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…

How Many Days A Week Should I Practice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love to pitch.

High School Softball Season Survivor Guide – Grievance 4: Teammate’s Drive Not There

This is the last and final Grievance! If you missed parts 1-3, see below!

Grievance 1: Playing Time

Grievance 2: The Competition

Grievance 3: Teammates

Grievance #4 – The Drive of My Teammate is Not There

Uncontrollables: Your teammates’ drive; Your teammates’ attitude; Your teammates’ competitiveness

Controllables: YOUR drive; YOUR attitude; YOUR competetiveness

Yes, it’s hard when you are surrounded by players who aren’t as driven as you, and with high school ball, you don’t really have a choice!  You ask yourself, what are the things I currently can control? The answer is that it’s all about YOU.  It’s not about anybody else.  Now is the time you push YOURSELF harder and day in and day out try to maintain a consistent mindset.  Every day at practice you show up to the field wanting to get better. Every game you show up to the field wanting to leave it all out on the field.  Nobody else’s mindset should control this or change what YOU are about.

  • Lead by example
  • Don’t let others attitude affect you
  • Push yourself more and maintain a consistent mindset

This game is what YOU make it, not what someone else makes it.  Any given day YOU are in complete control of how you approach the game, how you approach your teammates and how you approach becoming the best player you can possibly be.  High school softball is preparing you for the next level of softball for you in college or the next level of your life in getting a job.  You must always be able to control what YOU can control, no matter what.

In the end, remember, you are playing someone else when you look at the scoreboard, but this game is really about YOU competing against YOURSELF.  You should be pushing yourself in different ways and getting uncomfortable in different situations so that you continue to grow, and you are prepared for anything that is thrown at you when you make it to the next level.

Always control what you can.  Look at every situation, and give an honest answer of what you can and cannot control about it.

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

What does it mean to be competitive? Part 3 – Competing Against Yourself

(This month’s topic will be broken down into 3 parts)
This month, I have sent out Part 1 and Part of this topic “Competing Against Other Teams” and “Competing For Your Position.”
To see Part 1 of this topic click here
To see Part 2 of this topic

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.

Competing Against Yourself 

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.

Me against myself

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.

Work for a cause not for applause
I believe some players are scared to compete with themselves because they don’t want to see how good they can actually get because they don’t want to let someone (coach, parent, friend) down on the field.  More importantly, they don’t want to let themselves down.  Let me explain this a little bit further and give an example:

“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.

Practice as if your're the worst

 

COMPETE EVERY PITCH.

Remembering to Remember to Breathe

April to the beginning of June tests me every year. Post season college softball starts to heat up which has me traveling across the country for various studio appearances or college softball games, where I serve as a college softball analyst. I break down players/teams, which is why this part of year is so busy, because it’s the part of the season that matters most, and at the end of it, a National Champion will be crowned.


Amanda Scarborough ESPN

I have people around me who have to remind me to breathe and take it one day at a time.

These people each challenge me to be better in their own unique ways. I tend to look ahead to the days and weeks ahead in the future and think of everything I have to get done and can start to feel overwhelmed. Not only do I want to get it done, but I want it to get done perfectly.

Most athletes, especially pitchers, for better or for worse, are perfectionists.

We want everything to be perfect RIGHT NOW. With everything I do in life, I want to be great at it…I can’t help it, guess you can say I am competitive with myself. I’ve been that way ever since middle school, I think, where I really wanted to prepare for tests and study hard. I had to in order to make good grades; and I didn’t just want good grades, I wanted all A’s. I wasn’t really competing against anybody else, just myself.

Because I have that perfectionism side to me, it’s so good to have people around me who remind me that things don’t have to be perfect in order for them to be okay. I kindly accept people in my life who remind me to breathe, because sometimes I feel like I forget. My mom loves to tell me just because it doesn’t get done today doesn’t mean it can’t get done tomorrow – something so simple, but always good to hear(If it were up to me, everything on my to do list would get done in one day). (I love to do lists) But that’s not realistic, not everything can get done in one day. Those are unrealistic expectations. It’s just like on the field, it’s on every players’ “to do list” to be an All American, but you can’t be one by the age of 12. It’s unrealistic. You have to learn first to be able to become that All American down the road.  You can’t jump over the steps of the process to go from A to Z over night in anything in life.

Learn. Grow. Repeat.

I am still like the average girl athlete, even as a 28 year old, only thing that is different is the setting. Instead of on a field practicing, I am on a plane flying from one location to the next. I still get stretched in ways I never thought possible with my time and sacrifice for the things I am passionate about. I am a perfectionist. I want to please everyone. And I want things to get done – fast. But sometimes…they can’t….and I am realizing that that’s ok

For the majority of the time, I understood on the field that results couldn’t come instantly, nor could they come perfectly.

I didn’t like it. But I understood it. Life is the exactly same way. You work at something (a job, a relationship, a hobby, etc) and you might not figure everything out in a day. But it’s okay not to figure it out in a day. It’s okay not to have answers right away. (Patience is a virtue). It might even be months or years before you see the exact results you are looking for, and that’s ok. Better yet, maybe the results came differently than you anticipated, and they ended up being better than imagined.   I remind myself, in the end everything will be ok, if it’s not ok, then it’s not the end. I love that because it can apply to anything in life you let it apply to. (the key word there being “let”)

It’s so important to have those people around me reminding me to take it one task at a time, one day at a time.

One pitch at a time, one at bat at a time. Same song, different verse.

Those people around us who remind us we are ok when we are struggling and don’t judge the struggle are the ones who can matter the most and truly affect us.

They recognize when we are at our worst, or on our way to the worst, and they catch us from falling and pull us back up. Those people are the ones who keep us sane and make us take a deep breath and realize everything will be ok.  We are so lucky to have those people. Be thankful and appreciative of whoever that person or people are. Tell them now how thankful you are for them being in your life. Don’t wait to tell them, you know who they are now.  Let them know.  Most importantly, open yourself up and allow those people to be there for you.

When you’re fighting yourself, don’t fight others.

Whether it’s your teammates, friends, sisters, brothers or parents, allow someone to pick you up when you’re at your worst. The hardest time to listen can be when we are most frustrated, and ironically that is when we need to listen most. Really listen to the advice they are trying to give you. The benefit can make you feel better on a day where you feel stressed, imperfect or unworthy.

Those people are like our little angels flying all around us, but they can only help if we let them.

Understanding the Strike Zone – As A Pitcher

Amanda Scarborough - Texas A&M Softball Pitcher

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

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

All you can ask is for an umpire to be CONSISTENT with his zone and whatever he is calling

As a Pitcher…

There is a lot a pitcher has to think about during a game.  Pitch calling, setting up hitters, what a hitter saw her last at bat, what a hitter hit her last at bat, situational pitching, etc.  To add to that list, it’s important for a pitcher to understand the zone behind the plate.  You recognize it, understand it, and work with it.  You are seeing with your own two eyes what IS and what is NOT being called.  Is the umpire’s zone wide? (calling a lot OFF the corners of the plate or up/down in the zone). Is the umpire’s zone small? (squeezing you, not calling a lot of pitches you think are strikes).  Recognize it.  Don’t be fearful of it.  Rise to the challenge – this is a great time to prove yourself.  This is your time to bring out the competitive mentality that sports is all about.

Small Zone

You are definitely going to come across umpires out there who will have a smaller zone.  Realize on the day you throw to these umpires, you will probably get hit a little bit more than you’re used to. Honestly, this is a tough challenge for a pitcher, especially one who is inexperienced with this type of situation.  Consider it an opportunity to get better, not a disadvantage.  An umpire with a smaller strike zone is making you tougher mentally and physically.  Can you handle it?  Look at it positively rather than negatively.  An umpire with a smaller zone is challenging you to get more accurate and precise than you ever thought you would need to be.  When you have a small strike zone, work on the plate to try to establish the strike zone early in the at bat, then as the count goes on and you get ahead, work more off the plate.

Work inches.  Have you heard this term before?   “Working inches” as a pitcher means to not make MAJOR adjustments at first with your location to try to find the strike zone. Work on bringing your pitches a little bit higher in the zone (if the umpire is not calling a low zone) or a little bit more on the plate (if an umpire is not giving you much off the corners).  See how far you can still live on the corners and get the umpire to call it a strike.  If an umpire is not calling a certain placement of a pitch a strike, STOP THROWING IT THERE! It’s not rocket science!  Don’t go from throwing a pitch a little bit off the plate to throwing it right down the middle when you are trying to adjust to the strike zone.  WORK INCHES to find the zone.  Try to find the pinpoint spot that makes an umpire happy.  Remember, he’s not going anywhere.  It’s your job to adjust to him, not his job to adjust to you.

It’s important with a smaller strike zone to challenge the hitter.  Still make them earn their way on (i.e. put the ball in play, get a hit).  Try to limit your walks, as when you have an umpire with a small zone, walks usually increase.  Challenging the hitter means on a 3-0 or 3-1 count, you come more on the plate, even if it means throwing it closer to the middle of the plate, so that you do not walk the hitter.  Challenge them to hit a strike.  When you are challenging a hitter, think in your head how a hitter is meant to fail (remember a good batting average is around .300-.400, which means 6/10 or 7/10 times a hitter does NOT get a hit).

What is even more important, is not to get frustrated and show it with your outward appearance – your body language, facial expressions and overall presence.  First and for most you are a leader on your team, and your team feeds off of your energy.  If you show them that you are frustrated with the strike zone, they are going to get frustrated with you and play tight back behind you and up at the plate.  If you show them that everything is under control, they will play more relaxed (aka stronger) defense back behind you — you will need it as hitters usually put more balls into play when there is a smaller strike zone because you have to come more on the plate to the hitter.  Not only do your teammates feed off of the energy you are giving off, either positively or negatively, in response to the umpire, the opposing team recognizes your body language, confidence and attitude towards the zone.  Don’t give the opposing team  any ammunition to use against you as they will try to push you further down than you already are if you are showing emotion.  And finally, the umpire is looking right at you for most of the game.  When he sees your attitude and body language, that’s not really going to give him a reason to have more calls go your way.  In fact, it’s probably going to have the opposite effect because you are embarrassing him and pretty much calling him out when you are showing emotion for not getting your way.  Don’t make balls and strikes about you.

Wide Zone

A wide zone should be in every pitcher’s dream.  A wide zone should help a pitcher dominate a game.  Understand how/when the umpire is widening the zone – Is it a certain count where he/she widens it up? Is it a certain pitch?  Is it a certain location (up/down, in/out?)  Analyze the strike zone! Analyze the umpire!  If you are given a wide zone to throw to, there is no even point of coming on the plate with your pitches, unless it’s a 3-0 or 3-0 count.  Why would you?  See how far you can push the limits of the zone. Don’t come with a pitch on the plate unless you absolutely have to!  When you have a wide zone, you have the ability to work off the plate first, then come back onto the plate later, only if you absolutely need to.

Notice the furtherst distance you can pitch off the plate (or down) and still get it a called strike.  Live there until the hitter proves they can make an adjustment to hit that pitch.   Honestly, most hitters will never be able to adjust to the wide zone, and you will be able to live on a corner or live on a certain pitch.  Trust me on this! (Something extra to pay attention to is if a hitter makes adjustments as to where they are standing in the box based on the strike zone at hand).

With a small zone, you work inches to come back onto the plate.  With a wide zone, you work inches to move the ball off of the plate.

Use a wide zone to your strategic advantage.  A hitter is going to feel like they are going to have to defend the plate when there is a wide strike zone.  They are going to be more defensive than offensive.  With that being said, when you have a pitchers count, 0-2, 1-2, a hitter is going to be more likely to chase.  The hitter is aware of the wide strike zone, just like you are.  When she is aware of it, she is going to be more likely to swing at something out of the zone, especially with 2 strikes, because she doesn’t want the umpire to strike her out with his crazy calls.

Be proactive in your approach to understanding strike zones.  Practice on your own by pitching “innings” to your catcher at lessons or your own practice time.  Pitch to fake hitters in a line up and keep track of the count and outs as you try to work through the innings.   Be your own umpire and challenge yourself.  Work on a wide zone, where you are able to give yourself a lot of calls off the plate.  Work on a small zone, where the umpire is squeezing you and you have to challenge up.  Both of them are important to work on so that when it comes game time, you feel like you already have experience under your belt in dealing with adversity.

Don’t ever blame the umpire for not getting results you want in a game.  The only person you can blame is yourself.  There is always some kind of adjusting you must be doing as the game goes along, and adjusting to an umpire is something that can make or break your game and possibly even make or break your pitching career.

How do you practice dealing with umpires? I’m interested to hear other ways you guys have either practiced this situation or how you made adjustments in the middle of the game!

6 Steps to Prepare for Next Weekend

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!

Amanda Scarborough Prepared

10 Reasons Softball Can Change Your Life

When I first started playing softball at age 5, I never would have guessed that I would end up where I am now – calling games on ESPN and coaching young softball players all over the country. Softball teaches and allows young girls to experience more than just striking people out and hitting a home run (yes, I know, those are 2 of the best feelings in the entire world). But SPORTS have the ability to teach us so much more than what meets the eye.

There are so many things to learn through sports, and I wanted to take it a little bit deeper than just the basic ra-ra about teamwork and hard work. What is it about working with your teammates that stretches you as a person? What is it about the beautiful combination of failing and winning that keeps us coming back for more? I want to start with one of my favorite things to do in this entire world that I learned from softball.  Travel…

1) Travel:

Playing on a select tournament team led me to my current passion that I have for traveling.  I loved going to the tournaments that were outside of Houston, inside of Texas, but what I really enjoyed was getting a chance to visit states like Florida, Arizona, California, Oregon, Colorado, and many others.  I even got to go play in Australia when I was in 7th grade against teams from Japan and teams from within Australia.  Had softball not been a part of my life, I may have never gotten to have these amazing travel experiences.  I consider travel such a great way to explore the world and to get to know another culture and another state.  I remember being a young girl and going to a different state and just taking in everything about it from the way that their highways were different than ours in Houston to how the houses were built differently.  It’s fascinating to me and such a good learning experience.  This traveling continued and increased once I got to Texas A&M as we traveled almost every other weekend in the spring.  I have such a passion in my life for travel now, which works well since I am always traveling outside of Houston for camps/clinics/television games. Also of course, I love to do it for fun as a hobby, as I have been to many different countries including, Australia, Thailand, Dominican Republic, Honduras, and many countries in Europe. It’s because of travel, I want to make memories all over the world.

2)  Networking (old coaches, former teammates, girls who I played against, former private instructors, old coaches I played against, parents of players who I played with):

Little did I know that even as a young girl I was networking for my future.  You parents may laugh at this one, as networking seems like a concept that you really only start once you get to college. But for me, I look back and that is just not true.  I am still in contact with so many amazing coaches and adults from my childhood.  It may have been years since I last spoke to some of them, but they always have a place in my life as we shared a bond growing up from softball that will always tie us together. I had no idea that….

…. while my coaches were impacting ME, I had the ability to make an impact on THEM even though I was much younger.

Imagine that. The networking and relationships formed does not just deal with the people who were adults when I was growing up, but also with my teammates I played with on various different teams. We now have a new relationship as some of them are coaching collegiately across the country.  Now our relationship is not based on a competitive “team spirit,” but with me talking to them about potential players they may want to recruit to their college teams or about a new pitching/hitting philosophy we can debate and learn from each other on.  When you play a sport, it can become an  instant bond with anyone you meet who played that same sport. People who were once your opponents become your friends just because of the connection of our sport.  One of the most important things you can remember is that you never know the impression you are leaving on someone- teammates, coaches, opponents- make it a lasting one. And better yet, you never know where that teammate or coach or other parent might end up, head of a company, head of doing volunteer work you want to participate in, or even have mutual friends.

You can never learn too early that people won’t always remember what you said, but they will remember the way you make them feel

– one of my favorite quotes and I think that it can make an impact the fastest in people’s lives. Plus, you never know who people know…..

3) Time Management:

The older you get, the more you realize what a big concept time management is.  When you have 40 things on your to do list and only 8 hours to get them all done, how are you going to manage your time and emotion to be able to come through? More importantly, how are you going to be able to look at that to do list and rank priorities? When you’re playing softball as just a kid, already you’re learning how to balance your time with practice, school, homework, lessons, friends, quiet time, family, church, other sports, extra curricular activities and games.  And let’s face it, it’s hard.  That’s a lot to try to manage, especially as a 12 or 13 year old.

But like anything, your body and mind learn to adapt to the challenge gradually as you take on a little more and a little more.

Softball players (and athletes, period) have the ability to be one step ahead of everyone when they get to college and things start to move a little faster and there is more of an individual responsibility on each student.  The concept of time management grows even stronger once you make it as an athlete in college; but after college, you are set.  If you make it past collegiate sports, it feels a little bit easier to manage time once you are in the “real world.”  

This time management helps build accountability and dependability– if you’re young, I know these are big words, so my best example to you is just imagine you told your friend you would meet her at the playground and you didn’t show up because you were doing something else.

Being late? It makes me anxious to even think about it. I don’t want to be late to a hair appoint, movie, party, game. Noooooo….the thought of it makes my heart beat fast.  As an athlete, you learn that if you are on time, you’re late, and if you’re early you’re on time. Being late is a selfish act- even if you are not MEANING to be selfish. If you’re late and making people wait on you, you’re saying to the other people who made it there on time, their time is not as valuable as yours. You learn fast in college that there are VERY few, VERY VERY few acceptable reasons to be late. Start being on time now and create a punctual, early habit that you can take into your life post-sports.

4) How to Manage Relationships on a Team:

In a team setting there are so many different personalities. When you play sports, you have to pay attention to everyone’s personality and learn what the best way to is to talk to each person.  Every teammate is going to be different with how you can talk to her. You learn that you do not have to be best friends with everyone, but you will respect them.

So quickly on a team we learn everyone is NOT just like us, and recognize differences in personalities, opinions, leadership and attitude.

Are you going to be the one who shuts down when things go wrong and someone doesn’t agree with you?  Or are you going to be the one that learns to communicate and work through a problem? Ah, problem solving. One of the keys to success of the future. Being on a team puts you in a position to gain experience on this. In order to get the best results on the field, you have to manage your relationships off of the field.  Managing relationships and being best friends are two separate things. Once you hit that field, nobody in the entire complex should be able to tell that there is an argument or something going on between you and a teammate stemmed from off the field problems. Understand you need seperation, aka compartmentalization.

5) Communication:

To me, there is no bigger concept in our lives than communication. Communication is a commodity in every type of relationship. If you cannot communicate, life is going to be a long, tough road ahead.  Through sports as a kid, you’re on a path to communicate in many different situations to gain experience and confidence for when you are an adult. So you know you want something or you need something. It’s in your mind. How are you going to be able to articulate it so that someone actually HEARS what you are saying?

  1. a) With your Coach I remember as a kid, one of the hardest things to do is have a conversation with an adult – whether it was to order my own food at a restaurant or talk to my coach about a specific play. (I remember the beginning times when I was about 9 maybe 10, shoot it could’ve been 8….but we were ordering pizza and my mom told ME to make the call. What? Me???) But there’s going to be an adult on the other line and I might mess up. There comes an age where it is time for a player to approach her own coach about playing time, pitch calling, or any kind mechanics questions. If you do not understand what someone is telling you, you have to learn to speak up!!  That simple dynamic of a player communicating with a coach is just like an employee going to speak with his/her boss. It takes confidence, and it takes a plan of knowing what you want to say and the message you are trying to convey.  It doesn’t just deal with the words that actually come out of your mouth, but more importantly HOW you say those words. Softball teaches you how to communicate with those who are in authoritative positions about something you really want.
  2. b) With your Teammates Communication on the actual playing field is critical to our game, or someone could get hurt. However, “hurt” can be more than just physical injuries.  Important to remember that this communication is two-sided; as a player you are learning not only how to speak to someone, but also how to TAKE IN what someone is trying to tell you. You could be great at communicating TO someone, but how are you going to handle it when that person is going to start communicating BACK to you. Sports teaches you how to communicate (both talking AND listening) and how to compromise with your peers. In the real world, you are most likely going to be on another “team” in the future. You have to learn how to work together with a group of people, sometimes even your friends, for the betterment of a single goal. A big part of reaching that goal will include effective communication and being able to adjust your communication so that someone else can hear what you are saying.
  3. c) With your parents Let’s face it – we are stuck with our parents.  🙂   To be able to feel like you can communicate with your parents is a process that does not just need to happen while you are playing softball, but lasts an entire lifetime.  There are many things a player should be able to communicate to her parents about: if she feels like she is injured, if she feels like she needs a break, if she feels like she needs to practice more, if she feels like she needs more support, if she feels like her parents are being too hard on her. How a parent listens sets the example for the child of how to listen. Are you open minded? Are you someone your child can come talk to?  The open communication about softball helps make your relationship stronger from growing up to when you become an adult.  I was very lucky that I had parents who told me that I could talk to them about anything and built a strong relationship.  They did such a good job of communicating to me that softball was not the only thing that defined me and that at the end of the day, if I didn’t want to play softball anymore, they would be okay with that.  I never felt forced into playing softball, and because of that, it made me feel like I could open up to them and talk to them on rough days. Because the communication piece of our foundation was set when I was younger, our relationship only gets stronger as I get older.

6) Failure:

It’s inevitable. We are going to fail at softball sometimes. We are going to fail at SOMETHING in life. We cannot be perfect. My mom used to tell me we are all perfectly imperfect, and that’s a phrase that has always stuck with me. Softball teaches us how to be able to rebound from that failure quickly. The quicker you rebound, the quicker you will get to feel success again. How do you fail? Do you do it gracefully? Do you do it where everybody in the entire stadium knows you failed? Are you able to make an adjustment, or do you repeat the same mistake over and over again? Fail fast, but learn faster. If you are learning from your mistakes and making adjustments, you have no reason to fear failure.

7) Winning:

In the same breath that we have to learn how to fail, we have to learn what it takes to win. Not just win…but compete.  A winner’s mentality does not have to be a negative, in-your-face mentality. You win gracefully AND lose gracefully. Why wouldn’t you want to win? A winning mindset is a pure WANT to win. A winner hates to lose more than he/she likes to win.

A winner likes to compete – not just when things are easy, but when things are tough.

Winning is a sense of achievement. A winner only knows one speed – FULL OUT, because they know if you go full out you have a higher chance to WIN. A winner knows that some days if you want to win, you have to fight. Not with someone else, but with yourself. Fight to win. Fight to be the very best you, so that more days than not, you have the higher number on the scoreboard when it’s all said and done. That number should not represent your pure physical talent, but you’re pure fight and determination to give your all every single time you take the field.

There is something to be said of an athlete who has been on championship/winning teams. They know what it takes to not only get to the big stage, but compete at the big stage. They know how to handle pressure. Competing for a position, having pressure at a big job, how to win – these are things sports teaches us. Everybody likes a winner. 

10 Reasons Softball Can Change Your Life

 8) To Never Give Up:

Do you know what a dream is? Do you know what it feels like to never give up on that dream? Do you know what it feels like to fight for a dream? Softball teaches us (if we let it) a work ethic that makes us forget failure and forget people around us who may not believe in us. (On a side note, I don’t understand those kind of people. The people who are looking to pull you down instead of help you rise up. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time for those people. I am too busy envisioning my future).

When we can learn to work through failure, our dreams gain  in our mind, they seem more within reach.When we can learn to push those negative, outside thoughts away, dreams can feel more tangible. A dream or goal is used as motivation.

Put an idea in your head, feel it in your heart if it’s your passion and keep moving forward, outworking everybody around you along the way. Hard work pays off. Hard work leads us to our dreams. Softball has this magnificent way of proving to us that if we never give up, and we put our all into something, good things will come in return.

9) Presence:

More than what comes out of our mouth, we are communicating with so many non verbals every day. We start to learn body language as little kids. It’s like learning as a toddler that if we throw a temper tantrum, we still might not get what we want. And all we do with the temper tantrum is draw unnecessary attention to ourselves. Well in life we aren’t always going to get what we want, and as adults it should not affect our body language and the energy we are giving off towards others. Throughout a game and a practice you have opportunities to practice your presence and your body language – at the plate AND in the circle. There are a few reasons for this:

1) Fake it til you make it – Even if you are feeling a little down or a little off, if you have to try to work through it on game day, a lot of times you can fake yourself out into feeling good and have good results. As a girl, and as a human, I understand there are some major parts of life we aren’t and shouldn’t hide our feelings from. But when it comes to how you warmed up, or if one pitch isn’t working, or if the weather is bad, you learn to be a leader and work through some things to show yourself and your team that you can be a leader. Can’t make excuses..you just gotta go get it.

2) Don’t show your enemy your weakness– You want to appear strong and confident. You want to appear stoic, like nothing can change your emotions. When your enemy sees weakness, they know they can attack. And on the other half of that, when your enemy feels an abundance of confidence (even if it’s the fake it till you make it confidence), they can be set back a little bit and you get the apprehend.

3) Strong Presence = Leadership– Eventually you may become president of a company and many employees will be looking up to you. Because in sports you’ve practiced having a strong presence under pressure, it can translate to a real job or being on a different kind of “team.” Your presence speaks volumes about who you are as a player, a person and as a leader.

 10) Be Present and Let Go:

We are going to make mistakes throughout games and throughout life. We can’t take ourselves too seriously. If we hang on to those mistakes, it’s so much harder to rebound and be present in the next play ahead. You quickly have to learn, but not judge, your mistakes. Be able to focus on the present play at hand without hanging on to the past.

If you can give the current play your FULL focus, you are going to have a much higher chance at success!

If in the back of your mind is something that happened 2 days ago, 2 weeks ago or a year ago, you will never be able to live up to your full potential. Learn from your mistakes, have them teach you, but be able to move past them.

These things combined…used all together…have the ability to grow your confidence and belief in yourself more than you ever imagine.  Picture a well traveled woman who is independent, confident, can multi task with ease, communicates with her peers, and isn’t scared to go in and ask her boss for what she really wants. Envision a woman in the future who lets things go quickly because she has confidence in herself and in the beauty of her dreams even when there are bumps in the road. Softball teaches us every bit of this. This is what we go through as softball players and this is what is building us and preparing us to take on the world ahead of us once we hang our cleats. I would want that woman on my team any day……..

 

 

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Reliving One of the Most Memorable Moments of my Career

The picture speaks volumes.  I can still remember exactly what happened; it felt like slow motion.  I can still remember exactly how it felt when I was at the highest peak in the air at this moment.  It was probably the highest I have ever jumped in my life out of pure excitement, relief, joy, happiness and adrenaline.  Sports can bring out the best in us.  This was one of my favorite moments of my entire career, and I remember it like it just happened yesterday.

It was the 2007 NCAA Softball Super Regionals, and we hosted the University of Florida in College Station.  (For those who don’t know, Super Regionals is like the “Sweet 16” of softball during the post season.  It’s a best of 3 series with 2 teams.  During Super Regionals, there are only 16 teams left playing all around the country, vying for the 8 spots in the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, OK).  The magnitude and meaning of the game was so high.  The goals we had set as a team at the very beginning of the season, 4 months before this picture was taken, were all riding on this one game, and I was in the pitching circle, the one who had the ball in her hand for the 3rd game of a 3 game series.  There were big moments and 2 games that led up to my favorite moment…

This series, in particular of all the Super Regionals, was absolutely amazing.  It was two top notch and very talented teams, battling against each other, trying to get 2 wins to meet up with 7 other teams in Oklahoma City.  SEC vs Big 12, Texas A&M and Jo Evans going up against Florida and Tim Walton.  All of the games were nail biters.  We played the first game on Friday, May 25.  We won 2-0.  I pitched a complete game against Florida All American, Stacey Nelson. Winning the first game of a 3-game series is always SO important, and probably the most important game of the series.

Score by Innings                  R  H  E
-----------------------------------------
Florida............. 000 000 0 -  0  3  0
Texas A&M........... 011 000 X -  2  7  0
-----------------------------------------
Florida                IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Stacey Nelson.......  6.0  7  2  2  1  2 23 25 104  0.91

Texas A&M              IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Scarborough, Amanda.  7.0  3  0  0  2  8 23 26 105  1.00

We came back the next day, on Saturday, knowing we were just 1 win, potentially 1 game, away from Oklahoma City.  But Florida wasn’t going to go down without a fight.  Megan Gibson started the game 2 of the series.  She ended up pitching into the 5th inning, and then I came in in relief into a tie ball game.  The game continued to be tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the 7th inning.  Even though we were in College Station, Florida was the home team for game 2 of the series, as we were the home team in game 1 of the series.  With 1 out in the bottom of the 7th, Lauren Roussell came up and hit a solo home run off of me to end the game and send the Super Regional to 3 games.  I had given up a walk off home run.  We were 1 run away from ending it and making our way to Oklahoma City.  The game would go on to the third game of the series, and would be played immediately after that game.  I knew I would be getting the start in the circle for game 3.

Score by Innings                  R  H  E
-----------------------------------------
Texas A&M........... 200 000 0 -  2  6  1
Florida............. 001 010 1 -  3  6  0
-----------------------------------------
Texas A&M              IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Gibson, Megan.......  4.1  5  2  1  1  3 17 19  72  1.52
Scarborough, Amanda.  2.0  1  1  1  3  1  7 10  37  1.02

Florida                IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Stacey Nelson.......  7.0  6  2  2  4  6 25 31 109  0.94

Now to set the stage a little bit more for this amazing series…it was May in Texas, and it had rained that weekend.  It was hot.  It was humid.  The air was so thick, you could cut it with a knife (bad hair weather).  But, with Florida being from Florida, and us being from Texas, both teams felt right at home.  The series was so tense up to this point through 14 innings of play, we knew that game 3 would be an absolute battle. And it was.

Our offense ended up putting 2 runs on the board the entire game, 1 of which came in the bottom of the first inning, answering back right away from the loss just minutes before.  The fact that we wasted no time in scoring was absolutely huge for the morale and attitude of the team.  This was a team that never gave up.  Florida’s lineup was so tough.  I remember being in the circle and being so mentally locked in and focused.  I had to be.  One swing of the bat could totally change the ballgame, as they had proven against me in the game before.  Florida, with Tim Walton as their hitting coach, was and is an awesome, powerful, offensive team.

The energy on the field throughout this game, and energy from the stands ,was so contagious.  We were sweaty, we were hot, but we just had one goal in mind, and we were on a mission.  In the field behind me, the defense played amazing.  The team was locked in and there were tense moments and Florida base runners getting on in different innings in the game.   We remained strong, and kept them scoreless through 6 innings.  Finally, with a 2 run lead, we made it to the bottom of the 7th inning, and this time, we were the home team.

Thanks to the help of my defense, we got the first two hitters out, who were the 8 and 9 hitters in the lineup, and it brought back up, with 2 outs, the leadoff hitter of Florida.  I remember being in the circle, my feet on the rubber and already feeling the excitement running through me, feeling so many emotions knowing that we were 1 out away from the Women’s College World Series.  To be honest, I had to check myself and refocus on the task at hand, because you know how this game goes — it just takes one person to get on to start a rally.  I knew it was so important to get out this leadoff hitter to be the last out of the game.  I threw an inside drop to the left handed leadoff hitter, and she grounded out to second base.  In my mind, I can still feel the pitch come out of my hand, I see the swing, and I can see each bounce of the ground ball to our second baseman, Joy Davis.  I remember being a little tight just hoping that she would field it cleanly, and she did, and make the toss to Megan Gibson, who was playing first base.  The minute that Megan caught the ball, it was one of the best feelings in my life.  That out, that ground ball, secured our spot in heading to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 1988.  All the hard work and determination came out in that single jump as I looked around at all my teammates and knew what we had accomplished together.

Amanda Scarborough vs FloridaI love this picture and this moment of my career so much because the look on our face is priceless and what we had accomplished together spoke volumes to the rest of the country.  In the picture, Megan still has the ball in her hand, and in the background behind Megan, you can see Stephen Grove, our Director of Operations, jumping over the fence and heading out onto the field to celebrate.

I cannot begin to tell you how absolutely amazing it is to claim a spot in getting to go to the Women’s College World Series.  There are over 200 Division 1 teams that start out with this goal at the beginning of every season in February.  At the end of May, only 8 teams are left standing.  Texas A&M had not put a team in the Women’s College World Series before this moment since 1988, And we were the team to finally break through to get the Aggies back in Oklahoma City.

Score by Innings                  R  H  E
-----------------------------------------
Florida............. 000 000 0 -  0  5  0
Texas A&M........... 100 010 X -  2  8  1
-----------------------------------------
Florida                IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Stacey Stevens......  2.1  5  1  1  1  3 12 13  61  2.22
Stacey Nelson.......  3.2  3  1  1  1  4 14 15  69  0.95

Texas A&M              IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP   ERA
--------------------------------------------------------
Scarborough, Amanda.  7.0  5  0  0  2  7 26 28 104  0.99

The college softball season is about to start.  When you have a chance to watch college softball on TV, know that these kinds of moments are constantly being created, especially in the post season.  If you are a player, you will be creating these kinds of moments this season.  Remember them.  Cherish them.  Live in the moment and know that there is nothing else out there like the feeling you get when you throw a big pitch or win a big game. The memories you get from sports are captivating, and they are moments that you can remember forever.

Amanda Scarborough vs Florida 2007 Texas A&M Softball

Amanda Scarborough vs Florida 2007 with Mark Scarborough

The Do’s and Don’ts of “Daddy Ball”

“Daddy ball” – slang term in athletics for a team that is perceived by players and players’ parents on the team to have coaches who give more playing time to their own daughter than to other players on the team.

How do you or would you approach a “daddy ball” situation with your daughter?

A question can arise of what to tell a player who is losing confidence in her playing ability because of “daddy ball?”  The question that comes to MY mind first is, “How does your daughter even know what ‘daddy ball’ is?”

Every situation is different and in various situations, “daddy ball” may or may not be actually happening.  But regardless, I feel like there is a right and a wrong way to handle this situation where playing time is at stake for a player.  In any situation, there are always things that you as a family can control with your daughter and there are things that you can’t control.  Remember these lessons you are teaching your daughter now are making an impact on her 20 years from now.  Consistently be teaching her about things that you can control, even as difficult as it may be in some situations for you.  Blaming is instant gratification.  Taking the high road pays future dividends that leave a lasting impression for everyone involved.

Do’s

  • Give your daughter ownership in herself and her effort.
  • Give her a voice by talking to her coach about playing time.
  • Encourage her to be a good teammate.
  • Encourage her to work even harder to earn playing time.
  • Stay positive.
  • Focus on what you can do.
  • Teach her other ways to stay involved throughout the game if she is not playing.
  • Evaluate at the end of the season is the team you are on is fitting your needs as a family.

Donts

  • Quit in the middle of a season.
  • Be negative around your daughter about her coach.
  • Get your daughter involved in “Daddy Ball” parent politics.
  • Make excuses.
  • Get other parents involved.
  • Complain to other people outside of your family.
  • Make everything about playing time.

In my opinion, the word “daddy ball” should never be communicated by the parents to the player.

To me, that just puts a negative connotation in a player’s mind and brings resentment to her teammates, who have nothing to do with the problem.  A young player doesn’t know how to handle emotions as well as an adult.  All she knows is what her parents put in her head.

So if her parents are telling her that she is not getting playing time because of another girl on the team getting preferential treatment, then that can call for resentment of that particular player.  This is going to hurt the lesson being learned of building team chemistry and being a good teammate.  These are such critical lessons for an adult later on down the road to be able to work with other people and not blame others.  Always remember why we play TEAM sports – to learn TEAM lessons and to win championships as a TEAM.  No one player wins a championship, it takes a complete team effort.  By causing negative emotions throughout the team because of politics, you are hurting the efforts of the entire TEAM!! 

The coach’s daughter in the “daddy ball” scenario has NOTHING to do with making the lineup, so she never should be brought up around your daughter in a negative tone.  She is just doing her own thing, minding her own business, playing the sport that she loves.  It is wrong to bring her into it, and it’s not fair to the team or to the player.

So, what can you do?

Stay positive towards your daughter!

Support her by encouraging her to work even harder!  Put more emphasis on work ethic than blaming.

Keep every conversation positive (as hard as it may be for you); do not make negative comments around your daughter about the coach, how he makes the lineup or about his daughter.   When you discuss as a family her playing time, do not make negative comments about the coach, then it is easier for your daughter to question the coach during practice and games, sometimes even players will lose respect for their coaches.  This will only make your daughter appear a bad teammate and un-coachable.  At the end of the day, he is the coach, he makes the decisions, and he is the “boss” of the team.  From a very young age it is important for athletes to respect their coach’s decision!  A lesson learned that will continue to impact a girl decades down the road.  

Amanda Scarborough

Instead of focusing on playing time, discuss with your daughter what she can be doing in the dugout to help the team and herself.  Study hitters.  Learn pitch calling.  Chart pitches.  Keep energy in the dugout for the team.  Try to pick signals.  Notice anyone warming up in the bullpen and what she throws.  Notice patterns the other pitcher is throwing to your hitters.  Teach her other ways she can be contributing instead of teaching her coaches who have daughters on the team give more playing time to their daughter.  If you don’t know things that your daughter should be doing, ASK.

The way that I would discuss playing time is by telling your daughter (depending on age) to have a meeting with the coach and see what she can get better at in order to earn more playing time.  Have a discussion with the coach instead of just blaming and assuming the “daddy ball” philosophy.  90% of parents think that their daughter should be in the starting 9 and are blind to what their daughter needs to get better at in order to become a part of the starting lineup.  Every parent thinks their kid is the best (as they should!), but it’s also very important to be real about if your daughter actually is the best.

If your daughter is high school aged, she should ask the coach to meet with just her.  At the high school age she is old enough to take this meeting on on her own.  If she is younger than high school, then the player can be with her parents meeting with the coach, but I would still encourage the player to ask questions and do a lot of talking.  It can be intimidating, but what an expereicne to give your daughter to speak to someone of authority! It also gives her ownership and responsibility in her own playing time, and it gives her a voice.  I would recommend writing down a list as a family of the questions you want to ask going in.  This will help your daughter speak up and give her comfort in not feeling like she is going to forget what she wants to ask.

Here’s how a few of the questions could be worded, “Hi coach.  I feel like I am not getting as much playing time as I would like.  I was wondering if you could tell me a few things I need to work on in order to get more time in the lineup.” or “Hey Coach, what are some thing that you would like for me to get better as so that I can more consistently find time in the lineup?”  Listen to the things that he tells you.  Write them down. Bring them to your private coaches and work hard on them at home.  Give it time, the changes won’t happen over night. 

The worst thing you can do in that meeting is blame!  “Coach, you give your daughter way more playing time than anybody else and it’s just not fair!” This meeting will not go well and it will only leave with resentment.  He will feel like he’s being attacked.  No one likes to feel attacked.  No one.  Put it on you not on him.

Then, when your daughters gets her chance to show her coach how hard she has worked and the changes she has made, she HAS to show him and prove it to him come game time.  You have to NAIL it when you get your big opportunity to prove yourself.   If it’s innings of relief pitching or a pinch hit opportunity, you have to believe in your preparation and make the most of it!!  Once again, another lesson learned of taking advantage of your opportunities.  Something that will stick with her FOREVER.

Hopefully this can work if your daughter is able to prove to her coach that she has worked hard and has gotten better at the things she needed to work on.  If it doesn’t work, then I encourage you to encourage your daughter to keep working hard and making the most of her opportunities she is given.  These two things can go a LONG way.

Even if she is not getting the playing time (which you can’t control) tell her to focus on things that she can control: attitude, work ethic, being a good teammate.  There are many things she can be learning, even if she is not in the starting lineup.

At the END of the season, if you feel like the team is not the best fit for you, it is then that I would suggest making a change and finding a team that may better suit your needs.  But until that moment comes, it says a lot about a player and a family that they take the high road and stay positive towards other parents and teammates.  Almost to the point where at the end of the season, people may be surprised that the player is leaving.

Blaming is instant gratification, and it can be a tease to make us feel a little bit better immediately.  We want lessons that will take your daughter further into the future and help her become a leader through sports.  “Daddy ball” is one of those teaching situations you as a parent come up against.  Teach the lesson that work ethic is everything and blaming is never the best option.   And remember; don’t refer to “daddy ball” around your daughter.   Your daughter may not have even known what the word “daddy ball” meant if it weren’t for you.  

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