My mission is to inspire softball players 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. Feel free to leave questions/comments, I’ll get back to them as soon as I can!

I pitched, hit and played first base in college, but I have a SPECIAL place in my heart for pitchers. While much of my motivation and many of my blogs can translate to any position on the field, most of what I write now is directed toward the leader in the circle with the ball in her hand.

I undertand, to the greatest extent, that pitching can take a toll on you and at times make you feel like you’ll never be good enough, you’ll never figure it out or like there’s no way you’ll make it through.

But you ARE strong enough to overcome.

You WILL build mental and physical strength along your journey. Let me help you…

Happiness. Is. Beautiful.

For those who don’t know, I am 27 years old and I am on a mission to make our sport even better in whatever ways I can.  What do I mean by “better”?  I mean help more girls feel great about themselves, teach them how to be happy and confident to where yes, they may be great players on the field, but off the field, they are just as confident, self reliant and self assured.

 In essence, one word comes to mind – beautiful.

Now this is a big word, I know this.  But this is the word that should come to mind when you go out and watch your daughter or the other girls on your team play.  It’s a feeling.  It’s an attitude.  It’s a way of playing the game.  It’s happiness.  It has nothing to do with stats or wins or losses.  When you are doing what you love, it’s beautiful in every way.  When young girls are playing the sport they eat and breathe, they should not look fearful, timid, unsure or scared.  When you’re playing the sport you love, your inner beauty should come out, radiating happiness.

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I played it, I’ve been through ups and downs, and failure after failure and success after success.  Every player will go through this.  The different maker will be the role models and mentors she is surrounded by.  I was around parents who supported me no matter what and coaches who did not scream at me in the middle of games or at practices.  They weren’t controlling, they were helpful.  They didn’t yell, they developed me.  They taught without an ego.  Looking back, these adult influences played a major part in making me the player I was in college and the person I am today.  They played a huge role in a mindset that I carry with me every day I wake up — believing that I can do anything I put my mind to.

Amanda Scarborough Softball Players are Beautiful

We all want to win.  And at the end of the day, I am just as competitive as anyone and want to see my own girls I coach go out and get the W.  However, to me, the W’s come after they understand that feeling of playing beautifully and playing with happiness  & joy. With any sport, it’s sometimes forgotten of WHY we play.  Egos and winning percentages aside, we play to have fun and see the girls smile on the field like the beautiful, happy athletes they should be. THIS should be the standard.  THIS should be the norm.

Happiness is the secret to all beauty. There is no beauty without happiness.

Remember, we as coaches should be in softball to help girls feel their very best about themselves.  They are learning attitudes, emotions, and feelings on the field that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives off the field.  If we can teach them to feel beautiful while playing one of the most challenging sports and hardest sports in the world, they are more likely to feel beautiful out in every day life.  Softball is a sport where you are constantly dealing with failure.  While teaching them to handle their emotions and deal with failure after a poor at bat, I know that it will carry over to dealing with any other kind of failure or adversity that comes along in real life.  The more beautiful you feel in the inside, the easier that failure is to deal with – on or off the field.

Let’s encourage players to feel awesome about themselves and have confidence.  Why would we want anything else? As coaches and parents, don’t degrade a player because they performed poorly on the field.  No player fails on purpose.  Nobody fails on purpose.  No matter what their stats are or if you won, every player out there is still absolutely beautiful.  Softball players are beautiful.  Athletes are beautiful.

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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!

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.

Maximizing Power in Your Push Off – Softball Power Drive

Exiting the Pitching Rubber – Maximizing Pitching Mechanics for Power

Leg drive starts from the VERY BEGINNING. It’s important to create an athletic, explosive position in your push out to maximize your leg drive.  Energy and momentum are created from the ground up.  You can have the MOST energy by creating the best position possible to push off the rubber. More energy at the beginning of your pitch will create more energy at the END of your pitch.  It all starts from the ground up!

If you enjoyed this video, please share it with one person you think it would benefit by using the social media tabs!

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10 Ingredients to Succeed in Elite Softball

Lessons. Practice. Travel. Games. Recruiting. Repeat. The ingredients of elite softball are all in the air. Getting lost in emotions, information and games can be an everyday occurrence. Some days are easier than others.  It’s a grind. Always remember there is light at the end of the tunnel, and the benefits of making it through the months ahead of you are completely worth it in the end.  As a parent, remember there are other parents going through exactly what you are going through. As a player, remember there are other players going through exactly what you are going through. It helps to remember you’re not alone. It also helps to keep some things in perspective along the way to help you and your family stay sane.

Realistic Expectations: There is a home for everyone.

I feel as though this is tougher for parents than it is for players. Players usually have a realistic understanding of their talent level and they can see through lenses that are not rose colored. When you start to get into elite softball, there is a general understanding and goal that you want to play at the next level. Period. Understand from the very beginning that at the top 25-30 schools, only 3-5 players will be recruited in your year. Putting expectations of only going to those 25-30 schools can be quite a letdown if you don’t make it. Put into perspective the amount of girls vying for those positions and how the probability is most likely higher that you won’t make it to that school.  BUT, if you love the game and are invested in continuing your career, you are going to find a better fit at a school that has your name written all over it. Playing with unrealistic expectations makes you play tight, and usually leads to being let down. There is a great home for everyone.

Stay Humble.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from my dad when I was in the recruiting process was to stay humble. I was extremely lucky that many bigger schools were after me. At the time, since recruiting was happening a little later than it is now, it was quite common for schools to send in questionnaire profiles through the mail early in the recruiting process. I would sit down after dinner in front of the TV and fill out every single questionnaire that was sent to me. It didn’t matter if it was a junior college, a mid major or a top division 1 school. My dad’s thinking was that I was not too good for any school. If they were interested in me, I was going to be appreciative and never turn my nose up to anybody. You never know what could happen and you don’t want to completely shut anyone out until you know for certain where you are going. What if you think you are going to go to a big D1 school and you have a major injury? What if you go through something major that mentally takes you out of the game? You never know what can happen. Be appreciative for attention. Stay humble with coaches who are interested in you. Stay humble around your teammates. The same can go for the opponent you are playing. You’re an elite team, but the game doesn’t know that. Go into every game with consistent emotions by respecting every opponent. Respect the game. The game doesn’t know…

Don’t Compare your Experience to Your Teammate’s.

You and each of your teammates will most likely have a different experience in how you get recruited and who is watching you. It takes too much energy to compare. That energy should be put into YOUR skills, mindset and plan. Worry about yourself. If you are doing all that YOU should be doing on and off the field, then what other people are doing should not matter! Be you. Do you. Grow you. YOU are awesome. YOU have your own story.

Make friends, not enemies.

This goes for players AND parents. With every person you come in softball contact with, you never know how much you might be around them in the future. I’ve noticed enemies in the softball world usually come from jealously. At every exposure camp, combine, all star event, opening ceremonies, make a good impression! A good impression could be just that, a good impression or it could be a lasting friendship. You just never know when you are going to possibly play with these people you meet again. You may meet someone at an exposure camp and may end up being college teammates with them. In the stands, be nice and supportive. Everyone you meet is going through exactly what you are going through. Don’t judge. Be respectful and just know that the softball world is a REALLY small world, so make a good impression. People talk, coaches hear. You want what they are talking about to be nothing but positive things about you and your family. With that being said – avoid drama.

Take Breaks.

As an elite athlete, you are pushing your body to its limits on a weekly basis. You have to pay attention to your body and realize when it’s talking to you and when you need a break. Be honest. Create that relationship with your parents and coaches from a young age where you can gain their trust and you can say “I need to take today off” or “I need a break.” Breaks are GREAT. They absolutely have to happen for your mind and for your body. You live a softball-is-life mentality, but mixed in there, there has to be time with no softball. You create your own balance. Figure out what that balance is so that you can perform the best. You want to love softball, not hate softball because at the end of this ride, softball continues to still pay off in your life – promise!

Own Your Role.

I get it, you want to PLAY; you don’t want to sit the bench. On an elite team, 15/15 girls on your team are GOOD and there are only 9-10 starting positions. The talent only gets better once you go to college.  Many times, a player will learn a new position just to find a way on the field. Be flexible and be studious. There are so many examples of players getting to the next level and not playing the same position they played on their travel team and in high school. If you are not physically out on the field, it does not mean you become a spectator to the game. There is always something to learn, to watch, to do.  Try to pick pitches. Try to notice pitcher’s tendencies. See if the defense is giving away anything. Create a role and totally own it. There is no time to feel sorry for yourself, you have a team to help, you have a game to win. Championship teams have roles and buy into those roles. This game is not about one person’s playing time, it is about the entire TEAM. Learn to contribute to the team and find a way to be involved in the game.  THIS is a team player. THIS is the kind of person a college coach wants to recruit. If you are on an elite team, you will be competing for championships, so find a way to contribute.

Parents – Stay out of it at the field.

Give your children responsibility for their softball career. Give them a voice. If it’s about playing time, have your daughter call a meeting with her coach to discuss what she can do better. Eventually your daughter will have to speak to a boss or another authority figure. Give her practice NOW so she can learn to communicate LATER.  Mentor her and help her with what she should say or when she should say it, but don’t say it FOR HER. Once warm ups start, parents should stay completely out of the way.  No bringing hot dogs and Gatorade to the dugout. No coming up to the dugout to remind her to keep her front shoulder in on her next at bat. The days of that are over. Elite softball is conducted in a businesslike manner. You’re there to compete; no distractions and you have a job to do.  IN the stands during the game, remember you never know who is in the stands WITH you. If you are going to cheer, yell only positive things. (I honestly feel that saying nothing positive nor negative can sometimes be your best bet. Just let them play the game.) If you are going to chat with another parent on the team, make it positive. You NEVER know who is listening. Your daughter is taken as a direct reflection of YOU.

Make good grades.

Even if you are not planning on going to some place like Harvard or Yale, your grades are so important. Your goal is to play at the next level right? Well, at the next level, if you don’t make the grades, you don’t get to play. Create good study habits and make school a priority. Because you are playing at an elite level and have big tournaments every weekend, some of which you are having to travel far, you are going to miss out on things with your friends because school + softball + family are more important. While you may be missing out on a birthday party or going to the movies, your friends are probably going to miss out on playing a sport collegiately. Rent the movie later and send her a birthday card/present to let her know you wish you could be there and you’re thinking about her. I PROMISE, getting the opportunity to play softball in college is WAY better than any movie or birthday party you miss. There is a much higher percentage of those you don’t play sports in college than those who do. Do whatever it takes to find time to study, write papers and do homework because this prioritizing is not changing any time soon once you make it to the next level.

Play on the best team where you can PLAY.

This is tricky, but I am going to give you my mentality on this. I encourage people to play on the BEST (most competitive) team they can possibly play on AND be in the starting 10-11 players on that team that get playing time. It goes no good to be on the “best” team in your area, and all you do is sit the bench. If you are only sitting the bench, you are missing out on college coaches being able to see you in action and gain the experience of competing on the field against top level teams and competing for championships. Again, I know people are going to have different opinions on this, and I am just giving you my perspective. Find a team with a solid tournament schedule. Two things I want you to remember while thinking about this: 1) The college coaches are going to be where the best teams/talent are. 2) Don’t be jealous of the best player on your team, that “best player” is most likely pulling college coaches in to watch. Don’t just think of those coaches as being there to watch that player, think of this as an opportunity to grab some attention and as a mini audition! You WANT that player on your team because she helps you win and she draws attention…especially standout pitchers.

Softball Does Not Define YOU.

Understand there is a difference between performance skills and moral skills. This, to me, is the most important thing a parent can teach a player. The way you teach it is completely up to you. Some examples of performance skills: hardworking, competitive, motivated, confident, disciplined. Some examples of moral skills: unselfish, appreciative, loyal, caring, trustworthy, caring.  There HAS to be a balance. When softball is all said and done, all you have is your character…your inner you.  This goes for players and it goes for parents. Parents, you are not defined by how your daughter is at softball or the scholarship she gets. Neither is she. She is defined by being a good teammate, a good friend, a good daughter. Start noticing the differences and explaining the differences to your daughter and your team. THIS will help make leaders out in the real world and empower them with a different skill set once they grown into WOMEN.

We are all in this softball world together – don’t lose sight of that. While everyone wants to be on the team that is the last team standing at the championship game, this sport is so much more than just that. Play softball not to just eventually grow to pitch 70mph and hit 20 bombs in a season. Play softball because it grows you together as a family and each individual as a family. Along the way, be genuinely excited for teammates who get the big hit, the big strikeout or the big verbal commitment. Remember karma is a real thing. No matter how good you are, never stop learning. Never stop being appreciative. The schedules and commitments can get a little crazy, but always remember to take a step back and see something bigger than the scoreboard. Big things are ahead of you….

Mental Strength & Your Environment

What do you think is the most important part of being a mentally strong female softball player? (I’m going to skim the surface of a topic that people write entire books on…but it’s still helpful nonetheless…)

In my mind, one of the most important parts of being a mentally strong female softball player is the environment she is surrounded by.  There are a lot of pieces that add to this environment.  It comes from outside forces around the player: teammates, coaches, and parents. ALL of these outside forces can play into the mentality of a player. Some might call some of these “excuses” and things that players need to get over.  But to me, these are real issues that need to be addressed and can affect the mentality of a player. Each one of these could be their own topic, but I wanted to just cover the basics first, then get into more detail some other time. Here are questions to ask about each of the following that can effect a player’s mental game:

Teammates

Do you get along with your teammates? Is there drama on the team?  Do you feel like your teammates have your back? Do your teammates have as much passion towards softball as you?  When you don’t feel like your teammates have your back (especially as a pitcher in the field), you start to over think, overthrow, overswing and try to be too perfect.  When you pitch on a field where you know players are going to make plays behind you, you can pitch your game and feel more confident to throw strikes.  When you’re worried about the defense making errors behind you, it can be a tough thing to work through, but it’s actually a really good experience and one that almost all pitchers go through at one point or another.  Teammates affect what is going on in the mind of a player – for better or for worse.

Coaches

Are your coaches yellers? Do they embarrass you? Do you feel like your coaches believe in your talent? How do they tell you they believe in you? Do they help you set goals to achieve? Do you know their expectations for you? (short term and long term) Do they explain to you your role on the team?  Yelling adds pressure.  There are very few players who actually respond to coaches who yell.  There ARE some players who respond to this, but the majority do not.  The majority will shut down.  Especially the coaches who yell across the field to a player and let them know what they did wrong.  If I played for a coach like this, I would be terrified to make a mistake.  Being scared to make a mistake is NOT a fun way to play sports (especially when you play a sport that revolves around failing: i.e. a .300 batting average is good).  When you’re scared to make a mistake in front of your coaches, you can’t possibly be mentally strong.

Parents

How often do your parents tell you they believe in you? (Your kids want to hear it often and FEEL it, no matter what their results are)  Do they talk more about results or about how you felt during the game? (All players are well aware of their results after a game, whether they went 3 for 3 or 0 for 4, it’s not necessary to remind them.  Ask them about the process they went through in getting those results).  Are your parents yelling out mechanics to you during the game? (Game does not equal practice).  As parents, you are the biggest influence they have.  Don’t talk to them about mechanical/coaching things more than you talk to them about believing in them and supporting them no matter what.  I PROMISE they do and will remember the belief you had in them more than they remember the outcome of any game.  Trust me on this one…

So here’s the thing…becoming mentally strong doesn’t happen overnight. You work on your mental game just like you work on a curve ball or hitting an outside pitch.  This is an important realization for all of the parties involved, especially parents.  A lot of times adults think that just by simply saying to a player, “You need to get mentally stronger” that that is going to help.  False.  That’s not going to help.  You’re not giving her any tools.  You’re not giving her any true support.

One piece of advice: Start with positive self talk, regardless of what is going on around you in your environment.  In the game, are you telling yourself what NOT to do? Or are you telling yourself what you ARE going to do?  Example: Don’t swing at a ball above your hands. (that’s telling yourself what NOT to do).  Example: Swing at a strike. (that’s telling yourself what TO do).  It’s been proven that the brain does not hear the word “not” in the first example.  Start by practicing positive self talk at practice!  Just like you practice other things a practice, be conscious of the thoughts that are going through your head.  Let me tell you though – it’s easier for a player to have positive self talk when she is in a positive environment with positive outside forces.  All a player wants is someone to believe in her.  When a player as 3 different sets of people believing in her (coaches, teammates and parents) it takes pressure off, allowing a player to feel more relaxed, thus being more mentally strong. Create a habit of positive self talk and recognize the different in your game and how much more fun the game is to play when you’re out of your own head.

With all this being discussed about a positive environment, and as much as I think that outside forces an effect a player, I am not for sheltering a player from working through problems and working through adversity around her.  I also do not endorse quitting teams in the middle of a season (I know there are exceptions) or being a team hopper because you can’t seem to find that “perfect” environment.  There are always exceptions to every rule…

Which of these, in your experience, can have the biggest impact on a player? Leave me a comment and let me know!

4 Ways to be a Loyal Teammate and Be Bigger Than Team Drama

Last Thursday I had a chance to FaceTime and talk on the phone with a team from Trussville, AL, CLEAtS ‘02. These girls were SO sweet. Prior to our conversation, I told them to think of 5-6 questions they wanted to ask me. They all asked great questions.  One of the questions was, “What was the biggest lesson I learned from playing college softball?” I had to think about this one for a few seconds. The first thing that came to my mind that I wanted to share with her was the concept of loyalty. I asked the young girl who asked the question, “Do you know what loyalty is?” And she replied back, “Yes.”

I told her the biggest thing I learned from college was how to be a loyal teammate and a loyal friend.

I told her it was very important to me to be a leader on my team and someone that my teammates and friends could go to. They could tell me things they were feeling, confide in me, and they could feel that whatever they told me was safe with me. I told her how important it was to be someone that her teammates could rely on and trust in. If you don’t have trust on a team, you don’t have anything. This is a quality that I still value very much in my every day life.

Amanda Scarborough I don’t know if it’s the Taurus in me or something I learned from my parents or previous coaches, but if you know me, you know I am loyal. I hold that quality very dear to my heart, and I think that it’s a quality that can dictate a lot of decisions that we make in our lives on and off the field.

I disliked drama from a young age. I didn’t and don’t like the feeling of being in the middle of things. To me, it’s negative energy. I don’t like to have negative energy surrounding my life, I feel like it pulls me down and it weighs on me. I remember middle school not being very fun years of my life. I wasn’t the most popular or prettiest and I didn’t have the most friends. Middle school is hard! I learned what it was like to have people be DISloyal to me, and I hated the way it made me feel…so that made a lasting impression on me. I never wanted someone to have to feel that same feeling because of something that I did them.

I like the feeling of smiling and laughing 1000 times more than I like the feeling of talking about someone behind their back.

Along the way I have learned…

  1. If someone confides in you, guard their secret.

It’s your duty as a friend that if someone chose you to tell something you, then they trust you.  It is your job you to care so much about that person that that secret stays with you. If a teammate confides in you, that means they see you as a leader. It’s important as a leader to understand the types of things you and your teammates can handle on your own, and the types of things that are the big issues that the coach should get involved with. To understand what to go to an adult about, think about if you feel like your friend, team or the mission of your team could be severely hurt because of what was told to you. (Important note: If there is a secret that a friend or teammate tells you that could be harmful to that person, it is important to tell an adult.)

  1. If someone is talking about someone else to you, don’t endorse it or repeat it.

The one thing about being on ANY team is that there WILL be teammates who talk about other teammates. So when that time comes, tell them you don’t want to hear it. Sometimes you may even have good friends who talks about other teammates, and it may be hard for you to tell them you don’t want to hear it or get involved, but if they don’t respect your decision for not wanting to hear it or talk about it, and they don’t really understand why, then that’s their problem. Whether you have the courage to stand up to your teammate to tell them not to talk about drama around you or not, don’t repeat what you hear. Don’t feed into the drama and into the gossip. Have the gossip stop with you. It might even get to a point where people stop gossiping to you…trust me, you want that! Stay far away from drama and the people who attract drama.  Remember, when you repeat that gossip to someone else, even if you aren’t saying that they are YOUR feelings, you are endorsing whatever is coming out of your mouth to someone else, thus making it what YOU are thinking and feeling.

  1. Always remember your own values.

To know your values, you must understand yourself and be comfortable with your own thoughts and feelings that you feel in your heart about the type of person you want to be. Close your eyes and think to the future. What do you want to be like? Think about what kind of friend you want to be known as and what kind of teammate you want to be viewed as. What do you see? If people who don’t understand those values, you’re better off without them. You will find those people who have the same values as you – those will be your forever friends. Sometimes, there might be only 1 or 2 of those friends and other people may have more friends than you. But who cares! I bet you will have way more fun with those 1 or 2 friends who hold the same values as you. Remember, you are never alone.

  1. Have your teammates back, respect each other.

Your teammates should feel like you have their back and they have yours. This does not mean you have to be best friends off the field and do everything together outside of the field. That’s not what I’m saying. Sometimes you might not even agree with everything your teammate does outside of the field, and you can’t control that. What you can control is how you respect each other on the field with everything else put aside.

When it comes game time, and you and your teammates go into that dugout, they should feel undoubtedly that you have their back. True competitors and athletes leave everything but their sport outside of the field. Once you step onto that field, it’s go-time, and you compete together for the same goal. Because believe me, when you are out on the field with the lights on in the middle of the big game and you look to the person to your right or left on the field or in the dugout, you want to think, “I got you” – and not just think it, but MEAN it.

ANYONE can be on a team, but NOT just anyone can be a loyal leader who people look to and who rises above all the negativity and drama.

Amanda Scarborough

Through all of this, remember to be loyal and remember the mission of your team. Every team has a mission, no matter what sport. That mission is to win championships. (any championship: tournament championship, league championship, conference championship, district, etc). Do you REALLY want to win? If you are a true competitor and have visions of being great, all of your decisions you make should be based off the mission of the team; any other decision could be considered selfish and detrimental to the mission of what the team is trying to accomplish.

Remind your teammates the mission of the team when things get tough. Remember that mission is bigger than one person. Drama brings attention to the one person who is starting it.   The mission of a team is bigger than drama, gossip or bullying. It’s never about just one person, it’s about the team. If everyone feels like they are on that mission together, united and loyal to each other, that is when that team will win championships. It all starts with being loyal. Be loyal in your every day life and to your teammates wearing the same uniform to accomplish big things on and off the field.

Amanda Scarborough

What is Beautiful Fastpitch

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

 

  And that is beautiful fastptich.

 

Dealing with Injuries Part 2 – Contributing to Your Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR TEAM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Essentials of a Change Up

A Change Up is a MUST HAVE weapon for a pitcher!  For almost all pitchers, a Change Up is the second pitch that is learned after a Fastball. A Change Up is a pitch that should be anywhere between 10-20 mph slower than your fastest pitch. The speed differential is determined on how fast you normally throw.  Being able to change speeds is critical to have success for a full 7 inning game where you will face the same hitter 3 or 4 times in the same game.  For a hitter – timing is everything.  So as a pitcher, it’s important to disrupt that timing by mixing speeds throughout the course of a game to show the hitter something different to keep them off balance and guessing!

There are lots of different ways to release a Change Up! If there were 100 pitchers standing in front of me, there would be 100 different ways they would tell me they release it!  A Change Up release will be unique to each pitcher and needs to feel COMFORTABLE for that pitcher to believe in and trust in it. However, regardless of HOW you choose to throw YOUR change up, there are a couple of things that need to remain consistent:

1. “Sell” the Change Up to the hitter.

The hitter must never know a Change Up is coming! This means from the facial expressions you show from taking the signal from the catcher with the nod of your head and the look in your eyes, to the way that you FINISH your pitch without slowing down through your release, EVERYTHING must look identical to your routine of your other pitches. Your arm speed should stay the same from the wind up of your pitch to the end release of your pitch.  You must fool the hitter and hide it from them until it is coming at them!

2. Throw the Change Up LOW.

When practicing this pitch AND throwing it in a game, you would rather miss it low and in the dirt than belt-high.  It’s much easier for a hitter to hit that pitch when it is up in the zone than ankle high. Aim low! Work on keeping this pitch down by adjusting your release point (releasing it earlier generally keeps the pitch lower) and you can also adjust where your weight is at release (having your weight slightly forward will angle the ball down as well).

3.  Keep it UNPREDICTABLE.

No matter how you throw it, it’s important to prove that you will throw a Change Up in different counts. Too often a pattern is formed to throw a change up only on 0-2 and 1-2 counts.  Mix the Change Up in to different counts to keep the hitter guessing. Throw it for a first pitch. Throw it on a 3-2 count.  Another way to keep the change up unpredictable is to possibly not throw it for an inning (please note this should be based on how the other team is recognizing the pitch and adjusting).  Or maybe one inning you throw it once, another inning you throw it 10 times. Do not fall into a certain pattern for how often you are trying to throw the pitch in a single inning. Maybe you don’t even SHOW the other team your Change Up until the second time through the order! This can be very effective as well!  Your job as a pitcher is to keep the hitter guessing!

4.  Find the perfect SPEED.

A Change Up can be too fast and a Change Up can be too slow.  If it’s too fast, it doesn’t affect a hitter’s timing, their swing can stay the exact same and they have a high probability to “run into” a pitch and get a hit.  If it’s too slow, a hitter can reload, sit back, see the pitch coming, and put a good swing on it.  It’s important to find the perfect speed for your change up and be able to practice it at that speed. I suggest using a radar gun for this purpose – so you know if you are consistently throwing the pitch at a certain speed and/or if you need to speed it up/slow the pitch down. Some pitchers can get away with their Change Up being 10mph slower.  Other pitchers need their Change Up to be between 17-20 mph different.  Generally, the faster you throw, the more mph you will need to take off of your pitch.  If you throw 70mph, you will need to take around 15-20 off.  If you throw 50mph, then you may only need to take about 10mph off.  Monitor what speed you are throwing your Change Up at in a game versus at practice. Pay attention to how and if you are fooling hitters. Are they getting fooled? Are they barreling up to the ball? Play with it! Try different speeds to see what works the best! 

5. THROW it!

Even if your change up is not your best pitch OR if your Change Up is your best pitch but it is not working in a game, keep throwing it!!  Keep a good attitude about it, and keep showing it to the other team.  When the opposing team and the hitter up to bat sees you throw a Change Up, it keeps it in the back of their mind that it is a pitch they may have to face when the hit against you.  You always want them to believe that there is a threat of you throwing it.  Even when it is not working perfectly, you SHOWING it to the hitter disrupts their timing by their eyes and brain SEEING a pitch coming out of your hand at a different speed.

Do not give up on your Change Up!

Just because you may not use your Change Up as your strike out pitch, does NOT mean to stop throwing it! If it’s your weakness right now, it can always turn into your strength if you keep working at it.  Be aware of the way you are thinking about your Change Up! If you always say it’s your worst pitch, then it will stay your worst pitch. Practice your thoughts and what you are saying to your friends, coaches and parents about your Change Up! It does NO GOOD to speak negatively about it. What are you doing at your practices to make this pitch better?!  This pitch is a MUST HAVE tool for a pitcher!

 

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