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…

Mental Toughness vs Feeling Good to Play Good

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

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

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

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.

Step Back. Enjoy

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

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

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

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

 

Stay tuned for new and exciting updates …

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Power Drive Photo Shoot

About three years ago I was searching pitching and pitching tools, and I stumbled across the Softball Power Drive.  I spent some time on their website truly studying the tool and soon realized that it was a tool that helped teach exactly how I taught my pitching students.  Immediately I searched for a contact email and sent an email to Softball Power Drive explaining who I was, how much I loved their tool and if there was any way we could work together.  I thought that email was going to go into a black hole, but it didn’t.  I got contacted back a few weeks later by the inventor of the Softball Power Drive, John Miller, and his father Brad. After that conversation, we have worked together ever since.

We made this video in Indiana about 2 years ago with a high tech camera that shoots at 1000fps.  What’s so cool about this video is that it shows how to use the Softball Power Drive while also showing fastpitch mechanics at a speed where you can actually see where the body is supposed to be.

I was very lucky growing up; I had tremendous pitching coaches who taught me solid mechanics and how to put my body into the most efficient spots to get the most out of my size and muscles.  I stand at not even 5’6 but could touch 70mph.  Think of the normal pitcher you see in college and most of them stand above 5’6, lots of them over 6′ tall.  So I get asked where I got that power from a lot.  My answer to them is: I used my lower half in the right way in order to get the most energy out of my frame.

This video has over 400,000 views on youtube and does not include the numbers of views it has had on the Softball Power Drive home page.  I haven’t really found anything else out there on the internet that shows the fastpitch mechanics in slow motion at 1000fps like this video does.  So please share or leave any comments and questions! Enjoy!

Helpful Hints for Making Goals in 2014

The beginning of another year is here, which is a perfect time to make some goals for the New Year.  Okay, now before you feel overhwlemed thinking about an entire year ahead and knowing you have to write some things down, take some time after reading this to step away and give it some quiet thought.  Don’t feel worried or nervous about your goals NOT happening; feel excited and pumped of what it will feel like when they DO happen.  When you are thinking of these future goals, only have positive thoughts surrounding them and GET EXCITED!  This is your future!  You’re paving the road for your life in 2014 and beyond, right now.

 “A goal is a dream with a deadline.”

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GO FOR IT – BELIEVE

Don’t be scared of your goals! Goals are your friends; they’re with you all the time! Embrace them. Believe in them! The hardest thing to do for some people is to put what’s in their mind down on paper, because then it already starts to put your goals in motion and become a reality.  So be prepared for it!  If it’s something that you really want, it will come your way!  If you feel deep down it’s the right time to write down a goal maybe you’ve been putting off a couple of years, GO FOR IT!  Timing is important, and if you feel good about it, don’t ignore that feeling.  Have confidence in yourself and believe that what you are writing down WILL happen.

 “Dream so big that it’s obnoxious, so big it feels like a lie. Be angry that its a dream. Then make it real.”

WRITE THEM DOWN – IT STARTS NOW

I encourage you to actually write them on a sheet of paper (or if you are like me, write them on a napkin), not just type them on your phone.  There’s something different about an actual connection with WRITING that happens to your brain, versus just typing with your fingers.  Write, write, write, don’t be scared, you can do it!  Once you write your goals down, they are officially in motion of you achieving them! How cool!

 “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up some place else.”

NO TIME TO WORRY ABOUT SOMEONE JUDGING

Challenge yourself to set your goals high…and most importantly make goals that are YOUR goals.  Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks your goals should be.  There should be NO JUDGING.  You don’t have time for someone who has negative opinions about what where you’re going this year.  If you feel like someone is not going to believe in your goal, don’t tell them! You don’t need that negative energy, it will only slow you down.

“Believe in your abilities…confidence will lead you on.”

ENROLL OTHERS

Just as much as you don’t care for the negative opinions of others, I encourage you to enroll people around you who you know care and will be supportive. You want to tell people who have positive energy and are only going to send positive vibes your way. Tell people who you know will encourage you and help keep you accountable/on the right direction to achieve your goals.  When others believe in what you’re doing, it can only give motivation and fuel your fire!

“The more intensely we feel about about an idea or goal, the more assuredly the idea, buried deep in our subconscious, will direct us along the path to its fulfillment.”

GOALS CAN BE ABOUT ANYTHING

You can make a goal about absolutely anything.  When I make my goals, I put on there work goals, financial goals and personal goals.  It can involve relationships, sports, school, saving money, friendship, travel, something about your house or a routine.  The possibilities are ENDLESS.  That’s the cool thing about goals is that you can make them anything that you are FEELING.  Don’t feel forced into doing anything – this definitely won’t help you achieve goals.  If they’re forced, then they’re not even really goals because increasing the level of forcedness will only make you work in the opposite way. They are YOURS and nobody else’s – remember that!!

 “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

FIND A WAY TO MEASURE MOST OF YOUR GOALS

When you write your goal down, make sure that there is something inside of it that has a form of measurement, so you know for sure if you are achieving it or not.  Example: Someone might write, “Practice more” or “Work harder.”  That’s a GREAT start of a goal, but go ahead and add something behind it like, “Practice pitching 3 times a week.” Or “Work harder – have 1 central focus every time I go out to practice.”  To add that measurement, it makes it a little more specific, thus giving you more direction throughout the year to achieve those goals. A measurement can even be an amount of time.

IT STARTS NOW

Understand your passion.  Realize your motivation.  Manifest your dreams and make them a reality.  This is your year, and it starts now!

“Begin with the end in mind.”

WHERE TO PUT THEM

I like to throw out choices for this one because everyone is different.  A lot of people say to put them in a place where you can see every day, but I don’t think that works for EVERYBODY (because honestly, I don’t do that).  When you’re thinking about where to put your 2014 goals, it’s important to understand and know yourself.  Think: where do you think would BEST benefit you to have your goals?

a)    Put them somewhere you can see every day

To me, this is best for people who need that motivation every single day that they wake up to stay on the right path towards those goals.
It’s important for these people to see it and every day visualize where they are going with the goals ahead of them.
For others, seeing the goals up every day can drive them a little crazy and make them worry about not achieving the goals

b)    Have them at a place where you can occasionally sneak a peak at them as a reminder
Are you a person who is generally pretty motivated, but can get some down days where you need a little pick me up?  This is the place for you.
On a day where you are confused or need a little direction, go check out your goals to give you a little energy and a pick-me-up.

c)    Put them in a completely hidden place

Do you work really hard and have a lot confidence?
You are probably the type who always has the goals in the back of your mind, and you don’t need to see them to be able to remember them and work towards them.
Make it a surprise at the end of the year to see just how far you have come by looking at your goals list at the very end.
Don’t forget where you hid them at!!

d)    Give them to your friend or someone close to you

Your friend can serve as a hiding place or…
You can have a friend you count on give you little reminders throughout the year as to what your goals are
Some people respond better to someone holding them accountable like this.
Let your friend help you stay on the right path to achieve your goals.

What is one of your goals in 2014?

Be Your Own Boss

I recently was introduced to the book Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence by Davis Casstevens, and I absolutely feel in love with it. It has great stories, very motivational and inspiring, right up my alley in so many different ways. In one of the chapters, Riding the Pines, Casstevens writes about an article he himself had read about being your own boss, thus leading him to come up with the idea for an athlete to “inc” himself/herself (ex. AmandaScarboroughInc) and the idea that your “company” (ie YOU) are a stock. Everything you do increases or decreases your value to the public. The “public,” in my eyes, can either be considered your current team OR the “public” can be a college recruiting you. OR, if you are a player already committed, the “public” is your current college you committed to, as they are wanting to see your stock continue to increase in value before you actually set foot on their campus.

Even if you are not the star player of your team, you are still a commodity to your team. However, being a commodity is not just handed to you, you have to make yourself a commodity by earning it. Every day you have to work on getting your “stock” to climb…this could apply to every day starters, players who are injured or players who are not in the everyday starting lineup. Ask yourself the question every day when you are playing or practicing, what are you doing to get YOUR stock to climb? Having a bad attitude would decrease your value, not giving your best every single second at practice also would decrease the value of YOUR stock. Those of you who are not in the starting rotation have to remember, you are ONE PLAY away from being a starter. At any second the person in front of you could get injured, and then it could be your time to shine. It would be YOUR opportunity and YOUR chance to make the very most of it. Don’t you want to be the one prepared for that opportunity?

Your coaches are a reference…

If a company (ie college coach) is going to ask about acquiring your company (ie you as a player), what are your coaches going to say about you? Are they going to say you have a good attitude, works hard, coachable, and a real team player? Or are they going to say the complete opposite? Your coaches’ opinions do actually hold weight and college coaches take that into their opinion when thinking of whether to buy your stock (recruit) you or not.

Tweet Smart…

Along the same lines of this is social media with Facebook and Twitter. Before you put something up for the world to see, ask yourself, if my coach saw this, would this increase or decrease my value as a stock? Before putting your entire life and every personal move on twitter, be careful and think twice when it comes to language, relationships, friendships or any kind of social scene. Ask yourself, “is this tweet or status going to increase or decrease my value?” Twitter and Facebook should not be used to show that you are an emotional rollercoaster. A college coach is looking for someone who is positive, steady, and a leader. And remember, at any second, a college coach can get online, and go and check out these social media outlets.

Lead…

On the field, every inning think about if your stock is decreasing or increasing in value. This is not necessarily simply performance based, but think of other things that help raise your “stock” like being a leader and helping out your younger or new teammates . Are you going to be the teammate who watches as someone sturuggles to learn the system or to learn a drill? Or are you going to be the teammate who goes over and helps them work through things, thus increasing YOUR value and your TEAMMATE’S value? If you are the “boss” of a company, you aren’t just worried about yourself, you’re worried about the employees who work for you, too.

Observe….

If you are injured, because let’s face it, injuries are GOING to happen, but consider it a perfect time for you as player to start thinking about situations, pitch calling, trying to pick up grips of opposing pitchers, trying to pick up the opposing team’s signals, making sure your teammates are in the right spot on defense, helping to keep your team’s energy up. There are SO MANY things you can be doing during the games and at practice. If you are a player who is injured, and you are not doing anything to help your team on a consistent basis, your stock value is dropping. You can do nothing or use the time you are injured wisely, the choice is yours. Observe. Visualize. Go through situations mentally, so once you get into the game and get back out there, it’s like you’re picking up right from where you left off. You possibly could be a bit behind physically wise from not being able to practice, but mentally pick up right from where you left off because you still visualized yourself being out there in any situation, and your mind is still as strong as it was when you were healthy.

Contribute…

In Mind Gym, Casstevens talks about “can-do” planning. This is when a player makes a list of things you can do when you’re “riding the pines,” whether you are injured or just not in the start lineup. The list is made up of things you can still be doing to help contribute to your team, and I listed a few things above such as studying your opponent by trying to pick signals (defensive and offensive), trying to pick pitches by seeing if the pitcher tips any pitches, cheering your teammates on, or exercising in the weight room. Write these things down and see all the different ways you can still contribute to your team and to yourself.

One thing in the game of softball we NEVER can control is the lineup, and who is in the starting 9. One thing we ALWAYS can control is our attitude and how we accept that lineup. Everyone wants to be playing, without a doubt. Have the attitude though, that you are continuing to learn and at any moment you could be called upon to action. You can control that aspect of the game, always. Be so ready in the dugout, that if someone gets hurt who plays in front of you or you get a chance to pinch run or pinch hit, that you are ready for that opportunity. Make it be as if that opportunity doesn’t come as a surprise to you during the game, because mentally you are ready, and it’s as if you were already in the starting 9. When you get that opportunity to go into the game, you’ve got to be able to make the most of it, and take it and run with it. THOSE are things you can control. Remember you can never never, (as a parent or a player) control the lineup of a coach. Casstevens quotes the serenity prayer in Mind Gym,

 

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

 Serinity

 A simple quote that many players and player’s parents can really learn from and keep in their back pocket to remember.  This is a helpful motto not just in our game of softball, but in life in general.

Teach your kids life lessons….

From a perspective of being a coach, I see parents all too many times who are not necessarily helping with this idea of their players being all they can be and “increasing their value” even if they are not in the every day lineup.  They actually KEEP the player from increasing their value because of what is being said in the car ride home from games or in between games, or wherever the conversation may be taking place.

Let me say, that I totally understand that some players and families are not going to be happy, and there will be players who switch teams.  It happens.  It’s a part of our game, and I do think it is important to be in an environment and in a situation where everyone can be happy, as it’s a two way street with the team and also the player. A player will THRIVE in a positive situation, as it’s important to find a place where your daughter can feel the most beautiful (ie. happy) when she is playing. However it’s how you handle it before the move that decreases or increases the “value” of your daughter as a player and the lessons you are teaching her with such an important change.  Even if you are not happy with your situation, it should NOT be shown in the stands or on the field.  There is a time and a place for everything, and if you want your daughter’s “stock” to be at the highest value for the “trade,” then it is important to handle it in an appropriate manner.  Even if you KNOW you are switching teams at the end of the year, or whenever it may be, still enable your player to get better every single game and practice no matter the situation.  There is always learning to be done in any situation.  Switch teams when the time may come for that change, but up until that last second, encourage your daughter to continue to increase her stock.

Teach young players that it’s  NOT just about the players who are in the starting 9, that there are lessons to be learned that are outside of softball and bigger than the game of softball.  Kids are so observant and are always learning and picking up things.  Even if you are not happy with your team and situation, it is not an out to not work hard and not continue to invest in yourself.  Teach your young players that even when there is a tough situation, you work through it until the time comes for the actual change  Don’t teach them that when a tough situation comes up, it’s okay for them to “check out” of practice and games by having a poor attitude towards their teammates and coaches and not working hard.  Commit to being your very best, at all times, even when no one is watching.  Player’s stock value is dropping or increasing due to the lessons that parents and coaches are teaching them by their actions, especially by what parents are saying to them outside of the actual field.

The journey…

Important for all of us to remember as players and as coaches that:
Carl Lewis

What lessons are you allowing your players to learn along the journey?  A lot of times we get caught up on the outcomes (wins and losses), but really when we look back, it’s not all about championship rings and innings played and batting averages.  I don’t remember those things as much as the lessons I learned from my parents and coaches, the way that those people made me FEEL and the great mentors I met along the way who have made me the person I am today.  We get caught up in the moment and forget about the longrun.  It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  We all learn from mistakes and from failing, much more than we learn from when we don’t fail.  Allow your players to fail, this allows them to learn.  The failing is part of the journey.  “Failing” could be striking out.  “Failing” could be making an error.  “Failing” could be not being in the starting lineup.  Once you define a fail, more importantly, define how you are going to learn from it.

EVERYTHING is a process in life, and your goal is that that your “stock” is TRENDING upward.  This means you’re going to have moments of downs, we all do.  But when you look back, you hope to see that if your playing career or life was a graph, you would see the trend increasing over an amount of time.

Raise your stock

My “company” was surrounded by mentors who helped increase my “stock” every day, and I was not faced with the social networking animals of Twitter or Facebook (until I got to college). Whether you’re injured, not an every day starter, or you’re in the starting 9, engage in can-do planning and recognize the things you CAN change vs the things you CANNOT change and see the difference. Every day, commit to increasing your value, as a player and as a person, whether it’s on or off the field. Remember that there are bigger goals ahead for you, and the actions that you have now are going to effect what happens to you later.

 

How to Get Mentally Tough in the Circle

You’re inside the circle, both feet are on the rubber, it’s a 3-2 count with bases loaded, tie ball game and the clean up hitter is up to bat.  What’s going on in your head? Do you hear the opposing team in the dugout?  Do you hear your own thoughts more than the loud voices in the stands?  Is your mind clear?  The more important question that helps you feel good about answer these questions is, how did you prepare for this moment?  You’ve got to slow the game down….

PREPARATION GIVES MORE CONFIDENCE

To me, it all comes down to preparation for the big moments.  Preparation breeds confidence. The more prepared you are, the more confident you can feel to handle any situation that comes your way in a game.  Preparation gives you tools to handle adversity or tense situations.  Practice competitive, tense situations at practice during the week.  By putting players under pressure at practice to perform, they are going to be more used to the feeling when it comes game time.  If you have players who never practice pressure situations, then most of them are going to get tense and fail when it comes down to it.  Give the loser a consequence. OR give the winner a reward.  It doesn’t have to be anything major.  But, they need to learn what it feels like to be put under pressure and learn both – what it feels like to succeed and what it feels like to fail.  To appreciate both, you have to learn both.

In order to be successful in a tense, important situation, the one thing that has to happen, is that you have to be confident.

With confidence, you are SURE of which pitch to throw to get that clean up hitter out.  With confidence, the game slows down.  When the game slows down in your mind you have better chances of breathing.   If you’re not breathing, there’s no way to get oxygen into your body.  That oxygen is going to be another form of fuel so that your body uses so it can perform to it’s highest potential. Instead of giving focus to being nervous, give focus to remembering to breathe and slowing your breath down.  When your breath slows down, the game slows down.

WHAT ABOUT CROWD NOISE?

I’ve gotten asked, “How do you drown out crowd noise?”  Those players who slow the game down do not often hear crowd noise.  They are so focused on the task at hand and living presently in every single moment and every single breath, that outside forces do not affect them as much.  You are able to truly give focus and belief in yourself by preparing before game time comes.  If you are not as prepared, you are going to be the player who gives outside forces more attention and focus, and be the one who hears the crowd or dugout trying to rattle you.

PRACTICE IDEA: Have a pitcher and a catcher out on the field with a better up, with the rest of the team in the dugout yelling at them for an entire at bat.  This is going to help the pitcher focus, this is going to help the batter focus.  PRACTICE noise.  Practice working through adversity so that you are a little bit more prepared for it, or at least FEEL more prepared for it, when it comes down to a significant in-game moment.

STAY WITHIN YOURSELF

Stay in your own thoughts. Remember to have positive self talk. Don’t talk yourself out of the positive talk that should be going on in your head.  Be confident and so focused that nothing else matters other than the catcher who is in front of you behind the plate.  Be so focused you don’t even see the batter standing in the batter’s box – she doesn’t matter.  The only thing that matters is what YOU do.  Remember you are in control.  Remember if you put the ball where you’re suppose to, and you are 100% behind the pitch with confidence before you throw it, you will have success.

I can. I will.

SITUATIONS CREATE FEELING – (this to me is the most important to understand)

In this critical moment in a game, instead of letting thoughts run through your head about what might happen if you don’t succeed (i.e. she gets a hit off of you, you throw a ball, you a hit a batter), only let positive FEELINGS run through your mind before the pitch.  Yep, FEELINGS. What do I mean by this? Everything we go through in life creates a certain feeling (a reaction) when it is happening (happy, sad, mad, nervous, etc), even sports.  There is an instant feeling of excitement or happiness created after you throw a strike (if you’re a former player, you know exactly what I mean!).  There is an instant feel of madness or sadness after you walk someone or give up a hit. Whether you know it or not, those feelings are being created….

Before you throw the pitch, let a situation run through your head where you see yourself having success in an event that happened in the past. (This could be the pitch you threw before that was for a  strike on a corner; it could be a game winning strike out a year ago; maybe even you had been in a tough situation earlier in that game and you got out of it).  When you think about that moment, your brain automatically connects with the feeling that was created in that moment to give you more positive energy and positive feel for the task you have at hand.  When you see yourself having success, your body feels like it wants to create that same positive feeling again.  (Warning: it can happen for the negative situations too….so when you think about not wanting to walk someone, your brain thinks about those negative feelings and doesn’t want to feel it again, which makes you way more tense).  So, draw from past experience to create positive feelings in your head that you will feel throughout your entire body, so that you are entering the most important pitch in the game feeling nothing but positive energy towards what is about to happen. Have belief in yourself and confidence in your skills and preparation.

Being mentally tough in the circle is a huge thing to work on as a pitcher.  The more tense situations you are put in, the more experience you get with it, and the better you will be able to handle adversity when it comes along.  The best advice I can give is to be the most prepared person on the field; you gain confidence from that preparation.  Also, start paying attention to your feelings and being able to draw on past experiences and what they felt like.  Be in touch with your body and what you are feeling. Know how to talk about them, articulate them, and recreate those positive feelings!

What are other ways that you have found that help to be mentally tough in the circle?

 

Mental Strength & Your Environment

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

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

Teammates

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

Coaches

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

Parents

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

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

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

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

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

2013- Year in Review

I look back over 2013, and I am somewhat in awe.  I can honestly say it was the best year of my life. I am speechless about the opportunities that have come my way and the different places I have gotten to visit/events I have gotten to be a part of.  The different friends I get to hang out with everywhere I go is so awesome, as everywhere I travel I either make new friends or get to reconnect with old friends.  2013 was definitely the most diverse year I have had when it comes to my career and new doors opening.  Traveling, new adventures, new challenges, new learning, new friends, new opportunities — all in 2013. For a complete portfolio of my favorite pictures from 2013, click here.

January –New Years in Australia.  1st Speaking Engagements ever

Amanda Scarborough 2013 Year in Review_25The year started off in the southern hemisphere, as I brought in the new year in Sydney, Australia with the Texas Firecrackers Gold.  New Years Eve we went out into Darling Harbor on a cruise for the evening and we were out on the water near the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge as we watched one of the most spectacular firework displays in the entire world.  Sydney really does it up big because they are in the first time zone in the world to get to bring in the New Year.  This was a trip that we all will remember for the rest of our lives.  Australia was in incredible experience, as our team played several games against Australian teams, celebrated Christmas together in a foreign country and then brought in the New Year together.  So many memories….Amanda Scarborough 2013 Year in Review_34

I got back and took on my first ever speaking engagements.  One in Ohio, one in Houston and one in Waco at Baylor’s Winter Softball Camp.  What a great learning experience and a way to work through some nerves.  I got to meet a lot of high school coaches from Texas and Ohio at these engagements.  Speaking in front of 100’s of people for the first time is a great way to quickly get over some nerves!

 

February – May : Covering the 2013 College Softball Season on ESPN and Longhorn Network

February-June is my favorite time of year because it’s the college softball season.  My job during this time is a college softball analyst, which means that I analyze softball and talk about it on TV.   Now, some people get super excited about college football and college basketball seasons (and trust me, I love those sports too), but nothing gets me excited like the college softball season.  College softball is home.  I LOVE staying involved in the game by getting to travel and see so many different teams play from all different conferences.  Amanda Scarborough 2013 Year in Review_45Getting to talk about it on TV is the added bonus.

This past season I did over 25+ games on Longhorn Network (yes, I am an Aggie working for Longhorn Network).  The cool part about the 2013 softball season was that Texas made it to the Women’s College World Series.  They had such a strong team led by their senior class, so they were a lot of fun to watch and follow all the way to Oklahoma City.  I also did about 15 games on the ESPN Networks, including ESPN 3.  In addition to ESPNs family of networks, I also did my first game on Fox Sports Southwest and first game on CBS Sports Net.  In all I got to do around 40-45 games in the 2013 softball season.  I feel so very lucky to get these opportunities, as I know that there are a lot of people out there who would love to get a chance to do this amazingly fun job!

June – August : Traveling and Coaching the Texas Firecrackers

Amanda Scarborough 2013 Year in Review_46

After the college softball season, our summer season with the Texas Firecrackers Gold gets pretty busy and serious.  In these months we are playing in very competitive tournaments against some of the best teams in the nation.  We play in various exposure tournaments, trying to get our girls recruited to play in college and also try to qualify for different national tournaments that take place in end of July/beginning of August.  We have girls committed or signed to Texas, Nebraska, UTSA, University of Houston, Arkansas, Oregon, Lamar University and SFA.

August: RBI Softball Championship game in Minnesota on MLB Network

Amanda Scarborough 2013 Year in Review_7I had so much fun traveling to Minnesota and getting to cover the RBI Softball Championship game.  I really did not know what to expect when I got asked to commentate this game for MLB Network.  I was pleasantly surprised with the talent, passion and overall competitiveness of the teams I saw play in the tournament the weekend I was there.  MLB Network just covered the Championship game, but I got to watch many of the games leading up to the Championship game, and let me tell you, RBI Softball is something that more people should know about.  These girls were AWESOME.  In the championship game, Houston played Atlanta and Atlanta ended up winning.  I got to work in a 3-man booth with another familiar face, softball analyst, Cheri Kempf.  Cheri has been around the game in all different ways for many years and she currently serves as the Commissioner for the NPF.  We had a very good time together up in Minnesota getting to call this game together.

September – 2 Week Vacation to Thailand

After a whirlwind first half of the year, I was ready for a vacation.  Other than softball, one of my big passions is traveling.  I travel very often, and a lot of times my mom is my travel partner.  I wanted to go to a place that I knew would be a once in a lifetime experience.  Amanda Scarborough 2013 Year in Review_57Living in Houston, the Caribbean is a frequent vacation spot for us, and we wanted to do something that was not nearby.  We got out a map and researched where all United flew to, as we both have frequent flier miles, and we wanted to try to use miles for our flight.  We found Phuket, Thailand, which was also a place that my friend, Savana, had told us all about, too.  Phuket is an island in Thailand with beautiful beaches and a hot travel destination, usually for Australians, because it is so close to them on that side of the world.  So we booked it.  All on our own we figured out our travel plans with no travel agent or anything.  Thailand was AMAZING.  I would recommend it to anyone.  We both felt so safe.  Beautiful beaches. VERY friendly people. Lots of different things to do and see.  While we were there we went on a couple different island excursions by boat, rode an elephant, hung out with tigers, enjoyed the beaches and went on a helicopter ride over a chain of islands.  If you are considering a vacation, go to Thailand!! Such a cool place. To see more pictures from my vacation to Thailand, click here.

October – First sideline reporting for college basketball on LHN

Amanda Scarborough 2013 Year in Review_16This year, along with being a college softball analyst, I wanted try to broaden and open up myself to other television opportunities like sideline reporting.  So what does that mean exactly? Well, if you are ever watching football or basketball games, sometimes you will see or hear a sideline reporter covering a game and that person is down on the field or next to the court.  There are the two main people in the booth who talk about the game, then there may be a reporter on the side of the field or court getting the scoop on human interest stories, injuries or any interest facts he/she may pick up while being on the side of the game.  This fall I got to do sideline reporting for the first time for men’s and women’s basketball on Longhorn Network covering both the men’s and women’s teams in some games, as well as doing my first college football game: Western Kentucky vs Texas State.  It’s definitely a new, learning experience to learn a new job and cover new sports!  I am so thankful for these opportunities that have come my way and excited to see what the future holds.

November – Launch of bellalete (Nov 26, 2013) & DFW Softball Camp

Amanda Scarborough 2013 Year in Review_51It’s hard to tell you exactly which new adventure I am most excited about from 2013, but the launch and creation of bellalete might be at the top of the list.  For those who don’t know, belllaete is a new athletic apparel line that I co-founded with my best friend, Savana Lloyd.  bellalete is something that has been in the world and in our mind for over a year now, and on November 26, 2013, we officially launched it online and at a couple of different camps we had in Nov/Dec.  Savana and I are both very passionate about empowering female athletes to help work on their self confidence and encourage big dreaming and big believing.  Along with encouraging athletes to feel more confident, we are both very passionate about athletic clothes.  So we put these two passions together to create bellalete. Our goal, through bellalete, is to spread a message throughout the country that confidence, happiness and strength is absolutely beautiful.  Through comfortable clothing that feels amazing when it’s on your skin, to the words that are actually on the shirt, we want to help give females motivation to go out and take on the day and accomplish anything they can put their mind to. This is why we created bellalete.

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The weekend after Thanksgiving, I was a part of a big softball camp in the DFW area run through ASA Softball.  It was by far the biggest collection of coaches and athletes I had ever been a part of.  The amount of coaches that got put together for this camp was amazing. We are hoping to make this an annual camp and get together for the weekend after Thanksgiving! Pictures from DFW Softball Camp!

 

December: A New Beginning Online With Launch of www.amanda-scarborough.com.

Another project and idea that had been in the works for about a year is a new website I wanted to create to be able to write blogs and connect with more softball fans, coaches, parents and players.  I wanted my new site to also be a place to share my new adventures and travels. Over the past couple of years, I have really enjoyed writing and sharing different things that I have learned along the way – from being a player, to being a coach to being someone who travels and watches some of the highest level of college softball played for 4 months out of the year.  I am still learning.  I learn about myself.  I learn about coaching.  I learn how girls operate mentally.  I learn about different mechanics, approaches and theories to coaching.  I’m like a sponge and I never want to stop learning.  Ever.  So, because I like to write, and because I like to learn, I wanted to create a platform to share my knowledge and be able to help more people than just from around the Houston area. I want to hear from and share stories with people from all over!  The one thing I could talk about all the time is softball, and amanda-scarborough.com allows me to get connected with people from across the country.

Miles Flown: 80,000 +

Foreign Countries visited: 2

New Career Adventures: Working college softball for 2 new networks; Sideline reporting for College Basketball & College Football; the creation and launch of bellalete

Favorite memory: Celebrating New Years in Sydney Australia.  Taking a trip halfway around the world to Thailand with my mom.

GUEST BLOG: Jami Lobpries …TEACH ‘EM HOW TO BRAND!!

TEACH FEMALE ATHLETES HOW TO BRAND, TEACH’EM, TEACH’EM HOW TO BRAND!!

What exactly is a brand? Simply put: a brand is an IDENTITY. It is a set of associations we make with products or services and what differentiates particular products and services from competitors. In sports, we have popular apparel brands like Nike and Under Armour, league brands like the NFL and NASCAR, team brands like the Yankees and Manchester United, and athlete brands like LeBron and Tiger.

Wait, are athletes brands? Similar to the associations we make with products and services, a personal brand is the set of associations we make with a particular person. Athletes with strong brands can benefit from lucrative endorsement deals during and after their careers. Even after their careers end, well-branded athletes can transfer their brand power to entrepreneurial endeavors, appearances, or other business aspects. Want to be like Mike still?? He’s over 10 years removed from his playing days and his Jordan brand is stronger than ever. Well-branded athletes not only earn more, but they have the ability to influence larger masses and opportunities to transfer their brand power beyond the playing field.

So what about the not-as-well-branded or not-as-well known personas in sport? Are they still brands? Tom Peters says: YESSS! Peters is the author of the article titled “A Brand Called YOU” where he claims we are all brands. In fact, we are all CEOs and brand marketers…of our own brand. The way you dress, style your hair, the friends you associate with, the books you read, the food you eat, the car you drive, the content you post on social media. All of this makes up YOUR BRAND. As brands, we each have our own unique name, reputation, credibility, and image. We all have our own brand personalities, or the human element of your brand. We all have different qualities…..

To read more on how branding affects you, click here: Women’s Sports Blog.

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