What really is “normal”? “Normal” has a different picture or movie next to it for every single person out there – in sports, careers, relationship, etc. We all have different experiences, we were raised differently and we all have different perceptions. Who’s to say that MY version of “normal” is the correct version or your very own version of normal is “right”? YOU get to personally give “normal” a definition in your own dictionary…
Live, love and work doing the following things:
1) Do what makes YOU happy – pay attention to what speaks to your heart.
2) Learn from your mistakes – there will be mistakes, they’re in the past, move forward.
3) Configure your personal equation of balance – every single person will have a different equation of what their balance looks like.
4) Envision where you see yourself in the future – all of your actions should reflect where you want to be.
5) Have faith in yourself – invest in your happiness, without fear, believe you have these thoughts and goals for a reason. TRUST in you.
Notice that none of the above things have anything to do with anyone else. They deal with YOU. You are on a journey, as is every other person you come in contact with. How each of us will go about this journey will be a little different. Each of our equations of balance will vary. The only thing you can worry about or control is yourself. Instead of deeming something as “wrong” or “not normal”, what if we spent that time celebrating our different endeavors, how hard someone is working and helping each other push towards goals and vision. What if we chose to support each other instead of pointing out all of the different things that are “wrong” with what someone is doing and trying to bring that person down?
A perfect example is that infamous question of “how much should I/my daughter practice?” That is the number 1 question I get asked. There is usually a conflicting difference between how much you should practice and how much you want to practice. The amount a person “should” practice will be different person to person. The amount a person wants to practice will be different person to person.
But here is the thing: if you want to achieve things you’ve never achieved before, you have to do things you’ve never done before.
Reflect over the above pointers. Once you do that, your answer for how much you should practice is already within you based on what makes you happy, what you’ve done in the past, how many things you personally have to balance, and where you want to be in the future. You are choose every day how much time you want to dedicate and how hard you want to work. If you feel you want to practice 6 days a week – go for it! If you feel you only want to practice 1 day a week – then that is your choice, but remember whatever your goal is, your actions (all of them) should reflect it. Your goals are yours. They should make you happy and excited when you think about them and the future. They should motivate you to where sometimes that scale of “balance” looks a little different than other times. It will teeter, it will never stay the same.
Worry more about you and what you are doing than what anybody else is doing. The biggest person you compete against is yourself. Make sure your dreams give you a clear vision. Make sure the way you are trying to achieve your dreams is by WORKING for them. Make sure you know when you need time for a break, time for family, time for friends and always make time to smile and enjoy the ride. Trust yourself when it comes time to shine. You are you, nobody else will be just like you. Work as hard as you can, support others, stay positive and strive to be happy.
I get asked about confidence…A LOT. Mainly because confidence (no matter what your softball mechanics look like) is a HUGE key to an individual’s success on the field and in life. I might not know you, and I might not know your daughter, but what I know for absolute certain is that if she feels fully confident and happy, she will flourish and feel like she can achieve anything she puts her mind to.
Instead of thinking of confidence like it’s a big mystery, it’s important to keep it simple and know going into it that confidence will fluctuate (just like our bank accounts). It’s vital to realize what is taking away from our confidence (just like what is it that we are spending our money on) and also what is replenishing our confidence (just like adding money to our account).
Everyone knows what it’s like to look at your bank account and see deposits and withdrawals of money. Most people have a certain idea of where they want their checking account to maintain at. Maybe some people want $5,000 in there, maybe some people want $10,000. The amount of money each individual person wants to know is in there is different; the amount of confidence each person needs to feel is different, as well. Confidence is so subjective, but there is a way to make it more objective in each of our eyes…
Okay, imagine your confidence is like balancing a checkbook.
Your confidence has its own Checking Account. There are things in life that will withdraw your confidence, and there are things that will deposit into your confidence. The items or situations that will deposit and withdraw confidence are different for every single person (in life and in sports). No two people are going to be exactly the same.
We each have different types of Confidence Accounts. For example, maybe you have a Pitching Confidence Checking Account, a Hitting Confidence Checking Account, a Fielding Confidence Checking Account. Then, of course you have a “joint account” that is your Softball Confidence Checking Account.
Let’s say you start at $1,000 in your joint Softball Confidence Checking Account, and $1,000 is where you know you perform your best. Maybe you are on a team where your coaches constantly yell at you, your parents don’t show you enough support and you also gave up 3 homers the last tournament and struck out 5 times. All of those things are major things that withdraw from your Confidence Checking Account. The closer we get to $0, the less confidence we will have. (Just like a real checking account, imagine being close to $0 and the amount of anxiety and negativity one might feel). If you’re close to $0 in your real checking account, you are going to find ways to make money to get that account back up. The exact same thing should happen with our Confidence Checking Account, although I feel a lot of young girls don’t know how to get off of Empty.
So what is depositing into your Confidence Account? How is your “tank” getting filled back up? Most importantly, do you know what can fill up your Confidence Account? It’s easier to find the things that are withdrawing from our confidence than the things that are adding to it. Every person, every player, will have a breaking point. The situations that lead to that breaking point and the amount of time it takes to get there will differ for every person. There are SO many things that can go into it – did you just recently move? Did your best friend on your team leave? Have you practiced as much as you think you should? Are you making big mechanical adjustments? Is your family supportive?
There will be times where your Confidence Account is overflowing, and there will be times where it’s almost empty. It’s only normal. However, the biggest question is if you know what it takes to get it back to where it needs to be. Are you able to recognize the situations that give YOU more confidence? Do you know what to do to get back to your confident place? Are willing to put yourself in situations and surround yourself with great people to help get you back where you know you are best and happiest?
I encourage you to monitor your Confidence Checking Account just like you monitor your bank account. Sometimes things are taking out of our Confidence Checking Account that we don’t actually know are taking away from it. (Think of if someone steals your account information and goes on a shopping spree, and all of a sudden you look at your account and it’s lower by $2000) The same can happen with our confidence.
Also, remember the more accounts you have to manage, the more difficult it may be to keep them all balanced and give them the attention they each individually deserve. A pitcher who hits and plays short stop has MANY different accounts. The more accounts you have, the more time you have to invest to making sure they are all fully loaded and being refilled. It is also important to make sure that one account is not effecting the other account (i.e. a pitcher taking her emotions to bat with her).
Try to find the ways to keep your Confidence Checking Account loaded! Oh, and also, every now and again, put some into savings….you may need it at a later date…!
THE most asked question I get is how many pitches and/or how many days a week should my daughter pitch? Sometimes I think parents just ask me this question so that their daughter can hear me say or read that I say 1000 pitches a week or 6 times a week. It’s like parents are trying to use me as their backup and be able to say, “Seeeee, Amanda said you should pitch x amount of pitches every time we pitch.” Unfortunately, there is no magic answer for this question! I totally wish there was (it would make my answering questions a lot easier with an answer less lengthy).
I can easily say this as a GENERAL RULE. If you are practicing 3 times a week, you are most likely just staying the same. 4+ times of practice a week you are getting better and less than 3 times a week, hmmm how can I put this….? you probably aren’t getting better. (Please remember this is not a one size fits all rule, this is just a general statement. There are ALWAYS exceptions). I could throw out so many different workouts, but here is a general one where you can start if you are not pitching in games yet. 4 times a week, 100 pitches a day.
That answer is the easy way out! There is no uniform answer for every single person who asks me this question. In fact, every person will be extremely different. We are built differently with different strengths, flexibilities, minds and overall athleticism. We learn differently. We adapt differently.
But let’s try to work through this……The biggest question I can ask BACK TO YOU to answer is, “Are you getting the results you want on the weekend when it’s game time?” The answer is either yes or no. If it’s no, then you need to practice more. If it’s yes, then you can keep doing what you’re doing.
“But wait…I can’t remember what I did at practice this week…”
Write it down! Write down how many pitches you throw and exactly what you work on for every practice. This way, if you have a successful weekend, YOU can come up with YOUR OWN game plan about how you want to attack your practice plan.
I’m going to be completely honest…sometimes life isn’t fair….
Some pitchers may only have to pitch 1 time a week on their own and still go and dominate in a game. Those are the pitchers we are all so envious of. They are the naturally gifted athletes who are competitors and come from a genetic gene pool we can all only dream of.
Some pitchers may have to practice 4 times a week before they are able to go and dominate in a game.
The one thing I know is certain – you can’t compare yourself to anyone else. You are you.
This whole pitching thing is a LOT of work, I tell ya. It’s more than just learning how to pitch the ball and learning different pitches. Pitching is taking the time to understand what works for YOU and a big part of that is practice routine. It’s impossible to remember and make a practice routine without writing it down. It’s your own personal way of trial and error. Have a pitching journal that is YOURS and be able to write down any thoughts or feelings or anything you are working on in that journal.
“Okay on this week I pitched 2 times a week and threw 100 pitches, but I could have done better on the weekend. So next week I will pitch 3 times a week and throw 75 pitches each day and work on my spin every day while watching my favorite TV show.” For every pitching practice, have a focus (i.e. leg drive, endurance, accuracy, spin, location, attitude, body language.) Mix it up! Try to engage the pitcher and have her pick what SHE wants to work on! You can even There is ALWAYS something you can be working on. Even the best of the best have something they need to work on!
You see this question of how many times to practice a week is such a blank canvas for YOU! I can tell you what worked for ME, but I am not YOU. What I can tell you is that I had to work my tail off to get to the level I played at. I can tell you there were days I didn’t want to practice, but did anyway. I can tell you there were days I didn’t want to practice and ended up just taking a day off and listening to my body. I can tell you there were days my parents pushed me to pitch when I didn’t want to (although they were way fewer than the days it was initiated on my own). And I can tell you every week was probably a little bit different. Life happens and causes us to not get out as much as we “should” on some weeks. But the week after that, do you continue to be “busy”, or do you sacrifice and find time to make the next week better than the week prior?
It is MUCH easier to just ask me to tell you a magic number of pitches to throw a week and you go and do it and we hope for the best. But to me, it is way more fun to figure it out on your own. It’s like a mystery and a puzzle. Every person who asks me the question of how many times their daughter should practice is at a different level than the next person who asks me. Remember, every month may be a little different for what your body needs. Take the time to listen to it. Take the time to go through your results from the weekend and investigate.
Ask yourself some questions so that you can have an a better understanding of how you pitched:
When I gave up hits, were they good pitches?
In the game, did I throw as aggressively and intensely as I possibly could have thrown?
Was I getting ahead of hitters?
Was I able to try out the new pitch I have been working at in the game?
How did my change up work?
Were my outs coming mainly from pop ups or ground balls?
How was my stamina? Did I get tired later in the game (this means you need to pitch longer in each session during the week)
What pitch did I throw the most?
What pitch did I throw the least and need to work on?
(Side note: If you do not know what any of these terms mean or are confused about any of these questions, you need to ASK someone!)
I firmly believe YOU are your best pitching coach, I promise!! It just takes a little bit more work and belief in yourself and your knowledge. As a family, come up with a schedule TOGETHER, as a team for what fits best with your schedule, what you need to work on, and reflect back on your past outings! If you can, pitch 6 days a week! If you are questioning whether to go out and practice or not, GO! The more reps you can get in, the better you are going to become and build a better foundation for your future! Pick up a ball and spin it in your living room or pick up an orange and spin it in the grocery store! There’s so much more to becoming a great pitcher than just pitching FULL distance from the pitching rubber!
Allow me to introduce Chez Sievers to you! I must start out by saying, Chez is a Longhorn, but I absolutely love her anyway. Chez is one year older than I am, and I played against her from across the diamond for 3 years- me wearing maroon, Chez wearing burnt orange. I remember Chez – not vaguely, but distinctly. Chez is a competitor. Chez loves the game. Chez knows the game. Most importantly, Chez respects the game of softball. I am THRILLED for her to write from HER perspective of what it was like to be a softball player with her much shorter frame. I think this is something that many players go through, so to get her own words on here is my pure pleasure….
Playing Big Being Small
Throughout my life, I’ve heard every short joke imaginable. It used to drive me crazy! My father taught me such a valuable lesson in my young life. Because I was small I had to do everything harder, faster, and more efficiently. I grew up with two older brothers who never took it easy on me. At the end of every practice baseball/softball and basketball practice, we would end with a competition. I never won one shooting game or one hitting game. It was incredibly frustrating, but I always felt that there would always be a chance for me to win because I had the opportunity to compete.
When I was 11, I played on two basketball teams and two softball teams. I played softball for my Bellflower Bobbysox softball league and the Tustin Wildcats, which my first travel ball team. I was a starter on every team except one, the Tustin Wildcats. I was by far the smallest player on the team and I either rode the bench or played left field in the late innings. During the course of the season, I began to get discouraged. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. Why wasn’t I playing? I hit and played whatever position they put me in.
Our national qualifier came around and I still wasn’t playing. The qualifier was double elimination. We lost to the Firecrackers and we were on to the next game against the Newberry Park Pumas. If we won, we would go on to Nationals in Oklahoma. I didn’t start, but I kept my head up and still supported my team. We were tied up in the bottom of the sixth with a runner on second. Tensions began to rise. That’s when I got the call to pinch hit. I put on my helmet, strapped on my gloves and grabbed my Steele bat. Finally! Here was my chance to play. As I walked up to the plate, the coach from the opposing dugout signaled to the outfield to move in. With a Cheshire grin, I dug into the batter’s box. I visualized crushing the ball in the left center gap hoping that they would be running for days. First pitch, ball. I stepped out and set my sights for the left center gap. Pitch two, I swung like my life depended on it. I crushed it into the left center gap for a triple. My adrenaline was pumping and my team and parents were going crazy. Pure satisfaction.
Looking back, I wasn’t bitter and I didn’t use my size as an excuse for why I couldn’t do something. In my mind, I was so hungry for the opportunity to compete. In my mind, I was fearless and 10 feet tall. I believed I could make every play on the field.
That was a defining moment in my playing career because I carried that mindset with me through high school and on to the University of Texas.
Playing at a high level no matter your size is all about your mindset and your work ethic. In life, you always encounter roadblocks, but it’s how you respond to those situations. You make the choice to overcome and persevere or give up. The power within is your greatest source of strength. If you believe in yourself and have the discipline to be great at everything you do, there is no limit to the things you can accomplish in this life.
You can find TONS of softball information on Chez’s website http://smart-softball.com. Her website includes podcasts with some of the TOP names in college coaching, instructional videos on hitting, instructional defensive videos, and her own personal blog. SO proud of her for what she is doing for our sport and her passion for the game!! Thanks Chez!!
I love everything about fastpitch pitching. It’s an art – physically and mentally. A very small percentage of people in this world can say that they have taken a stab at it, and even fewer can say that they ended their career as a pitcher and made it through the whole way. There is a certain splendor in watching someone perform the action of underhand pitching, and actually doing it well.
Let me be the first to tell you – pitching is not easy because of how unique the motion is and how each part of your body does something on its own while it still contributes to one full, complete, pitching circle. Softball pitching leaves fans who aren’t around the sport jaw-dropped. Pitching is an act that so many people want to do, but very few last until the very end in the collegiate or professional ranks.
What makes pitching so beautiful is the motion, the dedication and the pressure.
There is such a high percentage of parents, especially dads, who have thrown overhand and can teach their sons and daughters the general idea of how to throw a ball in an overhand motion. The percentage of those parents who have any idea on how to pitch understand is minute, which causes it to have a certain mystique to those who watch. The motion of fastpitch pitching is intriguing.
When watching a fastpitch pitcher, there is truly so much more to it than meets the eye, especially when it comes to physical mechanics of pitching. It’s not easy to perform the action, and it’s even harder to actually excel at being a great pitcher. Because of all the moving parts through one pitch, all of them add to the allure.
There is so much that goes into creating 1 pitch:
Explosiveness – you get ONE BIG PUSH every time you go to complete the act to get the absolute MOST energy from your body. One burst of energy, then you get a break, then another burst of energy. This explosiveness is NOT just a step or a lunge – it’s a giant glide off of the pitching rubber.
Balance / Smoothness – while you’re making that explosive push out, your head and eyes must stay still, you must stick your finish like a gymnast on a balance beam after exerting a ton of energy through your pitch.
Rules – while you’re trying to be explosive, you have rules you have to worry about concerning your pitch being a “legal” pitch by the rulebook.
Timing –there are many moving parts throughout an underhand pitch, and all have them have to be in the right place at the right time in order to throw a strike. Not only is timing critical for accuracy, the timing is critical in order to have speed and spin. Timing is everything. The muscle memory and repetition to create that timing is the most important because think about the full motion and how many different things are moving at once at a HIGH pace – elbows, calves, legs, finger tips, shoulders, core, wrist. Pitchers are asking their bodies to move at the fastest rate possible, but also be on time every single time in order to throw strikes. Because of that, timing takes repetition after repetition to master.
There is no other motion in sports quite like the underhand delivery, which leads people to be in awe of pitchers.
There are so many things that need to go right in every single pitch in order to have success in a single game, nevertheless in an entire career. The feel of knowing when a good pitch is coming out of your hand is a feeling that cannot be created with any other action in softball. It’s a feeling of success, effectiveness and control and a feeling only pitchers can understand. To create that feeling over and over again through hard work and dedication is what it takes to create a beautiful, fluid motion that leaves ordinary people in admiration.
The Dedication (aka Sacrifice)
What adds to the attractiveness of a great pitcher is the fact that they are dedicated to their craft. Because of the things listed above about the motion of a pitcher, it takes repetition after repetition to form the correct habits and mechanics. There are so many small drills you can work on as a pitcher to make a complete motion beautiful. You can skip those drills, but being dedicated to those small drills day in and day out is what adds to the absolute beauty of a pitcher with a solid foundation and will add to her success in the long run.
It takes so much time and you must be willing to put in the extra work – more work than any other position player may put into their swing or fielding a ground ball. Are you will to sacrifice giving up some other things to become a GREAT pitcher? If you are willing to, I promise the sacrifice will seem worth it when you look back.
A pitcher pays more attention to detail than any other player every time you go out to pitch, as pitching is the most intricate position to try to master.
It’s that attention to detail and dedication to practicing that creates body awareness, feel and smoothness in a pitcher’s muscles. Yes you may be dedicated, but a pitcher’s motion is always a work in progress. Mentally, it can take a toll on a pitcher to put in the work and always having to correct or tweak a little something here and there. For as many things that are going correctly in your motion, there is always something to work on, always something you can be doing better or getting stronger at. The devotedness to practice for a pitcher should be relentless. With devotedness comes perseverance, all the while you are learning the greatest lessons about yourself.
When you look back, you realize the sweat, fatigue, pain and sacrifices were all worth it.
The pressure a pitcher goes through in a game is extraordinary. Think of how a playing field is called a “diamond.” Who is in the middle of that “diamond”? The pitcher. Remember, a real diamond is made from high pressure and temperatures. So, seeing as how a pitcher’s position is right in the middle of a diamond, the pressure will be high…
A pitcher is battle tested so many times throughout a season. If you have never been on a pitching mound or in a pitching circle when the bases are loaded and the game is on the line, you have no idea what thoughts go through a pitcher’s mind and the intense pressure that an be felt at that point. All eyes are on you and you play a tremendous part in what the outcome of the game will be. From the stands, you may think you know, but it’s one of those things one must experience in order to get the full effect.
In the middle of the pitching circle there is no hiding. Everyone watching THINKS they know when you are doing well or when you are doing bad. Sometimes they are right with their assumption, other times they are completely wrong. BUT, as pitcher, you have the most chances out of anybody on the field for others to see your results.You can look at it as the most chances for opportunity to show the world what you’ve got, or you can look at it as the most chances to mess up – the choice is yours. In a game, a hitter may get anywhere between 0-10 swings in 4 at bats. A pitcher is throwing 100+ pitches in a 7 inning game. Your skills are put on display for everyone to see every time you release the ball.
The pressure is a huge part of what makes pitching even more beautiful to watch and take in.
Pressure adds adrenaline and fuel to the fire. Do you use this to get motivated, or do you let it get the best of you?? At the end of the day, if you can handle the pressure and learn to take the bad results like you take the good results, stay consistent with your emotions and be able to handle the pressure one pitch at a time, the sky is the limit for where a pitcher’s abilities can go. You learn to FEEL the pressure, embrace it, but not let it take over your emotions. The pressure will ALWAYS be there, it will never go away. But what makes a pitcher even more amazing, is when they handle the pressure and are able to move on to the next pitch, next inning and next game with a fresh, clear way of approaching it. The best pitchers will change their mindset of thinking of pressure as something negative, and start thinking of pressure as an opportunity.
Pitching. I love coaching it, I love still getting a chance to do it. I just think that everything about pitching is beautiful. It’s one of the hardest things to do in sports, which is why the victory of having success when you pitch is one of the biggest highs of the world. It’s the hard that makes it great. There’s a beauty to being in control and having the ball in your hand. You feel the seams under your finger tips and you may even feel your palms sweat a little while you hold the ball. This feeling is OUR feeling – the pitchers in the world who want to take not only the ball in their hand, but they want to take the GAME in their hand and lead their team. This is what it takes to be a great pitcher, are you ready?
Not everyone can pitch. It’s mysterious, it’s difficult, it’s a never-ending project. When you pitch, you get to be in your own world, like tunnel vision. No one else knows what is going on in your head and your inner thoughts. When you pitch, you can actually become a different person; it’s almost like a yearly Halloween costume. It is your chance to enter a different place and become a different person. If you have never pitched before, it’s hard to even remotely understand what I am talking about, for being a pitcher is its own special breed.
If you can dedicate your time to trying to perfect your mechanics, while perservering through the pressure, then THAT will get you through til the end.
If it’s in you, never give up on being a pitcher. Finishing your career as a pitcher is an accomplishment in itself; it’s like entering into a exclusive sorority. Compared to the mass numbers, very few will be there with you, but if you make it, you share an exceptional bond that very few will ever know.
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.
Everybody needs someone or something to lift them up on certain days. This game of softball is a game of failure trying to pull us down at every chance. So what I wanted to do was pul some of my favorite quotes from the 60+ blogs I have written on my website. Even the most talented softball players will have days where they want to give up. Remember, even though there will be down days, the awesome days are just around the corner waiting for you. Be confident. Try to grow every day physically or mentally, or better yet, both. When the failure gets the best of you, it wins Believe in yourself and keep a positive frame of mind…
“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.”
“Take it one pitch at a time. Take it one day at at time.”
“The majority of players have to learn to be confident, just like players have to learn to throw a ball. It’s a process and it gets stronger the more it’s practiced. Even if you have to fake it to practice it, fake it until it becomes real. You WILL start to believe 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.”
“The true definition of confidence has nothing to do with other people who surround us and statistics on a sheet of paper. The only place that confidence comes is from inside YOU. Yes, you. Our confidence belongs to us, no one else.”
“Every morning we wake up we have a choice at how we are going to believe in ourselves. Too easily we forget, especially when we are in the middle of a whirlwind of a season, that every day we wake up is a new day, and you have a choice every morning if and how you are going to believe in yourself. You own that belief. No one else does.”
“When you take the field or look at yourself in the mirror, YOU must be the one to believe that YOU are meant to do great things. YOU get to show everyone what you are made of and your love for the game.”
“Realize this: We aren’t going to be perfect with our outcomes/results, in this game of failure we call softball. However, every time you are in a pressure situation it’s a chance to prove that you’re in the “perfect” 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. Results will come once the frame of mind has been altered.”
“The only way you won’t “make it” is if 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 where ever your heart wants to take you, it drives you, it gives you direction and it gives you momentum. Let your passion push you to your dreams. Your passion is the driving force behind your energy and motivation.”
“Passion creates work ethic. Work ethic creates possibilities. Possibilities creates happiness.”
Someone asked me this, “What was the turning point for you? Was there a stage where you suddenly began passing people? And how much of it had to do with your willingness to out-work everyone? Were there times when you thought your work wasn’t going to pay off?”
My answer might surprise you….
This is actually something over the past couple of years I have given a lot of thought and always am trying to take a look back my travel ball days! I was not always the #1 pitcher for my team growing up until probably my junior/senior year, and even then we had several good pitchers on my travel team and it was always good competition. In high school, my fresh/soph year I pitched behind a girl who was a junior/senior. I earned my way up to the #1 once she was gone. In travel ball I started as a #2/#3, then solidified #2 then later was in competition for #1. And then, once I actually got to college, I was the #1 pitcher starting on opening day as a freshman in the circle. Then it was solidified.
But there was so much that led up to that moment…
When I was growing up, I never thought of it that way of where I was on the “depth chart.” I never thought of how much I enjoyed playing softball by the number of innings I was pitching, I just knew that I liked to do it. What I think was a game changer for me was the fact that I had an amazing pitching and hitting coach (they were married) from around the ages of 11-15 who taught me and showed me the foundation of mechanics of a swing and a pitch. They did this by constantly breaking down the pitch/swing from the very beginning.
(Let me focus more on the pitching aspect…….) Because of how much we broke things down, I was a little bit slower to “come around” when it game to full pitch progress and speed and consistency – that would come later. There would be days where over half of the lesson I would not pitch a ball but just look in a mirror and work on a balance beam and do tubing drills. They taught me through SO MANY drills about where my body mechanically should be. At the time when I was younger, I thought it was a bit boring, but here was the kicker……we would do video analysis about 4 times a year. Back then, video analysis consisted of pulling out a video camera, then putting the tape into the VCR and slow-moing the VCR and holding up photos of old pitchers like Lisa Fernandez, Dee Dee Weiman and some japanese pitchers. There was a check list of different mechanics that I, myself, needed to look at as we went through the full video analysis and write down what I did right and what I did wrong. Why I liked this was because we did it enough to where I could see I was PROGRESSING and getting BETTER because of my hard work. I literally got to SEE it on the screen. So not only was I working hard in between lessons on the things I knew I needed to adjust, I was able to get satisfaction by seeing the progress I was having.
My parents were not result oriented in the sense that they were constantly letting me know I was a #2 pitcher or I pitched x amount of innings and the other pitcher pitched x amount of innings. No. They were focused on the fact that I was getting better at these lessons and my mechanics were forming properly. I could SEE it, they could see it, I could feel it. That part was more the focus than the playing time & field RESULTS. I saw what I needed to get better at, I went back and worked hard at it, and then I was able to see the results of my mechanics getting better. We all need our little forms of “success” along the way in this softball career.
How are you defining success? By playing time or by actually getting better and progressing at something that you love to do?
Were there days where I felt like I wanted to quit? YES, absolutely. Were there days where I cried, 100%. It’s normal. I guarantee that every college player out there has had those days. My parents never panicked when I had those days, they took it in stride. They did not overreact, which caused me not to overreact. The thing when I look back that was defining was that it was just 1 bad day. 1 bad day didn’t turn into a bad week. 1 bad day was just that. The next day, after I breathed a little bit, got some sleep, I woke up with a fresh outlook and ready to go back at it and practice and take on the world. But that’s how you know you really have a passion or it. You are wanting to go out and practice and the bad days don’t linger for long. When you are back at it practicing, you are pitching with getting better in mind, not pitching with # of innings pitched in mind.
Lastly, I will say, the best thing my parents told me growing up and would remind me during hard times was that I didn’t HAVE to play softball if I didn’t want to, and they would love me anyway.
They would ask me if I still enjoyed playing and they would genuinely listen to my answer. We communicate with so much more than words – with our actions, body language, tone. They asked me in a way I knew they cared and I felt like I could be honest with them, and I answered by more than just a simple, “yes” in the way that I was motivated to practice and how I looked when I was out playing ball.
Many just see me as an All American and during my time at Texas A&M one of the best players in the Big 12….but I am so much more than that BECAUSE of the time and emotions I invested growing up.
I am GLAD I wasn’t the #1 pitcher the entire time when I was younger. It taught me so much more. Mainly about myself and giving me the ability to help make my own decisions, work extremely hard at something and then feel the reward of what it is like to actually EARN a #1 spot and earn the awards that followed in college. That work ethic and the process of working on mechanics when I was younger made me into the coach I am today. Because of that foundation of mechanics that I would spend hours upon hours without a ball and paying attention to my own craft, I have the knowledge that goes along with pitching and was able to stand at 5’5 and throw 70mph especially once I got stronger and developed physically towards my my final years of high school and into college.
Everyone comes around at a different time and it’s unfair to compare yourself to anyone else other than you.
Soooo….I am sorry that this is a longer answer, but this particular topic defines me, what I coach, how I coach and the career I lead. Never would I have thought that when I was 9-10 and someone told me that I never would be a pitcher that I would play at the D1 level, and then lead me past college to coaching clinics around the country and being a college softball analyst on TV. I can’t HELP but think and know that anyone else can find their own passion AND if you have a passion for it, if you REALLY have a passion for it, then things are going to work out. The things that don’t work out are the things that shouldn’t be forced and aren’t supposed to happen, anyway. There are ups and downs, but the ups are all greater than the downs if you truly love to do it.
If you don’t love it, then you let the downs define you, and you’ll eventually end up quitting. But in my mind, it just means you are meant to do something else anyway.
I can only talk about my experience and my own story….but looking back, I think it’s a pretty dang good one and it’s more the “norm” of what softball players across the country go through growing up WITHOUT being the #1 pitcher their whole life.
Q1: Is there a such thing as too much pitching at 8-9yo? Don’t want to hurt her, she says she’s fine so thought I’d ask.
A1: Nah! I really don’t think so! There’s not enough force on her arm quite yet! Just make sure you’re practicing all the right mechanics and focusing on detail with all those reps! Want to create good muscle memory! Maybe check in with a sports doctor just in case!
Getting Burned Out
Q2: My daughter will be 11 years old in September. She has been taking pitching lessons for a year and a half. She is really good and continues to get better. However, She seems to be getting burned out. Any suggestions?
A2: Keep it fun for her and keep encouraging her without putting too much pressure on her to go out and practice! Clearly she is athletic if she’s really good and is just getting better and better! Make sure to give her breaks, and make HER come to you about practicing and playing. If she is 10 and getting burned out already, that’s an early age for that to happen! Sometimes a player can be really athletic and talented, but they don’t always have the heart and passion to continue; it’s not THAT uncommon for that to happen! Remember that as she gets older, it’s only going to get more time consuming and the older you get, the more you have to sacrifice for lessons, games and practice! She is still young and growing, so don’t make any decisions quite yet, just see where her choices and heart take her!
Longevity of Pitching Shoes
Q3: This might be a silly question…but my DD has only been pitching a year, and I’m sure we have a lot of things to learn about softball. But is there an actual training shoe or sneaker for pitchers for indoor pitching on turf. She wears her regular sneaker down on her front right toe from dragging it. Her cleats of course hold up really well to this. But around here we have to move practice indoors in the winter time so she is pitching on turf. This is really hard on sneakers….do they make something better built to handle this?
A3: There used to be pitching toes that you could put on sneakers that we were able to put the shoe laces through to keep on the toe and cover it up! I would google search “Softball Pitching Toes.” If nothing comes up and they don’t make that anymore, my mom would just buy me the cheapest sneakers at WalMart or a sporting goods stores. They would be my “Pitching Shoes.” Not worth spending $100+ on a pair of shoes that will just get ruined. They weren’t the PRETTIEST shoes around, and when I was younger I didn’t always like wearing them, but totally understood that you’re going to go through sneakers FAST from dragging! Also – another suggestion you can put lots of duct tape over the toe of the shoe to help it hold up a little bit longer!
Tendency to Pitch Too Inside
Q4: Hi I have a 15yr old daughter that pitches a lot of inside pitches she been pitching for about a year and half, can you help?
A4: For any pitcher, usually pitches that consistently miss too far inside is a true sign that your hips are getting in the way at your release. It’s so important at your release point that your hips are more “open” so that your hand and arm can get through the bottom of your pitch. When your hips get in the way and are “closing” too soon, then your arm hits your hip and causes the pitches to go low and inside. Your arm just can’t get through. So you can either a) speed up your arm speed or b) try to stay open longer to let your arm clear through. I would also encourage to have your catcher set up way outside to give her a different target and something to look for. Last thing, sometimes inside pitches are caused by falling off to the side before you release your pitch. Stay balance longer. For example: If you are right handed, don’t fall to the right BEFORE you release the pitch. Try to stay balance and on the “power line” for as long as you can through your release and stay balance at the end!
Rise Ball Spin for Fastball
Q5: We have watched you over the years and my daughter looks to women like you to compare herself. My daughter is soon to be 16 and she throws rise with the backward spin which in some places really blows others minds and batters get so frustrated. My question is can this spin be thrown as a fastball all the time? Or is it too hard on the body? She throws it all the time and starts it at the knees and if it breaks it breaks and if it don’t it usually gets a an infield pop-up or a little dink behind first, that second can get or right plays in. Just wondering if this is okay?
A5: It’s always good to have good spin and a little bit of movement on your fastball. Really the NAME of a pitch is not as important as the ability to be able to get outs and throw it for a strike and throw it with command. If you have correct foundation of mechanics, I don’t see it being too hard on the arm. I honestly have never come across someone who has spun a “fastball” like that consistently, so I can’t tell you from experience if it will or will not hurt someone’s arm to repeat that motion thousands and thousands of time. The best thing you can do is to just monitor how it is making her arm feel and since she is 16, I would start icing her elbow and/or shoulder after games. Take good care of that arm, it is so very important for longevity in the sport.
I want you to think for a second about the way you talk to your daughter (or the way your husband talks to your daughter) when she is practicing or playing a game. Is it positive? Is it empowering? Is it in a good tone? Now think for a second more. Are you being honest with yourself and is how you think you are talking to your daughter the actual way? How you are talking to your daughter affects her far more than you know.
Right now, envision the relationship you want to have with your daughter once softball is over.
This subject to me is overly important for many major reasons: I see how some Dads talk to their daughters at lessons/tournaments/clinics, I know the effect my dad had on me personally (for the better), and I have seen the negative consequences from how some dads of friends or acquaintances have effected their lives now that they are in their 20’s and 30’s.
To the Dads who sit on a bucket or show up to hitting lessons and have a smile on their face, don’t say a word or give constructive criticism at the right times, THANK YOU. Pat yourselves on the back. YOU are making our sport better and working to make your daughter into a confident young woman. To the Dads who have a yelling issue or cannot speak to their daughter’s in a supportive way…we need to talk….
When I write this, replace “yelling” with any negative/unsupportive communication word of your choice; it does not JUST have to be yelling (could be bad body language, throwing things, overall tone/words).
Remember, you can be “YELLING” by not raising your voice – your body says it all.
Sometimes, I don’t think Dads hear themselves talk. Sometimes, I don’t think Dads know what they LOOK like. Dads, there are a few things I want to remind you. I promise this is only going to help me and you will thank me later…
Separate work and practice.
Ok, so you had a tough day at work (we all have them). Be a grown up and be able to compartmentalize work and softball. Come home in the afternoon and have a fresh start with your daughter and be able to put work away for a little bit. You are able to control how you talk to your daughter and how you treat her during practice. Not only are you creating a better environment for her practice with you, you are also teaching her that when she has days with school AND practice, she, too, needs to be able to put school/relationships/problems aside, and be present, focused and a good teammate at practice. Set a good example of what it looks like to allow yourself to put problems once you show up to the softball field.
Yelling is just plain awkward…for others around you.
If you’re yelling at someone, it makes everyone else around you uncomfortable. You may feel better because you are getting out emotions and think you’re proving a point, but believe me, everyone around you does NOT feels at ease. It makes others around you tight. Tightness does not lead to good physical results. Be someone who lifts others up, not bring them down. Create an environment that makes others around you better; and an environment that does not consist of demeaning or reprimanding a player for lack of success or results. That yelling has the opposite results of what you want – for more than just 1 person.
Learn a better way to communicate.
I might be wrong here, but I feel like people yell because they feel like they cannot be heard. There are better ways to communicate than to yell. When you are loud, you are itching for someone to hear you, when really, it’s usually when your daughter starts to tune you out. If you are trying to communicate something to someone and they are not hearing you, then it is your job to try to get through to them by finding a different way to word what you are saying. Remember, we ALL communicate differently. Yelling usually doesn’t make someone hear what you are trying to tell them. When you are yelling, you are missing our on opportunities with your daughter to help her grow. Those moments of yelling are a waste of time and could be replaced with more positive words to help your daughter get more belief in herself. When you communicate, challenge yourself to come up with a more creative way of speaking to your daughter if you don’t feel she is listening to what you are saying. Communication is key in life, especially once softball is done. By teaching your daughter to communicate effectively, you are setting a good example around her for something that will benefit her future past softball.
Want someone yelling at you at your job?
How would you like it if someone was sitting over your shoulder at work and constantly yelling at you your every move if you weren’t doing things perfectly? “NO that’s not how you do it, do is THIS way.” Would that make you feel more comfortable at work? I think not. Softball is fun, but you also work at it like it’s a “job.” YOU might be learning something new and challenging at work, just like girls are learning softball. Softball is not easy. YOU get to hide at work and maybe make mistakes where the whole entire company doesn’t know you messed up. In sports, you’re on a stage, where people already know if you mess up, you don’t need someone reminding you that you made a mistake by vocalizing it during practice or at a game. Trust me, as a player, 90% of the time you KNOW when you’ve made a mistake. The other 10% of the time should be used for teaching a part of the game that the player might not know, yet.
You are setting the standard for future relationships.
I want you to think on a very serious note for a second. If your daughter is growing up with you yelling at her, your tone and and yelling is all she will know about communication. Are you teaching her that it’s ok for other males to yell at her? I know you’re not meaning to, but think about it for a second.
Right now, at this moment, you are most likely the most important male figure in your daughter’s life. It’s important you act like it.
How you treat her and speak to her is influencing what is acceptable for how future males will speak to her. So if you are yelling at her and talking down to her, you are indirectly telling her that it is ok for a man to yell at her. Dads, let me ask you a question: is it ok for a man to yell at your daughter? Set the standard for how a man should treat your daughter. It’s serious, but dads, you can set the standard on an every dad basis for your daughter and/or the team you coach. Set the very best example that you can and think bigger picture than what the score is at the end of the game TODAY or how your daughter is pitching or hitting that DAY. This last reminder is THE reason why I am addressing the Dads and not lumping the moms in there as well. (Moms, we can talk later).
work on these things, just like your daughter is working on softball. You have time to get better! For my big yellers out there (you know who you are), I think understanding why you are yelling in the first place is a critical part of working on it. There really could be various reasons you choose to yell rather than articulate your words in a more supportive tone….Maybe you’re frustrated with the money they are spending on softball and not seeing results in the timely fashion that you think you should be seeing results. Maybe you are unhappy about some other part of your life. Maybe you are frustrated about your athletic career. Maybe you are yelling because that’s how your dad treated you. Maybe you are frustrated with your daughter’s playing time. None of them are really valid excuses to lose your cool and yell during softball.
If you are trying to teach your daughter to grow in the sport of softball and in life, it is your job to set an example and grow with her. You are never too old to stop growing. Take a step back and commit TODAY to being better for your daughter. It’s not going to change over night, but certainly your family members and others will notice a difference in you in trying to get better at it.
Remember at the end of the day, sports are supposed to be fun, have good energy and teach us life lessons. You don’t want the lesson your daughter learns through sports to be that she can’t be around her father in the future. If she is busy focusing on the negative circumstances on your relationship with her, then she won’t be able to learn the real lessons sports can teach you; then she is really missing out on something special.
Have a solid foundation of a relationship with your daughter in games and at practice – I promise, years from now it is more important than any strike she throws or hit she gets. (And if you are interested in the “right” now, YOU are effecting her confidence during a game every single pitch).
The relationship you are building with her now is setting the foundation of your relationship with her 10-15 years down the road when she becomes an adult and faces the “real” world and actually needs you for something important. Want to be a dad to your daughter that she can call when she needs you most. Right NOW, when you are pitching or practicing with her, that level of “needs you most” is about her game of softball, but later it will be defined differently. If she feels she can’t count on you now, then why will she feel like she can count on you later?