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…

High School Softball Season Survivor Guide – Grievance 1: PLAYING TIME

Around this time of year, I always receive a lot of different questions and grievances relating to the high school softball season.  Playing a sport for high school is a unique situation – you don’t get to pick your coaches, you don’t get to pick your teammates.  And on the other side of that – the coaches don’t really “pick” you either.  Some players and parents choose to think it is more of a forced situation because many compare high school ball to travel ball.

 Two different teams; two different sets of problems; one similar mindset — control what you can, let go of what you can’t.

In high school, players get challenged in ways that make them uncomfortable. – as a leader, as a teammate and as a player.  Honestly, to me, it shows a lot about a player’s character and passion.  During the high school season, I hear a lot of excuses…but I don’t hear a lot of players (or parents) trying to see the positive side of things to make the situation better.  What can we do right now in this very moment to learn, to grow and to get better?

Remember a player (and her parents) are not going to agree with 100% of decisions made.  Do you agree with ALL of the decisions your boss makes at work? Think of your favorite sports team: do you agree with the starting lineup every single night a game is played? Probably not. Everybody will always have their own way of doing things, because we are all unique, that’s what makes us US. You don’t have to AGREE with everything that is going on, but you can choose to accept it, see the positive and figure out a way to work with it.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned and problems you can either choose to work through or choose to let bother you. I like to always try to choose to make the most of a situation….

In ANY situation we come up against in life, there are going to be things that we can control and things we can’t control.  It’s important to always take a step back in any situation, and understand which are which.  Limit the excuses and understand what YOU can do better to get the most out of a situation.

Grievance #1 : PLAYING TIME

Uncontrollable: Making the lineup and teams; playing time.

Controllable(s): Your attitude every day at practice and games; how you can contribute to your team; supporting your teammates; how you push yourself to get better; not talking about the person who is playing in front of you.

Playing time is the #1 grievance parents and/or players complain about (not just in high school ball, but also on tournament teams and college teams).  Every person thinks they are good enough for the starting role, and every player thinks they should be on varsity.  That’s a great attitude to have, if you channel it in the right way.  Always remember that playing time is a decision made by the COACHES, not the parents. I encourage every coach out there to remember your own roots and make your own decisions.

If a player has a question about playing time, then the PLAYER should schedule a meeting with the coach NOT the parent.  Parents, as a gentle reminder, I can’t name you one coach that likes to talk to parents about playing time.  It’s not your job.  Take that energy and encourage your DAUGHTER to make a meeting with her coach, even if she is a freshman.

A Meeting With the Coach

Controllables: PLAYER meeting with the coach NOT parent; The TONE in which you ask your question; keeping your emotions in check during the meeting; respecting what your coach is telling you.

So you want to know why you’re not playing? Talk to your coach! This is a big deal – I get it!  It’s hard as a 15 year old to go up and talk to someone about a serious subject.  Think of this as a learning experience! Everyone has a first time of when they had to approach an adult and ask a tough question.

A player gets to set up a meeting with an adult to discuss “grown up” things.  This is similar to what will happen in college and this is similar to what would happen in a job situation.  At your own current job now, you wouldn’t call on your own parent to go and talk to your boss about a raise or a promotion.  Meeting with a coach can be the first real life opportunity a player has to discuss something on their own that is a priority and that they are passionate about.

A player might think she is doing EVERYTHING she can do to earn playing time.  But just because the PLAYER thinks that she is doing everything, doesn’t mean that the COACH is having the same view.  Remember, we all come from different perceptions and our perception is our reality.

Parents, you can help and get involved not by calling the coach, but by sitting down with your daughter and making a list of things to bring up to her coach whenever she goes in for the big meeting.  Have a list of questions you want to remember to ask and that list can be comfort going into the meeting.  Allow your daughter to come up with these questions as much as she can – not YOU.  It’s not about you, sorry!

A player calling a meeting with a coach shows maturity, and it’s a great experience for the player to take responsibility of having a voice.  Don’t complain to your teammates – it makes you look bad and you are just looking for them to tell you, “Yes, Susie, you should be playing.” Nobody wants to hear someone complaining about playing time all the time – it makes things awkward, especially if the people you are complaining to are every day players.  Even if the people you are complaining to are NOT every day players, then you guys complaining about each other become a cancer to the team.

Remember everything that comes out of your mouth and all of your actions are either positively or negatively affecting your team’s goal and mission.

If you’re not happy with your playing time, there is only one person you should be talking to on your team – your coach.  It’s totally okay to talk about playing time in the walls of your own house with your parents – that’s private time.  Outside of that, it should not be happening because it starts to take away from the TEAM.

It’s all about your approach when you have the meeting wit your coach.  Look your coach in the eye when you are talking or when he/she is talking. Go into the meeting knowing what you want out of it. Think your questions through. Instead of just asking, “Why am I not playing?” – that question has a negative connotation to it, especially if that is the ONLY question you ask.  How about asking things like,

  • “Just wanted to know, what you see are some things I could work on this season to improve my game?”
  • If you are a pitcher – make sure you ask specifically about pitching and also hitting, if you pitch and hit.
  • How about the question that every coach will love, “Hey coach, I know I am not in the starting 9, but what would it take for me to be first off the bench in a pinch hit situation?”
  • or, “Hey coach, I know I’m not in the starting 9, but what are some things I can help with during the game to help the team out?” (ie chart pitches, try to pick opposing coaches signals, picking your teammates up).
  • Last one, “I want to gain your trust, do you think I could get a chance in a pinch hit situation?”

At the end of the season, if you were not an every day player, a great thing to ask your coach is, “Coach, what can I work on during the off season to become an every day starter for you?”  Make sure the communication is clear cut, so that you are actually working on the exact things he/she said to work on to become that every day player.  Too many times things are lost in translation, and players THINK they worked on the things their coach asked them to, and they show up, and it wasn’t EXACTLY what they wanted. Remember if you are not willing to make the adjustments your coach is asking of you, then when you come back the following season and your coach sees no changes, you will be in the same spot you are this year.

The worst thing is to be left in the dark about why you aren’t playing or feeling like you did something wrong. Open communication from player to coach is always the best thing you can do.  Once again – parents, this is not your job.

Take Advantage of Your Opportunities!!!!

Okay, so you’re not an every day player, but your coach decides to put you in to pinch hit with a runner at 3rd, who is the game winning run.  WHAT a position to be in! Your coach is giving you that chance that you asked him/her about in the meeting.  NOW is your chance. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR OPPORTUNITY.  Want it bad enough.

Go up, have a quality at bat, and try to hit the ball hard. Doesn’t HAVE to be a hit.  You just need to look like you are prepared for your at bat and that you are focused.  A QUALITY AT BAT is considered taking advantage of your opportunity.  If you go up and strike out on 3 straight pitches, I’m sorry, that’s not a quality at bat, and it’s not taking advantage of your opportunity. That’s looking like you were unfocused since you were not an every day starter.

Same idea defensively – if you get a chance to go out and play on defense, and the ball is hit to you, and you make an error, then why would a coach feel confident in you?  Even if that is the first ground ball you’ve gotten all year in a game, you MUST be able to come up with a play – no excuses. I hear that excuse all too often, “Well I made that error because I hadn’t played in a game in a while.” NOPE – stop. That’s the easy way out. The hard way is to go into that game and be so determined that nothing will stop you and you will go in and shine.

In high school and in college, it’s ALL about taking advantage of your opportunities, especially when you are not an every day player.  You must be ready for them defensively and offensively. After the fact, if you don’t have success with your opportunity, you CANNOT blame it on the fact that you don’t play all the time.  To me, that’s a cop out.  That is giving yourself an out for not taking advantage of your opportunity.  Don’t be that player.

  • If you get a chance to pinch hit, have a QUALITY AT BAT – take advantage of your opportunity
  • If you get a chance to start out on the field, don’t botch routine plays – act like you’ve been there
  • “No game experience” is not an excuse once you get to the high school level – make plays.

Be Able To Play Different Positions 

Maybe you are a short stop, but the player in front of you is an upperclassman who is the best player on the team.  So of course, she is going to be playing there at that spot.  A good thing to ask your coach is, “Is there another position I could work on to earn a starting spot?”

Make yourself diverse.  There may be a spot defensively that is open, and YOU can take advantage of getting in there even though you have never played that position before.  Go take some time on your own to practice that position either on off days from high school ball or after team practice is complete.  Work at it.  EARN YOUR SPOT.  The more positions you are able to play, the higher of a chance you have of going out there and making a difference at the team.

If there is a very talented player in your spot, LEARN from that player.  She is good for a reason.  Even if she is the same age as you, there is ALWAYS something you could be learning from her.  Instead of being jealous of her, look at her at practice and in a game and watch how she moves, what she does well and what makes her a great player.  There’s nothing wrong with giving her credit, understanding what she does well and trying to emulate her. This way, when you get your chance, it’s an easier transition and you have grown as a player.

This is especially true of pitchers, because a pitcher sitting on the bench can be understanding and learning pitch calling, noticing locations and spots and studying hitters to see what a hitter does well or not well.  In the dugout, you can be visualizing what you would be throwing in certain situations.  This is important, as well, because what if the starting pitcher gets hurt suddenly.  You need to be mentally ready to go into a game. IF you have been studying the opposing team’s hitters and understanding what their weakness is, you can be ready to pick up right where she left off seamlessly.

  • Be diverse, be able to play multiple positions.
  • Learn from players who are playing in front of you.
  • Be ready to come off the bench in case of injury or in case you get called upon.

PS…if you work hard at practice, your coach is going to be more likely to put you in when that injury happens or maybe your coach just gets a feeling in her gut that she wants you to go in to an important situation. You EARN going into a game. You EARN that playing time. How do you earn it? PRACTICE. If he/she sees how hard you are working and how invested you are into the team, he/she is going to be more likely to rely on you.

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Redefining Failure

Simply put, the definition of failure is “lack of success.”

So if that’s the case, then we can’t define failure until we define success. How do YOU define success? Is it getting a hit? Is it pitching a no hitter? Is it having a quality at bat? Is it moving the runner? Do you even know how you are defining success to your team, to your daughter and to yourself?

In order to help their players define what success is, it’s important for coaches to have a concise message of what it is that they are defining as success. A clear cut message so that the staff is all on the same page, delivering the same message to a team no matter what the circumstances are. You don’t want to send conflicting messages of what is and is not success, then you end up with confusion, which leads to insecurity and tightness while playing.

So, how do you define success in softball?

Is a hit success?

If you are basing your success off of average and average alone, then yes, a hit for you would be considered success. However, batting average is the trap most players, parents and coaches fall into.   Basing success off of batting average is like falling right into quick sand. The sand looks solid, it looks like you will be able to successfully cross over to the other side by going over the quick sand. But as soon as you step on the quick sand, what happens? It falls through.

Few college coaches these days are paying attention to averages in recognition of their own team’s success. They are basing success more off of on base percentage and execution in a game. They base success off of how hard their team competed for the full 7 innings and how hard they fought for each other.  Those are the real successes throughout the game to notice.

Think about how a solid batting average is .300-.400. That means that 3/10 times you are getting hits (“success”) and the other 7 times you are not getting hits (“failure”). Well this would drive anybody nuts, and it would be hard to stay positive since in our game, when hits are defined as a success, we know that even the BEST players fail more than they succeed.

When you are focused more on batting average, you are focusing more on yourself and your own failure than the team.

When you are focusing more on competing, executing, and getting on base, the success becomes more focused around the TEAM rather than the individual.  Competing, executing, moving runners and getting on base represent items that help the team towards their goals.

If players are just thinking about to get a hit or not to get a hit, players allow the game to feel stressful to them, because of the amount of times you will “fail” in the eyes of your teammates, coaches, parents and yourself. It’s not fun to fail in front of people. And in softball, everybody knows when you strike out, everybody knows when you give up a homerun and everyone knows when you are the one that gets the big hit. It’s never a secret out on the field.  Where coaches and most parents don’t see success are the smaller things, like when a player comes up with a runner on 2B with less than 2 outs and hits a ground ball to the right side of the field.  The runner advanced to 3B on the ground ball, the hitter got throw out at first.  In my eyes – that runner moving up a base, is success.  However, most parents simply see it that their kid didn’t get a hit, therefore that at bat was a fail.  Not true.

As Americans we are prone to be individualistic and also because of technology, we all look for that instant gratification all day every day. In the game of softball, these are not good for our definition of success.  Instant gratification rarely comes in this sport, it is more about sticking with “the process.”  And I could see how one could get confused about it being an individual sport with so much pressure being put on one person at one time, but since its conception, this is a team sport, and always will be. 

So, what if we redefine what success is in our game and we stressed that new definition to girls the moment that they picked up a bat and a ball? Then they wouldn’t know anything different. We only know what we are taught. If no one has ever given us a different definition of success other than hit or no hit, then how could we ever know there is anything different? If we are taught that it is more about our individual results and less about the team’s results and process, then why would we think anything different?

Find the Mini Successes

Sometimes, success and failure are not that black and white in the game of softball. However, as humans, we like black and white definite answers. Black and white is easy. We don’t have to search. We just have an answer right in front of us, easily accessible. However, in a sport known for failure, sometimes you have to look deeper to find the “mini successes” throughout the game.

I always try to find the positives in any situation.   I coach and look for mini successes along the way. I like to stress to my students that you can’t go from striking out 3 times in a row to hitting 3 homeruns in a row. That MAY happen to someone, but it’s not very realistic. I look for successes that are realistic and achievable so that a girl can stay positive and not feel any negative energy, thus having a higher chance of having a better at bat the next time she goes up in order to help her team. The minute negativity starts to creep in and get compounded in a girl’s mind, then the real chances of her going up and getting a hit with a runner at 3B are slim to none. “Mini successes” can also be known as staying “in the process” and staying present.

So let me define “mini successes” a little bit more using examples….

Say a girl struck out in her first at bat chasing a rise ball that is over her head. If the other team is smart, what are they going to throw her again in her next at bat? That same rise ball. Well say that girl goes up for her second at bat of the game. She doesn’t swing at that rise ball, but she still strikes out on a curve ball that would have been a called strike had she not swung. What’s the mini success? Not chasing a rise ball. It could easily be looked at as a failure because she struck out 2 times in a row, but that’s not staying in the process and trying to stay positive in the moment. As a player it’s so easy to get caught up in the fact that you just struck out again and make that the take-away from your last at bat, instead of recognizing that you didn’t chase the rise ball. Because you didn’t chase out of the zone, you are giving yourself a higher opportunity to put the ball in play the next time and stay positive by not focusing on the fact that you struck out, but focusing on the fact that you didn’t chase out of the strike zone. That’s a mini success. Mini successes help stay positive for the benefit of the team.

Let’s use a pitcher for another example. Maybe the last time the pitcher had an outing, she walked 5 people in 7 innings and they lost the game. Her next outing, she walked 3 people in 7 innings and still lost the game. If that pitcher throwing balls and walking batters was an issue, I don’t want to put the focus on wins and losses, I want to put the focus on the fact she had more command that game and got ahead of hitters better. So what you lost. It’s all about staying in the process and reminding her of little successes along the way. Staying in the process is going to help the team more down the road in the future.

With these mini successes, not only does a player have higher chances of helping her team and becoming a more “successful” player in the long run, she also really learns the game. She learns to think about the game on a different level, thus becoming a higher IQ softball player and learning to think deeper than just wins/losses, balls/strikes, strikeouts/homeruns.

This game….haha, this game is tricky.

Softball is Life

This game will laugh at you.  It sets us up to fail in so many different ways, so we have to beat it by trying to set OURSELVES up for success. The easy route is to fall into the failure pit and get lost mentally in all the different failures that the game teases you with every time you step on a field. Then…you let the game win. Coaches get lost. Parents get lost. Players for SURE get lost. It’s most important parents and coaches don’t fall into the failure traps – they’re everywhere. Coaches and parents are the major influences for building a players understanding of the game. Players are looking to you and you will be the difference makers to helping them define what their success is.

In practice and post game talks with your team, how are you defining success to them? In the car ride home with your daughter (which in my mind is the place that makes or breaks a relationship with a daughter and her parents, but that’s a different blog for a different day), how are you helping her define success and helping her realize the positive takeaways from the game she can put in her back pocket for her next day’s work?

The better question to ask yourself is, do you know enough about the game to find those mini successes so that you don’t fall into the traps of the big failures that are out there?

Look deeper than the traps…those traps are set up for the individualistic players who only see the game as home runs, hits and strikeouts.  This game deserves more than that.  When you’re putting the team first, you don’t fall into those traps and you start to see the game differently.  However, it takes more effort, it takes more knowledge and it takes more explaining.

The big failures and the big successes in the game of softball that are easy to see (hits, homeruns, strikeouts) are for those people who are looking for that instant gratification and only define their success by results. This game is intricate. This game is detailed. This game is much more than wins, losses, strikeouts, hits and homeruns. The average fan, coach and parent go by the “big” fails and successes to define how their team approaches the game day in and day out.  Don’t be average.  Be extraordinary.

Coaches and parents look for quick fixes and quick judgments to determine whether or not a player and a team is “good.” Our game and our players deserve so much more respect than that, simply by being taught that it’s not about instant gratification, it’s about the process along the way by pointing out mini successes when it seems like all we have done is failed. LIFE is not about instant gratification, it’s about the long run.

Because believe me, there will be times in this game when you feel like this game has kicked you in the face, you’re a failure and no one on earth has ever felt what you are going through.

I know every player has felt this at one point or another. How are you going to get through this moment?  If you keep defining your success with instant gratification, you will keep feeling that awful punch in the gut.  Stay present and remember it’s not about you, it’s about the team.

It’s so easy to define and recognize a homerun as success and a pitcher striking someone out as success. The critical part is to look deeper than that. Our game is so much deeper than just that. If you are looking for the quick fixes and big successes, then honestly, this game is not for you. This game is about the long run. LIFE is about the long run. Pick successes that can build your confidence over time and stay in the process. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, but you can’t see the light if you fall into the trap of all the failures trying to pull you down.

Dealing With Injuries Part 1 – Attitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) ATTITUDE

In the paragraph above, I listed numbers 1-4 that I will be discussing.  Numbers 2, 3 and 4 are all affected by #1 – Attitude.  It all starts with your attitude.  If you don’t continue to have a good attitude, then nothing else that I talk about in any of the blogs on injury will be able to positively take place.  A bad attitude is going to make someone more unmotivated, selfish and a slower healer.

Believe me, I get it, it’s hard to be injured.  I know better than anybody.  I’ve been there and done that.  It’s okay to be sad at first, but then there comes a time when you have to continue to live on and change that attitude.

Your attitude affects EVERYTHING! Your attitude affects you, it affects your team, it affects your family and it affects your friends.

Remember, every day is a new day.  That’s the beauty of life.  Every morning when we wake up we have a choice in how we are going to take on the day, no matter what happened to us the day before.  Every single person reading this has their own problems.  An injury can be one of those problems, but are you going to let it affect the energy that surrounds you and your attitude to take on life?  Instead of letting it pull you down, allow an injury to actually make you STRONGER.

Look at an injury as something you are going to learn from, and in the end you will be stronger from it.  Turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts.  The more positive attitude you have, the faster you will be able to heal by not stressing and  wearing your body down even more.  A bad attitude affects your friends and family who are around you, too.

Don’t let your bad attitude affect those people and pull them down with you.

To keep a more positive attitude, think about how your body is healing itself.  That’s what our bodies are made to do! That’s a positive way of looking at it.  Know every day, your body is working to heal whatever wound you have.  When you look at it that way, you only know it’s a matter of time before you’re back out there playing!

Last thing I am going to say about attitude is, you choose it.  You can’t control injuries, they’re going to happen.  But every day you wake up, you can control the attitude that you bring to life.  Have an attitude that realizes the injury, accepts it, and thinks, “Okay, what can I do right now in this present moment to make the situation better?”  If you don’t have a solid attitude, then contributing to your team pretty much isn’t going to be able to happen, you will most likely stop practicing (or if you’re practicing, you have a bad attitude while you’re doing it, so it pretty much you won’t get anything out of it), and if you have a bad attitude, you’re going to be less likely to be proactive to go get treatment and find ways to make yourself heal even faster.

Don’t feel sorry for yourself!  To me, players who have that bad attitude after they get injured are selfish players and just want attention.  They think that bad attitude is going to get them the attention since they can no longer get attention on the field anymore.  Change that.  Don’t be that person.

You can get through anything with a great attitude.  Have patience.  Remember to breathe.  Look at an injury from the attiude that this can be a learning experience.  Approach every day as a new a day and make the most of it!

With or without an injury you have complete choice about what kind of attitude you will have daily!

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