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…

Dealing With Injuries Part 1 – Attitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) ATTITUDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High School Softball Season Survivor Guide – Grievance 2: The Competition

In ANY situation we come up against in life, there are going to be things that we can control and things we can’t control.  It’s important to always take a step back in any situation, and understand which are which.  Limit the excuses and understand what YOU can do better to get the most out of a situation.

You will recognize that my grievances have a common theme — worrying about yourself, controlling what YOU can, keeping a positive mindset and working as hard as up can. If you missed Grievance 1: Playing Time, then click here.

Grievance #2 : Competition Isn’t “Good Enough”

Uncontrollables: How fast a pitcher is throwing; ball/strike ratio of an opposing pitcher; how well the other team hits; how well your defense fields behind you as a pitcher

Controllables: Your intensity and focus in the circle; your intensity and focus at the plate; playing YOUR game at YOUR level; learning from game-like situations; making adjustments

Ok, fine.  So maybe high school ball does not have as high of quality of players as the travel teams you play for during the summer, but really this excuse is laughable to me as an excuse of why they don’t like high school ball.  Does this mean you’re going to use it as an excuse to play down to their level?

You have a choice to play down to the level of your competition or you can choose to shine!!

“The Pitchers Throw Too Slow / Too Many Balls”

Controllable: Swinging at good pitches; trying to be on time; going opposite field; good approach at the plate

Oh boy, this one is pretty funny to me.  Okay, so you face a pitcher that doesn’t throw “hard.”  You should be thinking LUCKY me not POOR me!  A pitcher who isn’t throwing a lot of strikes? Perfect!  I can work on taking pitches, seeing the ball all the way in. and my pitch selection. Visualization training. Patience training. Working on patience at the plate and understanding your strike zone is essential to being a good hitter.

The BEST players will be the players who can adjust the FASTEST, no matter what is thrown at them.

A pitcher who doesn’t throw as hard as you’re used to gives you more time to see the ball, more time to make a decision whether it’s a ball, or a strike and gives you the ability to work on hitting opposite field. Hitting opposite field is one of the things I see out there that is hardest across all levels. EVERY PLAYER can pull the ball. But NOT ever player can have the patience to let the ball travel and work one riving it on the middle or to the opposite side of the field (right field for a right handed hitter, left field for a left handed hitter).  Clearly, if you are someone who struggles with slower pitching, this means this is something that you need to work on with your swing. I promise, even in college, there will be slower pitchers that you have to face and YOU have to be able to make an adjustment.

When you face a pitcher who is throwing slower, take it upon yourself to try to hit opposite field.  Work on keeping your wait back, work on pitch selection, work on letting the ball travel. This is showing bat control.  You can work on this and be someone who is able to adjust to different speeds of pitching with no problem. If you are saying this pitcher isn’t “good” then you should be perfect with you plate appearances and get a hit in your first at bat every single time that you go up to bat.  Set an example for your team on how to adjust to a pitcher.

  • Work on pitch selection
  • Take your walks when they are given to you
  • Work on letting the ball get deep and waiting on slower pitching (just like waiting on a change up)
  • Take slower pitching to opposite field
  • Work on quick adjustments

If you are worried about not being ready for travel ball pitching speed, then take some time on your own to have your travel team pitcher throw to you or go to a batting cage where you can raise the speed and still work on having quick hands and making quick adjustments. Also, go to the cage next to it and go to the slower speed. Alternate going from cage to cage and see how quick you can make the adjustment.

“I’m A Pitcher, and My Defense Can’t Make Plays Behind Me”

Controllables: YOU; Work a little bit more off the plate to get swings and misses; mix speeds to get them to swing and miss; add more movement or better location to induce ground balls that are not well hit;  keeping a good attitude/body language; learning how to work through long innings with endurance and precision

At some point in my playing career, I know I have either been on a team or been in an inning where my defense just can’t seem to make plays back behind me.  Does not matter what kind of level you are at, you will go through an inning or a game like this.  It’s one of those things like having a homerun hit off you – it’s going to happen, and then it’s probably going to happen to you again, and then probably again.  So you can get frustrated and upset over it, or you can figure out a way to be a little bit better in the circle to get more swings and misses or to not have balls as sharply hit to your infielders or outfielders.  This CHALLENGES you; it makes you think; it makes you be creative; it makes you be BETTER.

Pitchers who blame their defense behind them for reasons that they aren’t getting better as pitchers –  I can’t stand that.  This is another EXCUSE.

You’re working through real-game softball situations. You’re working through problems. These are problems you will be faced with again at some other point in your playing career.  Think of it as a challenge; think of it as making you a better pitcher to be able to work through adversity — working on your attitude and keep your emotions in check. BE A LEADER.

What CAN’T happen is that you get a bad attitude and show it to your teammates.  That is going to make your defense that much more tight behind you, and then they REALLY aren’t going to make a play for you.  This is a great test of patience of pitchers.  If you can get through a team that struggles to make defense behind you, it’s going to make you that much better mentally and physically when you get to a team that has a sharp defense. By having better body language and a better attitude, you will help your teammates stay confident behind you; ultimately you a making your TEAM better. By being more concerned with your own personal ERA or how many runs are scored off you, you are more worried about YOU than the team.

It’s ALL about how you choose to look at the situation and how you choose to view what you are getting out of it.

Also, this is a great time to work on being a good teammate.  It says a lot about a pitcher, whose defense continues to make errors back behind her, but who continues to stay positive towards that teammate and not letting it negatively affect her attitude.  This can be a challenge, but this is ONLY going to make you a better TEAMMATE to be around so that your teammates can trust in YOU and believe in YOU even more.

When your defense is struggling behind you, you should get STRONGER and step up.  If your high school team doesn’t play great defense, in my mind, the easy way out is to quit, blaming that the defense isn’t good enough.  You are NEVER bigger than the game. It is what YOU make of it. When you start feeling uncomfortable, do you rise up to the challenge, or do you surrender? YOU control how you handle it.

You can’t change your defense.  Instead of complaining and blaming, step up YOUR game mentally and physically. CHALLENGE YOURSELF.  Challenge your mind.

  • Stay calm
  • Stay positive
  • Work on small adjustments with locations of your pitches
  • Keep good energy
  • You get stronger when the situation gets tougher
  • Think strategically to which of your infielders field the ball the best. Work on throwing to the side of the plate where the hitter will most likely hit it to your best infielder.
  • Think of pitch calling and situations.
  • Look to hitter’s weakness by noticing what they are doing in their swing.

You can be getting better by being creative in what you are learning in tough game situations and thinking/analyzing situations to make yourself a more well rounded pitcher.

“I’m a Pitcher and I Strike Everyone Out, The Hitters are Not Challenging For Me”

This is a perfect time for you to work on a different pitch you’ve been trying to learn or master. Maybe your curve ball is your favorite pitch, and you throw it 85% of the time, and you’re learning a drop ball.  If you’re striking everyone out with your curve ball, then start working on your drop ball.  Throw it in different counts.  Work on placement of it and movement of it.  Know that you can always go back to your curve ball when you need a strike or need an out.  Working on a new pitch in a game situation is so important.  This can create a new focus and determination to add another pitch that will help you, once you start facing more competitive hitters.

  • Work on something new
  • You can still work on getting better despite your competition

There is SO MUCH to be learned from game time experience, regardless of what THE OTHER team is or isn’t doing. Challenge yourself during the game to be the best teammate and lead be example. Any game-time experience is our greatest teach. Softball presents so many different situations in and throughout a game that practice cannot teach you. Be thinking one play ahead. Think one pitch at a time, but when you can be really creative and you’re a pitcher, think one pitch ahead.


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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

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.

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.  

Why She Has 1000…

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

Amanda Scarborough Coach Jo Evans Texas A&M

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

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

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

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

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

Coach Jo Evans 1000 wins Texas A&M Softball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jo Evans 1000 wins

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

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

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

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

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

Amanda Scarborough and Jo Evans

 2.  Respecting the game

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

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

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

Texas A&M Softball

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

Coach Evans 1000 Wins

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

3.  Respect Your Opponent

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

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

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

4.  Ownership Of OUR Team/ OUR Actions

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

Amanda Scarborough

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

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

5.  COMPETE

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.  Loyalty

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

Texas A&M Softball

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

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

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

 Texas A&M Softball

7.  Motivation

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

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

8.  She “Gets” Her Players

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

 

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

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

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

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

Coach Jo Evans Texas A&M

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!

What Exactly is “Normal”?

What really is “normal”? “Normal” has a different picture or movie next to it for every single person out there – in sports, careers, relationship, etc. We all have different experiences, we were raised differently and we all have different perceptions. Who’s to say that MY version of “normal” is the correct version or your very own version of normal is “right”? YOU get to personally give “normal” a definition in your own dictionary…

Live, love and work doing the following things:

1) Do what makes YOU happy – pay attention to what speaks to your heart.

2) Learn from your mistakes – there will be mistakes, they’re in the past, move forward.

3) Configure your personal equation of balance – every single person will have a different equation of what their balance looks like.

4) Envision where you see yourself in the future – all of your actions should reflect where you want to be.

5) Have faith in yourself – invest in your happiness, without fear, believe you have these thoughts and goals for a reason. TRUST in you.

Notice that none of the above things have anything to do with anyone else. They deal with YOU. You are on a journey, as is every other person you come in contact with. How each of us will go about this journey will be a little different. Each of our equations of balance will vary. The only thing you can worry about or control is yourself. Instead of deeming something as “wrong” or “not normal”, what if we spent that time celebrating our different endeavors, how hard someone is working and helping each other push towards goals and vision.  What if we chose to support each other instead of pointing out all of the different things that are “wrong” with what someone is doing and trying to bring that person down?

A perfect example is that infamous question of “how much should I/my daughter practice?” That is the number 1 question I get asked. There is usually a conflicting difference between how much you should practice and how much you want to practice. The amount a person “should” practice will be different person to person. The amount a person wants to practice will be different person to person.

But here is the thing: if you want to achieve things you’ve never achieved before, you have to do things you’ve never done before. 

Reflect over the above pointers. Once you do that, your answer for how much you should practice is already within you based on what makes you happy, what you’ve done in the past, how many things you personally have to balance, and where you want to be in the future. You are choose every day how much time you want to dedicate and how hard you want to work. If you feel you want to practice 6 days a week – go for it! If you feel you only want to practice 1 day a week – then that is your choice, but remember whatever your goal is, your actions (all of them) should reflect it. Your goals are yours. They should make you happy and excited when you think about them and the future. They should motivate you to where sometimes that scale of “balance” looks a little different than other times. It will teeter, it will never stay the same.

Worry more about you and what you are doing than what anybody else is doing. The biggest person you compete against is yourself. Make sure your dreams give you a clear vision. Make sure the way you are trying to achieve your dreams is by WORKING for them. Make sure you know when you need time for a break, time for family, time for friends and always make time to smile and enjoy the ride. Trust yourself when it comes time to shine. You are you, nobody else will be just like you. Work as hard as you can, support others, stay positive and strive to be happy.

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!

www.softballpowerdrive.com 

What does it mean to be competitive? Part 2 – Competing for your position

(This month’s topic will be broken down into 3 parts)
Two weeks ago, I sent out Part 1 of this topic “Competing Against Other Teams.”
To see Part 1 of this topic click here
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 for a position

 

Now this form of competition isn’t as basic as competing against other teams.  This one is a little bit tougher because it involves competing against your own teammate.  This is specifically tricky with girls because most girls don’t want to hurt other girls feelings.  Having competition at different positions around the field is so important for a team’s success because you get the very most out of your players.  If there is no competition for positions, players can get complacent and never really grow.  Competing for a position pushes both players to become the best they can be knowing that if they perform better than the other player, then they get to start in the big game.  Competing for positions is a big reason why college teams will carry more players on their roster than a select team.

Steve Martin Quote

Competing for a position is THE BIGGEST lost form of competition, and I will tell you why.  There are more select softball teams across the country than there ever have been before, meaning there are more options; and if someone is not happy with playing time, it’s very easy for them to pick up and leave and go to another team where they can fine more playing time.  I’m sure you know them, the typical team hoppers who leave because everything just isn’t right.  They always have different excuses for leaving the team, but in general, the biggest reason people leave teams is because their daughter isn’t getting enough playing time.  So let’s think about this for a second.  By allowing your daughter to change teams based on playing time, you’re telling her that she doesn’t have to earn that spot and compete for that position because if we aren’t getting what we want, then we can go find it somewhere else.  The easy thing to do is pick up and leave and find another team so your daughter can play.  The hard thing is to challenge up and stay on the team to earn that spot.   I promise, in the long run, she will be better because of it.

If a player isn’t playing…I guarantee there is a reason for it other than the coach just simply having favorites and/or not liking the player.  If I am the player who is not playing, I am going to find out why I am not playing (by asking the coach myself, NOT my parents) and then work hard on whatever the reason is when I am practicing.  Maybe the reason you are not playing is because you are not clutch with runners in scoring position.  Maybe the reason is because you make scary throws to first base on a ground ball.  There is going to be a reason, but there is NO reason not to go work hard on whatever it is it may be.  But here is the catch: if the player is NOT making the changes to become a better player, then WHY would the coach put them in?

Earning a spot can be difficult; earning a position can be challenging; but earning a position is one of the most rewarding things that can happen to a player.  If you’re not getting playing time and you think you’re working hard enough?  Work harder.  Do you think you’re putting in a lot of time? Well put in more. Want it more than that other person.  Eventually, you’ll get it; but it’s not going to come easy.  A big part of competing for a position is taking advantage of your opportunities.  For example: maybe a player doesn’t start but she is called upon to pinch hit with a runner at 3B and less than 2 outs.  Does the player cave in this situation? Or does she get mentally tough to embrace this opportunity and make the most out of it by hitting a SAC fly and getting the RBI?

Another example of making the most of your opportunity is if the player who plays defensively in front of you makes an error, and your coach calls your out to go play in the field.  The first ground ball that comes to you, do you boot it?  Or do you make the play cleanly?  TAKING ADVANTAGE OF OPPORTUNITIES will be a way that you earn your spot and catch your coach’s attention.  If you are NOT taking advantage of opportunities, then why would your coach want to play you?  To take advantage of opportunities, you must be focused, you must know the situation and you must be mentally strong to believe in yourself.  Someone might make an excuse after not taking advantage of your opportunity such as, “well I didn’t come through because I don’t get to play as much as the other players.”  This is just an excuse for not coming through, and it doesn’t apply.  If you’re putting in the practice time and fall into the trusting mindset in the game, you will be better served to take advantage of these opportunities physically and mentally.

Find a way or fade away

Don’t teach your daughter the wrong thing – that if you’re not happy with something, it’s okay to pick up and leave.  Teach her work ethic by teaching her competition within her position.  Make sure you have a coach that is teaching this same philosophy, because maybe your daughter is the one at the “starting” position.  Is she being pushed? Is someone right there next to her at practice pushing her with every swing and every ground ball?  If not, then I can guarantee she will not become the best player she can be because there is no one right there next to her breathing down her neck wanting to take that position.  That is pure competition.

Competing for a position will prepare her for college.  The ultimate goal of any college team is to win, a coach’s livihood at his/her schools depends on it.  So you better believe that the best players will play and that coaches want this friendly competition out on the field within their team so players are day in and day out pushing each other.  If your daughter is not preparing for it now, she won’t be ready for it when she makes it to the next level, whichever level that may be – high school, all stars, league team, college.  Encourage competition, don’t shy away from it.  Teach your daughter that if she wants something, she has to prove a point and send a message by working harder than she’s ever worked before to be named the game day starter.

Lastly, an important thing to remember for this kind of competition is not to give up.  Anything can change.  Maybe the person you are competing with stops working hard, but you continued to work your very hardest and you end up beating them out at the end of the season.  If you want it bad enough, you will work hard enough to achieve your dreams.  If you don’t put in the work or make the changes, that tells me you never wanted it in the first place.  Every player wants playing time, but it should always be earned.  The reward is getting to be out on the field come game time. Passion, or lack of passion, is shown when competing for a position.  How bad do you want it?

Is there competition at your position?  Are you being pushed by your teammate?  Are you pushing your teammate?  Are you caving when you have opportunities?  Make the most of your opportunities…be so good they can’t ignore you. 

COMPETE EVERY PITCH.

 

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