My mission is to inspire softball players to DREAM bigger, WORK harder, and SMILE more often. I look to not only help to improve their physical softball skills, but also show them the importance of confidence on AND off the field. Through my website you will find information on all things softball—motivation, inspiration, blogs, quotes, videos, tips, preparation, etc. Feel free to leave questions/comments, I’ll get back to them as soon as I can!

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

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

But you ARE strong enough to overcome.

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

Dear Pitcher, You Are Not Alone

Dear Pitcher,

I’ve been meaning to talk to you for a while now. I would say I can’t imagine what you are going through, but that’s not true. I know exactly what you’re doing through. There are some things I’ve been wanting to share with you. I need you to know that what you are feeling is normal. It is tough being a pitcher, I don’t care who you are. You are gong to cry, you are going to laugh, you are going to fail, you are going to succeed. ALL of it is a part of being a pitcher – not just the good moments. The pressure you are facing on a daily basis is something that most of your friends will never go through. It is something that makes you special, and it is something that makes you remarkable.

If you haven’t already, you are going to have moments where you feel completely isolated and alone. But it’s in those moments, where I need you BELIEVING in the opposite – that you are never alone. At the same time you are feeling sadness and frustration, there is another pitcher somewhere out there feeling the exact same way as you. We have all been there.

Everything you have felt and everything that you have gone through, is totally normal, and I can tell you without hesitation that someone before you has already gone through it. We’re all in this together….

Dear pitcher, the biggest thing I need you to understand before I can tell you anything else is you were born to believe in yourself. That is where it all starts. Your journey of pitching never really starts to feel enjoyable until you have a glimpse into this inner belief. This one thing is THE key to you having success when pitching, really no matter what age you are. YOU have to believe in yourself before anyone else can. SEARCH for your belief. WORK for your belief. KNOW that your belief will come.

Easier said than done sometimes, trust me, I know….

Dear pitcher, I know some days you will want to cry – over not winning, over giving up a homerun, over not being able to make an adjustment, and maybe you’ll cry because you worked so hard, but you feel like you’ve gone no where. Your frustrations will start to build so much that tears may start to form in your eyes – fight them off and stay strong. The best place to show that emotion is in your own home, try your very, very hardest not to do it at the field – even though I know sometimes it can be hard. Other pitchers have cried before you, and sometimes it feels good just to let it out.

Dear pitcher, I can tell you that there will be days you are going to want to quit. Actually, there might be more than one of them. However angry and upset you are feeling, you are not alone. We’ve all been there. Being a pitcher is one of the hardest things you will ever try. It will test you and it will push you so much to the point where you feel like you can’t go any further with it. During those times, take a step back, take some time off if you can, and listen to where your heart is directing you after you get a few good nights sleep. It’s amazing how time is able to heal you and make the thoughts in your head more clear.

Dear pitcher, know that every single day, and I mean every day, you are getting better – even on the days you want to quit. It doesn’t matter if you just gave up the game winning homerun or if you struck out 15 in a game. There is always something to learn, and at the end of every day, you are progressing and getting better IF you are willing to learn through the “bad” days and the “good.” You will feel both every single time you go to pitch…and you are not alone.

Dear pitcher, you are never ever, ever going to be perfect. I know you want to be so badly. I know that you expect it of yourself, but no one else expects it of you. One of the hardest feelings to overcome is not feeling like you’re letting your teammates, parents and coaches down. It’s in those times where you need to remember that this is a team sport. I know that you want to be perfect, especially because you worked so hard at practice and at pitching lessons, but, perfection will never happen at any age or any level. You are not alone that you want to BE perfect, and you are not alone that you won’t ever be perfect. It’s ok to strive for perfection, it will motivate you, but don’t EXPECT to be perfect, it will destroy you.

Dear pitcher, this is a tough to hear, but there will be someone or some people who might say bad things about your skills as a pitcher. You are not alone. If you are considered the “best” pitcher, there will be someone telling you why you can’t make it. If you are not considered one of the “best” pitchers, there will be someone giving your opinion of why you’ll never make it. If YOU believe in YOU, that’s WHY you’ll make it. I want you to hear me clear when I tell you this, but their opinion does not matter. It just doesn’t. People, for some reason, just like to be negative. It’s your choice whether you listen to them or not. Every time, choose not to. Allow your belief in yourself to be greater than any outside noise you may hear. Don’t let it get to you.

Dear pitcher, your parents are always on your side. Your parents truly are your biggest supporters. You will have moments where you don’t want to hear what they have to say. You have two choices: You can either listen anyway, or you can ask for some time alone – you have every right to do so. I am not telling you or condoning doing this every time, but I totally get it. There are those moments where you just want to be alone in your own thoughts. Your parents just care so much about you and with everything that they do and say, it is FOR YOU to HELP YOU. Often times, your mom and/or dad can be your best pitching coach outside of your lessons. Allow them to help you as much as you possibly can. You are not the only pitcher in the world going through this struggle with your parents. Learn to work with them instead of against them. You are not alone.

Dear pitcher, you do not HAVE to be a pitcher. You should never feel like you HAVE to pitch, you should WANT to pitch. Being a pitcher truly is privilege, but it’s not something everyone wants to do deep down. I know there are players out there who have probably felt like it’s something their parents wanted them to do more than they actually wanted to do it. You’re not alone. Find something you full enjoy doing. Whatever it is – do it with all of your heart and have the courage to tell your parents and coaches that pitching is not for you.

Dear pitcher, trust your gut. You might not know what this means yet, and it’s ok…you soon will. Your body and mind is constantly talking to you. Can you hear it? Start paying attention to what your gut instinct is telling you. Don’t ignore that feeling in your stomach – it’s telling you something.

Dear pitcher, through all of your ups, stay humble, no matter what. Let others compliment you if it presents itself. You earned it, but you don’t need to tell others how good you are – your play will speak for itself. Also, when you have good games, remember to always credit your teammates – you are never playing the game by yourself. Don’t assume they are going to make plays for you, show gratitude towards them always. Every game tell your catcher good job and thank her for how hard she worked behind the plate.

Dear pitcher, remember this phrase – there’s no win in comparison. Every single pitcher is a different type of pitcher. It can be easy to be jealous of someone because they throw harder or have a better change up or their ball moves well. We do this in every day life about our body and our hair, but no one is YOU. Find what you do well. Know your strengths. Have pride in those strengths without comparison your strengths to someone else’s. It can be exhausting to compare yourself to someone else, so instead of easting the time doing that, spend time learning and recognizing your own strengths. Pitch to those strengths without comparing them to anyone else. Be you.



Dear pitcher, block out any negative energy towards the umpires and errors happening behind you. Remember how I told you that YOU are never going to be perfect? Well, neither are they. Your teammates may even make 5 errors in one inning behind you, but you won’t be the only pitcher who has ever gone through that. I’m telling you right now that there are going to be times that you have to actually throw 6 outs in one inning. It’s happened to every pitcher. But it should not change your attitude and your teammates who just made the error(s) should feel like you still have their back. You are not alone and you are not the first pitcher in history who has gone through a never-ending inning. Hold your head high. Don’t let it effect your game. Work through it. Be your very best, and it’s at that time when I need you to be the best teammate. 

Dear pitcher, find a way to balance competing for a spot with support and compassion for the other pitchers on your team. You are all doing the same thing – working for the same team goals – never forget that. Turn any jealousy into respect and support for her when she is pitching instead of you. Wouldn’t you want her to do the same thing? She should FEEL your support. And when you get an opportunity for innings in the circle, you have to make the absolute most out of them – no excuses. You have to step up. You have to step up for your team and you have to step up for yourself. Remember, each pitcher has an important role. Take so much pride in that role and more pride in being a good teammate than unhappiness that you aren’t the one who doesn’t get the innings in the circle. When you do get those innings, you gotta rock’em. If you are a pitcher who gets lots of innings, never get complacent. there is always someone who wants your spot. Regardless of how many innings you have, every day work on being a good teammate, even if it’s towards someone who you are competing with.

Finally, I want you to be the one who asks your parent to practice. Do not have them be the one who brings it up every single time. If this is what you want to do, you have to be hungry, you have to want it. You must consistently push yourself and allow to be pushed on the days where maybe you’re slacking. There will be those days where you may feel a little bit lazy. It’s normal, you are not alone. In those days where you can’t push yourself as much, have someone there to push you.

Work as hard as you possibly can. Know that you are going to fail, but failure is not something to be scared of. Every single pitcher will fail at some point. You are not alone. Push that fear aside and have the belief in yourself be stronger than any fear that starts to creep inside you. No one said this was going to be easy. If you are a pitcher, it is something that you ARE 7 days out of every week. You work harder than anyone else on the team, you have more pressure on your shoulders than anyone else on the team, and you get celebrated more than anyone else on the team. The reason you do it?  You can’t imagine your life without it.

So have fun, smile more, and when you’re not sure what to do, take a deep breath and remember that you are not alone.

Inspirational Photo Contest Winners!

I asked for players to send in their favorite picture with their favorite quotes to go along with it! I got pictures in from all across the country, and here are the 5 winners I picked!

Kimmy wallen

Kimmy Wallen
St. Louis Chaos 00
Farmington, MO

D'Layna Ketchum

D’Layna Ketchum
Age 13
Cico’s Fastpitch
Andrews, TX

Bennett Patterson

Bennett Patterson
CLEAtS 02
Trussville,, AL

Sophia Lawrence

Sophia Lawrence
Age 10
San Diego, CA

Danielle Bigham

Danielle Bigham
Age 13
Virginia Edge
Powhatan, VA
“Four bases, three strikes, two teams, one winner. It’s not just a game, but a way of life. Softball, this is my destiny.”

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!

 

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…..

 

Sometimes, You’re a Loser

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but everybody is not always a winner.  We live in a society where everyone is scared to tell a kid that they lost and in a society where everybody gets a trophy or a ribbon, proclaiming they won.  This just isn’t real life.  How does this prepare a young player for the real world once sports are done?

Now, if you know me, you know that I am 100% always about making girls feel great about themselves and helping them become the best people they can be, not just the best players they can be.  But here is what I know: There is always a winner, and there is always a loser.  If there is not a winner or a loser, then there really isn’t a competition happening.  If we are teaching kids that everyone is a winner, then we aren’t teaching them real life; we aren’t preparing them for what’s ahead.  Knowing that there is a winner and a loser is what drives competitiveness.  That competitiveness is going to be needed and used long after softball is over.

The more competitive players are going to be the players who show up to the ballpark every day with a desire to WIN.  That idea of winning is going to be what motivates them to practice more, so that they can help out the team more when it is game time in order to WIN.  The idea of winning is always going to be what motivates them to stay focused during the game for the entire 7 innings, because they know that if they lose focus, there could be a bad inning, which could result in losing.   A will to win will also motivates them to be a leader and help their teammates become the best players they can be, thus ensuring more wins than losses.

Doesn’t this sound like the recipe for success in life? — Hard work. Focus. Leadership. Teamwork.

Hmm…those things sound familiar.  Oh right!  They’re the major keys to having success in life and success in a career.  But, if everyone wins, then players will not feel that sense of urgency to have a work ethic and drive unlike any other.  There has to be something at stake.  And every time you enter a game, winning is at stake.  Learn to win.  Learn to lose.  Hate losing more than you like winning.

Take an in-game example.  Other than just on the scoreboard, throughout the game there is a winner and a loser with every at bat that happens.  A pitcher either wins the battle or a hitter wins the battle.  Think of that tense situation with the bases loaded, 2 outs, tie ball game.  I want the pitcher in the circle or hitter up to bat on my team who KNOWS there is a winner and a loser. She doesn’t get scared of it.  She just accepts it.  BUT, she wants to win so bad that the will to win overcomes the fear of losing.  Sometimes this player with the will to win and uber competitive drive isn’t even the most talented player on the team, and that’s totally okay.  When it comes down to it, I want the competitive player over the talent.

Be so good they can’t ignore you.

If we aren’t coaching to win (to truly be the ONE winner), then we are not teaching to compete.  You must lose to truly be able to appreciate winning. The way we learn is to fail.  Losing is considered failing.  If everyone is always a winner, then we never truly learn to fail and won’t push ourselves as hard to become better, learn more, work harder and become more dedicated.  Losing is not a BAD thing. This is not a problem of erectile dysfunction. We’ve all been losers at some point.  BUT, I would be likely to say that the loss fueled your desire to win even higher.  It’s human nature.  Nobody WANTS to lose.  Everybody WANTS to win.  It’s not always about your record, but it IS about teaching how to lose and teaching how to win.  You can still be teaching these things and have a winning record.  I totally get that it’s not all about your record or all about the scoreboard.  However, the lessons to be taught by having a conversation about winning and losing, and teaching kids the meaning of winning and losing, has a lot to be said.

Hate the feeling of losing more than you love the feeling of winning.

Competitiveness is going to be what drives players and drives a teamA team understanding that there is always a winner and always a loser is one of the most important, fundamental concepts to learn about sports at a young age; let’s not ignore it. It’s there.  It’s real.  Teach it at a young age so it’s not a surprise once they become older, when the wins and losses and at bats have more meaning behind them.  By teaching winning, you’re teaching fight, leadership, focus, hard work and team work.  Sounds like a winning combination to me.

If you enjoyed this post, let me know in the comments or on Facebook.

Happiness. Is. Beautiful.

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

 In essence, one word comes to mind – beautiful.

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

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

Amanda Scarborough Softball Players are Beautiful

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

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

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

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

youbeautiful11

For Love of The Game…

Throwback Thursday.  Freshman Year in 2005. Pitching with a helmet on.  Why? Because….

When you love the game, you’ll do ANYTHING to be able to play.

My freshman year, I had an injury at the end of the season.  On May 9, the day before our team was to leave to go drive to Big 12 Tournament, I got hit in the head with a line drive at practice.  I was playing first base (when I didn’t pitch, I always played 1B).  At practice, our pitchers would always throw live to our hitters to give them at bats.  But like I said, I wasn’t pitching, I was playing in the field and a left handed hitter was up to bat with a runner at 1B.  Because it was a bunt situation, I was expecting bunt, but instead, I had a line drive hit at me from an upperclassman who pulled the ball down the line.  This ball was crushed.  I had no time to react and get my glove up to protect myself.  It didn’t hit any part of my glove, it hit me on the side of my head.

They allowed me to go back to the dorm room for the night, but when me and my fellow freshmen classmates were at the dorm room, I couldn’t eat anything without throwing it up, not even tylenol would stay down, which is the sign of a concussion.  That night, I went to the Emergency Room..and from there it’s all a little blurry of what happened when.  Somewhere along the way I got a CT Scan where they found that my brain was bleeding a little where I got hit, and I had a small fracture in my skull.  I stayed in the hospital over night, and the next day, May 10,  the team left to go to Oklahoma City without me.  I was so bummed, I wanted to go so bad.  The Big 12 Tournament signified the official started of the post season in our minds.  On top of that, the Big 12 Tournament was played at Hall of Fame Stadium, where the WCWS is played.

May 10 is also my birthday. Double bummer to be stuck in a hospital.  When the team got to Oklahoma City, they didn’t start games the first day, they attended the Big 12 Banquet.  A banquet where all of the teams attend, and they announce the Big 12 Awards (Player of the Year, First Team, Second Team, Academic Awards, etc).  On that day, after the banquet, I remember laying in the hospital bed, and I got a call from Coach Evans.  She wanted to let me know that at the Big 12 Banquet I had been named Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Big 12 Player of the Year.  I was the only person in Big 12 history to achieve this.

After about a day, they were able to release me from the hospital because I was actually able to keep food down.  I went home with my parents while my team was in Oklahoma City, as no one really wanted me to do anything.  I didn’t understand.  Yes my brain was bleeding, but all I wanted to do was be with my teammates at the field! Why couldn’t I go?  I remember being at my parent’s house in Magnolia and listening to my teammates on the radio broadcast in our computer room play Oklahoma State (I think it was).  It was SO WEIRD to listen to them on the radio without me being there.  BUT…I talked my parents into driving me to Oklahoma City if we won that game.  Well…..we won! So guess what…we drove to Oklahoma City!!!

I remember being so happy to get to be with the team.  Our semi final game against Baylor was on Fox Sports, and since I couldn’t play, they invited me into the broadcast booth for a half inning.  Maybe you could call this my big break into TV?! We ended up losing that game and I drove home with my parents while my teammates rode home on the bus to start practicing for the post season, as NCAA Regionals would be that next week.

We hosted Regionals in College Station, as that year we were at Top 8 National Seed.  I did not get to play…apparently this whole brain bleeding and fractured skull thing was a big deal.  Who knew!!  We won that Regional, and the next week we were to face Alabama in Super Regionals, hosting them in College Station.

Amanda Scarborough Sharonda MCDonald

What we called “Club 190.” In between innings, the players who were not playing out in the field would run down to left field to keep legs fresh. It was always a time where we had fun, stayed loose and made some smiles. You see Sharonda McDonald and I in tennis shoes. We were both injured and unable to play.

The week going into Super Regionals, it had been about 2 weeks since I had gotten hit, and the doctors, trainers and my parents said I could play in Super Regionals BUT I would have to wear a mask when I hit, and if I pitched, I would have to pitch withs something protecting my head.  Me, Jamie Hinshaw, Jami Lobpries and our trainer, Leah, made a trip to Academy to figure out something I could put over my head.  We tried soccer headgear, wrestling headgear, and none of it was satisfactory.  I couldn’t pitch if we didn’t figure something out.  So…..we decided I would have to pitch with a batting helmet on if I wanted to play.  In order to get a little breeze, they cut a whole in the back of the helmet where my hair bun could go through, and a little air could circulate through.

I practiced 1 or 2 days before Super Regionals started, and Coach Evans wanted me to throw to some hitters with the helmet on to see if I could do it and how it felt– a trial run for what was to come in the actual game.  The first hitter I pitched to was Jamie Hinshaw, a fellow freshman teammate, left handed hitter.  She came up and in her first at bat against me at practice, ironically, I hit her in the head!  We laughed about it and one of the local reporters was there, and he ended up writing about it.  Good times.

Super Regionals started as Pat Murphy and Alabama came in to College Station.  We lost the 1st game of the Super regional, I pitched the second game of the series the following day.  It was May in Texas and it was SO HOT.  In between innings for my warm up pitches, I wouldn’t pitch with the helmet on, I would leave it off in the circle, and then I would put it on when it came game time.  Yes, it was a little embarrassing, but I just wanted to play, and I would have done anything to play because I loved it.  I’ve never seen anyone do this before…maybe no one has had to.  But we had to be creative, even if it meant pitching with a BATTING HELMET on my head against University of Alabama.

Amanda Scarborough Amanda Scarborough

Amanda Scarborough

Amanda Scarborough Pitch with Helmet on

We ended up losing that Super Regional, falling short of the Women’s College World Series. We were seeded higher than Alabama, and had SUCH a good team.  We had won the Big 12 Conference that year, and had such high hopes of this team in 2005 making it to Oklahoma City.  Unfortunately, in the last conference series of the year, our amazing center fielder and lead off hitter, Sharonda McDonald had tore her ACL sliding into home when we were in Columbia playing Missouri.  And then a week later, I got hurt.  These were 2 major blows to a team, terrible timing for injuries, especially to 2 starters.

What I did my freshman year to pitch with a helmet on, I would do again.  I didn’t know any better.  If there was a way that I could play, I would figure it out.  If you love the game, you’ll do ANYTHING to be able to compete at the sport you love.

A Day of a College Softball Freshman in the OffSeason

The offseason for a college softball player is the fall semester August – December. When a freshman sets foot on campus, her life is about to greatly change when it comes to time management, responsibility and number of hours you are working out/playing softball.  The different things you have to time manage for in the fall are:

  • Study hall hours
  • Lifting weights/conditioning
  • Hours you go to class
  • Hours you are studying on your own outside of study hall
  • Softball Practice
  • Social Time
  • Recruits coming in

Every university is different.  I’ll give you a little insight as to what my schedule was like when I played at Texas A&M.

Coming into the fall season, right when school begins, most schools have a conditioning test to make sure that the players were doing work over the summertime. It’s usually a pretty big deal, as it’s the first glimpse at the team to see who put in time and effort over the summer to become better.  I feel like during the conditioning test you learn a lot about your team; you even learn who are going to be the leaders.  Not only did we have a conditioning test (ours was called the Gasser test), but we also had to get tested on our bench press max, vertical max, agility time, squat and deadliest.  For the freshman, the first time you get all these numbers, it is used as a baseline.  For the sophomores, juniors, and seniors, this number is used to monitor and compare to make sure you’re getting stronger, and once again, to make sure you worked out over the summer. For those sophs-seniors, if they did not come back in shape and pass all their tests, then they had to go to what we call Club Del Ray (our strength and conditioning coach’s name was Ray).  CDR are extra workouts during the week first thing in the morning in the fall to get you BACK into shape…preparing you for season coming up in the spring.

As a freshman we were required 8 hours of study hall a week.  This study hall takes place usually at night between the hours of 6-10.  Those were the most popular hours athletes were getting in their study hall time.  Athletes of all sports – football, basketball, volleyball, etc.  You go, check in, get work done, check out and leave.  The way you get out of study hall hours, is to keep a high enough GPA.  At your freshman year, if your GPA is high enough, you will no longer be required to go to study hall on an hourly weekly basis.  If your GPA drops at any time during your 4-5 years playing softball, then you’ll be required to go back.

As a freshman, we were required to live on campus.  When I was there, we had to live with someone from a different sport; I lived with a  golfer.  Now, the girls at A&M generally live with another softball player their freshman year, and they still live on campus.

A typical “full time” course load is 12 hours.  As a general rule, 3 hours = 1 class.  So in any given semester, you’re taking at least 4 classes. Some players will take 15 hours (5 classes) depending upon how heavy the classes are and knowing how much required work will go into them.

Softball practice is a little different in the fall.  During the fall, you will have about a month (the coach can decide when this takes place) of team practice.  This means that the team will practice every week day from certain hours, say 3-6, and everyone gets to be out there together.  Other than that month of team practice, you are doing what is called Individuals.  Individuals are much more limited, as every player is allowed only 4 hours with the coaching staff per week.  This is tough, especially for pitchers who hit, because you have to split up 3 things during that 4 hour week: hitting time with coaches, pitching time with coaches and defensive time.  Now remember, the team practice time and individual time are limited based on the coach requiring you to be there.  Outside of that required time, you can, and are encouraged, to get more work on your own.

Typical day of individuals:

6:30-7:00 – Wake up, eat breakfast

8:00-12:00 – Going to 2-3 different classes on campus, eat a snack before lift

12:30 – Weight room lift

Eat lunch

3:00-4:00 Individuals

5:00-6:00 Hit/Pitch on your own

Go home, regroup

6:00-8:00 Study hall

Home for dinner, then sleep

OR maybe it looks like this…

Typical day with Team Practice:

6:00 Team lift/Run

Grab breakfast

8:00-12:00 Class

Eat lunch, go home, relax, maybe study a little more, run any errands

3:00-6:00 (0r 7:00) – Team Practice

Go straight from team practice to study hall

7:00-9:00 Team Practice

So that is just a basic schedule for a freshman, and everyone’s will vary based on class times during the day.  The weekends in the fall are generally reserved for recruits to be coming into town (you hang out with the recruits as a team) and also reserved for football games! In that 1 month I told you about in the fall where you have team practice, you will also played around 10 games.  Could be a little less or more.  These games could be against anybody – Blinn Junior College or Texas State University.  They will vary.  They generally will be games with teams that are from close by to limit travel since and also teams that are not in your conference.

What’s your biggest worry about playing softball in college? What do you get most excited about when it comes to playing softball in college? Do you have any questions for me?  — go ahead, ask below!

 

What’s Wrong With Being a Beginner?

In a fast pace world, we are always thinking ahead and thinking what’s next? We are searching for bigger and better things. I think we can all say at one point or another that we have fallen victim to this. I especially notice this fast-forward thinking with pitchers and pitchers’ parents. Not many pitchers are ok with being a “beginner” pitcher for very long (usually less than a year). They are ready to move on to the next pitch or the next “level.” It’s that rushing before mastery can get them into trouble…

The beginning months and years for a pitcher are CRITICAL to the longevity and success of her future career. Beginning months should include LOTS of reps and drills working on spin, release point, balance and understanding the pitching arm circle. Ie. boring stuff for both parents and young players (I get it, I’ve been there). Too often, the foundational drills get glazed over like brussel sprouts in a buffet line.

Pitchers think that just because they have learned (not mastered) the beginner drills that are critical for a foundation and they have done them a couple of days in a row, that it’s time to move on to bigger and better things.

It’s just not true. You build that foundation by focusing on rep after rep after rep of the SMALL details.  The foundation you are aiming to build comes from muscle memory of doing these beginner drills relentlessly until you can do them in your sleep with the correct MECHANICS – not just looking at the result of ball or strike.

Too often when young pitchers are more focused on the result of balls or strikes or strikes, they let their mechanics go by the way side. They begin aiming the ball, not snapping the ball. Aiming results in slow speeds and less movement. By trying to throw strikes without solid mechanics, to keep the ball low for a strike, they lean their body forward instead of adjusting their release point and staying tall. Those are quick fixes in the game in order to get a result they want – a quick fix strike. Those mechanical quick fixes are not helping to build a foundation worth anything in years to come.

I am a HUGE advocate for starting a pitcher with months and months of drills, and in the first few months not even pitching from full distance/full circle (to an 8-10 year old, I know it sounds like a real life nightmare, but it’s worth it!).

I think getting the reward of pithing from full distance should be earned.

Getting to pitch from full circle is like a present! If you do the hard work, then you EARN your way back after mastering the progression drills. Pitching from full distance is the goal ahead…the end point, not the start point. Think of doing a crazy calculus problem, you’re not going to start with the problem, and then jump right ahead to the answer. You have to do all the little steps that make tape 30 min-an hour to get the answer to ONE problem.

It is very rare that I come across a pitcher and parents who are patient enough to put in the time to just focus on drills and not succumb to the pressure of wanting to move on to full pitch too soon. I love the idea of mastering one drill before you move on to the next progression drill. Master those progression drills before you pitch from full distance. Often pitchers and parents want to jump right into pitching from the full distance and aren’t willing to put in the foundational work that is done in the FRONT of the pitching rubber.

That foundational work is where pitchers can find REAL success later down the road.

The easy way out is to skip all the drills, or you do them, but not really DO THEM correctly (aka going through the motions to make your parents/coaches happy). Building a solid foundation takes more effort, which is why not everyone is going to do it. The true colors come out of the work ethic of a player and if they are willing to put in the time for the SMALL things that make BIG successes down the road. And let’s face it, it also is more work for the parents. The parents will need a better understanding of what mastery of a drill looks like. They will need to be knowledgeable about pitching and they should study pitching. This will help a pitcher know whether or not to move on because if the PARENT knows what the mechanics are supposed to look like, then they will be able to hold the pitcher back or encourage her to move on once the drill has been mastered with correct mechanics.

I’m not sure where the hurried pressure stems from – if the parents are getting pressure from the players or if the players are getting pressure from the parents. Maybe it’s the parents getting pressure from the coaches or the players getting pressured from their friends. Just like in life, we are always looking for the NEXT thing, I see the same thing with young pitchers. It’s almost like the pitcher gets bored with drills (similar to a hitter doing tee work). Every pitcher just wants to throw full distance and every hitter just wants to hit front toss or off of a pitcher only. They don’t want to do the DRILLS that are going to make them great down the road.

Think of this real life house foundation example that is comparable to a pitcher’s foundation:

A home starts with a concrete foundation. Before anything goes on top of that foundation, the foundation has to be SOLID and made sure it is poured correctly, because once you start to build a home on top of that foundation, there is no going back and fixing it. I’m sure the guys who pour the foundation would love to just find a piece of land and start pouring with little to no instruction, but those guys have to take their TIME to know ensure that foundation will be done right. A house with a compact foundation is a safe house, and one that will last forever. A foundation that is rushed and not done the right way may end up getting a crack in it. Thus, the house loses its value and it’s unstable. A home foundation that is not done correctly may look really good in the beginning, but years down the road, eventually the foundation will suffer and the overall house will suffer. It may look pretty and really good instantly, but then years down the road the truth comes out as time passes.

A pitcher has a mechanical foundation that is very similar to a house’s concrete foundation. It should not be rushed. A pitcher may be able to get by at first with rushing through the beginner drills and paying little to no attention to forming a solid foundation in the beginning years of pitching. Eventually, that poor foundation is going to get exposed the older the pitcher gets – whether it’s through not being able to learn new pitches because of incorrect body position due to poor mechanics or maybe that pitcher never gains more speed because they wanted to rush too quickly and not learn the proper leg mechanics. Also, years down the road, it will be MUCH harder to make mechanical corrections because of poor muscle memory when a coach is trying to work with you (just like trying to go in and fix the foundation of a house because so many things are sitting on top of the concrete foundation). I also see that those who rush through the beginner drills are those who stand out in 10u and 12u, but then they don’t get much better in 14u, 16u and 18u. (I am NOT saying this happens to EVERYONE, there are always exception to the rule). You have to ask yourself what is your long term goal? If you want to pitch in college, then you need to put in the foundational work NOW, not put it off until later, because LATER it will be MUCH more difficult to fix.

Before you move on from a drill or learn a new drill ask yourself these 2 questions. (Please remember, the answer must be yes to BOTH of them, not just 1 of them.)

  • Can I do the drill and throw 9/10 as a strike?
  • You can throw them as a strike, but are you doing that drill with the CORRECT MECHANICS? (have a check list made by either the paernts or pitching coaches so that there are expectations of the pitcher that she knows she needs to have)

It’s good if you can throw strikes – that’s the most important part of being a pitcher – being able to locate the ball where you want it. HOWEVER, if you are wanting to be a successful pitcher and pitch for years and years down the road, you must be able to throw strikes AND have correct form. Too many times form is sacrificed to throw strikes, especially in a game.

Always remember where you want to end up YEARS from now, not just next week. It’s so important to keep that in the back of your mind. Do you want to be the pitcher getting all the innings in 10U and 12U? ….or do you want to be the pitcher getting all the innings in 16U, 18U and in college? When I do these college softball games on TV, we definitely are not talking about a girl and the success she had in 10U or 12U. In fact, I can’t say that I have ever mentioned anything about 10U or 12U.

What are you rushing for? Is the reason that you are rushing and blowing past foundational drills more important than your daughter’s future softball career in high school and potentially in college? It can be hard, but focus on the future by focusing on the NOW at practice. Be aware of the future and have goals, but be present and understand each day a little pitcher’s foundation is growing. I can tell you right now, a pitcher is NOT measured by how quickly they can say they started to pitch from full distance or by how many pitches she has. Years down the road when your daughter is trying to make JV or Varsity, one of the questions at tryouts will not be, “So how many weeks and months did it take you to get back to full pitch?” Are you as a parent willing to show patience with your daughter and not RUSH her? Are you as a parent willing to not be pressured by the drills getting “boring” and instill in your pitcher that these drills are what are going to make her GREAT down the road? Create tenacity. Create work ethic. Create mastery.  Pitching will be full of drills from the beginning until the end. Hitting will be full of tees from the beginning until the end. They’re not going away, so a pitcher needs to learn to appreciate them and understand their importance!

ENJOY every moment of being a beginner at something. The beginning of something only gets to happen ONCE. Why rush through it? As a parent, take time to learn the DETAILS of pitching so that you KNOW whether or not it’s time to move on and you have a better understanding of the mastery of each drill. Ask questions of what to look for at lessons and google pitching drills and information online. If you are going to be her coach away from games and lessons, then it’s important that you have a foundational knowledge of what needs to be happening. You guys can learn it together.


 

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