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…

Playing Big Being Small – Guest Blog by Chez Sievers

Allow me to introduce Chez Sievers to you! I must start out by saying, Chez is a Longhorn, but I absolutely love her anyway. Chez is one year older than I am, and I played against her from across the diamond for 3 years- me wearing maroon, Chez wearing burnt orange. I remember Chez – not vaguely, but distinctly. Chez is a competitor. Chez loves the game. Chez knows the game.  Most importantly, Chez respects the game of softball. I am THRILLED for her to write from HER perspective of what it was like to be a softball player with her much shorter frame. I think this is something that many players go through, so to get her own words on here is my pure pleasure….

Playing Big Being Small

Throughout my life, I’ve heard every short joke imaginable. It used to drive me crazy! My father taught me such a valuable lesson in my young life. Because I was small I had to do everything harder, faster, and more efficiently. I grew up with two older brothers who never took it easy on me. At the end of every practice baseball/softball and basketball practice, we would end with a competition. I never won one shooting game or one hitting game. It was incredibly frustrating, but I always felt that there would always be a chance for me to win because I had the opportunity to compete.

When I was 11, I played on two basketball teams and two softball teams. I played softball for my Bellflower Bobbysox softball league and the Tustin Wildcats, which my first travel ball team. I was a starter on every team except one, the Tustin Wildcats. I was by far the smallest player on the team and I either rode the bench or played left field in the late innings. During the course of the season, I began to get discouraged. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. Why wasn’t I playing? I hit and played whatever position they put me in.

Our national qualifier came around and I still wasn’t playing. The qualifier was double elimination. We lost to the Firecrackers and we were on to the next game against the Newberry Park Pumas. If we won, we would go on to Nationals in Oklahoma. I didn’t start, but I kept my head up and still supported my team. We were tied up in the bottom of the sixth with a runner on second. Tensions began to rise. That’s when I got the call to pinch hit. I put on my helmet, strapped on my gloves and grabbed my Steele bat. Finally! Here was my chance to play. As I walked up to the plate, the coach from the opposing dugout signaled to the outfield to move in. With a Cheshire grin, I dug into the batter’s box. I visualized crushing the ball in the left center gap hoping that they would be running for days. First pitch, ball. I stepped out and set my sights for the left center gap. Pitch two, I swung like my life depended on it. I crushed it into the left center gap for a triple. My adrenaline was pumping and my team and parents were going crazy. Pure satisfaction.

Looking back, I wasn’t bitter and I didn’t use my size as an excuse for why I couldn’t do something. In my mind, I was so hungry for the opportunity to compete. In my mind, I was fearless and 10 feet tall. I believed I could make every play on the field.

That was a defining moment in my playing career because I carried that mindset with me through high school and on to the University of Texas.

Playing at a high level no matter your size is all about your mindset and your work ethic. In life, you always encounter roadblocks, but it’s how you respond to those situations. You make the choice to overcome and persevere or give up. The power within is your greatest source of strength. If you believe in yourself and have the discipline to be great at everything you do, there is no limit to the things you can accomplish in this life.

You can find TONS of softball information on Chez’s website http://smart-softball.com. Her website includes podcasts with some of the TOP names in college coaching, instructional videos on hitting, instructional defensive videos, and her own personal blog. SO proud of her for what she is doing for our sport and her passion for the game!! Thanks Chez!! 

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

How Often Should You Practice? Guest Blog: Savana Lloyd (SL Fastpitch)

Savana Lloyd, from SL Fastpitch, hit a hot topic, covering how often a pitcher should practice.  As pitching coaches, we CONSTANTLY get asked this question.  It’s everyone’s favorite!  There is no concrete answer…but Savana describes how YOU (as a pitcher and as a parent) can come up with your own, customized answer for pitching practice time.  Here below is a preview of the blog, to go ahead and skip to the full blog, click here

How Often Should You Practice?

“One of the most popular questions a pitching coach gets is, “how often should I practice and how many pitches should I throw?”  The reason this is the most asked question is because there is no simple or magic answer. One thing that always comes to my mind when I get asked this is not only how often are you practicing, but what are you practicing.  I am going to do my best to help answer this question in a way that YOU can determine your answer!

First, lets outline some of the questions you need to ask yourself…

Do you have a clear plan?

Practice is about excellence, educating yourself, being smart, and having a clear plan. To start, let’s determine your needs:

  • How much time can you give to pitching?
    • What can you commit and what is realistic?
    • Who is your catcher? Do you need a catcher every time you practice?
  • How old are you?
    • Younger pitchers need more drills to develop mechanics
    • Older pitchers need situational pitching in addition to basic maintenance on mechanics.
  • Are you having fun?
    • a. To have fun you need to have a certain amount of success and in order to have success you need to practice enough to get there.
    • Having fun is IMPORTANT
    • Losing the fun often leads to losing motivation

Becoming great at anything takes repetition, therefore pitchers who practice more often seem to have the most success. I notice pitchers who practice consistently for shorter amounts of time (5 days a week, 30-60 minutes) make adjustments faster than pitchers who go out for long workouts less often (2 days a week for 1-2+ hours).

With that said, practice too often can have a mindless approach: simply repeating drills and throwing pitches without thinking or having a specific focus will not help you. Your time is precious and it needs to be directed, not just random. What exactly is it that you need to work on; throwing strikes? your reaction when you throw a ball? your footwork? The older you get the more specialized these questions become, but you always need to ask them.

How to Set-up a Pitching Practice

  • Warm-ups
  • Before even picking up the ball its important to get your body moving. The movements you do in this part of the warm up should ask similar things of your body that your pitch will. For example, arms overhead, hips open like your stride, push-offs….”

To finish reading this blog, go to How Often You Should Practice by SL Faspitch.

Dealing with Injuries Part 2 – Contributing to Your Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR TEAM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does it mean to be competitive? Part 1 – Competing Against Other Teams

(This month’s topic will be broken down into 3 parts, 1 in each of the next 3 weeks.)

 Competition Quotes

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.

1) Competing Against Other teams

Competiting against other teams

 

The ability to be competitive against other teams…

 

 …sounds easy right?

 

Who would’ve ever thought that you would have to teach/motivate a player to just competeagainst another team.  This is your most basic form of competition a college coach is looking for.  This kind of competing involves stepping out onto a field and knowing that at the end of the game there is going to be a winner and there is going to be a loser, and dreadfully not wanting that loser to be you.  It’s these people who are the upmost competitive on the field who hate to lose more than they like to win.  Competing on the field against another teams means having an inner fire and inner desire to beat whoever is in the opposing dugout.  Most players will show up for the “big” game to compete, but it’s the most competitive players who will show up for the game against a team they know they SHOULD beat.  This kind of competitive player knows that at this time that all stats are out the window, and you compete knowing that anybody can beat anybody on any given day no matter who you’re going up against.

 

Even though this is the most basic form of competing, and some people take it for granted, I find that sometimes it has to be brought out in young girls playing today.  The mere idea that if there is a game being played, that you should want to beat the other team more than anything else going on in that moment at that time.  It comes out as a passion to win.  A passion to win should not just come out when there is a lot at stake for the game (ie. playoff games, nationals, championship games).  A passion to win should just come out because there is an opponent standing on the other side of the field in a different uniform.  A passion to win for those uber competitive players shines so much that it glows on other players on the team in attempt to lead the team and get everyone focused on the same goal.

 

One theory I hear all too often deals with the fact that nowadays, “everybody wins”, and “everybody gets a trophy”.  This is not how life really is when girls get older and are in the “real world”.  There are parents who are too overprotective and want to make sure that their daughter feels like a winner, even though she may have lost the championship game.  I am all for making a player feel better after a big loss, but there also has to come the honest truth and realization that there IS a loser.  By teaching a player that she lost, it makes her that much more hungry not to ever feel that feeling of losing again, thus creating that inner fire  to go out and win that much more when she steps out onto the field the next time.  More importantly, it pushes her work harder and get mentally tougher in game situations.  The idea that everybody wins is not realistic when you get to the “real world” and players are all grown up.  Build your desire to compete now, so that it pays off later even when sports are over.

 

In any type of game there will always be a winner and a loser, which is what makes sports so interesting to watch from the outside and from the inside, builds character.  It is that internal drive of simply not wanting to lose that makes the most competitive players stick out to college coaches when they are at the games.  College coaches are looking for more than a player who can hit a homerun or throw 68 mph.  They want heart, passion, drive and internal motivation so that when you get to their program, that is one less thing they have to teach.  Plus, if you are that player who is competitive, it can rub off on the other players on the team. Lead by being competitive.

 

Part of that inner drive deals with playing through injuries, sicknesses and being tough.  Competitive players compete through minor physical setbacks because they love to play so much and want to help their team win.  Players who are not as competitive look for reasons to get out of playing in games – a cough, a runny nose, bad weather, a broken nail.  Players who love to competeFOR their team and AGAINST other teams will do whatever it takes to be out on the field and play the game they love.

 

Are you competitive? Are opponents scared to play you?  Do your teammates look to you as someone they want to go to war with? Answer these questions truthfully so you know if you need to reevaluate your outlook and passion for this amazing game.
COMPETE EVERY PITCH.

 

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.

Photo Feb 22, 6 55 08 PM

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.

Photo Feb 22, 6 33 37 PM

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.

Photo Feb 22, 3 46 52 PM

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!

Photo Feb 22, 9 31 35 AM

Photo Feb 22, 9 31 29 AM

Photo Feb 22, 9 31 26 AMPhoto Feb 22, 9 31 15 AM

Photo Feb 22, 9 31 23 AM

Photo Feb 22, 9 31 39 AM

Photo Feb 22, 9 31 42 AM

Jessica Mendoza

10 Reasons Softball Can Change Your Life

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

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

1) Travel:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) Time Management:

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

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

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

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

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

4) How to Manage Relationships on a Team:

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

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

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

5) Communication:

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

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

6) Failure:

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

7) Winning:

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

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

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

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

10 Reasons Softball Can Change Your Life

 8) To Never Give Up:

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

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

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

9) Presence:

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

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

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

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

 10) Be Present and Let Go:

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

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

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

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

 

 

Visit Amanda Shop’s for Softball Inspired Apparel

What’s Taking Away From Your Confidence?

I get asked about confidence…A LOT.  Mainly because confidence (no matter what your softball mechanics look like) is a HUGE key to an individual’s success on the field and in life. I might not know you, and I might not know your daughter, but what I know for absolute certain is that if she feels fully confident and happy, she will flourish and feel like she can achieve anything she puts her mind to.

Instead of thinking of confidence like it’s a big mystery, it’s important to keep it simple and know going into it that confidence will fluctuate (just like our bank accounts). It’s vital to realize what is taking away from our confidence (just like what is it that we are spending our money on) and also what is replenishing our confidence (just like adding money to our account).

Everyone knows what it’s like to look at your bank account and see deposits and withdrawals of money. Most people have a certain idea of where they want their checking account to maintain at. Maybe some people want $5,000 in there, maybe some people want $10,000. The amount of money each individual person wants to know is in there is different; the amount of confidence each person needs to feel is different, as well. Confidence is so subjective, but there is a way to make it more objective in each of our eyes…

Checkbook

Okay, imagine your confidence is like balancing a checkbook.

Your confidence has its own Checking Account. There are things in life that will withdraw your confidence, and there are things that will deposit into your confidence.  The items or situations that will deposit and withdraw confidence are different for every single person (in life and in sports). No two people are going to be exactly the same.

We each have different types of Confidence Accounts. For example, maybe you have a Pitching Confidence Checking Account, a Hitting Confidence Checking Account, a Fielding Confidence Checking Account.  Then, of course you have a “joint account” that is your Softball Confidence Checking Account.

Amanda Scarborough Confidence Checking Account

Let’s say you start at $1,000 in your joint Softball Confidence Checking Account, and $1,000 is where you know you perform your best. Maybe you are on a team where your coaches constantly yell at you, your parents don’t show you enough support and you also gave up 3 homers the last tournament and struck out 5 times. All of those things are major things that withdraw from your Confidence Checking Account.  The closer we get to $0, the less confidence we will have. (Just like a real checking account, imagine being close to $0 and the amount of anxiety and negativity one might feel). If you’re close to $0 in your real checking account, you are going to find ways to make money to get that account back up. The exact same thing should happen with our Confidence Checking Account, although I feel a lot of young girls don’t know how to get off of Empty.

So what is depositing into your Confidence Account? How is your “tank” getting filled back up? Most importantly, do you know what can fill up your Confidence Account? It’s easier to find the things that are withdrawing from our confidence than the things that are adding to it. Every person, every player, will have a breaking point. The situations that lead to that breaking point and the amount of time it takes to get there will differ for every person. There are SO many things that can go into it – did you just recently move? Did your best friend on your team leave? Have you practiced as much as you think you should? Are you making big mechanical adjustments? Is your family supportive?

There will be times where your Confidence Account is overflowing, and there will be times where it’s almost empty. It’s only normal. However, the biggest question is if you know what it takes to get it back to where it needs to be. Are you able to recognize the situations that give YOU more confidence? Do you know what to do to get back to your confident place? Are willing to put yourself in situations and surround yourself with great people to help get you back where you know you are best and happiest?

I encourage you to monitor your Confidence Checking Account just like you monitor your bank account. Sometimes things are taking out of our Confidence Checking Account that we don’t actually know are taking away from it. (Think of if someone steals your account information and goes on a shopping spree, and all of a sudden you look at your account and it’s lower by $2000) The same can happen with our confidence.

Also, remember the more accounts you have to manage, the more difficult it may be to keep them all balanced and give them the attention they each individually deserve. A pitcher who hits and plays short stop has MANY different accounts. The more accounts you have, the more time you have to invest to making sure they are all fully loaded and being refilled. It is also important to make sure that one account is not effecting the other account (i.e. a pitcher taking her emotions to bat with her).

Try to find the ways to keep your Confidence Checking Account loaded! Oh, and also, every now and again, put some into savings….you may need it at a later date…!

 

5 Essentials of a Change Up

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

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

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

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

2. Throw the Change Up LOW.

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

3.  Keep it UNPREDICTABLE.

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

4.  Find the perfect SPEED.

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

5. THROW it!

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

Do not give up on your Change Up!

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

 

Who are you Surrounded by?

Does being surrounded by players who share your values about confidence and being in the right mental state help you as an athlete?

 

 Being surrounded by players that share these values absolutely helps improve your mental state. Players can push each other on the physical side of the game, but can also push each other on the mental side. Players should be surrounded by other players who are reinforcing that feel good, play good mentality.  Try to get your teammates to hop on board with those same values. Confidence is contagious.  Be someone that your teammates can look to, who plays the game confidently and with a strong presence.

Be a teammate who makes your other teammates better and stronger.  By playing the game with confidence and with a strong mind, you make others around you play the game better, as well.  Not only will  you feel better and stronger off the field, but you will see positive results on the field — having more fun, winning more games, relaxing while you play.

These values not only affect you on the playing field, but off the playing field.  The confidence and the mental state you are learning on the softball field greatly affects you in every day life at school and at home.  To be completely honest, it doesn’t just have to do with players who share the same values, but with coaches who share similar values and are reinforcing a positive mindset and helping players to feel their most confident.

/* ]]> */