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…

Dealing with Injuries Part 2 – Contributing to Your Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR TEAM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Love of The Game…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amanda Scarborough Sharonda MCDonald

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

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

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

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

Amanda Scarborough Amanda Scarborough

Amanda Scarborough

Amanda Scarborough Pitch with Helmet on

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

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

Same Game Different Stage

softball same gam different stage - motivation
Well, televised games start THIS WEEKEND on the ESPN family of networks.  The first game will be #7 Tennessee @ #3 Florida this Saturday, March 16 on ESPNU at 11am ET.  These are two teams going up against each other who just this past week, both defeated Alabama, as Florida gave Alabama their first loss over a week ago in a mid week Wednesday game, and Tennessee beat Alabama 2/3 in their series this past weekend in Knoxville. Before last week, Alabama was ranked #2 in the nation and was undefeated. So far there has been some great matchups and upsets along the way and it’s only going to continue as we move through the season.  If you know me at all, you know this is my favorite time of year.  I love being able to follow the teams, the players, the seniors, the freshmen and seeing which teams are living up to expectations, and which teams are falling short.  It’s so interesting to see when different teams will peak in the season, each team trying not to hit their peak too early in the year.
ESPN is putting more regular season games on TV than they ever have in the past.  Year after year the amount of televised collegiate games is growing across all networks, and it’s really cool to see.  This year in the booth for ESPN during the regular season you will be able to catch 6 softball analysts calling the games at any given time: Myself, Jessica Mendoza, Michele Smith, Jennie Finch, Cheri Kempf & Garland Cooper. For a complete game schedule of ALL televised games on the ESPN Family of Networks: CLICK HERE
Other sites I use for good college softball info:
Great week by week information of who is hot and which teams are playing best. Graham Hays is someone who knows his stuff, always enjoy reading about what he has to say and he covers which teams week by week are playing best.
This is where you can find the college polls (rankings) and also who is the National Player of the Week.  Every week there is a new National Player of the Week and a new top 25 Poll.
Want to know where your team or favorite player ranks statistically in the nation? Click there.  Individual statistical rankings (ex. Lauren Chamberlain’s batting average) and team statistical rankings  (ex. Oklahoma’s team batting average.)  There are all kinds of stats you can see ERA, home runs per game, batting average, stolen bases, walks, on base %).  The first rankings for this season just came out this week, and they will update weekly.
Some fun stats for this week:
The highest on base % in the nation goes to Devon Wallace, who plays for Arkansas.  She gets on base almost 7/10 times with an OB % of .691.
The lowest team ERA goes to Oklahoma, whose team ERA is .80.  With the amount of great competition and the amount of top 25 teams Oklahoma has faced this year, that is a an amazingly low ERA.  And it does not just have to do with senior All American pitcher, Kelani Ricketts. She is ranked 5th in the country with an ERA of .87 in 80 Innings Pitched , however, Oklahoma has another senior left handed pitcher, Michelle Gascoigne who actually is leading the entire country with a .70 ERA in almost 60 Innings Pitched.

 

So why should you watch softball on TV?
 
Being able to watch college softball on TV can be used as a valuable learning experience in so many different ways for players and for families.  Below are 3 reasons if you’re a young player or a softball family, you should watch as many collegiate games on TV as you possibly can.

 

1. Create goals, inspire dreams

 

With the amount of college softball games on TV, young players are able to see role models right before their eyes playing the game they love at a higher level.  Being able to watch it on TV can put the dream right in front of them that they, too, one day, may be able to make it to that level and be able to compete at the game they love.  Our game of softball has come so far, and a major reason is the amount of games that are now being televised.  By watching these games, young players can be inspired to create a goal in their mind of a future level they want to compete at.  It’s so important to have these futuristic dreams to have something to work towards and look forward to.  It’s the dreams and goals that push you every time you go out to practice to become better.  Every day at practice you are either becoming better or worse.  By watching these collegiate games, players are able to visually see other who have achieved their dreams, and make goals to some day be playing on that same field.
Quotes about goals
2.  Learn about colleges who are recruiting you or colleges you think you have an interest in dreaming of playing at.
I personally love being able to be a part of these televised games becuase I get to learn so much about different programs from across the country.  I get to meet with their coaches, somtimes even their players and ask them a lot of questions and really try to dig deep to learn about their programs and what kind of program the coach is trying to build or has already built.

 

Watching two teams go up against each other in a televised game is a great way for YOU to learn about a school’s program, too.  You get to watch the coaches, you get to watch how the players swing & pitch, you get to watch how the teams act in the dugout and how they take the field.  There are so many different variables that define a program other than their wins & losses record.  If you’re REALLY watching a game, you can pick up on a lot by the attitudes and body languages of a team.  Things to look at:

 

– How do the players wear their uniform (is it wrinkly? is the shirt untucked? is it sloppy looking?)
– When the team gets down, do they fight until the end of the 7th inning, or do they give up once they got down?
– How do the players interact with each other?
– How does the coach interact with the team?
– What is their energy like throughout the entire game?

softball team

 

Who is your favorite team? What do they LOOK like on the field?

 
These might seem like small things, but it’s all the small things that add up to big things and really characterize a school’s program.  When you are actually playing college softball, it becomes less about the statistical numbers that make you a player and a team, but more about what is going on outside of those things that make the heartbeat of a team and program.  By watching as many games as you can, you’re able to get an understanding of each team you watch simply by paying attention to the energy of the players and the energy of the coaches.  Also, not to mention, during the broadcasts, there are usually stories about the team and their coaches, maybe even possible human interest stories that can also help you get to know a team.  If you are getting recruited by different colleges across the country, try to watch them as much as possible in person and/or on TV if you get the chance.  If you do not know where you are wanting to go to college, watch different games and see if you can get the “feel” of a team through the TV screen to see if they gain your interest in the way that they are playing the game.  Watch the games on TV for more than just balls and strikes.  Look deeper and you can learn.

3.  Same Game, Different Stage – They make mistakes too (good for players AND parents to realize this)

When you’re a young player, an error or giving up a homerun feels like the end of the world.  – It feels the same the exact same way for a college player, trust me.  You struck out looking?  – College players do that too…but instead of never hearing the end of it from their parents, it’s their coach who gives them an evil eye as they run back to the dugout.  Same feeling, different authority. You have players on your team who sometimes don’t run a fly ball out?  – SAME THING still happens in college! (maybe just not as much)
softball same gam different stage - motivation
You see, this game…is the exact same…just with bigger girls, further homeruns and smaller strikezones.  By young players being able to see these televised games, they can see that even the college players are human and make mistakes, too.  Young players, especially young girls, feel like they get people down when they are not absolutely perfect on the playing field.  If they are able to see their role models make mistakes on the same field, it makes them better, and puts less pressure on them the next time they are going out to go play a game.  Less pressure on yourself = more fun = better results = more wins.
When I say that this is the same game, I mean to the “t” this is the exact same game no matter if you are in a rec league, on a tournament team or play in college.  A leadoff walk more times than not, will lead to a run.  A pitcher falling behind in the count means a hitter will be more aggressive on a 2-0/2-1 count.  A ball missed down the middle of the plate will get hit well.

….and parents….

More importantly than the young girls being able to watch these players make mistakes,  is the importance of the parents being able to see an All American hitter strike out and a Player of the Year have a homerun hit off of her.  In being around this game at so many different levels, parents get so ashamed of their kids when they are in the stands if they make an error or do something that is not actually benefitting the team.  Remember as a parent, these older girls are making the exact same mistakes – and it will never go away for as long as you’re around the game.  Remember that when something happens in a negative light to your daughter, it’s not a reflection on YOU at all, unless you make it about you with the way that you react.  Take the attention off of you in the stands and put that energy into how you are going to make your daughter feel better about herself by the words you say after the game, the body language you have during the game and the efforts you are going to take with her AFTER the game to make her a better player and to make her feel better about herself.
Watch these games to dream.  Watch these games to learn.  Watch these games to take pressure off of yourself.  Enjoy getting to learn about the NCAA Division 1 college season and have favorite players and teams to root them on.  All of the girls on the field have been in the same position as all of you young players and they worked their tail off to make it to this collegiate level.  They, too, had a goal of playing at the next level.  They also are just like you and have parents who are just like yours.  THe games you are watching through the television screen is the same game you are playing in all different aspects.

 

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