Who is your favorite team? What do they LOOK like on the field?
3. Same Game, Different Stage – They make mistakes too (good for players AND parents to realize this)
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…
What’s the difference between mental toughness and feeling good to play good? Are they one in the same or completely different?
Mental toughness and feeling good to play good are different in my opinion. Mental toughness comes into play when a game is on the line and you can stay calm and focused when all of the pressure is on YOU. You are able to focus on the task at hand and ignore everything else that is going on around you (fans cheering, dugout hollering, the intimidating batter at the plate). It’s very similar to that idea of “clear the mechanism” in the Kevin Costner movie, For Love of the Game (if you haven’t watched this movie you need to!). Mental toughness also comes from ignoring tiredness that may be setting in or any kind of small pain you may be feeling. When you are mentally tough, NOTHING ELSE matters but the task at hand. Mentally tough hitters want to be the one up to bat with the bases loaded and 2 outs in a tie ballgame. Mentally tough pitchers want to be the one in the circle with a full count and the 4-hole hitter up to bat with the game on the line. Mentally tough players are not complaining about weather, umpires, opponents, soreness. Mentally tough players do not even notice these things. One thing about mentally tough players, they don’t even have to have the best mechanics — they are so mentally strong and their will to succeed is so high, they will do whatever it takes to win.
Feeling good to play good deals with the general feeling you get about the game itself. If a feel good to play good atmosphere is not created, then it will be more challenging for a player to be mentally tough in clutch situations. Feeling good to play good deals with the atmosphere and scene that is going on around the game itself. Do you feel like you have coaches who believe in you? Do you feel like you have parents who support you no matter if you strike out or give up home runs? Do you feel good in your uniform? Did you prepare enough at practice that week? When a player plays in an atmosphere that gives her confidence, she is going to flourish and surpass anyone’s level of expectations. Feeling good to play good is especially important for girls. Girls are different than boys. Girls have to FEEL good to PLAY good. And boys PLAY good to FEEL good. Surround a player in an atmosphere where it’s nothing but positivity, strong role models and a big support system, and you’re going to see a player SOAR when it comes to her results.
Often, I will use the phrase, “Be your own pitching coach.” You might not know exactly what that means or you might say, “But I have a pitching coach already…” and I would say that’s fine. BUT when it comes right down to it, and you’re in the middle of the circle with bases loaded and a full count on the hitter, that pitching coach can’t make the pitch happen FOR you. To “be your own pitching coach” means to learn to think for yourself, learn to FEEL for yourself and learn to make corrections on your own.
This just can’t magically happen in games, it has to be practiced at practice!
If you’ve taken lessons with me before, or come to one of my clinics, then you know one of my favorite things to ask is, “How did that FEEL?” I want a pitcher to slow her mind down, and actually have to take time to understand what her body just went through to create a certain pitch. In order to do that, you must take more time in between pitches to start to understand FEELING and let your brain figure out what exactly it did feel. Feel is such a big part of pitching.
To feel means to understand what every body part is doing from fingers, down to hips down to knees and toes.
It means that someone can tell you an adjustment to make and simply by words alone, it can create a feel to that body part of what that body part needs to do differently the next pitch in order to make an adjustment. This is THE biggest thing to have as a pitcher. If you aren’t feeling, then you aren’t pitching. A pitching coach who is just going to tell the pitcher everything to do after every single pitch isn’t helping to create that feel. That’s making a pitcher a robot. Robots don’t feel, they change on command. A pitching coach who tells his/her pitcher every single movement to make is not enabling that pitcher to think for herself
Being your own pitching coach is essentially like being your own boss.
How would you like it if your boss came into your office and said, “Do this…do that…no do is this way…no that’s not right…” Eventually, you would either get burnt out, or you would stop thinking for yourself. Then, when it came time for you to change jobs or “perform” on a big stage, you might freeze, and not be sure of yourself because previously, someone had told you every single move to make. Instead, I think it would feel more empowering to ask YOU, “What do you think about doing it this way?” or “How do YOU think we should do it?” Then you can answer, and think for yourself, and come up with an answer TOGETHER. It’s teaching someone and not just TELLING them. Teaching takes a little bit more time. Just telling someone something is a quick way to get it over with, but it doesn’t help out the other person as much. It’s the same way when a pitcher is learning not JUST what a pitching coach thinks, but also learning to form an opinion of her own about what she thinks works for HER. By talking about what you feel with your pitching mechanics and having to actually talk about out loud about them, you learn to have more confidence and truly understand what your body does in order to make a pitch happen. You’re learning. You’re making mistakes. You’re growing. Most importantly, you are learning to take responsibility for YOUR pitching craft. It may be uncomfortable at first, but it is SO good for you, and you will eventually get more and more used to it.
Be your own pitching coach means thinking for yourself and being able to come up with an answer on your own without someone telling you what to do. Come game time, your pitching coach may not be at warm ups with you and he/she definitely won’t be out on the field with you. So how are you going to handle your own thoughts? How are you going to make your own adjustments and even REALIZE that it’s time to have adjustments? THIS is what pitching is all about. You can’t look to your parents for answers you can’t always look to your coach for answers. A lot of times, you have to look deep inside yourself. Don’t be a robot out there in the pitching circle. Be you. Trust your thoughts in the game by learning to trust them in practice.
Look to yourself for the answers first.
Try new things. Be inventive. Something may work for you that a pitching coach didn’t TELL you to do, but if it WORKS (if it REALLY works), then you should be able to do it. I loved when I gave lessons and one of my girls would come up to me and say, “At practice, I was playing around with my curve ball, and I realized that when I throw it, if I put my hand HERE then it doesn’t work, but I slightly moved it back a little, and then it helped with the movement of it.” <— THIS IS AWESOME…AMAZING…INCREDIBLE. If you can do this, if you are willing to even try new things on your own, you are going to grow and grow and grow. Nothing will stop you. This means that you are truly feeling what you are doing and are taking the time to understand pitching mechanics, think for yourself and isolating different body parts to make small changes along the way that will pay off to be big changes down the road.
At your next practice, think on YOUR OWN and be your own pitching coach. Think about what you FEEL is going wrong with a certain pitch or your mechanics. Slow your mind down to think about what your adjustment is. This pays off down the road. We should be free thinkers, able to express ourselves and come up with our own solution. It’s good to ask people for help, but it’s not good to ask people for answers ALL the time. Figure out some things on your own, it will stay with you longer and make you feel like later on when you need an answer or a quick fix, that the answer is already inside of you….just have to think about it a little to pull it out!
A Change Up is a MUST HAVE weapon for a pitcher! For almost all pitchers, a Change Up is the second pitch that is learned after a Fastball. A Change Up is a pitch that should be anywhere between 10-20 mph slower than your fastest pitch. The speed differential is determined on how fast you normally throw. Being able to change speeds is critical to have success for a full 7 inning game where you will face the same hitter 3 or 4 times in the same game. For a hitter – timing is everything. So as a pitcher, it’s important to disrupt that timing by mixing speeds throughout the course of a game to show the hitter something different to keep them off balance and guessing!
There are lots of different ways to release a Change Up! If there were 100 pitchers standing in front of me, there would be 100 different ways they would tell me they release it! A Change Up release will be unique to each pitcher and needs to feel COMFORTABLE for that pitcher to believe in and trust in it. However, regardless of HOW you choose to throw YOUR change up, there are a couple of things that need to remain consistent:
The hitter must never know a Change Up is coming! This means from the facial expressions you show from taking the signal from the catcher with the nod of your head and the look in your eyes, to the way that you FINISH your pitch without slowing down through your release, EVERYTHING must look identical to your routine of your other pitches. Your arm speed should stay the same from the wind up of your pitch to the end release of your pitch. You must fool the hitter and hide it from them until it is coming at them!
When practicing this pitch AND throwing it in a game, you would rather miss it low and in the dirt than belt-high. It’s much easier for a hitter to hit that pitch when it is up in the zone than ankle high. Aim low! Work on keeping this pitch down by adjusting your release point (releasing it earlier generally keeps the pitch lower) and you can also adjust where your weight is at release (having your weight slightly forward will angle the ball down as well).
No matter how you throw it, it’s important to prove that you will throw a Change Up in different counts. Too often a pattern is formed to throw a change up only on 0-2 and 1-2 counts. Mix the Change Up in to different counts to keep the hitter guessing. Throw it for a first pitch. Throw it on a 3-2 count. Another way to keep the change up unpredictable is to possibly not throw it for an inning (please note this should be based on how the other team is recognizing the pitch and adjusting). Or maybe one inning you throw it once, another inning you throw it 10 times. Do not fall into a certain pattern for how often you are trying to throw the pitch in a single inning. Maybe you don’t even SHOW the other team your Change Up until the second time through the order! This can be very effective as well! Your job as a pitcher is to keep the hitter guessing!
A Change Up can be too fast and a Change Up can be too slow. If it’s too fast, it doesn’t affect a hitter’s timing, their swing can stay the exact same and they have a high probability to “run into” a pitch and get a hit. If it’s too slow, a hitter can reload, sit back, see the pitch coming, and put a good swing on it. It’s important to find the perfect speed for your change up and be able to practice it at that speed. I suggest using a radar gun for this purpose – so you know if you are consistently throwing the pitch at a certain speed and/or if you need to speed it up/slow the pitch down. Some pitchers can get away with their Change Up being 10mph slower. Other pitchers need their Change Up to be between 17-20 mph different. Generally, the faster you throw, the more mph you will need to take off of your pitch. If you throw 70mph, you will need to take around 15-20 off. If you throw 50mph, then you may only need to take about 10mph off. Monitor what speed you are throwing your Change Up at in a game versus at practice. Pay attention to how and if you are fooling hitters. Are they getting fooled? Are they barreling up to the ball? Play with it! Try different speeds to see what works the best!
Even if your change up is not your best pitch OR if your Change Up is your best pitch but it is not working in a game, keep throwing it!! Keep a good attitude about it, and keep showing it to the other team. When the opposing team and the hitter up to bat sees you throw a Change Up, it keeps it in the back of their mind that it is a pitch they may have to face when the hit against you. You always want them to believe that there is a threat of you throwing it. Even when it is not working perfectly, you SHOWING it to the hitter disrupts their timing by their eyes and brain SEEING a pitch coming out of your hand at a different speed.
Do not give up on your Change Up!
Just because you may not use your Change Up as your strike out pitch, does NOT mean to stop throwing it! If it’s your weakness right now, it can always turn into your strength if you keep working at it. Be aware of the way you are thinking about your Change Up! If you always say it’s your worst pitch, then it will stay your worst pitch. Practice your thoughts and what you are saying to your friends, coaches and parents about your Change Up! It does NO GOOD to speak negatively about it. What are you doing at your practices to make this pitch better?! This pitch is a MUST HAVE tool for a pitcher!
I asked for players to send in their favorite picture with their favorite quotes to go along with it! I got pictures in from all across the country, and here are the 5 winners I picked!
One of the words I most frequently heard at Texas A&M from head coach, Jo Evans, was “COMPETE.”
Competition fuels desire. Competition adds drive. Competing has become somewhat of a lost art for this generation of softball players, and one that I hear from many college coaches that is a characteristic they are searching for in their future athletes. Nowadays, more often than not,competing is a quality that is having to be taught, instead of being innate.
When I use the word “compete” I am referring to that inner fire that burns to go out on the field and beat the team in the opposing dugout, to compete for a position and to compete against yourself to see just how good you can really be.
Competition is one of those lessons that sports builds in you, if you allow it. However, being around the softball fields at the select and college levels, I see fewer and fewer girls who are showing up and just flat out competing when they are out on that field.
Competing is one of the biggest things college coaches are looking for in players right now. Many times, they are claiming that it is a quality that is missing In recruits across the country. Some coaches will even take that desire to compete over a player who has better talent. It’s that competitive nature that makes you a great teammate and allows you to be a player that other coaches and teammates would want to go to war with. It’s not always about the player who has the most talent; it’s about the player who has talent and has a fierce competitive drive that runs deep inside of her.
In my mind, this is the form of competition that drives a player the most and is the deepest form. This is the competition that actually drives the other 2 forms of competition (competing for a position and competing against other teams). As important as it is to have drive to go out and compete against another team and to beat someone out for a position, it all comes down to a player competing against herself. The drive for the other 2 forms of competition comes from pure competition against your own self.
What does it mean to compete against yourself? You can answer that question by answering what are you doing when no one is watching? When no coach’s eyes are on you, who is pushing you? When there are no other players around at practice, who is pushing you? The answer to this must lie internally that you become your own coach and your biggest motivator to compete against yourself. True passion comes out when no one’s eyes are on you. This includes not cheating the number of reps and not always looking around to make sure that your coaches aren’t watching you. Nobody should be having to make sure you are doing the right thing at all times other than yourself. Take pride in being your own coach and your biggest motivator. If someone is constantly pushing you to try to get you to compete and to be motivated, maybe it’s time to re evaluate whether this is the sport for you.
These moments of competition come by trying to become a better player with every swing you take or every pitch you throw. It’s this internal motivation that will push you to become a great player. When you’re competing against yourself, you don’t even need anybody else to push you. This is something learned at a young age. I believe it’s important to try to teach players the want to practice on their own. The more they are forced, the less competitive with themselves they will be since they were forced to be out there in the first place. An internally competitive person will ask the dad to go out and catch her pitching, instead of the other way around. An internally competitive person will take the tee outside on their own to hit in the backyard with no one prompting her to do so. When you compete with yourself, you can’t wait to practice to get better and work hard to see just how good you can really get.
“I’m Amanda and I am a pitcher. I know that the more I practice, the better I get. Every time I go out to practice I feel like I get better and have good command of my pitches. I look great in the bullpen. When I go out to a game, I walk a lot of people, give up a lot of hits and I feel like I am letting my coaches down. I am letting myself down, too. So I might as well not even practice, because if I am going to let people down anyway, maybe it will look like I’m not trying as hard and that’s why I don’t have good game results.” The fear of letting someone down is greater than the drive to compete, and it takes over mentally. Being a girl myself, and a former player, I know for a fact that girls think this. It might sound crazy or fake, but it’s a well known fact that girls are pleasers and want to make everyone happy. So this absolutely goes through their head. The less a player feels like they are going to let their coach or parent down, the more their inner competition will be able to thrive. The only person a player should play for is herself and the rest will fall into place.
Creating a positive atmosphere with coaches and parents will actually increase a player’s ability to compete with all of her heart. It’s important as a coach and a parent to communicate that no matter what happens or how a player performs, your relationship will be okay, and nothing from the softball field possibly the end of the world. When a player is surrounded in this atmosphere, she will push herself the most and be the most competitive player. Always remember happiness is beautiful.
You have to compete with yourself first before any competition can happen with anybody else or any other team. When you learn to compete with yourself, the sky is the limit to what you can achieve.
COMPETE EVERY PITCH.
So I’m sure a lot of you played this weekend and are just getting done this Sunday. You probably even play next weekend (because yes, it’s THAT time of year). Here are some steps to get back prepared for next weekend:
1) Reflect on this past weekend. Ask yourself, what can I work on? Divide it with pitching, hitting and defense. (pick out 1-2 things, not 6-7. be realistic). Write these things down.
2) From those things, list HOW you are going to work on those things. (Drills that would be beneficial. If you don’t KNOW of any drills, google it, youtube it, ask a coach what are some good drills).
3) Pull out a calendar/schedule and look ahead to this week. Plan out some practice time. You might even want to take Monday off if you had a long weekend- your body NEEDS REST.
4) Make sure everything is accounted for to make this schedule happen – time, needed catchers, parents who need to be there and work schedules, social life, etc.
5) Commit to that schedule.
6) Go into next weekend feeling prepared and ready to get better at those things you worked on during the week. Your mind and body should feel more prepared going into the weekend.
7) After next weekend, repeat steps 1-6.
Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.
Below a picture of an example of what I am talking about. 🙂 Let me know below in the comments if you need any help thinking of some ways to work on the items that you list!
Was just going back through old videos and came across this pitching mechanics one that has basic tips to help you out a long the way. What I love when I look back over this video is the fact that no matter what age you are at, you can always re-learn from going back over basic fundamentals and make sure your body is in check.
I would love to hear your feedback. Here is what others have said:
Thank you, you helped so much! I am 12 and I am going to try to be a pitcher for the fall at my school. I love how you say stuff like “it is just like opening a doorknob” those tips help sooo much!
This video helped me alot i am a 12 year old going into 12 -15 and im a pitcher thankyou so much ur amazing!!! 🙂
This helped soo much! im in 7th grade and working on my pitching. i just wish i had a softball when i watched to remember where my hand goes! thanks team express!!
– Anna Williams
Thank-you I’m really new at pitching.This video is helping me with the basics.I am 12 and trying to become a good pitcher.I CAN DO. THIS!! 🙂
I asked “Where are you?” and you guys told AND showed me! From all over the country and from all over the world, softball brings us all together. Texas, Michigan, Germany, Kansas, Alabama, California, Georgia, New York, Italy, Canada, and MANY more…..We go through the same problems, and we all learn the same lessons no matter what uniform or state we are in.
When I looked through these photos I saw SO much coming out of them – family, fun, pride, happiness, independence, teamwork, mechanics, drive and absolute passion shining through them all. THANK YOU for sharing your pictures with me and giving me a small glimpse into your own personal softball world! Love seeing others play this amazing sport
Sent in by Melissa Ortega. Socorro, NM.
Sent in by Tim Richards. Spring Hill, TN.
Sent in by Jennifer Brady Dirickson. Comanche, TX.
Sent in by Monica Pendergrass Farley. Sydney (pictured) from Robbinsville, NC.
Sent in from Kim Perez Dominguez. Galveston, TX Galveston 8U Lassie League.
Sent in by Natalie Danules Williams. Byron, GA.
Sent in from Johnny Garcia. Lil Sis Madison is from Odessa, TX. Texas Express 10U.
Sent in from Missy Vires. London, KY.
Sent in from Stefani Moldenhauer. Central California.
Sent in from Cristina Zunker. Bryan/College Station, TX.
Sent in from Paula L. Miller. Rantoul, IL.
Sent in from Kacie White. Moss Bluff, LA.
Sent in from Nikki Gomez. Bertram, TX.
Sent in from Leslie Franks Brewer. Liberty Hill, TX.
Sent in from Brad Reid. Newark, TX. 10U Firecrackers.
Sent in from Steve Ward. Hernando, MS.
Sent in from Kim Wendelboe-Gaffney. Little Elm, TX.
Sent in from Crystal Fonville Rogers. Blue Ridge, TX.
Sent in from Adam Pena. Hereford, TX. Lady Legends 14U
Sent in from Jen Seidel Sowers. Pennsylvania.
Sent in from Bev Wasinger. Addisyn Linton (her granddaughter) from Garden City, KS, but she plays in Colorado for the Majestix. Addisyn gets to see the Rocky Mts almost every weekend. Bev lives in Colorado Springs
Picture from Danielle Ratliff-Reed. SlapOut Alabama (Holtville)
Sent in from Stephanie Koch. Austin, TX. Pictured is her daughter from Impact Gold 12U with Amy Hooks, her catching coach and former University of Texas Catcher and Big 12 Player of the Year in her senior year.
Sent in from Mai-Iinh Goins. Maryville, TN
Sent in from Michelle Duva Gurysh. Langhorne, PA (Bucks County)
Send in from Tracy Leter Bizzee Hawkins. Location Unknown.
Sent in from Rachael Craigen. Warren, TX
Sent in from Misty Hogden from Orange, TX
Tisha Wilson from Centerville Texas. This team is from Mexia, TX and they just took 2nd place in a tournament in Grand Prairie, TX after just their 4th tournament playing together as a team.
Sent in by Saybra Slayton. Olivia (pictured) is 9 years old. Over the years their local softball league has lost some support, so some creative coaches planned their first “Westmoreland Girls Softball Tu-Tu Tournament.”
Sent in by Jessica Dirk. Bismarck, ND.
Sent in by Heidi Troche. Bayou City Boom. Katy, TX.
Sent in by Kendra L. Key-Garrigan. Jasper, AL.
Sent in by Angela Guillot. Anna (pictured) from Millbrook, AL.
Sent in by Christine Minor Dudgeon. Columbus, OH.
Sent in by Johnny Garcia. Yuma, AZ.
Sent in by Carlos Menchacha. McAllen, TX. (3 games where the high was 107 degrees!!)
1) Competing Against Other teams