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…

3 Things to do When Approaching a Pitcher During a Game

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

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

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

Give Her a Small Mechanical Fix

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

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

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

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

Stay positive, stay calm

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

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

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

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

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

Tell her the plan for going at this next hitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amanda Scarborough Texas A&M

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.

 

Mental Toughness vs Feeling Good to Play Good

What’s the difference between mental toughness and feeling good to play good? Are they one in the same or completely different?

Mental toughness and feeling good to play good are different in my opinion. Mental toughness comes into play when a game is on the line and you can stay calm and focused when all of the pressure is on YOU.  You are able to focus on the task at hand and ignore everything else that is going on around you (fans cheering, dugout hollering, the intimidating batter at the plate).  It’s very similar to that idea of “clear the mechanism” in the Kevin Costner movie, For Love of the Game (if you haven’t watched this movie you need to!).  Mental toughness also comes from ignoring tiredness that may be setting in or any kind of small pain you may be feeling.  When you are mentally tough, NOTHING ELSE matters but the task at hand.  Mentally tough hitters want to be the one up to bat with the bases loaded and 2 outs in a tie ballgame.  Mentally tough pitchers want to be the one in the circle with a full count and the 4-hole hitter up to bat with the game on the line.  Mentally tough players are not complaining about weather, umpires, opponents, soreness.  Mentally tough players do not even notice these things.  One thing about mentally tough players, they don’t even have to have the best mechanics — they are so mentally strong and their will to succeed is so high, they will do whatever it takes to win.

Feeling good to play good deals with the general feeling you get about the game itself. If a feel good to play good atmosphere is not created, then it will be more challenging for a player to be mentally tough in clutch situations.  Feeling good to play good deals with the atmosphere and scene that is going on around the game itself.  Do you feel like you have coaches who believe in you? Do you feel like you have parents who support  you no matter if you strike out or give up home runs? Do you feel good in your uniform? Did you prepare enough at practice that week? When a player plays in an atmosphere that gives her confidence, she is going to flourish and surpass anyone’s level of expectations.  Feeling good to play good is especially important for girls.  Girls are different than boys.  Girls have to FEEL good to PLAY good.  And boys PLAY good to FEEL good.  Surround a player in an atmosphere where it’s nothing but positivity, strong role models and a big support system, and you’re going to see a player SOAR when it comes to her results.

Understanding The Strike Zone – As a Hitter

A discrepancy that comes up in about 90% of all games is the umpire’s strike zone.  Pitchers complain about it.  Hitters shake their heads in the box about it.  Coaches whine about it.  And parents in the stands let the umpire know exactly what they think about the zone.

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 his/her zone.  You can actually use an umpire’s strike zone to your advantage if you look at it as an opportunity instead of disadvantage…

As a hitter..

Recognize if the umpire has a wide zone (calls a lot of strikes) or small zone (doesn’t call a lot of strikes).  You can recognize this by paying attention to the first couple of innings when you are in the dugout or out in the field.  Even when you are not up to bat, you always need to be paying attention to your surroundings.  If you do not hit at the top of the order, or if you are a hitter who did not start the game, your job is to pay attention to your teammates at-bats and recognize where exactly the umpire is calling strikes, and where he is not. Sometimes one side of the plate might be wider than the other side.  Sometimes he may be an umpire that has a lower strike zone.

Small zone

A game should be controlled by the offenses when there is a small strike zone.  Games with small zones usually lead to higher scoring games.  When there is a small zone being presented, it’s your job as a hitter to have patience at the plate.  With a smaller zone, you change your game plan and approach to not be as aggressive, especially in an important situation.  You want to challenge the pitcher to throw strikes.  Don’t help her out until she proves that she can find the umpire’s strike zone consistently. With a smaller strike zone, comes more walks.  It’s important to pay attention to the hitter in front of you.  Did the pitcher just walk that hitter on 4 straight pitches?  If she did, then you probably should not swing at the first pitch of your at bat, since clearly that pitcher is struggling to find the strike zone.

Finding a way on base is critical in our game.  Realize that a walk is just as valuable as a hit.  It may not seem the same to you as a hitter statistics wise, but taking that walk puts you 60 feet closer to scoring than you were before you started your at bat.  Have patience at the plate, and definitely challenge yourself not to swing out of the zone.

When you’re up to bat, look for a mistake in your at bat.  With a smaller strike zone comes more added pressure to the pitcher, not the hitter.  With added pressure, a pitcher is more likely to be more tense and frustrated.  She will probably start aiming the ball a little bit more trying to find the strike zone, and she is going to be more likely to come over the heart of the plate.  LOOK FOR THIS MISTAKE.  Don’t fall asleep at the plate just because a pitcher is throwing more balls than strikes.  Be ready to hit.

In the dugout, be paying attention to the pitcher’s body language.  If she is getting down on herself and showing that she is not confident with what she is throwing, then it’s even more important to not help her out in your at bat.  Don’t give a pitcher any confidence when she is struggling to find the zone by helping her out and swinging at a pitch that is not a strike.  That gives her a little bit of positive energy and could be exactly what she needs to get back into her groove. When a pitcher is struggling, offensively, it’s your job to keep her struggling.

Wide zone

A wide strike zone can be a hitter’s worse nightmare.  If the umpire is going to have a wider zone, you can be a little bit more aggressive.  You still never want to get out of your true strike zone.  If an umpire strikes you out on a pitch that was clearly not a strike, don’t get discouraged or consider it a failure.  Don’t let that at bat take you out of your next at bat, and more importantly, don’t let the wide strike zone carry over into the next game and get you out of your zone.

When I was playing and there was an umpire with a wide zone, I made it my goal to get not get 2 strikes.  I wanted to hit a strike early in the count so that the umpire didn’t even have a chance to strike me out! YOU can control hitting early in the count. You CAN’T control the umpire calling you out on a pitch that is out of the zone.  So be aggressive early in the count so that you get a better pitch to hit, and you don’t stand a chance of getting struck out on a pitch that is out of your zone.

Also, if an umpire has a wider zone, DON’T SHOW EMOTION.  Players show emotion at the plate when they get strikes called against them just to make sure everyone else knows who’s watching that they didn’t think it was a strike.  Control your emotions.  Don’t let your opponent know that something is wrong with you – that fuels them and let’s them think they have you right where they want you.  If you’re showing body language (i.e. rolling eyes, shaking head) after a certain pitch, and I am pitching against you, I am probably going to throw you that exact same pitch again, since you just clearly showed me disgust after the umpire called that strike against you. Why would I throw you anything else? Clearly you are not looking to hit that pitch that you were just shaking your head about…

Understand which part of the plate the umpire is being “wide” on.  For example: Is it the outside pitch to a right handed hitter that he’s calling way off the plate? If this is the case you have 2 options: 1) Go up looking for an INSIDE pitch, if the pitcher is still showing you that she is working on that side of the plate. 2) If the pitcher is controlling the outside corner because that of where the umpire keeps calling it, crowd the plate the very most you can, and take away that outside pitch so that it doesn’t seem as far outside to you.  The same can be applied for the inside corner by backing way off the plate and looking for that pitch.  If an umpire has a higher strike zone, it’s important to not swing at pitches that are too far high and out of your zone.  Something I did when facing a pitcher who threw higher pitches in the zone was to hold my hands a little bit higher when I was in my stance before the pitch was thrown; this adjustment helped me keep my hands on top the ball so that I was not as likely to pop up.  This was a small adjustment on my part to be able to able to win the “battle.” Your job is to win the battle and do whatever it takes to come out on top – no excuses necessary.

The best players are going to be able to adjust during the game, no matter what is thrown at them!  Softball is a game of adjustments.

Instead of complaining about a wide zone, be proactive in practicing during the week about the approach you will take as a hitter or as a team if you come up against an umpire with a wide strike zone.  It’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of time.  By practicing this, you’re turning what some think as a disadvantage, into something you can feel more confident about at bat when it happens in a game.  Have the discussion before it happens about how your approach changes at the plate when facing different umpires.  An umpire is never the one who comes away with a win in the win column at the end of the game.  By letting the umpire beat you, you indirectly are letting the other team beat you.  Quit the excuses, and use an umpire to your advantage when you’re up at the plate by adjusting how YOU approach YOUR at bat.

 

Step Back. Enjoy

My recent vacation was a reminder to myself we all need a break and to take a step back sometimes. We easily get caught up in the go-go-go of every day life, working hard and pushing ourselves to our max. In America, the never-stop mentality is embedded in our culture and we get lost in the shuffle that surrounds us. I preach as much as anyone that hard work is my own personal manifesto, and I will never stop believing that hard work is the key that unlocks door to your dreams. However, sometimes our bodies and minds need a break, and it’s important we listen to their request.

Especially in the sport of softball, many play it year round, taking breaks only for the major holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Pitchers throw thousands of pitchers, players take thousands of swings and get caught up in the current to become the best. Always remember, becoming the best means you know not only TO take a break, but WHEN to take a break. It’s all about finding a balance, and what balances one doesn’t necessarily balance another.

Take time off. Give the mind and body a break from the grind of continually wanting to get better at softball. Most who play ball are perfectionists, and softball is a sport of failure that takes a toll on the mind. It’s in those times we need to take a step back, remember to breathe and remember that sports should always feel fun and bring joy to our lives. Our lives are too short to feel anything but.

Allow time away from something so that when you come back to it, you fully appreciate its beauty in all its splendor.

 

Stay tuned for new and exciting updates …

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How is Your Foundation?

“If you have a strong foundation, you can build or rebuild anything on it. But if you have a weak foundation you can’t build or truly fix anything.”

When you hear the word “foundation” you may think of a house. A home’s foundation is the perfect example to compare to a softball player’s foundation when it comes to throwing, hitting, and pitching. All 3 of those things have to have a set, solid foundation formed at a young age based off of learning solid mechanics from the VERY beginning.

When you build a solid foundation at a young age, it’s easier the older you get to make adjustments, tweak some small mechanical things here and there, thus allowing you to focus more on the MENTAL side of the game instead of focusing so much on always having to go back and fix the foundation that was set years ago. That foundation will ALWAYS be there.

My best advice: put in the time, knowledge and finding a good coach FROM THE VERY BEGINNING. What you are learning NOW has a greatest effect on you DOWN the road – more than you will ever realize.

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.

header 3

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.

youbeautiful11

Be The One In A Million

Imagine if you had a team full of one in a millions. Imagine if you took the time to focus on what it takes to be a one in a million? What if I told you you could be one in a million just by changing your thought process and actually making it more simple? …just by making it about you – your own thoughts and actions. What if YOU could make a positive impact on this world? It’s all so simple and it’s all controlled by you….

What if you were the player who chose to…..

Appreciate small little things. There is so much to complain about on a daily basis. Not saying you won’t THINk about the things to complain about, but we don’t have to verbalize it. Instead of catching yourself complaining about something, tell someone thank you or BE thankful for something you have in your life. Be appreciative daily.

– Be positive. There are so many things we can point out that are negative, especially in sports. Always working on SOMETHING. Instead of always pointing out the negative, point out the positive in order to fill your tank back up. You can do this for yourself AND you can do this for others. It’s important to give yourself credit and that YOU find little things to give yourself credit for.

Search and study first, THEN ask questions. Instead of just the show me mentality, taking on a mentality you are going to try first to figure it out on your own instead of someone hand you all the answers. A lot of times we ask questions without fully reading first.  Try things on your own. Don’t be scared of failure by trying something new. There is so much information out there to study a craft….be open to studying and taking the TIME to study first, and then be able to ask questions about what it is you are finding.

Believe in someone’s decision making. Instead of trying to manipulate or control someone’s decision, what if you took a step back and just believed in it and supported it? An important part of this is realizing that decisions are made to benefit a TEAM not just one person. Trust in someone to steer the ship. Be vulnerable to the point where yo understand that most things are bigger than YOU.

Communicate. The best way to be heard is to actually communicate and verbalize what we need and what we want. If you do not come right out and say it, it can be too hard to read between the lines.  Too  many times we are quiet and expect people to read our minds and know what we want. Wouldn’t it take less time just to come out and say it? The bigger part here is to have the confidence to communicate what you want….AND….think you deserve it.

– Show patience. Remember great things take time. We live in a “want in now society” and lose track that in though we may not get something TODAY, RIGHT NOW, it is ok.  Think of the future. The best things do not have instant gratification attached to them. Be patient and remember the process of baby steps. Baby steps all added up for a long time can lead to miles. Don’t be scared that your baby steps are not big enough or fast enough. Everyone comes around in their own time and it doesn’t have to be the same amount of time as anyone else.  You just have to have patience to be you.

– Put in the work. Understand if you want better results at something, you have to work harder. Everyone is looking for results results results. It’s not about the results, it’s more so about the focused energy of working hard at something, being productive, and growing a little bit along the way.

No excuses. Everybody has them. Be the person who understands what you did wrong, accept it, and move on. You can probably move on faster from it rather than taking the time to come up with an excuse and hash it out. Instead of telling someone WHY you did something, just learn from it, move on and be better the next time. Don’t make excuses. Be the person who owns up to mistakes or things that go wrong and fixes them the next time you have a chance.

– Be nonjudgmental. We are all going through SOMETHING. We have all made mistakes. Be the person who friends can talk about anything knowing that you are a calming force. The easy way to go is to judge. Instead of judge, help problem solve and come up with a solution. There is a solution to everything.

Encourage someone who is down. Even if that person is not your “friend,” what if you told them something that made them feel better? What would that say about you? The easy road is to not say anything at all. The higher road is to say something positive. Believe in people the way that you would want them to believe in you.

– Give someone a compliment just because. You know how good it feels to hear a compliment? What if someone is feeling down that day and you just tell them something that seems like one small little thing to you, but it changes their day or even their week?

What if you chose to be the one in a million – as a coach, a brother, a dad, a sister, a teammate, a daughter?  You could be the memorable teammate – the one who inspired others to be better not by how many homers you hit, but by how you TREATED others and the way you listened. These are the things that matter. All these little things add up to BIG things. These are the things that build character, are influential and inspire others to be better. Think about if you do the OPPOSITE of these things and how that would come off to others.

We play different roles in life – pitcher, hitter, friend, teammate, etc. but within those roles, the same underlying principles exist. Be a one in a million, it can be contagious and you can be that person…..

 

A Palm Springs Weekend

Went to Palm Springs for the Mary Nutter Softball Classic at the Big League Dreams Park.  What an amazing weekend of watching high level softball, getting to listen in on interviews from many of the top teams’ coaches and players, and then an awesome video shoot with a camera called the Phantom that shoots at 3200 frames per second.  (In comparison, this video was shot at 1000 frames per second).  By the way — the views you will see in these pictures are stunning.  AWESOME weather with sunny skies and beautiful backdrops! The teams that were there at the tournament included Tennessee, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nebraska, Texas, Stanford, Texas A&M, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Cal St Fullerton, UCLA, Cal, LSU, Pacific, Cal State Northridge, Oregon State, UNLV, Missouri, amongst others! To see all of the results of the many, many great match ups from this weekend, click here.

What I learned: I love this game more than anything, this weekend was definitely a reinforcement for that. But what I also learned, is that the talent at the D1 level is spread out amongst all conferences.  In the past, there were just a few schools who would “take the cake” year in and year out.  What’s so fun about going out to a game now, is that you really don’t know who is going to win simply by looking at the names on the uniforms.

Who I enjoyed watching: I really enjoyed being able to see Ellen Renfroe pitch in real life.  She is someone who doesn’t really throw above 60mph, but her spin is amazing.  She is a true pitcher.  She is not going to blow the ball by you, she is going to be crafty in her locations and precise in her spots by mixing up her pitches in different quadrants.  I highly recommend being able to go and watch this senior pitch in real life or on TV to see a real pitcher and not just a thrower.  She is living proof that you do NOT have to throw hard to have success at the collegiate level. (If you remember, she helped pitch Tennessee to the National Championship game last year in Oklahoma City to go up against Oklahoma).

Offensively, I enjoyed watching Stanford third baseman Hanna Winter. She plays third base and she hits left handed.  If you want to see someone who might be one of the quickest, most athletic players in the country, she’s your girl.  I saw her make some amazing plays at 3B, and the way she runs bases and has such great bat control front the left handed side of the plate is just awesome.

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Tatum Edwards, senior All American pitcher for Nebraska, throwing against senior, All American short stop, Madison Shipman, on Fenway at Big League Dreams in Cathedral City. Great drop ball and change up that Edwards has and throws about 65mph.

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All American, senior pitcher, Ellen Renfroe led the way for Tennessee, So awesome to get to watch her pitch from back behind home plate. The first time I had seen her pitch live. Remember the National Championship Series last year when she went up against Oklahoma and threw an amazing game against them? Some of the best movement and spin of any pitcher in the country.

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Always a packed Wrigley Field whenever UCLA takes on anybody at the Palm Springs Classic. Californians love to come out and see their Bruins play. Check out the background and getting to play in the mountains.

LSU vs Oregon softball

Senior pitcher for LSU, Ashley Czechner, going up against Oregon senior third baseman, Courtney Ceo on Fenway!

Cal vs Texas A&M

Texas A&M taking on Cal on Yankee.

Throughout Friday and Saturday, teams were stopping by to take go through different stations, taking pictures, getting video footage and also interviewing with Holly Rowe and Jessica Mendoza.  I tagged along for some! They interviewed over 12 teams this weekend, and next weekend they will go out to another big tournament in Orlando, to get some of the top teams there, too.  I got to hear about so many different team’s cultures and head coaches talking about individual players who make a difference on their team.  There were tons of good stories from the head coaches and the players, many of them you will be able to catch on ESPN’s coverage of the regular season and post season, which will start at the end of March.

Coach Jo Evans Texas A&M

Head Coach of Texas A&M sitting down and talking to Holly Rowe about the 2014 Aggies, their experience in the SEC, approaching 1000 career wins, and previewing their televised match ups against Florida and Tennessee.

Ellen Renfroe

Senior pitcher for Tennessee talking to Jessica Mendoza about her senior year and last year’s WCWS National Runner Up season.

John Rittman and Jessica Mendoza

Stanford Head Coach, John Rittman, talks with Stanford alum, Jessica Mendoza. Cool moment to get to see them interact, as he used to coach her when she was a player in the PAC 10.

Saturday morning, the ESPN crew met up at the field to use an incredible camera that shoots at thousands of frames per second — 3200 frames per second to be exact. Kristyn Sandberg, who played at Georgia and currently plays for USSSA Pride, caught and hit, I pitched, and Jessica Mendoza also came to hit, too.  This camera was so awesome – the detail it catches of every little thing is so amazing.  They zoomed in on my release from a side angle, my drag from a side angle and then they filmed from back behind Kristen catching me to get the ball coming out of my hand, too.  They also shot some catching, fielding and hitting clips all done by myself, Kristyn Sandberg and Jessica Mendoza.  These will be used for different shots throughout the coverage of college softball.  You most likely won’t be able to see or tell that they are me or Kristyn, because they were more about cool shots like the look of a ball coming out of a pitcher’s hand at release, the look of a pitcher’s feet dragging, the ball coming off the bat, a tag being made at 3B.  WE will know that the shots were of us, but not very many people will probably be able to tell!

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Jessica Mendoza

You OWN Confidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amanda Scarborough Inspiration

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