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…

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

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

How Often Should You Practice?

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

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

Do you have a clear plan?

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

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

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

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

How to Set-up a Pitching Practice

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

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

Texas A&M HOF Induction Night

On October 31, 2014, I got inducted into the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame with 5 other Texas A&M athletes. Another softball player (Megan Gibson), a track runner, a football player, a soccer play and a volleyball player. 5/6 inductees were female – the most ever inducted in one year into the Texas A&M Hall of Fame. To write a Thank You Acceptance speech for such a meaningful honor made me stop and think about ALL of the people who had played a role in my life to get me to the level I played at when I played at Texas A&M. It wasn’t just my parents, it wasn’t just my A&M Coach; No. There were more than that. I could have written an entire novel on all of the different people who impacted my life for the better and have contributed to my success on the field. I am profoundly thankful and proud to have play at Texas A&M University.

Although when I got up there to give my Thank You speech I did not go verbatim from this speech, it gives a pretty good idea of how the speech went, and I wanted to share it because many of you had asked wanting to see it. So here it is!

“Never would I have dreamt I would be standing in front of you, getting inducted into the Texas A&M Hall of Fame. I am so unbelievably proud to be an Aggie and deeply believe choosing Texas A&M was the best decision I have made in my life.  From the minute I walked onto campus I understood very quickly that “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.”

First, I feel honored to be standing on stage with these decorated athletes and to forever hold a place with them in a hall filled with history, memories, championships and an Aggie’s most sacred word, tradition. To all those Aggies who played before me, thank you for setting the standard for tradition. It is the tradition that is the heartbeat of all athletes and of Texas A&M. That sacred word Tradition was the daily reminder that I played for something bigger than myself.

Second, to the selection committee, thank you for voting me in. As if being selected into the HOF wasn’t enough, hearing that I was selected with one of my oldest and best friends was nothing short of a dream come true. Tonight would not feel complete without Megan Gibson up here by my side.

Megan, I don’t know softball without you. We grew up around the ball field wearing the same uniform and having friends AND family (including our parents) calling us the wrong name. “Amanda, I mean Megan. Megan, I mean Amanda.” We would always laugh. We were the same age. Both blondes. Both pitchers Both hitters. Both from Houston. It was so fitting that we would both choose Texas A&M.

You pushed me physically. You made me stronger mentally. You made me a better competitor and together, we supplied each other with the criticism necessary to become more successful than we ever thought possible.  Without you, I am not sure I would be standing here today.  To Megan’s family, Darren, Sharon and Krystal, you guys are like MY family. Getting to be coached by you, Darren, with the deadly combination of my dad, was so much fun and I wish we could go back and relive those memories. Thank you Gibson family for being such a big part of my life and career.

I can’t think of playing ball at A&M without thinking of our 2 other classmates, Jami Lobpries and Jamie Hinshaw. They’re to this day some of my closest friends. Our senior year, Coach Evans pulled us together and asked us to think about what we wanted to leave as our legacy; it was the conversation she had with every senior class that comes through the program. After the conversation, we didn’t have to say it out loud. We knew the mark we wanted to leave.  Our legacy only partly consisted of competing for a National Championship, but it’s roots were much deeper than that. We wanted to be  known as gritty, determined, fearless teammates who were dedicated to leaving every piece of everything we had on the field every time we competed. For each other, for our teammates, for the 12th man, and for the university. Thank you Jami, Megan and Jamie for the accountability you provided in our relentless perseverance to execute our legacy.

I had the privilege to play for a head coach who made me a better softball player, all the while making me a stronger woman. I do not have enough time to give her the amount credit she deserves in how much she has impacted my life. She taught me a refined way of leading, how to fight and most of all, she taught me how to trust in myself and in my preparation. She reinvented the word compete, didn’t just tell me, but showed me every day at practice. Little did I know, what she was really doing, was teaching me out to compete in the real world.

Coach Evans, thank you for choosing me to play ball at Texas A&M and trusting that I had what it took to be an Aggie. I was born to play for you. You believed in me more than I believed in myself.  You were able to pull the VERY BEST out of me and you played one of the biggest roles in all that I accomplished. Even though I no longer get to practice with you every day the role that you played in my life is present daily.

To Joy Jackson, Rich Wilegiman and Mary Jo Firnbach, each of you influenced me in your own unique way and helped me to grow. Your support and guidance throughout my career meant the world to me.

A player’s goal is always to leave college better, stronger, and wiser than when she comes in. Looking back, it was because of Coach Evans and her staff that I can honestly say I did that.

An honor like this doesn’t happen without being surrounded by incredible coaches before I stepped foot in College Station. As a softball player, it’s critical to your success to find private coaches you can trust. Ironically, my first ever pitching coach at age 9 was Robert Andaya, who was Texas A&M Hall of Famer and softball great, Shawn Andaya’s father. At that time, I didn’t even know what Texas A&M was, I didn’t know what the word scholarship even meant, but looking back, he was the first person I remember talking to about these things and the first person who officially taught me how to pitch.  How fitting that years later, I would receive a scholarship and play for the same school as his All American daughter. My other private coaches, Ron Wolfworth, Jill Rischel,  Ken Hazlewood, and Richard Schriener…you all came into my lives at different times, but you all taught me my foundation and pushed me every week. Thank you so much for all of the time you dedicated to working with me and not just becoming my coaches, but lifelong friends.

My family moved to Magnolia my freshman year. Lucky for me, I moved to a highly competitive high school playing for Coach Renee Bialas and Coach Sheryl Tamborello.  Playing at Magnolia High School gave me my first memories of competing for a championship. I remember this being a time I really started to come into my own on the softball diamond. Thank you, both of you, for your unwavering support throughout my high school career and beyond.

My family became a fastpitch-loving group of people – aunts, uncles cousins and grandparents, alike. They may not have been fans of softball before me, but by golly did they become fans along the way. Thank you each and every one of you for putting up with my crazy softball schedule that I’ve had since I was 10, and continue to have at age 28. Even in times when you were not present, I could feel your love and support from afar.

And finally, but most importantly, to my parents, Mark and Sally, when I think of you both, I think of the word “presence.” You guys were physically present for everything, but your presence went beyond that. It was and is a presence full of positivity, happiness and overwhelming love. Taking the field would have felt so different without your presence in the stands (as my parents only missed a handful of games home or away).  It felt amazing to play and travel, knowing you were there to constantly cheer me on. Through the ups and downs of a season – Win, lose, strikeout or homerun, your love felt unconditional from the time I picked up a ball at age 6 to now at 28.

Thank you for encouraging me to follow my heart and trust in my own decision making. That is what led me to the best 4 years of my life: playing softball at Texas A&M. My heart overflows with gratitude when I think of the 2 of you and lasting impact you have made in my life. I wouldn’t be here without your sacrifices, effort and influence.

This induction is for all of you – friends, family, coaches and teammates. You guys believed in me. You helped give me the confidence to go out and play the sport I love with a growing confidence. Each and every one of you played a part in helping me perform to the highest of my ability.

My time at A&M was more valuable than I could have ever imagined.  This University, the 12th man, the academic staff, the athletic staff, my teammates and my coaches each taught me values that I now have the privilege of paying forward…and for that, I am eternally thankful.

Thanks and gig ’em.”

141031_E28Q4766 photo 2 141031_E28Q4567 141031_E28Q4564 photoAmanda Scarborough and Megan Gibson Texas A&M HOF

 

4 Ways to be a Loyal Teammate and Be Bigger Than Team Drama

Last Thursday I had a chance to FaceTime and talk on the phone with a team from Trussville, AL, CLEAtS ‘02. These girls were SO sweet. Prior to our conversation, I told them to think of 5-6 questions they wanted to ask me. They all asked great questions.  One of the questions was, “What was the biggest lesson I learned from playing college softball?” I had to think about this one for a few seconds. The first thing that came to my mind that I wanted to share with her was the concept of loyalty. I asked the young girl who asked the question, “Do you know what loyalty is?” And she replied back, “Yes.”

I told her the biggest thing I learned from college was how to be a loyal teammate and a loyal friend.

I told her it was very important to me to be a leader on my team and someone that my teammates and friends could go to. They could tell me things they were feeling, confide in me, and they could feel that whatever they told me was safe with me. I told her how important it was to be someone that her teammates could rely on and trust in. If you don’t have trust on a team, you don’t have anything. This is a quality that I still value very much in my every day life.

Amanda Scarborough I don’t know if it’s the Taurus in me or something I learned from my parents or previous coaches, but if you know me, you know I am loyal. I hold that quality very dear to my heart, and I think that it’s a quality that can dictate a lot of decisions that we make in our lives on and off the field.

I disliked drama from a young age. I didn’t and don’t like the feeling of being in the middle of things. To me, it’s negative energy. I don’t like to have negative energy surrounding my life, I feel like it pulls me down and it weighs on me. I remember middle school not being very fun years of my life. I wasn’t the most popular or prettiest and I didn’t have the most friends. Middle school is hard! I learned what it was like to have people be DISloyal to me, and I hated the way it made me feel…so that made a lasting impression on me. I never wanted someone to have to feel that same feeling because of something that I did them.

I like the feeling of smiling and laughing 1000 times more than I like the feeling of talking about someone behind their back.

Along the way I have learned…

  1. If someone confides in you, guard their secret.

It’s your duty as a friend that if someone chose you to tell something you, then they trust you.  It is your job you to care so much about that person that that secret stays with you. If a teammate confides in you, that means they see you as a leader. It’s important as a leader to understand the types of things you and your teammates can handle on your own, and the types of things that are the big issues that the coach should get involved with. To understand what to go to an adult about, think about if you feel like your friend, team or the mission of your team could be severely hurt because of what was told to you. (Important note: If there is a secret that a friend or teammate tells you that could be harmful to that person, it is important to tell an adult.)

  1. If someone is talking about someone else to you, don’t endorse it or repeat it.

The one thing about being on ANY team is that there WILL be teammates who talk about other teammates. So when that time comes, tell them you don’t want to hear it. Sometimes you may even have good friends who talks about other teammates, and it may be hard for you to tell them you don’t want to hear it or get involved, but if they don’t respect your decision for not wanting to hear it or talk about it, and they don’t really understand why, then that’s their problem. Whether you have the courage to stand up to your teammate to tell them not to talk about drama around you or not, don’t repeat what you hear. Don’t feed into the drama and into the gossip. Have the gossip stop with you. It might even get to a point where people stop gossiping to you…trust me, you want that! Stay far away from drama and the people who attract drama.  Remember, when you repeat that gossip to someone else, even if you aren’t saying that they are YOUR feelings, you are endorsing whatever is coming out of your mouth to someone else, thus making it what YOU are thinking and feeling.

  1. Always remember your own values.

To know your values, you must understand yourself and be comfortable with your own thoughts and feelings that you feel in your heart about the type of person you want to be. Close your eyes and think to the future. What do you want to be like? Think about what kind of friend you want to be known as and what kind of teammate you want to be viewed as. What do you see? If people who don’t understand those values, you’re better off without them. You will find those people who have the same values as you – those will be your forever friends. Sometimes, there might be only 1 or 2 of those friends and other people may have more friends than you. But who cares! I bet you will have way more fun with those 1 or 2 friends who hold the same values as you. Remember, you are never alone.

  1. Have your teammates back, respect each other.

Your teammates should feel like you have their back and they have yours. This does not mean you have to be best friends off the field and do everything together outside of the field. That’s not what I’m saying. Sometimes you might not even agree with everything your teammate does outside of the field, and you can’t control that. What you can control is how you respect each other on the field with everything else put aside.

When it comes game time, and you and your teammates go into that dugout, they should feel undoubtedly that you have their back. True competitors and athletes leave everything but their sport outside of the field. Once you step onto that field, it’s go-time, and you compete together for the same goal. Because believe me, when you are out on the field with the lights on in the middle of the big game and you look to the person to your right or left on the field or in the dugout, you want to think, “I got you” – and not just think it, but MEAN it.

ANYONE can be on a team, but NOT just anyone can be a loyal leader who people look to and who rises above all the negativity and drama.

Amanda Scarborough

Through all of this, remember to be loyal and remember the mission of your team. Every team has a mission, no matter what sport. That mission is to win championships. (any championship: tournament championship, league championship, conference championship, district, etc). Do you REALLY want to win? If you are a true competitor and have visions of being great, all of your decisions you make should be based off the mission of the team; any other decision could be considered selfish and detrimental to the mission of what the team is trying to accomplish.

Remind your teammates the mission of the team when things get tough. Remember that mission is bigger than one person. Drama brings attention to the one person who is starting it.   The mission of a team is bigger than drama, gossip or bullying. It’s never about just one person, it’s about the team. If everyone feels like they are on that mission together, united and loyal to each other, that is when that team will win championships. It all starts with being loyal. Be loyal in your every day life and to your teammates wearing the same uniform to accomplish big things on and off the field.

Amanda Scarborough

Experience Makes You Shine

I’m a firm believer in experience.  There’s nothing like the experience of pitching or hitting in the “big game” or with the bases loaded, and the game is on the line. Your thoughts are rushing quickly through your mind, you are completely aware of what’s at stake and how the next pitch you throw, the next time you swing or the next ground ball you field can be a defining moment in an important game.  In this moment, all eyes are on you, and believe me, you can feel it.  The experience itself comes down to more of a mental state than a physical state.  Your physical skills are there from the hours of practice and thousands of reps you have taken at your skill. However, your mental state will determine how your physical state is allowed to perform during the game at any point, especially those few defining moments in every game when it comes down to that one pitch.  One of the biggest questions is how to help a player to be strong in that moment.  A big part of that strength comes from drawing on past experience.

How are you going to handle your defining moment?

It’s hard to simulate this same sensation you get in the big moment in the game without actually living through it on the field itself.  There’s really no practice that you can do to fully compare to the same feeling that is created when you are actually in that big moment with the ball in your hand. The only way to simulate it is to actually do it…multiple times.  The more you do it, the more relaxed you can feel to be able to play to the highest of your ability without your muscles tightening up and thoughts overwhelming your brain in your head. The pressure you feel is as much a mental sense as it is a physical sense of feeling pressure and tightness throughout your whole body.  I’ve felt it.  Multiple times.  It’s that adrenaline rush that you get before the game and during the game that never goes away and is what makes sports addicting.  I want to be frank, if you’ve never been the pitcher in the circle or the hitter at the plate in that game-defining moment, you truly have NO IDEA what it feels like mentally to be present in that situation.  You don’t have the experience.  There may be things that you have been through that are similar, but it when it comes right down to it, the feeling that is created with the “big moment” is sometimes incomprehensible.

But it’s these moments that we all live for in all sports – as players and even as fans at the edge of our seats. 

How do you deal with the pressure?  You have to experience it.  You have to breathe through it.  You have to learn from it.  You have to be confident that you can handle it.  You have to recognize what it FEELS like, be in tune with your body and grasp how to cope with the tightness, the pressure and all of the intense energy that is surrounding that big moment. The more familiar you become with these feelings, the more you understand what it is like to tackle them and become victorious in that big situation.  It’s in these situations where you give more thought to breathing and calming your brain and heart down than you do to actually how to throw a pitch or swing a bat.  You practice experiences.  You practice breathing.  You practice how to keep your emotions under control when the game is on the line.  The more you have at practicing this, the more you WANT to be the one in the key point in the game.

Experience in ANYTHING we do gives us confidence the more and more we perform an action, in a certain situation, under certain conditions.  If you are bad at something (anything, no matter WHAT it is), the more you do it, the better you become at it, as your body and motor skills become more comfortable with handling the new skill you are trying to pick up.  The skill in the “big moment” is practicing how to control your emotions, thoughts, and calmness.  Even if you start as “good” at something with little to no experience, you will become GREAT at it the more and more you do it.  We can see this in real life outside of sports in our careers or different hobbies that we take on.  Sports are the same and even more pressure-filled because in a sport, everyone attending the game knows immediately if you failed or succeeded.  You are out on a stage called a field, and all eyes are on you watching your physical performance and waiting to deem your physical performance as a success or a failure.  Immediately after you perform a skill, every single person watching knows if you failed or succeeded.  Think of a player giving up a home run – everyone watching knows that the pitcher just “failed” and the hitter just “succeeded,” or at least they think they know.  Think of a basketball player and the eyes that are watching every shot taken.  We all know as fans whether or not a player messed up when he/she took a shot based off of the physical result of the ball going in the basket or not.  A job can be different than sports.  Maybe only 1 person knows that you “failed” – your boss.  Many times in a job, you aren’t out on a stage where literally every single person watching, or in the room, knows when you failed.  In a softball game, if you strike out or have a homerun hit off of you, AT LEAST 20 people know if you failed or not (at least 9 on each team, plus a few coaches on each team).  The thought of failing in front of people added creates pressure.

Okay, so I set the stage for you.  After innings and innings of play, and numerous games, sometimes we forget what the “big moment” is all about and what it really feels like to be in that pressure situation – we take it for granted that a player should be good at handling the big moment. This especially happens because we, as coaches and the parents, are older and have either seen or been through those experiences many times ourselves, so we assume that the 11 or 12 year old should be better at dealing with it.  Not the case!  They are just babies, they are just learning and trying to get their feet underneath them.  They are just getting a grasp at the physical part of the game to think about, and now they are having to think about this monumental mental side of it that can make or break them.   To understand what is at stake in the experience, is almost as important as learning to understand and deal with the actual experience itself – from a support position as a parent or as a coach.

Everyone comes around in their own time.  This is life.  We all learn differently, we all experience differently.

Take walking for example (not the softball walking of 4 balls take your base, but the actual skills of walking as a baby) – an experience that all of us can draw from – one of our first physical skills we attempt to do.  We got up, we fell.  We got up again, we fell again.  After days, maybe even weeks of getting up and trying to take that first step, we eventually stand a little longer.  We eventually take one step, then maybe two steps,  And before you know it, we are cruising all over the room and our parents can’t keep up with us. We had to experience each fall  before we could actually get to the end result we wanted.  Now, I imagine that standing for the first time or trying to walk for the first time is a bit uncomfortable. (I honestly can’t remember, but I’m just going off of a simple guess here) Your body is probably thinking what the heck is going on? What am I trying to do?

It’s new.  You have to figure it out.  You have to learn.  You have to understand what you’re feeling and your muscles and brain are learning each step of the way (no pun intended). Each and every one of us didn’t all learn to walk in the exact same amount of time, or at the exact same point in our lives.  Our parents were there supporting us, encoring us that we could do it.  They believed in us, and they knew it was only a matter of time.  We experienced failing to become the walkers we are today.  We may not have walked exactly when our parents expected us to, but eventually we figured it out.

Playing in the “big moment” is the exact same way.  It can feel and will feel uncomfortable.

Anything new feels uncomfortable.  Experience will create a comfortability (just made up my own word there, but you get the point).  We don’t get as many experiences in the “big moment” as we do when we were walking.  When we were walking, we were working on that every single day of our lives.  For the “big moment,” you MAY experience it once a weekend.  Maybe you don’t experience it on a weekend of games at all.  If someone is not experiencing different situations, then you cannot be upset with them for not being good at it.  Our parents didn’t get mad at us when we couldn’t walk on our first try.

The more you can experience the pressure situations and the make or break moment, the better and better you will become at being able to handle it.

THE REACTION

Nobody wants to fail.  Nobody likes to fail; but it’s the failing that can make us GREAT.  That “failing” moment where a homerun is hit off of you or someone strikes you out should be looked at as a learning moment, not a failing moment.  Where was that pitch she hit? Where could it have been? Where did she pitch you this at bat? What part of the plate was strike 3 on? Where do you think she will pitch you next at bat?  What are you going to do the NEXT time so that you feel more equipped to have success than feeling like a failure from your last experience. Teach teach teach teach!  When you react, don’t judge the experience, teach the experience.

No matter what age someone is at, especially a young girl, we don’t want to let someone downespecially in the big situation.  I PROMISE this is the case. Some might not admit it, but I’m telling you it’s true – I know from experience. Most girls don’t want to let other people down more than they don’t want to let themselves down.  Girls are looking for a reaction from their coaches and from their parents. Girls are pleasers.  They don’t want to see a reaction that they let anyone down – especially someone important to them.

If you are a coach or a parent, what reaction are you giving when someone “fails” out on the field?

That instant reaction you are giving with your words, facial expressions or body language IS IMPACTING THE NEXT BIG MOMENT THAT PLAYER WILL PLAY IN. No girl fails on purpose – no chance, no way.  When she looks to the dugout or into the stands, she is looking to see if she let you down.  Yes you – the coach, the parents.  If she did let you down, then you’re making it more about you than you are about her.  Remember, it’s about those players wearing the uniform, learning every step of the way.  They should never feel as if they are letting you down if they don’t make the plays that you think they are supposed to make.

If a girl is scared of a bad reaction, when the big moment comes, she will be drawing back on that experience in her mind from the last time it happened.  Even if it is not consciously being thought about, I promise to you it is in the back of her mind.  This is only going to make her TIGHTER in the big situation, not relaxed.  The player that is in the positive, encouraging atmosphere and mindset will become the player that does better the more and more they get to experience the big situations because they will become more relaxed and more comfortable. These players will be able to understand and deal with those tight feelings and a brain that is running at 1000mph.

Sports are similar to how life works in all aspects.  We do something, we fail, we learn.  But in the same breath – we do something, we succeed, we learn.  There’s a chance for both, but you have to allow the failing to teach you without effecting your confidence.  Learn from your successes just like you learn from failing.  More importantly, how people are reacting around you are teaching you how to feel about and how to feel in the defining moments of the game.  The first thing you should look to if it looks like a player plays down when the pressure situation increases are her coaches and her parents.  How do they react? What are they telling her after the failure? What do they look like when things don’t go exactly how they planned?  Was there a certain situation that happened in the past where maybe the parents and coaches didn’t even know that they showed to the player that they let her down? I’m telling you — you want a player who can handle the big situations, then you want coaches and parents (authority figures) who react in a positive manner. 

SEEK OUT THE EXPERIENCE

Experience is absolutely critical in the development of a player, especially at a young age up until high school.  Don’t get me wrong, even in high school and college, experience is one of the most important things, but the experience the older you get becomes more about dealing with extra outside forces.  The games start to mean more, the competition becomes tougher, the games become televised.  Gaining experience and a mental edge at a young age is instrumental for gaining confidence in the big moment at the older ages when it matters even more.  You can’t start from scratch one you get to high school and college.  If too many poor, negative experiences and bad reactions are engrained in someone’s head in high school and in college, then it’s toughed to overcome them – similar to bad mechanics and poor muscle memory

It does no good to be on a really well known/best team in the area if you are sitting the bench watching other people get the experience – especially as a pitcher. In 10u, 12u and even moving into 14u, you’ve GOT to be getting experience in the circle and up at the plate.  You have a few choices:

  1. Say you are the #2 or #3 pitcher on the team.  You can stay on the well-known team, even though you aren’t the starter and keep practicing very hard to continue to get better.  Stick it out for a year or two, BUT sign up for a local league and get pitching time.  Yes, I know the competition isn’t as good, but I don’t care.  You are getting mound time and you are practicing throwing to an opposing team while working hitting your spots and gaining command.  This is a perfect place to improve confidence, get reps and work on some mechanical issues you are trying to get better at.  PLUS, if you are staying on that team where you are the #2 or #3 pitcher on the team, you add to the competition to be the lead pitcher.  Because you a re getting better, you are making the other pitchers better and there becomes more competition at your position.  I actually did this, and I know from experience that it worked to my benefit.  I wasn’t getting as much pitching time as 1 or 2 other pitchers on my select team in 12u, and me and my parents weren’t in denial about it.  We knew that I needed to get better in order to earn more pitching time.  So we signed up for a fall league to get more innings and more pitches thrown.  To this day, I really think it’s one of the best ideas we came up with as a family. I got drastically better after that season because I was getting the experience I needed, and my results on my select team started to improve and eventually I got more and more time.  Yes, it was a bit of a time crunch, and there were probably times I didn’t want to go, but I really feel like it helped out in the long run.
  2. You can change teams.  I always recommend doing this at the end of the season and not in the middle.  With this being said, I am not an advocate of team hoppers.  However, I am an advocate for experience and how essential it is to have playing time at a young age.  Experience, when it comes to time in the circle and number of at bats you are getting, is SOOO important.
  3. I DON’T THINK QUITTING IS AN OPTION IF SOMEONE LOVES TO DO SOMETHING.  This will be an option that many people are quick to jump to.  The only time I would encourage quitting is if the passion is not there for someone and they are not putting in the time and effort it takes to become solid player.  There is a difference between not having passion and not being as talented as the other players VS having passion and being slower to catch your talent level up to speed.

If someone has the passion to do something, I am convinced they can and will achieve anything they put their mind to, and you can’t tell me otherwise.  The people who don’t have passion end up quitting and weeding themselves out.

PRESSURE IS PRIVILEDGE

Have you ever heard this saying before? I love it. It reminds me of that movie, Remember The Titans.  The older I get, the more I understand those 3 words.  When you look at pressure as an opportunity, not a fear, the game becomes a bit more simple….not easier, but unescapably more simple.  When you get more experiences to choose how you are going to handle different in game situations, you get more experience in choosing the right thoughts, and understanding which thoughts connect with which results.  When the bases are loaded and the game is on the line be thinking, “I get to show everyone how good I am and how I am going to come through” not “I hope I don’t mess up and fail.”  The experience of being in tight situations is all about controlling those thoughts.  It’s easier to control those thoughts when you are in a positive, encouraging environment with your parents, coaches and teammates who support you.

Positive self talk should be something that is without a doubt engrained in players from a young age, especially when they are young and most impressionable.  It should be discussed with players as much, if not more, than the actual mechanics of softball.  Take time for it.  It is so important in the development of players not just in their physical game, but in the part of the actual game itself when the “big moment” comes up and it’s time to shine.

It’s that positive self talk that will help you understand and realize that pressure really is a privilege and you should WANT to be the one with the bat or ball in your hands to come up to be the one for your team.

Realize this: We aren’t going to be perfect, especially in this game of failure we call softball.  Every time you are in that pressure situation it’s a chance to prove that you’re in the right frame of mind.  The “success” and “failure” comes from being in the right frame of mind and giving yourself a chance to have success when the big moment comes; it doesn’t always necessarily come with the outcome, despite what all eyes watching might think.  When you take pressure off of the outcome and the fear of doing something wrong and not pleasing others, you give yourself the opportunity to have more success.  The experiences you go through should be learning moments that are making you a better player.  It shouldn’t feel like punishment or that you did something wrong as a player if you don’t come through in the clutch.  It should be used as a moment to teach, so that when the moment presents itself again, you absolutely nail it.

Only YOU can define your moment.  YOU create your opportunities – what are you going to do with them?

My Favorite Catcher. Ever.

My favorite catcher was never an All American.  My favorite catcher never caught me a single day in a college or high school game.  My favorite catcher is actually 31 years older than me, and I always call my catcher, Dad.

Now, you won’t be able to find his name, Mark Scarborough, anywhere in a press release, a starting lineup or recognized for any major collegiate award. But because of the impact he made and continues to make on me, I’ll always be able to find him in my memories of growing up playing softball and inside of my heart.  Some of my best memories are throwing at a park nearby the house where I grew up, where we put in endless hours of time, not just pitching, but taking groundballs, fly balls and hitting.

When I was younger, I knew my dad got off work at 5pm, and I would be waiting outside in the driveway around 5:15 with his bucket, his glove, my glove, and a ball, ready to go pitch.

He had just spent an entire day at work, but was always willing to catch me whenever I needed or wanted him to, without complaining at all.  He knew that it would make me happy and that we would get to spend time together.  I actually looked forward to wanting to go out to the park and work with my dad; I didn’t dread it.  I imagine that if I would have dreaded working with my dad, or my mom for that matter, I wouldn’t have WANTED to practice as much.  But because my relationship with him was so strong, I actually wanted to practice more, creating a work ethic inside of me that is relentless today. I don’t know anything other than working hard for what I want….it’s engrained inside of me from a young age. I’ve watched my dad forever, and when I was younger, my dad LET me work hard by helping me when I needed him to, even in the moments he may have been exhausted from work.

As a family, you spend so much time together doing softball (practicing on your own, going to and from games, at team practices, at lessons, etc), and at the end of it, I came out loving him even more.  Some players grow up despising their dads – not wanting to practice with them, not wanting to take their advice, and copping an attitude with their dads.  That was never really the case with me, and I can tell you, it still pays dividends in our current relationship we have to this day.  I love calling him and getting to have conversations with him, even though we both have a really crazy/busy schedule.  It never gets old.

Amanda Scarborough Dad

My dad has always had a calm demeanor, always wanting the best for me, but never going to raise his voice in order to get what he wants.

He didn’t raise his voice, because he could communicate with me in a way where he got his point across in a normal tone, and I would still hear him without him having to scream. 

Looking back at all the times I worked with my dad, I can tell that he was content with himself and his own personal achievements in his lifetime; never did I feel he was trying to live vicariously through me, whether it was at lessons or games.  By him having a calmer demeanor, I truly feel that it let my inner motivation develop, grow, and shine, so now it is a quality that I still possess today, even outside of pitching.

Every dad or mom is not going to have the same personality, and how they choose to handle working with their daughters will vary.  But know that no matter which personality you have, you are similarly having a daily impact with your daughters where you will see effects years and years down the road.  When I say “daily,” I absolutely, 100% mean daily impact.

The interactions you have now (at practices, during lessons, during games or AFTER games) are molding how you will interact with your daughter later on (when it really matters while talking about things that are outside of softball…..yes there ARE things outside of softball).  It’s not about what you know, it’s about how you deliver what you know.  The softball conversations, feelings and impressions you are making with your daughter now are shaping the relationship outside of softball you will have with her later.

Amanda Scarborough Family

I think the very most important part is that both parties (adult and child) figure out a form of communication and practice what works for BOTH sides.

Remember, Communication 101, is that for communication to happen, there has to be a sender AND a receiver.  If you are not being heard, then you are not communicating – plain and simple.

The more you get creative and figure out a way to talk to your daughter, the more she will listen to you and the more she will want to work throughout the week; thus, creating a better player and better work ethic along the way (which lasts a lot longer than softball). The parent may have to give a little bit, and probably will have to give a little bit more than the player, because at the end of the day it’s about the player, not about the parent.  And it’s about the player because you’re trying to get that player to 100% of her potential and do whatever it takes to get that to come out.  So….sometimes, it’s having customizable communication plans –  it could be different day to day, week to week, year to year. If one way of communicating is not working, and it’s leading to fights and unproductiveness, then it sounds like something needs to change.

One thing about my dad, is that I never felt like he was trying to PROVE anything when I worked with him – to me, to himself, or to anyone else.

When he corrected me, it wasn’t by yelling, or trying to hold above me that he KNEW more than I did.  He was teaching me, not just wanting to tell me what he knew – there’s a difference.

He offered suggestions based off of observations.  A lot of times he would wait until I needed help and asked for it before he gave it. When he did give it, he talked to me in a way that I respected listening to his input.  He established that connection from the first times of going out to pitch that we ever had.  We had conversations (two-sided) about pitching. This continued through all ages when I pitched with him, even when I would come back from college and throw over the summers or over winter breaks.  I would look forward to throwing to him, sitting on his bucket with his legs off to the side so that his shins/feet were out of harms way (there’s a story to this, and my mom has a theory….later blog, on a different date!).  I WANTED to throw to him. I enjoyed it; we both did. It’s some of the best times we have ever spent together.

I can’t thank him enough, and I am so THANKFUL for him and our relationship. I know I am a little bit biased, but a lot of people like my dad.  He’s definitely a fan favorite.  He’s awesome to be around; he knows sports, can talk business, can talk hunting or fishing, and boy, does he love his Houston sports (and the Cowboys).  He’s so humble.  (In fact, I know he’s going to be embarrassed when he sees this blog.)

I am so lucky that he is the way he is, because after all the time we’ve spent together, he’s had such a major, positive influence on me.  He’s so hard working, and in fact, he’s one of the ones who has taught me that hard work will pay off. 

It’s such a simple lesson, but when you are surrounded by someone who is truly living and breathing the hard-work-pays-off lifestyle and mentality, then only you, yourself, can take it on after seeing the rewards it reaps.  He rarely, rarely complains.  And somewhere along the way (maybe after watching hours upon hours of different sports on TV),  he taught me what it meant to compete.  He taught me a way of competing where you don’t rub it in anyone’s face – a quiet competitiveness – where you just go about your own business, doing your own thing, and prove it in your own way.   There’s never a need to rub it in or say loudly what you can do.   He taught me your actions speak for themselves.

It’s because of all these things that he’s my favorite catcher of all time.  You can spend A LOT of time with a catcher, and the endless hours and thousands upon thousands of pitches I threw to him mean so much to me. To be honest, I can’t remember exactly what we worked on on all those different days, but what I can tell you, is the way he made me feel when I was out there doing the thing I love, getting to throw to the person I love, is what I will remember forever and ever.  I felt supported.  I felt like someone was on my side and on my team.  I felt like I was learning.  I felt like softball was fun. I felt like I had a voice. I never felt like I had  to pitch; I felt like I got to pitch.  He helped create an environment, where I looked forward to practicing to try to become the best player I could possibly be.  Indirectly, he was teaching me to become the best person I could be, as well.  In the end, it’s not about how you’re teaching to hit or teaching how to throw a change up, it’s about making a girl, with a ball and a bat feel AWESOME about herself, and like she can go out and conquer the world.  I know it’s hard to think about that in a 30 minute practice, but just consider that the way you are talking to your daughter now WILL, for better or worse, have a major impact on her (and your relationship) later.

Big thanks to my mom for choosing such a great guy. I love you both so much.

Amanda Scarborough family

High School Softball Season Survivor Guide – Grievance 4: Teammate’s Drive Not There

This is the last and final Grievance! If you missed parts 1-3, see below!

Grievance 1: Playing Time

Grievance 2: The Competition

Grievance 3: Teammates

Grievance #4 – The Drive of My Teammate is Not There

Uncontrollables: Your teammates’ drive; Your teammates’ attitude; Your teammates’ competitiveness

Controllables: YOUR drive; YOUR attitude; YOUR competetiveness

Yes, it’s hard when you are surrounded by players who aren’t as driven as you, and with high school ball, you don’t really have a choice!  You ask yourself, what are the things I currently can control? The answer is that it’s all about YOU.  It’s not about anybody else.  Now is the time you push YOURSELF harder and day in and day out try to maintain a consistent mindset.  Every day at practice you show up to the field wanting to get better. Every game you show up to the field wanting to leave it all out on the field.  Nobody else’s mindset should control this or change what YOU are about.

  • Lead by example
  • Don’t let others attitude affect you
  • Push yourself more and maintain a consistent mindset

This game is what YOU make it, not what someone else makes it.  Any given day YOU are in complete control of how you approach the game, how you approach your teammates and how you approach becoming the best player you can possibly be.  High school softball is preparing you for the next level of softball for you in college or the next level of your life in getting a job.  You must always be able to control what YOU can control, no matter what.

In the end, remember, you are playing someone else when you look at the scoreboard, but this game is really about YOU competing against YOURSELF.  You should be pushing yourself in different ways and getting uncomfortable in different situations so that you continue to grow, and you are prepared for anything that is thrown at you when you make it to the next level.

Always control what you can.  Look at every situation, and give an honest answer of what you can and cannot control about it.

Questions Answered with Amanda: Wind Up, Drag & Follow Through Mechanics

Hi everyone! I was asked a really good question this week and I wanted to share with ALL of you as it goes over some very important, basic mechanical details of pitching that I feel like everyone can benefit from:

“Value your opinion of course so hoping for a response. My daughter is 8 and started taking pitching lessons a few months ago, from a reputable coach in our area and I do my research but there are a few things I would like your take on.

1) I notice most pro/college level pitchers cross drag, but he is teaching her to drag straight fwd. (I understand why, which is to close up fully) why is it that most do it the other way? Is it better, why or why not?

2) Also on the follow thru of the pitch (just a normal pitch no change up or curve) some people teach to cross the body? I personally prefer straight (keeping arm long of course and not hurting elbow) is there a right or wrong to this, or is this preference?

3) Also she is taught not to swing her arm back at the beginning of pitch she starts circle straight from glove. Reasons being A) not to show ball it will matter later B) prevents keeping arm from staying straight C) Although I do think it will take a few mph off her speed I feel starting in this position has more advantages, do you? I hope you have time to respond and don’t think my questions are to crazy! Loved your video on the power drive Coach Lisle posted, we utilize one all the time for pitching and hitting, you really helped me understand it better; you have a gift for coaching and explaining!”

Answers

1) I THINK I know what you mean by “cross drag.” I am picturing in my mind a drag that doesn’t just go straight towards the catcher. I call a “drag” a slug trail because if you look down at the ground when you are pitching in dirt, it’s like your drag leaves a slug trail from where your toes drug while you were pitching.  That slug trail is indicative of your mechanics and what your body is doing in your pitch – it is VERY important. A proper slug trail should look like a question mark. From the pitching rubber, it should go straight towards the catcher, and then after about a foot, it should go a little bit behind you. The little bit behind you part of the slug trail is when your hips and shoulders are opening up! Which is a VERY important part of the pitch. If the slug trail just stays a straight line towards the catcher, that would mean the hips are never getting completely open. I would not recommend a straight forward drag (we are girls, we have HIPS, and those HIPS needs to get out of the way of our release by getting OPEN in the middle of our pitch so our arm can clear our hips at our release point)

2) My personal preference for how to teach someone to finish is going to be where their hand NATURALLY finishes, not forcing a certain place to finish after the snap of the pitch. It’s called Pronation – it happens at the end of a pitch after a snap. When you throwing a ball overhand, you see pronation – baseball players do it as well as football players. I do not agree with the hand to shoulder finish or elbow up finish. That’s a forced position. The most natural place you can finish is with your fingers inside your wrist, wrist inside your elbow, elbow inside your shoulder. This forms a little bit of an angle with your arm.  (Hold your arm out in front of you and try to get into that position, it’s easier if you actually TRY to do it rather than just imagining it). The most important thing is that you are loose after your snap at your hip and don’t FORCE a certain finish. However, with that being said, the finish should be consistent and repeatable with a natural ability to relax to that position after the release.

 

3)[A] I like swinging the arm back because it felt like it generated more of a load and more energy at the beginning of my pitch. One solution if you want to do that is to hold multiple pitches the same way. i.e. Hold curve and change the same, so this way, no one can pick up what your grip is before the pitch is coming. Or rise and curve the same. Those are 2 totally different pitches. It’s best to hold a faster velocity pitch the same as an off speed pitch or change up since that is the pitch most coaches are trying to “pick.” You are seeing lots of college pitchers go away from swinging their arm back because of how often college coaches are picking up grips, BUT it is NOT non existent. There are definitely still ways to general power without an arm swing back – remember everything starts from the ground up (with your feet) and putting your lower half into a SOLID EXPLOSIVE position to get the most out of your leg drive with your hips and glutes.

[B] As far as a wind up with an arm swing preventing the arm circle from staying the straight, that is not necessarily so. You see LOTS of players who have their arm swing back, such as myself and also, Jolene Henderson, who is on Team USA. Any action can become repeatable by creating muscle memory with hard work and determination. Get in front of a mirror and look at yourself and repeat 100-200 pitches a night. THAT is one of the best ways to create muscle memory because you are FEELING and SEEING your body in certain positions. There is no one size fits all for every pitcher. Everyone has different muscles strengths to be able to get their body into the same position over and over again.

[C] Total personal preference regarding the advantages of taking an arm swing out of your windup. You are asking someone who did NOT do that wind up, and I was a 2-time All American and competed at the highest level in college. There are other pitchers who are out there who are super successful without starting with that wind up. It’s all about YOUR PITCHER and what can feel the best for HER. Other things can be changed to compliment your wind up, like I suggested before – changing grips to look the same if the wind up where your arm swings back seems to compliment your daughter better to get her more speed, more consistency and more spin.

**Important to note: Wind up is PERSONAL PREFERENCE. Whatever makes you feel comfortable and whatever you can do the most consistent to make the beginning of your pitch the exact same every single time. Make the BEGINNING of your pitch the same in order to help make the END of your pitch the same! No matter what:  that consistency in your delivery is key in order to maintain accuracy, increase and pitch at a consistent speed, and grow spin rates!

Never Give Up, Never Ever Give Up

Weeks ago, I was reminiscing and thought of a memory in my life that I look back on and realize it truly effected my life and softball career.  It’s a moment I know for a fact that a lot of young players go through – someone telling you you aren’t good enough or you’ll never make it.  I just don’t believe it.  The only way you won’t “make it” is it you don’t have passion for something and don’t work hard enough at it – with all my heart I believe that.  When you have passion for whatever your heart wants to take you, it drives you, it gives you direction and it gives you momentum.  Passion pushes you to your dreams and is the driving force behind your energy and motivation. 

Something that people don’t know about me: On my first travel ball team, I was the #4 or #5 pitcher- dead last. I was the pitcher who would throw against all of the really good teams because I threw so slow, and those teams struggled to hit slow pitching. If there were 13 players on the team, I would have been the 13th player to see playing time.

I wasn’t in the starting 9 on the lineup card. In fact, I rarely got at bats.

Oh, and also, I was told by another parent that I probably should quit pitching and I would never make it.

Fast forward 8-10 years after that. I earned a scholarship to play at Texas A&M as a pitcher and a hitter. My freshman year I was the starting pitcher for the first game of the season and threw a no hitter my first ever collegiate game. That year I was named Big 12 Player of the Year and Big 12 Freshman of the Year – the only freshman to ever have accomplished that in the Big 12. I was also named an All American.

People see me now as the All American who played at Texas A&M. I have been through so much more than just that. For the players who are told that you will never make it, I am living proof that if you love playing and are willing to sacrifice time, tears and effort to something you love, you CAN make it.

Lesson learned: Never, never, NEVER give up.

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

So, What Exactly Are College Coaches Looking For?

6 Things College Coaches Are Looking For

  1. Versatile / Athletic
  2. Can Produce Offensively
  3. Softball Savvy
  4. Competitive / Knows How to Win
  5. Good Attitude & Coachable
  6. Grades

One of the biggest questions in our game today is, “What are college coaches looking for in recruiting an athlete?”  There’s not just ONE thing that coaches are looking for.  In my mind, there are multiple things that add up to being a recruitable player.  Some are tangible, some are intangible.  What separates you from the thousands of other girls out there who are trying to be recruited who can hit, pitch and field a ground ball?

This question can be answered go into a very position specific answer with a coach once they identify a player (ie what a coach is looking for when recruiting a pitcher, what a coach looks for when looking at a swing), but there are definitely some factors across the board that all coaches are looking for to find a player who is going to come in and be able to make an impact on their program.

 1.  Versatile/Athletic

It’s great to be able to show versatility a player who can play multiple positions, especially if you are not a pitcher, catcher or short stop.  Pitcher, catcher, and short stop are those few positions out on the field where a coach is okay with finding a player that excels at JUST that position.  If you are a standout pitcher or catcher, it’s an added bonus if you can swing the bat and produce at the plate, as well.  However, college coaches are less likely to mind recruiting a pitcher who JUST pitches (pitchers really ARE special 🙂 ) and does not play any other position, and the same goes for a catcher.  An awesome defensive short stop is a specialized position, as well.

Coaches will bend over backward to find the dime-a-dozen pitchers, a catcher who can throw out a girl stealing who can run a 2.6 and a short stop who can save runs and command an infield. 

To have an impactful pitcher, catcher and/or short stop are game-changing positions.  If you have a pitcher who can shut teams down, you don’t really care if she can hit the broad side of a barn.  IF she can hit AND pitch, more power to her — then that player is probably one of the most highly recruited players, because coaches get more “bang for their buck” in getting a pitcher and a hitter in one player.

Also, if you are an awesome short stop, that means that you are most likely pretty athletic, as the short stop is usually labeled as the most athletic kid on the field.  If you play short stop well, a coach sees you as an athlete that he/she might be able to convert to a different position with ease.  Remember that once you get to college, every athlete on the team is solid, and there are only 9 positions on the field.  So the more versatile you can be, and have the ability to play multiple positions, the higher your chance is of getting recruited……And then, once you are there, being able to get playing time.   When I played at A&M, there were 5-6 players on our team who had played short stop in high school or for their travel team.  4-5 of those players ended up playing other positions than short once they got to college.

Please understand that I am not saying you have to be a pitcher, catcher or short stop to stand out.  But being completely honest, those are probably the 3 positions most looked at when a coach walks up to the field empty -minded and with no agenda as to which position they are looking at.

After looking at those positions, coaches are looking to see which ATHLETES stand out from both dugouts.  Coaches think that they can build off of pure athletes — turn them into any position if they are athletic enough.  Because athletic player have more body awareness, then it is easier to transform them and find a spot for them on the field.  If you have athleticism, show it off.  I think of an athletic player as someone who is strong, agile, quick, can jump, and is flexible.  You can have some of these qualities, or you can have all of them.  The more you have, the better of an athlete you are. 

Players who play multiple sports have higher chances of overall being more athletic because different sports develop different muscles and different athletic qualities.

Think of the jumping skills that come with playing volleyball.  That jumping makes you more explosive with your bottom half, and also works on fast twitch muscles, as volleyball moves so fast and is a reaction sport.  Think of the endurance that comes with playing basketball or track.

Your body can develop to become an amazing athlete by playing different sports.  Many college coaches LOVE multiple sport athletes because of the athleticism that it breeds.  However, at the same time, there are coaches that are impartial to multiple sport athletes.  I played for a coach who likes multi-sport athletes, so I am more partial to encourage players to play multiple sports IF, and I mean IF, they can get in quality time towards their main sport and continue to show progression in the right direction.  If they are staying the same or digressing in their main sport, that is when I feel it is time to cut back on playing multiple sports.  My theory: play multiple sports for as long as you can. (Some talented athletes can even pull this off for the entirety of their high school careers).

The more athletic and versatile you are, the higher of a chance you have at being noticed and recruited, and then once you actually make a college team, the higher chance you have at finding playing time.  Work hard to get stronger. Work hard to get faster. Work hard to develop athletic skills that do not just involve hitting or throwing or pitching a ball.

 

 2.  You produce offensively

Coaches are ALWAYS looking for solid offensive players.  It doesn’t mean you have to hit tons of homeruns and it doesn’t mean you have to hit tons of doubles.  Understand exactly what YOUR offensive game is so you can focus on it and capitalize on it. If you do have power, that’s awesome, but there are other offensive ways to catch attention, as well.  I would say in 90-95% of colleges, if you are one of the top offensive producers on the team, a coach will find a spot for you in the lineup and figure out a way to put you somewhere defensively.

The Big Power Hitter

Can you crush the ball? You’ll catch coaches’ attention.  In college, coaches are looking for the top 9 offensive producers to fill into their lineup.  If you are one of the top hitters and have a willingness and ability to show that you can play a position you’ve never played before, you can find yourself in a lineup.  Be sure you are a hitter who consistently shows that power and show that you’re not a “lucky” hitter.  When college coaches are there watching you, you string together quality at bats, where you have a good approach and are hitting the ball hard more often than not.  Take advantage of big RBI opportunities.   If you are known you’re your power hitting at the plate, then it is your job on your high school team, on your travel team, and it will be your job when you get to college to come through with the big, RBI hits.  A college coach wants a power hitter that thrives in clutch RBI opportunities.  A big power hitter looks at bases loaded with 2 outs as an OPPORTUNITY, not as a fear.  If you struggle in these RBI situations in tournaments or in high school, why would a college coach think you are going to be any different once you make it to the next level?

The Speedster

Do you have speed? Use it — consistently.  Speed kills in our sport.  Our sport is based around speed.  But it does no good to have that speed, be a lefty slapper, and not consistently be able to put the ball on the ground.

If speed is your game, show that you are player who consistently gets on base – some way, some how. That’s your job.

Have a great short game.  Remember to read the defense when you’re up to bat. Put the ball on the groundYour speed does NOT matter if you are popping the ball up.   Catch a coaches’ attention by consistently putting the ball on the ground and having great bat control. By putting the ball in play more often, you’re putting pressure on the defense, and if you have speed, you’re going to pressure them make errors, as they will hurry to get rid of the ball to get you out.

So, you have speed? You have speed AND power? Even better.  The toughest players to play against defensively are the players who can drop bombs and can also read the defense and know when to drop a bunt down the line to keep the defense off guard.  This greatly comes into play, too, because as a hitter you are going to go through slumps – it’s inevitable.  If you are in a slump, and you aren’t seeing the ball well, if you have a little bit of speed, you can lay down a bunt down the line and find another way to get on.  A college coach will notice if you are a player who is consistently finding a way on base. If you have speed USE IT, by putting the ball on the ground and causing havoc in the infield.  On base percentage is such an important statistic – even more important than batting average.

The Singles Hitter

Okay, so maybe you can’t hit the ball 300 ft and you can’t run a 2.7 to first base.  Then where do you fall?  If you are a player who is more of a singles hitter, embrace that!!  Don’t go up TRYING to hit homeruns, it’s only going to work against your game.  KNOW that you are more of a hitter who is looking to hit a single, make contact, advance runners, execute your short game.  A singles hitter can be a player who is one of the most “headsy” players on the team.  She is always looking for a way to help the team.

For example: There’s a runner at 1B with 1 out.  Your best power hitter is on deck.  Your execution job is to either lay down a sacrifice bunt OR hit behind the runner (hitting the ball to the right side).  If you happen to hit a single to the right side when you are trying to hit behind the runner, more power to you.  A singles hitter has to be a little bit more crafty in her thoughts and knowledge of the game. KNOW that you are more of a singles hitter, be a hitter that is consistently making contact, a hitter who has great at bats and and a hitter who is great at putting the ball into play.  I promise if you do this, coaches will notice (because coaches know the game and they understand that everybody has their own role), and you will be a benefit to have in the lineup.

Every offensive player in a lineup has a role.  All of these offensive roles are needed in a collegiate lineup to work together in a strategic lineup.  Don’t try to be something you aren’t.  Know your strengths.  Be consistent with those strengths.  Believe in your strengths.  Allow those strengths to flourish when college coaches’ eyes are on you.

 

3.  Softball “Savviness”

Coaches love finding players who just KNOW the game.  These are players who can think for themselves and trust their softball instincts.  I’ve noticed a lot of times, on tournament teams when I am out coaching, SO many player’s are programmed to just do exactly what their coach tells them – whether it’s when to swing or the exact defensive position to be placed in.  These player are learning to be robots, they aren’t learning to be instinctual players out in the field.  If you do not learn to think for yourself and position yourself in the game, you will not become the best instinctual softball player you can be.  A collegiate coach does not constantly want to be moving the robots out in the field during a game – there are way too many other things to worry about.

Softball savvy players are so aware of their surroundings and the game situation, that they innately know what to do almost every time the ball comes to them.

Coaches like this because then it’s less teaching they have to do about basic nuances of the game once you get to their program.  Becoming softball savvy comes from watching softball on TV, it comes from watching baseball on TV, it comes from asking questions, learning and then trusting in what you learned once you get out on the field.  If you do not trust your knowledge of the game, and you are second guessing every play and every situation, then it doesn’t matter how much you KNOW about softball, you’re not going to be able to make good decisions once you’re out on the field.

Is it in you? Are you learning or are you a robot? Don’t be a robot!!!!  Love this game so much that it just is molded into your brain and your movements out on the field.  Ask questions and learn.  TRUST what you learn and trust in yourself.  Do not be told what to do at all times — this is NOT learning.

 

4.  Competitive / Knows how to win

I’ve talked about this before in a different one of my blogs :: the ability to be competitive and have a fire in your belly that you want to win is a HUGE quality that cannot really be taught.  Knowing how to win might sound like an obvious quality, but it is a TRUE quality that college coaches are looking for in their programs.

They want players that come from winning teams (winning high school teams or winning tournament teams) because then the players get to their collegiate programs and EXPECT to win, because they don’t know anything else.   They like players who come from winning programs:: high school teams that win championships and go deep into playoffs and/or travel ball teams that play at the highest quality tournaments AND go deep into those tournaments.   Coaches are paying attention to how the teams you are apart of are doing and if winning is a culture that you are around day in and day out.  If you are used to winning, it drives you; it becomes a part of you and once you get to college, that winning attitude will stay inside of you.

Remember, college coaches keep their jobs by WINNING.  Their livelihood depends on it.  So they are going to put out on the field the best lineup that is going to give them the best chance to win.  If a player has played in a big championship game at a tournament level or high school level, then that player has championship experience at a young age, which prepares you to compete in championships at the collegiate level.

You can’t teach what it is like to feel a championship game.  You have to experience it.

The adrenaline is higher, the stakes are higher, the competition is higher.  You have to be able to control your emotions and get ready for THE BIG GAME.  So if a college coach knows that a player has championship experience, then this is an added benefit of coming to their team.  All coaches expect to be competing IN championship games for their conferences and for the post season.  Championship experience and having an attitude of “been there done that” entering the game will calm their team headed into an important game.   (No, I am not talking about players who are cocky with the “been there done that” attitude….I am talking about the players who don’t let their emotions get the best of them and are able to go into a big championship game and keep their emotions in check)

They want players who fight, who are internally competitive and hate losing.  College coaches want players who hate losing, because THEY hate losing. (Yes, I heard those of you out there who commented on my Sometimes You’re a Loser blog, and I am in agreement with you that there IS a right and wrong a way to lose. BUT in this instance, and in the Sometimes You’re a Loser blog, I am talking about an internal drive that causes you to hate losing and not want to FEEL what it’s like to lose).  But back to what I was saying about being a player who comes from a winning team–  think of it this way – the more you are winning, the more games you are playing because you stay in tournaments longer, and the longer you are in tournaments, the better the teams you are playing, so quality of competition increases. 

Overall, it’s just a win-win, no pun intended.  By playing better competition, you become a better player.  So you’re playing more games, you’re playing higher talent, and you’re learning what it’s like to truly compete in a championship atmosphere against the best of the best —– which is EXACTLY what you’re doing once you make it to college.  See why winning is important?

5.   Good Attitude & Coachable

What do your high school coaches and travel ball coaches say about your attitude and if you are a coachable player?

A coachable player is one who listens respectfully to any coach giving you direction.  A coachable player is one who does NOT think she knows more than any coach she comes across.

If a coach is giving her information, she is taking it in like a sponge.  A coachable player is someone who never stops learning and wants to continue to grow.  If your high school and tournament team coaches think that you are NOT a coachable player, then what would lead a college coach to believe that you would just magically become a coachable player whenever you got to their school?  College coaches want someone who is raw and has talent, but also someone who they can coach into an even better athlete once you get to their school.  If you are not coachable and you don’t want to learn, then you are not one of those players.

Along with being coachable, a coach wants a player who has a good attitude (This might sound cliche here, but it cannot be stressed enough).  College coaches and college players are around each other A LOT.  A good attitude makes people around you better, and you’re enjoyable to be around.  A bad attitude that is negative is not something that most of us want to be around, especially with the amount that a college team is around each other. Also, remember that our game is a game of failure — it just is! So a coach wants player who have the ability to deal with failure throughout a season because it’s going to be happening — a lot.  Sorry, but you’re not going to get a hit every time.  Hate to break it to you, but you’re going to give up a home run (or two…or twenty) in college.  A player with a positive mindset and attitude can rebound faster.  A player with a negative mindset holds on to these things.  You have to be able to move on, it’s a long college season. 

A good attitude involves caring about the team more than you care about yourself.

Players who throw fits in the dugout and show body language on the field, to me, are more worried about themselves than they are about the team.  Remember we play a team sport, because the end result of the team is more important than the end result of an individual player.  A player with a bad attitude and a selfish attitude is a cancer, I REPEAT, a cancer to ANY team.  You are only as strong as your weakest attitude.  Once you get to the collegiate level, it’s all about doing whatever it takes to win and compete.  Players who have bad attitudes hold teams back.  A coach, then, has to give that player more attention and more time than anybody else on the team, thus making that player a selfish player.

Be aware of your attitude AND your body language!! When coaches come to your games, they can see these things! Even if you don’t think are you giving off bad energy, you very well might be!  Coaches are around so many different types of players and WATCH so many different types of players; they are experienced in the arena of picking up on whether or not a player is a team player or not.  Work on your attitude and being a good teammate just like you work on your swing.  In order for a team to win a championship in college, they must have good team chemistry and a college coach does not want 1 player to hold them back from achieving their goals because that one player has a bad attitude. 

 

6.  Grades

You can’t talk about getting recruited to play college ball without the discussion of grades and what kind of student you are in the classroom. (In fact, I probably should have not put this one last on the list as it easily could be #1 and #1 for the simple reason that if you don’t pass, you don’t play…and then this whole talking about getting recruited thing is pointless).

You can be the most talented player on the field or even in an entire tournament, but if you don’t make the grades, then you can’t make it TO college or make it IN college.

I am not saying this because teachers sent me a check to write about this, or parents out there emailed me and wanted me to write about the importance of grades.  I am writing about this because this is real life and this is SOOOOO IMPORTANT.  With that being said, I am not saying that you have to make all A’s in high school; this might be achieavable for some student athletes, but definitely not for all.  I am not an expert on what exact GPA and SAT scores you have to have to get into certain schools, I will leave that research up to you.  What I do know, is that a college coach has SO much to worry about, that they don’t constantly want to have to be worried about if their players will be eligible to play due to their grades from semester to semester.  But let’s back up a second before talking about actually making the grades when in college….

….FIRST, you have to get IN to a college.  There are certain GPAs, ACT, and/or SAT scores you have to make to even be able to make it into a school to be able to play.  For some student athletes who don’t have the grades to get into a Division 1 school out of high school, some of them might even start at the junior college level.  **Remember that once you become a freshman in high school, EVERY GRADE YOU MAKE COUNTS.   So even though you  may think, “Oh I’m just a freshmen, my fall semester doesn’t count too much” — you’re wrong.

Study.  Make time for school.  Going to school and applying yourself in the classroom matters.

One of the first questions a college coach will ask after they spot a player on the field they are interested in is, “How is she in school?”  A lot of times this will make or break an athlete if they do not have good grades.  A coach looks at someone who doesn’t put in effort in school as someone that they are going to have to baby-sit once that player gets to college.  There are so many other things a college coach is worrying about and would rather worry about than making sure his/her starting centerfielder is making the grades every semester to stay eligible.  If you don’t make a certain GPA in college every semester and pass a certain amount of hours, then you become ineligible.  (Once again, I will leave it up to you to know exactly what that GPA is according to the NCAA).  If you are not making the grades at a college and become ineligible, it doesn’t matter if you have the capability of hitting 40 homerun in a season or striking out 400 girls in a year, if you don’t pass, you don’t play, and then you are unable to help your team win.

Another reason it is so important to show that you make good grades in high school is because your to-do list gets better in terms of how many different things you have to balance once you get to college.  You are on your own –  no parents to monitor how you are managing your time and if you are doing your homework.  You have a lot more on your schedule to handle and time manage — class, practice, weights, study hall, study hours on your own, when to eat, practicing on your own outside of normal team practice time, and oh yeah, a social life.  So it becomes important to know what your priorities are, and the two main ones are school and softball—- in that order.

There is A LOT that goes into being recruited by a college.  Things are happening so early now, with girls committing to play at a school when they sometimes are even in 8th grade or freshmen in high school.  It’s important to stand out.  Understand from a physical aspect what you do well – and excel at that, that’s how you can stand out.  It’s important to learn this at a young age, but at the same time, it’s never too late to learn this.  As a coach, communicate with your players about what is important and BE HONEST with them about what they need to get better at.  As a player, if your coach is trying to communicate with you about these things, it’s important to listen and be open minded.  Your coach is trying to help you get to the next level.  None of the things above matter if you don’t have a true love and passion for this game.  When you love the game, it shows.

Learn. Grow. Play hard. Be so good they can’t ignore you. 

Amanda Scarborough

3 Things to do When Approaching a Pitcher During a Game

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

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

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

Give Her a Small Mechanical Fix

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

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

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

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

Stay positive, stay calm

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

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

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

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

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

Tell her the plan for going at this next hitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amanda Scarborough Texas A&M

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