.  She is a coach who will always be honest with her players.  It might not be always what you want to hear, but she can say the hard thing.  She KNOWS her players.  She even knows qualities about her players that the player might not have figured out about herself, yet.  Sometimes, it takes a few years to understand and appreciate some of the things she brings to your attention in those meetings.  It’s hard to hear the truth, and it can be hard to learn about yourself and understand how you are being perceived from the outside.  This was “grown up stuff” we were learning to deal with throughout our tenure at A&M.  However, in the end, no matter what, Coach Evans told us that she had our backs – each and every one of us – and she meant it.  Because we knew she had our back, we had hers.

 

Coach Evans exuded these noteworthy qualities on a daily basis. We wanted to play and fight for her and for our school.  She exemplified what it looked like to model all of the qualities that she was teaching us through her own actions.  Because we saw it every day, eventually it just became a part of us.  You want it to become a part of you.  In some of our most impressionable years, ages 18-22, we were around a woman who was constantly teaching us how to be a good teammate, but an even better person.

For me, playing for Jo Evans at Texas A&M is like the gift that keeps on giving.  The life lessons I have learned from her through the game of softball are amazing.  I learned a way to play and understand the game, but more importantly I learned ways to improve myself that I could carry on into the real world.   When you dig deep to understand why she is a coach who now has 1000 wins, it’s not too hard to figure out how win after win has accumulated over the years.  You can tell she has passion, she surrounds herself with a trustworthy coaching staff who exemplify the same qualities that she is trying to teach and she has the ability to reach the players who are in her program to a deeper level. It’s the coaches who have surrounded her and who currently surround her, who cannot be forgotten about as well.  Without the help of an incredible support staff, not as many games and championships can be won, trying to steer a program in the right direction.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter how much softball you know and how much strategy of the game you know, if you can’t get your players to play for you, play for each other and play for themselves, then that knowledge is meaningless.  I look back to 12 years ago, and I am incredibly thankful she picked ME, Jo Evans picked ME, to play for her at Texas A&M.   I cant imagine having played for anybody else, and I would not be the woman I am today without her.

A BIG congratulations to Coach Evans!  Her 1000 wins mile marker is a “big deal!!”

Coach Jo Evans Texas A&M

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

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.

If you enjoyed this post, let me know in the comments or on Facebook.

Top Five Q’s with A – II

Can You Pitch Too Much?

Q1: Is there a such thing as too much pitching at 8-9yo? Don’t want to hurt her, she says she’s fine so thought I’d ask.

A1: Nah! I really don’t think so! There’s not enough force on her arm quite yet! Just make sure you’re practicing all the right mechanics and focusing on detail with all those reps! Want to create good muscle memory! Maybe check in with a sports doctor just in case!

Getting Burned Out

Q2: My daughter will be 11 years old in September. She has been taking pitching lessons for a year and a half. She is really good and continues to get better. However, She seems to be getting burned out. Any suggestions?

A2: Keep it fun for her and keep encouraging her without putting too much pressure on her to go out and practice! Clearly she is athletic if she’s really good and is just getting better and better! Make sure to give her breaks, and make HER come to you about practicing and playing. If she is 10 and getting burned out already, that’s an early age for that to happen! Sometimes a player can be really athletic and talented, but they don’t always have the heart and passion to continue; it’s not THAT uncommon for that to happen! Remember that as she gets older, it’s only going to get more time consuming and the older you get, the more you have to sacrifice for lessons, games and practice! She is still young and growing, so don’t make any decisions quite yet, just see where her choices and heart take her! 

Longevity of Pitching Shoes

Q3: This might be a silly question…but my DD has only been pitching a year, and I’m sure we have a lot of things to learn about softball. But is there an actual training shoe or sneaker for pitchers for indoor pitching on turf. She wears her regular sneaker down on her front right toe from dragging it. Her cleats of course hold up really well to this. But around here we have to move practice indoors in the winter time so she is pitching on turf. This is really hard on sneakers….do they make something better built to handle this?

A3: There used to be pitching toes that you could put on sneakers that we were able to put the shoe laces through to keep on the toe and cover it up! I would google search “Softball Pitching Toes.” If nothing comes up and they don’t make that anymore, my mom would just buy me the cheapest sneakers at WalMart or a sporting goods stores. They would be my “Pitching Shoes.” Not worth spending $100+ on a pair of shoes that will just get ruined. They weren’t the PRETTIEST shoes around, and when I was younger I didn’t always like wearing them, but totally understood that you’re going to go through sneakers FAST from dragging! Also – another suggestion you can put lots of duct tape over the toe of the shoe to help it hold up a little bit longer!

Tendency to Pitch Too Inside

Q4: Hi I have a 15yr old daughter that pitches a lot of inside pitches she been pitching for about a year and half, can you help?

A4: For any pitcher, usually pitches that consistently miss too far inside is a true sign that your hips are getting in the way at your release. It’s so important at your release point that your hips are more “open” so that your hand and arm can get through the bottom of your pitch. When your hips get in the way and are “closing” too soon, then your arm hits your hip and causes the pitches to go low and inside. Your arm just can’t get through. So you can either a) speed up your arm speed or b) try to stay open longer to let your arm clear through. I would also encourage to have your catcher set up way outside to give her a different target and something to look for. Last thing, sometimes inside pitches are caused by falling off to the side before you release your pitch. Stay balance longer. For example: If you are right handed, don’t fall to the right BEFORE you release the pitch. Try to stay balance and on the “power line” for as long as you can through your release and stay balance at the end! 

Rise Ball Spin for Fastball

Q5: We have watched you over the years and my daughter looks to women like you to compare herself.   My daughter is soon to be 16 and she throws rise with the backward spin which in some places really blows others minds and batters get so frustrated.  My question is can this spin be thrown as a fastball all the time? Or is it too hard on the body?  She throws it all the time and starts it at the knees  and if it breaks  it breaks and if it don’t  it usually gets a an infield pop-up or a little dink behind first, that second can get or right plays in. Just wondering if this is okay?

A5: It’s always good to have good spin and a little bit of movement on your fastball. Really the NAME of a pitch is not as important as the ability to be able to get outs and throw it for a strike and throw it with command.  If you have correct foundation of mechanics, I don’t see it being too hard on the arm.  I honestly have never come across someone who has spun a “fastball” like that consistently, so I can’t tell you from experience if it will or will not hurt someone’s arm to repeat that motion thousands and thousands of time.  The best thing you can do is to just monitor how it is making her arm feel and since she is 16, I would start icing her elbow and/or shoulder after games.  Take good care of that arm, it is so very important for longevity in the sport. 

So, What Exactly Are College Coaches Looking For?

6 Things College Coaches Are Looking For

  1. Versatile / Athletic
  2. Can Produce Offensively
  3. Softball Savvy
  4. Competitive / Knows How to Win
  5. Good Attitude & Coachable
  6. Grades

One of the biggest questions in our game today is, “What are college coaches looking for in recruiting an athlete?”  There’s not just ONE thing that coaches are looking for.  In my mind, there are multiple things that add up to being a recruitable player.  Some are tangible, some are intangible.  What separates you from the thousands of other girls out there who are trying to be recruited who can hit, pitch and field a ground ball?

This question can be answered go into a very position specific answer with a coach once they identify a player (ie what a coach is looking for when recruiting a pitcher, what a coach looks for when looking at a swing), but there are definitely some factors across the board that all coaches are looking for to find a player who is going to come in and be able to make an impact on their program.

 1.  Versatile/Athletic

It’s great to be able to show versatility a player who can play multiple positions, especially if you are not a pitcher, catcher or short stop.  Pitcher, catcher, and short stop are those few positions out on the field where a coach is okay with finding a player that excels at JUST that position.  If you are a standout pitcher or catcher, it’s an added bonus if you can swing the bat and produce at the plate, as well.  However, college coaches are less likely to mind recruiting a pitcher who JUST pitches (pitchers really ARE special 🙂 ) and does not play any other position, and the same goes for a catcher.  An awesome defensive short stop is a specialized position, as well.

Coaches will bend over backward to find the dime-a-dozen pitchers, a catcher who can throw out a girl stealing who can run a 2.6 and a short stop who can save runs and command an infield. 

To have an impactful pitcher, catcher and/or short stop are game-changing positions.  If you have a pitcher who can shut teams down, you don’t really care if she can hit the broad side of a barn.  IF she can hit AND pitch, more power to her — then that player is probably one of the most highly recruited players, because coaches get more “bang for their buck” in getting a pitcher and a hitter in one player.

Also, if you are an awesome short stop, that means that you are most likely pretty athletic, as the short stop is usually labeled as the most athletic kid on the field.  If you play short stop well, a coach sees you as an athlete that he/she might be able to convert to a different position with ease.  Remember that once you get to college, every athlete on the team is solid, and there are only 9 positions on the field.  So the more versatile you can be, and have the ability to play multiple positions, the higher your chance is of getting recruited……And then, once you are there, being able to get playing time.   When I played at A&M, there were 5-6 players on our team who had played short stop in high school or for their travel team.  4-5 of those players ended up playing other positions than short once they got to college.

Please understand that I am not saying you have to be a pitcher, catcher or short stop to stand out.  But being completely honest, those are probably the 3 positions most looked at when a coach walks up to the field empty -minded and with no agenda as to which position they are looking at.

After looking at those positions, coaches are looking to see which ATHLETES stand out from both dugouts.  Coaches think that they can build off of pure athletes — turn them into any position if they are athletic enough.  Because athletic player have more body awareness, then it is easier to transform them and find a spot for them on the field.  If you have athleticism, show it off.  I think of an athletic player as someone who is strong, agile, quick, can jump, and is flexible.  You can have some of these qualities, or you can have all of them.  The more you have, the better of an athlete you are. 

Players who play multiple sports have higher chances of overall being more athletic because different sports develop different muscles and different athletic qualities.

Think of the jumping skills that come with playing volleyball.  That jumping makes you more explosive with your bottom half, and also works on fast twitch muscles, as volleyball moves so fast and is a reaction sport.  Think of the endurance that comes with playing basketball or track.

Your body can develop to become an amazing athlete by playing different sports.  Many college coaches LOVE multiple sport athletes because of the athleticism that it breeds.  However, at the same time, there are coaches that are impartial to multiple sport athletes.  I played for a coach who likes multi-sport athletes, so I am more partial to encourage players to play multiple sports IF, and I mean IF, they can get in quality time towards their main sport and continue to show progression in the right direction.  If they are staying the same or digressing in their main sport, that is when I feel it is time to cut back on playing multiple sports.  My theory: play multiple sports for as long as you can. (Some talented athletes can even pull this off for the entirety of their high school careers).

The more athletic and versatile you are, the higher of a chance you have at being noticed and recruited, and then once you actually make a college team, the higher chance you have at finding playing time.  Work hard to get stronger. Work hard to get faster. Work hard to develop athletic skills that do not just involve hitting or throwing or pitching a ball.

 

 2.  You produce offensively

Coaches are ALWAYS looking for solid offensive players.  It doesn’t mean you have to hit tons of homeruns and it doesn’t mean you have to hit tons of doubles.  Understand exactly what YOUR offensive game is so you can focus on it and capitalize on it. If you do have power, that’s awesome, but there are other offensive ways to catch attention, as well.  I would say in 90-95% of colleges, if you are one of the top offensive producers on the team, a coach will find a spot for you in the lineup and figure out a way to put you somewhere defensively.

The Big Power Hitter

Can you crush the ball? You’ll catch coaches’ attention.  In college, coaches are looking for the top 9 offensive producers to fill into their lineup.  If you are one of the top hitters and have a willingness and ability to show that you can play a position you’ve never played before, you can find yourself in a lineup.  Be sure you are a hitter who consistently shows that power and show that you’re not a “lucky” hitter.  When college coaches are there watching you, you string together quality at bats, where you have a good approach and are hitting the ball hard more often than not.  Take advantage of big RBI opportunities.   If you are known you’re your power hitting at the plate, then it is your job on your high school team, on your travel team, and it will be your job when you get to college to come through with the big, RBI hits.  A college coach wants a power hitter that thrives in clutch RBI opportunities.  A big power hitter looks at bases loaded with 2 outs as an OPPORTUNITY, not as a fear.  If you struggle in these RBI situations in tournaments or in high school, why would a college coach think you are going to be any different once you make it to the next level?

The Speedster

Do you have speed? Use it — consistently.  Speed kills in our sport.  Our sport is based around speed.  But it does no good to have that speed, be a lefty slapper, and not consistently be able to put the ball on the ground.

If speed is your game, show that you are player who consistently gets on base – some way, some how. That’s your job.

Have a great short game.  Remember to read the defense when you’re up to bat. Put the ball on the groundYour speed does NOT matter if you are popping the ball up.   Catch a coaches’ attention by consistently putting the ball on the ground and having great bat control. By putting the ball in play more often, you’re putting pressure on the defense, and if you have speed, you’re going to pressure them make errors, as they will hurry to get rid of the ball to get you out.

So, you have speed? You have speed AND power? Even better.  The toughest players to play against defensively are the players who can drop bombs and can also read the defense and know when to drop a bunt down the line to keep the defense off guard.  This greatly comes into play, too, because as a hitter you are going to go through slumps – it’s inevitable.  If you are in a slump, and you aren’t seeing the ball well, if you have a little bit of speed, you can lay down a bunt down the line and find another way to get on.  A college coach will notice if you are a player who is consistently finding a way on base. If you have speed USE IT, by putting the ball on the ground and causing havoc in the infield.  On base percentage is such an important statistic – even more important than batting average.

The Singles Hitter

Okay, so maybe you can’t hit the ball 300 ft and you can’t run a 2.7 to first base.  Then where do you fall?  If you are a player who is more of a singles hitter, embrace that!!  Don’t go up TRYING to hit homeruns, it’s only going to work against your game.  KNOW that you are more of a hitter who is looking to hit a single, make contact, advance runners, execute your short game.  A singles hitter can be a player who is one of the most “headsy” players on the team.  She is always looking for a way to help the team.

For example: There’s a runner at 1B with 1 out.  Your best power hitter is on deck.  Your execution job is to either lay down a sacrifice bunt OR hit behind the runner (hitting the ball to the right side).  If you happen to hit a single to the right side when you are trying to hit behind the runner, more power to you.  A singles hitter has to be a little bit more crafty in her thoughts and knowledge of the game. KNOW that you are more of a singles hitter, be a hitter that is consistently making contact, a hitter who has great at bats and and a hitter who is great at putting the ball into play.  I promise if you do this, coaches will notice (because coaches know the game and they understand that everybody has their own role), and you will be a benefit to have in the lineup.

Every offensive player in a lineup has a role.  All of these offensive roles are needed in a collegiate lineup to work together in a strategic lineup.  Don’t try to be something you aren’t.  Know your strengths.  Be consistent with those strengths.  Believe in your strengths.  Allow those strengths to flourish when college coaches’ eyes are on you.

 

3.  Softball “Savviness”

Coaches love finding players who just KNOW the game.  These are players who can think for themselves and trust their softball instincts.  I’ve noticed a lot of times, on tournament teams when I am out coaching, SO many player’s are programmed to just do exactly what their coach tells them – whether it’s when to swing or the exact defensive position to be placed in.  These player are learning to be robots, they aren’t learning to be instinctual players out in the field.  If you do not learn to think for yourself and position yourself in the game, you will not become the best instinctual softball player you can be.  A collegiate coach does not constantly want to be moving the robots out in the field during a game – there are way too many other things to worry about.

Softball savvy players are so aware of their surroundings and the game situation, that they innately know what to do almost every time the ball comes to them.

Coaches like this because then it’s less teaching they have to do about basic nuances of the game once you get to their program.  Becoming softball savvy comes from watching softball on TV, it comes from watching baseball on TV, it comes from asking questions, learning and then trusting in what you learned once you get out on the field.  If you do not trust your knowledge of the game, and you are second guessing every play and every situation, then it doesn’t matter how much you KNOW about softball, you’re not going to be able to make good decisions once you’re out on the field.

Is it in you? Are you learning or are you a robot? Don’t be a robot!!!!  Love this game so much that it just is molded into your brain and your movements out on the field.  Ask questions and learn.  TRUST what you learn and trust in yourself.  Do not be told what to do at all times — this is NOT learning.

 

4.  Competitive / Knows how to win

I’ve talked about this before in a different one of my blogs :: the ability to be competitive and have a fire in your belly that you want to win is a HUGE quality that cannot really be taught.  Knowing how to win might sound like an obvious quality, but it is a TRUE quality that college coaches are looking for in their programs.

They want players that come from winning teams (winning high school teams or winning tournament teams) because then the players get to their collegiate programs and EXPECT to win, because they don’t know anything else.   They like players who come from winning programs:: high school teams that win championships and go deep into playoffs and/or travel ball teams that play at the highest quality tournaments AND go deep into those tournaments.   Coaches are paying attention to how the teams you are apart of are doing and if winning is a culture that you are around day in and day out.  If you are used to winning, it drives you; it becomes a part of you and once you get to college, that winning attitude will stay inside of you.

Remember, college coaches keep their jobs by WINNING.  Their livelihood depends on it.  So they are going to put out on the field the best lineup that is going to give them the best chance to win.  If a player has played in a big championship game at a tournament level or high school level, then that player has championship experience at a young age, which prepares you to compete in championships at the collegiate level.

You can’t teach what it is like to feel a championship game.  You have to experience it.

The adrenaline is higher, the stakes are higher, the competition is higher.  You have to be able to control your emotions and get ready for THE BIG GAME.  So if a college coach knows that a player has championship experience, then this is an added benefit of coming to their team.  All coaches expect to be competing IN championship games for their conferences and for the post season.  Championship experience and having an attitude of “been there done that” entering the game will calm their team headed into an important game.   (No, I am not talking about players who are cocky with the “been there done that” attitude….I am talking about the players who don’t let their emotions get the best of them and are able to go into a big championship game and keep their emotions in check)

They want players who fight, who are internally competitive and hate losing.  College coaches want players who hate losing, because THEY hate losing. (Yes, I heard those of you out there who commented on my Sometimes You’re a Loser blog, and I am in agreement with you that there IS a right and wrong a way to lose. BUT in this instance, and in the Sometimes You’re a Loser blog, I am talking about an internal drive that causes you to hate losing and not want to FEEL what it’s like to lose).  But back to what I was saying about being a player who comes from a winning team–  think of it this way – the more you are winning, the more games you are playing because you stay in tournaments longer, and the longer you are in tournaments, the better the teams you are playing, so quality of competition increases. 

Overall, it’s just a win-win, no pun intended.  By playing better competition, you become a better player.  So you’re playing more games, you’re playing higher talent, and you’re learning what it’s like to truly compete in a championship atmosphere against the best of the best —– which is EXACTLY what you’re doing once you make it to college.  See why winning is important?

5.   Good Attitude & Coachable

What do your high school coaches and travel ball coaches say about your attitude and if you are a coachable player?

A coachable player is one who listens respectfully to any coach giving you direction.  A coachable player is one who does NOT think she knows more than any coach she comes across.

If a coach is giving her information, she is taking it in like a sponge.  A coachable player is someone who never stops learning and wants to continue to grow.  If your high school and tournament team coaches think that you are NOT a coachable player, then what would lead a college coach to believe that you would just magically become a coachable player whenever you got to their school?  College coaches want someone who is raw and has talent, but also someone who they can coach into an even better athlete once you get to their school.  If you are not coachable and you don’t want to learn, then you are not one of those players.

Along with being coachable, a coach wants a player who has a good attitude (This might sound cliche here, but it cannot be stressed enough).  College coaches and college players are around each other A LOT.  A good attitude makes people around you better, and you’re enjoyable to be around.  A bad attitude that is negative is not something that most of us want to be around, especially with the amount that a college team is around each other. Also, remember that our game is a game of failure — it just is! So a coach wants player who have the ability to deal with failure throughout a season because it’s going to be happening — a lot.  Sorry, but you’re not going to get a hit every time.  Hate to break it to you, but you’re going to give up a home run (or two…or twenty) in college.  A player with a positive mindset and attitude can rebound faster.  A player with a negative mindset holds on to these things.  You have to be able to move on, it’s a long college season. 

A good attitude involves caring about the team more than you care about yourself.

Players who throw fits in the dugout and show body language on the field, to me, are more worried about themselves than they are about the team.  Remember we play a team sport, because the end result of the team is more important than the end result of an individual player.  A player with a bad attitude and a selfish attitude is a cancer, I REPEAT, a cancer to ANY team.  You are only as strong as your weakest attitude.  Once you get to the collegiate level, it’s all about doing whatever it takes to win and compete.  Players who have bad attitudes hold teams back.  A coach, then, has to give that player more attention and more time than anybody else on the team, thus making that player a selfish player.

Be aware of your attitude AND your body language!! When coaches come to your games, they can see these things! Even if you don’t think are you giving off bad energy, you very well might be!  Coaches are around so many different types of players and WATCH so many different types of players; they are experienced in the arena of picking up on whether or not a player is a team player or not.  Work on your attitude and being a good teammate just like you work on your swing.  In order for a team to win a championship in college, they must have good team chemistry and a college coach does not want 1 player to hold them back from achieving their goals because that one player has a bad attitude. 

 

6.  Grades

You can’t talk about getting recruited to play college ball without the discussion of grades and what kind of student you are in the classroom. (In fact, I probably should have not put this one last on the list as it easily could be #1 and #1 for the simple reason that if you don’t pass, you don’t play…and then this whole talking about getting recruited thing is pointless).

You can be the most talented player on the field or even in an entire tournament, but if you don’t make the grades, then you can’t make it TO college or make it IN college.

I am not saying this because teachers sent me a check to write about this, or parents out there emailed me and wanted me to write about the importance of grades.  I am writing about this because this is real life and this is SOOOOO IMPORTANT.  With that being said, I am not saying that you have to make all A’s in high school; this might be achieavable for some student athletes, but definitely not for all.  I am not an expert on what exact GPA and SAT scores you have to have to get into certain schools, I will leave that research up to you.  What I do know, is that a college coach has SO much to worry about, that they don’t constantly want to have to be worried about if their players will be eligible to play due to their grades from semester to semester.  But let’s back up a second before talking about actually making the grades when in college….

….FIRST, you have to get IN to a college.  There are certain GPAs, ACT, and/or SAT scores you have to make to even be able to make it into a school to be able to play.  For some student athletes who don’t have the grades to get into a Division 1 school out of high school, some of them might even start at the junior college level.  **Remember that once you become a freshman in high school, EVERY GRADE YOU MAKE COUNTS.   So even though you  may think, “Oh I’m just a freshmen, my fall semester doesn’t count too much” — you’re wrong.

Study.  Make time for school.  Going to school and applying yourself in the classroom matters.

One of the first questions a college coach will ask after they spot a player on the field they are interested in is, “How is she in school?”  A lot of times this will make or break an athlete if they do not have good grades.  A coach looks at someone who doesn’t put in effort in school as someone that they are going to have to baby-sit once that player gets to college.  There are so many other things a college coach is worrying about and would rather worry about than making sure his/her starting centerfielder is making the grades every semester to stay eligible.  If you don’t make a certain GPA in college every semester and pass a certain amount of hours, then you become ineligible.  (Once again, I will leave it up to you to know exactly what that GPA is according to the NCAA).  If you are not making the grades at a college and become ineligible, it doesn’t matter if you have the capability of hitting 40 homerun in a season or striking out 400 girls in a year, if you don’t pass, you don’t play, and then you are unable to help your team win.

Another reason it is so important to show that you make good grades in high school is because your to-do list gets better in terms of how many different things you have to balance once you get to college.  You are on your own –  no parents to monitor how you are managing your time and if you are doing your homework.  You have a lot more on your schedule to handle and time manage — class, practice, weights, study hall, study hours on your own, when to eat, practicing on your own outside of normal team practice time, and oh yeah, a social life.  So it becomes important to know what your priorities are, and the two main ones are school and softball—- in that order.

There is A LOT that goes into being recruited by a college.  Things are happening so early now, with girls committing to play at a school when they sometimes are even in 8th grade or freshmen in high school.  It’s important to stand out.  Understand from a physical aspect what you do well – and excel at that, that’s how you can stand out.  It’s important to learn this at a young age, but at the same time, it’s never too late to learn this.  As a coach, communicate with your players about what is important and BE HONEST with them about what they need to get better at.  As a player, if your coach is trying to communicate with you about these things, it’s important to listen and be open minded.  Your coach is trying to help you get to the next level.  None of the things above matter if you don’t have a true love and passion for this game.  When you love the game, it shows.

Learn. Grow. Play hard. Be so good they can’t ignore you. 

Amanda Scarborough

Who are you Surrounded by?

Does being surrounded by players who share your values about confidence and being in the right mental state help you as an athlete?

 

 Being surrounded by players that share these values absolutely helps improve your mental state. Players can push each other on the physical side of the game, but can also push each other on the mental side. Players should be surrounded by other players who are reinforcing that feel good, play good mentality.  Try to get your teammates to hop on board with those same values. Confidence is contagious.  Be someone that your teammates can look to, who plays the game confidently and with a strong presence.

Be a teammate who makes your other teammates better and stronger.  By playing the game with confidence and with a strong mind, you make others around you play the game better, as well.  Not only will  you feel better and stronger off the field, but you will see positive results on the field — having more fun, winning more games, relaxing while you play.

These values not only affect you on the playing field, but off the playing field.  The confidence and the mental state you are learning on the softball field greatly affects you in every day life at school and at home.  To be completely honest, it doesn’t just have to do with players who share the same values, but with coaches who share similar values and are reinforcing a positive mindset and helping players to feel their most confident.

3 Things to do When Approaching a Pitcher During a Game

So a pitcher is in a bit of a pickle, and as a coach, you know you need to call time out to go and talk to her. A big part of coaching, in my opinion, is knowing when to call that time out to go and talk to a pitcher. Timing is everything with those time outs. That time out can serve as a tool to calm down your pitcher and/or defense. It can also serve as a way to slow down the other team. You must have a feel for the game and understand when that time out needs to be called!  Sometimes it can be called too early and sometimes it can be called too late.

EVERY pitcher has been through those tough innings; innings where you can’t throw strikes, innings where your pitches can’t seem to miss a hitters bat. Negativity is most likely already running through a pitcher’s head, and if that is the case, it’s going to be hard to get outs with all of those negative thoughts piling up in a pitcher’s mind. If a coach is going to call timeout to go and talk to her, don’t make it worse! Be positive for her. Be a rock. Be a source of information that is going to HELP her get through this icky situation.

Remember, when a time out is called it is all about HER in the circle.

Give Her a Small Mechanical Fix

Amanda Scarborough Texas A&MMaybe ONE thing mechanical might be helpful. I’m not always one to like to talk about mechanics during a game, in fact I do not really endorse it, but in some situations I do think it can be helpful. I know from being a pitcher myself that pitchers look for quick fixes in practice and in games. Them trying to think about one small mechanical change can help get their mind off of the pressure they are feeling in the circle and they can feel like that one mechanical fix can be the one thing that turns their game around. I know it sounds silly, but pitchers are funny and quirky like that!

We are so used to hearing coaches tell us what to do, and knowing that when a coach tells us a mechanical fix that we get better results, that this could actually work during a game. I am all for a pitcher thinking for herself and being her own pitching coach in the circle during the game, BUT I also know that sometimes the game passes you by very fast when nothing is really going your way, and you need that shoulder to lean on to try to help dig you out of the hole you got yourself into.

I am NOT saying to go out and reinvent the wheel, but one thing a pitcher could key on. “Hey make sure you have a quick back side.” “Hey make sure you’re not falling off.” “Let’s get some faster arm speed going on and attack this hitter.” There are certain comfort mechanics that makes every pitcher feel better and put back at ease. Find out what those comfort mechanics are for each pitcher.   The worst mechanic you can tell her to fix is the one she has been trying and trying at practice to work on but can’t seem to get.  Tell her just one quick thing, not 5-6 things.  That one thing could get her in the right frame of mind to mentally take on the next hitter with a positive attitude.

Mind you, the mechanical fix might go in one ear and out the other if she is not used to working with you. She won’t trust what you’re telling her, so she is less likely to feel better and stronger in the circle after you talk to her. You better build a relationship prior to calling the timeout with your pitcher. 

Stay positive, stay calm

If you go out there and look like you are in a panic, then your pitcher and infield will start to panic – I GUARANTEE it. Girls are so good at picking up on emotions and tightness from people, especially their coach. So even if you THINK you are being calm and are collected, are you really? Panic mode does not help anybody, and it really doesn’t help your team stay calm through a tough situation and feel like they can work out of a jam and end up making a come back. Nobody plays well tight.

Amanda Scarborough Texas A&MThings like “let’s throw strikes” might seem like the ideal thing to say and may seem positive because it doesn’t have a negative word in it, but it really doesn’t have a great connotation to it. A pitcher is fully aware when she is or is not throwing strikes. It’s pointless for you to tell her “let’s throw strikes” if you are not going to tell her anything after that comment to help her do so. It just makes her more frustrated, and you’re stating the obvious.

Every pitcher wants to feel like her defense and coaches believe in her.

“I know you can do it.” “You can work through this.” “I believe in you.” Mind you, this must be said with good body language and a good attitude coming from the coach or they are pointless comments and actually work against you. Give her a sense of comfort, not disappointment. The last thing girls want to do is disappoint anybody. Girls are such pleasers.

Things that are generally good to say to every pitcher are, “Slow yourself down. Take a little bit more time in between every pitch and remember to breathe.” A lot of pitchers get in trouble because when things start to go downhill they start to work faster and take less time in between pitches. By slowing down, it gives you extra breathing and extra time to think/focus on the task at hand.

Tell her the plan for going at this next hitter

We all like plans. Plans can give us a bit of ease and confidence. Knowledge gives us comfort. If you go out to talk to your pitcher, a helpful thing can be letting her know how you’re planning on throwing the next hitter. “Hey this girl got out on a change up her last at bat, you made her look really bad on it. Let’s try to set up that pitch again in this at bat.” OR “I noticed that this girl CANNOT hit the outside pitch. Let’s throw her out there and see if we can get her to swing and miss or roll over a ground ball to the left side.”

Amanda Scarborough Texas A&MOR “Hey this girl is seeing the ball well, we are going to try to pitch around her, not give her anything good to hit. You’ve had success against the girl on deck, let’s try to go at her.” THIS is helpful information.

If she has had 3-4 hits off her in the game, where the hitters have really squared up on a ball, then it can be good to tell her the plan is to start mixing speeds a little bit more OR remind her to work slightly more down or slightly more off the plate. Minimize the adjustment. It’s not a BIG one, just being able to work inches in order to have more success against the hitters in getting them to miss.

Help a pitcher recognize what pitch is working best for them. As a pitcher sometimes you get so caught up in the inning and in the moment that everything is going by really fast. You’re just throwing. You’re not pitching. That time out can be used as a reminder to point out what is working well for a pitcher, “Hey your screw ball is looking awesome, let’s stick with that pitch and go at these hitters and see if we can get out of this!” (Now..realize sometimes as pitchers we can be delusional and think that one pitch is working, when it’s really not…)

You as a coach have to be really in tune with the game and really in tune with your pitcher.

If you are not going to go out there and give her helpful information, then your timeout is only really going to be used to slow down the other team, but your pitcher isn’t going to mentally be getting anything out of the meeting.

One of the coaches on the team should be dedicated to working with the pitchers so that they can develop a relationship and an understanding of each other. It’s hard for a pitcher to listen to 3 different coaches giving her information.  All 3 coaches may think they know pitching, and they may be giving a pitcher different information and different things to work on.  That is mixed signals and can be confusing.  One coach working with the pitchers is the best in order to develop a strong relationship and keep things simple mentally for the pitcher.

Every pitcher is different with how she wants to be approached (we all have different personalities). Every pitcher is different with the things she keys on with her mechanics. Instead of thinking about what YOU like to say or teach, or what YOU like to hear, really understand what SHE likes to hear. Work with her before the game, and understand what her pitches are looking like. Understand what some of her “quick fixes” are when she is pitching and things she likes to hear that make her feel comfortable outside of the game.

The more a pitcher feels like you are trying to get to know HER, the more likely she is going to be to listen to you. Where coaches get into trouble is that they make it all about them and are not customizable with how they approach or work with a pitcher. Remember there may be things that you are saying that seem like good mechanical fixes to YOU, but doesn’t resonate well with a pitcher. She might not understand it; it might not click with her. So it’s up to you as a coach to communicate differently to truly speak to her. Challenge yourself to come up with something different. Or here is a novel idea, ASK her what she wants to hear during a game that can help her get through a tough situation. If she doesn’t know because she has never thought of it before, then tell her to take a couple days to think about it, and get back to you.

Amanda Scarborough Texas A&M

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