My mission is to inspire softball players 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. Feel free to leave questions/comments, I’ll get back to them as soon as I can!

I pitched, hit and played first base in college, but I have a SPECIAL place in my heart for pitchers. While much of my motivation and many of my blogs can translate to any position on the field, most of what I write now is directed toward the leader in the circle with the ball in her hand.

I undertand, to the greatest extent, that pitching can take a toll on you and at times make you feel like you’ll never be good enough, you’ll never figure it out or like there’s no way you’ll make it through.

But you ARE strong enough to overcome.

You WILL build mental and physical strength along your journey. Let me help you…

Redefining Failure

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

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

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

So, how do you define success in softball?

Is a hit success?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find the Mini Successes

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

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

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

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

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

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

This game….haha, this game is tricky.

Softball is Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High School Softball Survivor Guide – Grievance 3: Teammates

(In case you missed the first 1 grievances, Grievance 1: Playing Time and Grievance 2: The Competition. )

Grievance 3: Teammates

Uncontrollable: Who is on your team; Other players attitudes; Other players work ethic;

Controllable: Being a good teammate; being a good leader; leading by example; not talking about people behind their back; putting the team first; being loyal

“I don’t get along with some of my teammates.”

“Most of my teammates have a really bad attitude.”

“My teammates don’t care as much I do.”

Well, you’re stuck with them!  So you can either figure out a way to handle different situations that are presented, or you can opt out to quit.  In high school, you don’t really have a choice of who you get to play with, what their attitude is like, how they treat people like and what their work ethic is like.  When you get a job, you don’t really get to have much of a choice either. You can never change people, but you can always have a voice and try to lead by example in your own actions.  When speaking up in a team meeting or to a teammate, have good intentions with where you are coming from with your statements.  It’s always about the team, not always about you. Trying to prove yourself as “right” usually does not work in conversations with a teammate. Leading, reminding of a vision, reminding of the mission of the team works better than pointing fingers. 

If you have a teammate who doesn’t have a good attitude, and you think it’s affecting the team, it’s completely acceptable to pull that player off to the side and let her know how you feel.

I recommend doing this before you go days upon days talking to your other teammates about the girl who has a bad attitude. Then it festers. Then it just makes the other teammates turn on her. It grows to become a cancer.  Say something to her before you talk to all of you teammates constantly about it. It’s HER job to take it the correct way, so long as you are telling her in an appropriate manner.  

Sometimes, before even going directly to the player, you can try to have team meetings. This works best without your coach even TELLING the team they need to get together. Be a leader and pull together the team before your coach recognizes that the team needs to meet together to talk some thing out.

If you are truly a leader on the team and want the best for the team, you are ok with standing up for what you believe in and what is truly going to benefit the team the best. 

Remember, you don’t have to want to hang out with every player on your team OFF the field and be best friends. But ON the field, it’s your duty to find a way to get along with each other and take care of each other. From the outside looking in, nobody should be able to tell that you are NOT best friends. Supporting someone on the field does not mean you have to go to the movies with that person on the weekend. It’s a very mature thing to do to be able to separate the two.  The same can be said in an opposite situation: your best friend plays on the team, but she is showing a bad attitude and not trying hard. It says a lot about you as a leader if you are able to tell your good friend that how she is acting is not helping the team, it is only hurting the team. You all have the same mission: winning together.  And THAT should be what is remembered when it comes time to compete on the field and at practice

  • TEAM comes first
  • How can you find a way to communicate with someone
  • On the field, get along and fight for each other; off the field you don’t have to be best friends
  • Think about what you say before you say it or repeat what someone told you.
  • Work as hard as YOU possibly can.
  • I’ll say it again, no matter what, TEAM COMES FIRST

There is only so much you can say and so much you can lead by example when you notice it’s just not working, but that doesn’t mean it has to pull YOU down. When someone has a bad attitude around you, if you’ve already tried saying something, it’s best to ignore it. The strength of the team has to move forward to try to drown that person out.  Don’t give that person energy. Don’t give that person time. If they’re not going to change, they’re not going to change. There will always be those “inbetweeners” on a team. Do you know who I’m talking about? Those are the players who could go either way – they can pull more toward the strong leaders or they can gravitate more toward the cancers. It’s your job as leaders to try to get them on YOUR side. They become the difference makers on the team. Empower them to feel the difference of what it’s like to be more on the positive side than the negative side.

Don’t get caught up in team drama!!!! Don’t do it! I know it’s temping, and it’s there (a lot).  If you hear someone talking about another person, say you don’t want to hear about it. Maybe even tell them not to talk about that in front of you. Maybe you can tell them that if they have a problem with that person, they need to go talk to that person directly.

It’s not “cool” to be the teammate who talks about other teammates behind their back once you leave the field. I PROMISE. 

What is your character like? What do you want it to be? It speaks volumes about you, not just as a player, but as a person, for the drama to end with you. It’s ok to be that girl who other teammates know they can’t talk about other teammates in front of! Be a loyal teammate. A loyal teammate does not talk about other teammates behind their back. For 4 ways to learn how to be a loyal teammate, click here.

Learning to communicate is one of the biggest things we can learn in this world.

Communication is SO VITAL in life and with your teammates. Learning to talk to someone in the right tone, and have a conversation, not a fight, is important in terms of respecting each other. Learn to say what you want to say with words without yelling.

Just because you are yelling doesn’t mean that someone is listening or understanding you that much better.

Set expectations and standards of how your team plays. Control your own attitude and your own work ethic. If you’ve tried to have a one on one talk and a team talk, and it’s just not working, don’t let it effect YOU. When talking in a team setting, it’s ok to say stuff out loud that you believe in and you know that’s right. At the end of the day, remember that every action is either hurting or helping the mission of the TEAM. I don’t know about you, but I like to win. Team chemistry and trust are huge parts of winning. Set a good example, treat your teammates the right way and do all that YOU can to help the mission of the team. 

Power Drive Photo Shoot

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

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

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

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

Top Five Q’s with A • I

Hey everyone, I constantly receive awesome questions from you guys and I wanted to share some of the ones that I think would benefit all of you. Keep them coming and know I will do the best that I can to get to as many of them as possible. If my responses benefit you, please show your support by liking the blog or sharing it with someone you think it could benefit!  Thanks for all of your questions and trusting in me and my answers!

Benefits of 30 min Pitching Lessons

Q1: I have a question. My daughter is 9 and taking private pitching lessons from a girl in college. She charges $25 for 30 min. Is 30 min enough time for a lesson? We only get to see her once or twice a month. It just doesn’t seem like enough time. Thank you

A1: Yep! When I was giving lessons I did 30 min as well, ESPECIALLY for a 9 year old. BUT with that being said, I give a lot of detailed information within that 30 min….so it’s up to YOU and your daughter to go and work on the little things while you are on your own. So pick the 2-3 things in that 30 min that you can go and focus on at practice on your own, master then before your next lesson, learn a few more things at the next lesson, master them on your own, repeat. It’s a cycle and it’s how your young pitcher will get better instead of trying to learn 52 new things in an hour lesson and not know exactly what to work on. Also, that is a great price, I charge $45 for 30 min, so you’re getting a good deal. Don’t try to learn too much too fast! One step at a time.

Does pitching improve your hitting?

Q2: Question? When you started pitching did your hitting get better? After working with you that one day and her pitching coach this summer she is now “squashing” the bug with her back foot and driving balls deep into the outfield. Lexi made the U8 fall team, but want her there before or after practice for pitching so they can move her to U10. She really wants to work with you again so let me know the next mini camp in Houston.

A: Hey there! To be honest, at a younger age I was a better hitter than I was pitcher. Hitting came more naturally to me than pitching did. So I didn’t really connect them together at a younger age thinking that one affected the other! Maybe just overall she has gotten more excited about pitching and softball in general to get her more confidence and overall joy towards the game, which gives her more happiness to go out and play the game!

Amanda’s Training Availability

Q3: Hi Amanda! Where are you located and do you still do training? 

A3: Hi! I am in Houston! At this time I am not taking on any private lessons since I am traveling around the country a lot during the year and cannot keep a regular lessons schedule! I will do clinics across the country with The Packaged Deal (www.packageddeal.com) and I also will throw together small clinics in the Houston area about once a month to try to reach out to our community!

Q4: Just a reaching out as a curious recreation director here in Darlington South Carolina. What could we possibly do to get a clinic here in our area. We are in somewhat of a hotbed for softball and I think we could possibly have a successful clinic here! What do we need to do?

A4: Hi Lee! All of my pitching clinics are being done through The Packaged Deal. The Packaged Deal is a group of 4 girls (including myself) who offer catching, pitching, infield, and hitting sessions at facilities and fields around the country. We have come together to travel around for different people to host us! You can find more information at http://www.packageddeal.com/who/ . There, if you click on “Book” on the Navigation Bar, you can look more into how to host us near you!

Strength Training for Softball

Q5: Hi Amanda! My name is Lane Welch and I coach high school football and head coach our HS softball team! I would first like to say how much I love seeing your post and reading about the passion you have for softball and teaching youth and coaches around the world the knowledge that you have! I have been fortunate to have been in strength and conditioning by some of the most knowledgable people in the world! I strength train my softball team and know that I have very positive results from it over the years. Some of my players don’t understand it and have parents tell them that it holds them back. I truly do not believe that, but would love to know your thoughts on strength training in softball as you have played on such a high level! I am from west monroe, LA and love reading all your postings. Please keep doing what you do.

Q5: I totally agree with it! Think it’s very important and I noticed a drastic difference when I was in college of overall strength I felt playing the game. We did EVERYTHING – bench press, dead lift, power cleans, conditioning, lots of core works, shoulder stability exercises, agilities, sprints. The one thing we did NOT do was long distance training, since softball is such a quick, explosive sport and you need to be fast on your first step (of fielding a ground ball, first step out of the box, big push step when pitching). I feel like some people complain because they don’t want to put in the extra work. Strength and conditioning can be built into your practices and overall weekly routine if you are wanting to become a better ATHLETE and softball player. When I think of S&C for softball players I think of strengthening the lower half, strengthening the core and working on explosiveness. The more time you want to sacrifice to put into your training, the better results you are going to see on the field! 

How is Your Foundation?

“If you have a strong foundation, you can build or rebuild anything on it. But if you have a weak foundation you can’t build or truly fix anything.”

When you hear the word “foundation” you may think of a house. A home’s foundation is the perfect example to compare to a softball player’s foundation when it comes to throwing, hitting, and pitching. All 3 of those things have to have a set, solid foundation formed at a young age based off of learning solid mechanics from the VERY beginning.

When you build a solid foundation at a young age, it’s easier the older you get to make adjustments, tweak some small mechanical things here and there, thus allowing you to focus more on the MENTAL side of the game instead of focusing so much on always having to go back and fix the foundation that was set years ago. That foundation will ALWAYS be there.

My best advice: put in the time, knowledge and finding a good coach FROM THE VERY BEGINNING. What you are learning NOW has a greatest effect on you DOWN the road – more than you will ever realize.

Confidence

CON . FI . DENCE : a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities

I like definitions. Too many times we use a word and the true meaning gets lost from our day to day use of the word or overuse of it. So to me, definitions serve as important reminders as what we are trying to convey in our every day speech.

Players, coaches and parents know that confidence is important to feel in order to have success as a team and as an individual player. The biggest question stems from where does it come from? Parents and coaches automatically assume that their players will just be confident by merely bringing it up in a post game meeting or in a car ride home. Confidence doesn’t come from a conversation.

Confidence doesn’t come from two conversations. For most players, confidence happens over time.

In my mind, there are two different types of players – 1) the player who is innately confident, and 2) the player who learns to be confident. You know these players who are innately confident – they are the ones who ever since they picked up a ball or a bat just knew they could do it. I played with one of these players, Megan Gibson, current assistant softball coach at Penn State University. Megan is my one of my oldest friends and long-time teammate from Texas A&M and well before the college days. Megan was a two way player who hit, pitched, and played first base when she was not pitching. For as long as I can remember, Megan was just plain confident no matter what – at practice, in games, socially, etc. I looked up to her because I recognized that this was something that was not naturally inside of me. Megan had the type of mentality that she knew she could beat you, even if statistically the other player was supposed to “win” when she was pitching or hitting. Just by merely stepping out onto the field, she had a confidence that was unlike any other, and the rest of our teammates fed off of it. She was just confident because that’s just who she was on the inside for as long as I could remember. From my experience, those who just are innately confident are not the norm, they are the outliers. As coaches, you wish every player could be like Megan, and just step on the field to compete and think they could beat anyone. It’s a quality you can’t teach and that few athletes are born with. These are the players who just have “it.”

Amanda Scarborough Confidence

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. I, personally, learned to be more confident through hard work and practice.

My confident feeling was created through repetition before it came game time to ease my mind that I was prepared. I knew the more I practiced, the more comfortable I would be for a game and the likelihood would go up that I would have success at the plate or in the circle. I gained confidence with every practice knowing I was putting in the time outside of the game.

In practice I prepared, in games I trusted.

The times I didn’t practice as much, I didn’t feel as comfortable with my playing abilities, which caused me to be less confident and have less results come game time. I was the type of player, especially in college, that would come to practice early or stay late when the majority of my teammates were already gone. The hard workers are the players who are putting in extra time outside of the scheduled practice times. They are doing things on their own when no one is telling them to, trying to gain confidence in their personal craft so they can have success when it really matters. Preparation breeds confidence.

Amanda Scarborough Confidence Blog

Instead of telling a player she needs more confidence, try asking her if she feels confident, and have her answer using her own words.  Ask her what she can do in order to feel more confident.  Confidence is a feeling.  It’s an attitude.  Confidence is shown by behaviors on the field in every move that you make from the way that you take the field to the way that you go up to bat.  Confident behaviors are calm.  They are smooth.  When you are confident the game slows down. Even just by ACTING confident with your body language on the field, the game starts to slow down in your mind.  It is when the game slows down in your own mind that you are going to be able to flourish with confidence and results.

Let me ask you these questions…

What do you look like in between pitches at your position? Do you look like you’re nervous? Or do you look like you’re calm, cool and collected? ….as if anything can come your way and you’ve got it. If you don’t look this way, what are you going to do to change it? Video your player if her opinion of what she is doing is different than the coach’s or parents opinion.

When you’re up to bat are you constantly fidgety and always looking down to your third base coach? ….or are your thoughts collected and you’re involved in your own routine, and then you merely glance down at your coach to see if he/she is going to give you any signals?

If you’re a pitcher, do you make eye contact with other players on the field with you? That eye contact signals confidence that you have in yourself and confidence you have in your teammates. In the circle are you constantly looking at your coach for reassurance, or do you keep your gaze maintained on what is going on with your catcher and the batter in front of you. Confident players aren’t afraid to make eye contact with the opposing hitter. They aren’t afraid to make eye contact with their own teammates when things start to unravel a bit out on the field. The eye contact is needed most at this time so that your teammates feel like they are behind you and that you in the circle are still confident- everyone is working together.

Confident actions start when you’re getting out of your car to walk to the field – how you’re carrying your bat bag, the way you speak to your coaches.  Confident actions are bred OUTSIDE of the softball field.  How do you walk down the hall when you are at school?  Is it confidently? Or is it fearfully?

 

Ways to show/gain confidence:

–  Consistent eye contact when someone (peer, coach or parent) is talking to you or you’re talking to them
–  Making your own decisions without looking to your friends to see what they are going to do
–  Becoming better friends with someone on your team/at your school who doesn’t normally run in your circle of friends
–  Keeping your eyes up when you’re walking into the ballpark, down the hall at school, running onto the softball field
–  Hands stay still without pulling at your jersey or messing with your hair whenever you’re in the dugout, on deck or out in the field – think about what your hands are doing, they say a lot about your confidence
–  Meet new people
–  Speak up in a team meeting
–  Take on more responsibility around your house / on your team
 Speak clearly, don’t mumble

How are you practicing your confidence? More importantly, are you practicing confidence?  This is a daily characteristic to think about.  Will you feel more confident by preparing more? Do you gain confidence by changing your body language? What works for you?  Shine on the field and play beautifully, the way you were born to play.

Amanda Scarborough Confidence

So, What Exactly Are College Coaches Looking For?

6 Things College Coaches Are Looking For

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

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

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

 1.  Versatile/Athletic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 2.  You produce offensively

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

The Big Power Hitter

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

The Speedster

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

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

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

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

The Singles Hitter

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

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

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

 

3.  Softball “Savviness”

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

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

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

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

 

4.  Competitive / Knows how to win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.   Good Attitude & Coachable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

6.  Grades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amanda Scarborough

Dream Big Guest Blog by Kaylee O’Bryan

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an athlete as “a person who is trained in or proficient in sports, games or exercises that require physical skill and strength.” Athletes stick with their goals and are passionate about the sport that the are doing. Amanda Scarborough is my favorite athlete.

Amanda Scarborough was a softball pitcher for Texas A&M. Throughout her softball career, Amanda faced many challenges and never gave up. Her passion for the sport of softball has led her to coaching young girls and inspiring them to work hard and dream big. Amanda teaches lessons that will help young girls of all ages to become a better softball player, but also gives tips on how to succeed in life.

Amanda Scarborough was born on May 10, 1986 to her parents, Mark and Sally Scarborough, in Houston, Texas. Getting involved in softball all started when Amanda turned 5. Amanda knew right away that she loved the game and worked really hard both at lessons and at practice to become better. Softball did not necessarily come easy to her, like it may to some. Amanda quickly learned that she was going to be someone who would have to put in the hours to practice if she wanted to have success at the sport. “Amanda was always ready to play and practice. No moaning, no frowning…she inspired others to be better. There is no better definition of a leader,” Amanda’s high school coach stated. Through her hard work and dedication of the sport, Amanda lived her dream of playing for Texas A&M. During her time at Texas A&M, she earned many honors including, 2005 Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year, 2007 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, and was 2-Time First Team All American (2005 & 2007). Amanda continues to be passionate about the sport of softball through giving private pitching lessons, doing all skills clinic, and commentating on live college softball.

Although Amanda was successful and was able to live her dream, her road was not always easy. At one time, Amanda had to face the fact that another parent went up to her mother and told her that she would never make it as a pitcher and Amanda should probably just stop. Another time, while playing 1st base during practice she was hit on the right side of her head by a line drive, causing her brain to bleed. She had to take time off and if she wanted to go back in the game Amanda had to wear a helmet on the mound while pitching. She did whatever it would take in order for her to get back on the mound, even if it meant wearing a helmet and pitching at the same time. At first it was very embarrassing, but she badly wanted to be out on the field playing. Amanda eventually in her senior year had to quit because of an injury to her foot. She needed surgery, but this didn’t stop her from being a part of the team. She still helped out with her teammates by watching batters and helping her catcher call pitches for the pitcher. Even though she had some really tough times this didn’t mean that she gave up. Amanda found other ways to still be passionate about her life dream of softball.

Amanda’s passion for softball is contagious. Today she is running clinics and teaching private lessons to help girls of all ages get better at softball. She writes a blog that is always being updated with new ideas and different drills for girls to use to develop the right mechanics. Amanda has also become part of a new group with three other post-college players. They call themselves, “The Package Deal”. At their clinic they teach young girls the skills they need to be good ball players. How to catch, field, throw, and hit the ball. Most importantly, they show how their passion for the sport can impact lives on and off the field. They give life lessons that girls can use to become confident, strong adults. They believe in each and every girl who walks through the door and inspires them to write their own story, to follow their dreams. I recently attended one of Amanda’s pitching clinics. It was an incredible experience. I learned different techniques about pitching and skills to make myself a better athlete. Amanda’s speeches were very inspiring and motivational. I left feeling unstoppable. Like I could go as far as I could dream. I hope to someday go as far as Amanda and play softball in college.

What does it mean to be competitive? Part 2 – Competing for your position

(This month’s topic will be broken down into 3 parts)
Two weeks ago, I sent out Part 1 of this topic “Competing Against Other Teams.”
To see Part 1 of this topic click here
One of the words I most frequently heard at Texas A&M from head coach, Jo Evans, was “COMPETE.”
 

Competition fuels desire.  Competition adds drive. Competing has become somewhat of a lost art for this generation of softball players, and one that I hear from many college coaches that is a characteristic they are searching for in their future athletes.  Nowadays, more often than not,competing is a quality that is having to be taught, instead of being innate.

When I use the word “compete” I am referring to that inner fire that burns to go out on the field and beat the team in the opposing dugout, to compete for a position and to compete against yourself to see just how good you can really be.

Competition is one of those lessons that sports builds in you, if you allow it.  However, being around the softball fields at the select and college levels, I see fewer and fewer girls who are showing up and just flat out competing when they are out on that field.

Competing is one of the biggest things college coaches are looking for in players right now.  Many times, they are claiming that it is a quality that is missing In recruits across the country.  Some coaches will even take that desire to compete over a player who has better talent.  It’s that competitive nature that makes you a great teammate and allows you to be a player that other coaches and teammates would want to go to war with.  It’s not always about the player who has the most talent; it’s about the player who has talent and has a fierce competitive drive that runs deep inside of her.

 Competing for a position

 

Now this form of competition isn’t as basic as competing against other teams.  This one is a little bit tougher because it involves competing against your own teammate.  This is specifically tricky with girls because most girls don’t want to hurt other girls feelings.  Having competition at different positions around the field is so important for a team’s success because you get the very most out of your players.  If there is no competition for positions, players can get complacent and never really grow.  Competing for a position pushes both players to become the best they can be knowing that if they perform better than the other player, then they get to start in the big game.  Competing for positions is a big reason why college teams will carry more players on their roster than a select team.

Steve Martin Quote

Competing for a position is THE BIGGEST lost form of competition, and I will tell you why.  There are more select softball teams across the country than there ever have been before, meaning there are more options; and if someone is not happy with playing time, it’s very easy for them to pick up and leave and go to another team where they can fine more playing time.  I’m sure you know them, the typical team hoppers who leave because everything just isn’t right.  They always have different excuses for leaving the team, but in general, the biggest reason people leave teams is because their daughter isn’t getting enough playing time.  So let’s think about this for a second.  By allowing your daughter to change teams based on playing time, you’re telling her that she doesn’t have to earn that spot and compete for that position because if we aren’t getting what we want, then we can go find it somewhere else.  The easy thing to do is pick up and leave and find another team so your daughter can play.  The hard thing is to challenge up and stay on the team to earn that spot.   I promise, in the long run, she will be better because of it.

If a player isn’t playing…I guarantee there is a reason for it other than the coach just simply having favorites and/or not liking the player.  If I am the player who is not playing, I am going to find out why I am not playing (by asking the coach myself, NOT my parents) and then work hard on whatever the reason is when I am practicing.  Maybe the reason you are not playing is because you are not clutch with runners in scoring position.  Maybe the reason is because you make scary throws to first base on a ground ball.  There is going to be a reason, but there is NO reason not to go work hard on whatever it is it may be.  But here is the catch: if the player is NOT making the changes to become a better player, then WHY would the coach put them in?

Earning a spot can be difficult; earning a position can be challenging; but earning a position is one of the most rewarding things that can happen to a player.  If you’re not getting playing time and you think you’re working hard enough?  Work harder.  Do you think you’re putting in a lot of time? Well put in more. Want it more than that other person.  Eventually, you’ll get it; but it’s not going to come easy.  A big part of competing for a position is taking advantage of your opportunities.  For example: maybe a player doesn’t start but she is called upon to pinch hit with a runner at 3B and less than 2 outs.  Does the player cave in this situation? Or does she get mentally tough to embrace this opportunity and make the most out of it by hitting a SAC fly and getting the RBI?

Another example of making the most of your opportunity is if the player who plays defensively in front of you makes an error, and your coach calls your out to go play in the field.  The first ground ball that comes to you, do you boot it?  Or do you make the play cleanly?  TAKING ADVANTAGE OF OPPORTUNITIES will be a way that you earn your spot and catch your coach’s attention.  If you are NOT taking advantage of opportunities, then why would your coach want to play you?  To take advantage of opportunities, you must be focused, you must know the situation and you must be mentally strong to believe in yourself.  Someone might make an excuse after not taking advantage of your opportunity such as, “well I didn’t come through because I don’t get to play as much as the other players.”  This is just an excuse for not coming through, and it doesn’t apply.  If you’re putting in the practice time and fall into the trusting mindset in the game, you will be better served to take advantage of these opportunities physically and mentally.

Find a way or fade away

Don’t teach your daughter the wrong thing – that if you’re not happy with something, it’s okay to pick up and leave.  Teach her work ethic by teaching her competition within her position.  Make sure you have a coach that is teaching this same philosophy, because maybe your daughter is the one at the “starting” position.  Is she being pushed? Is someone right there next to her at practice pushing her with every swing and every ground ball?  If not, then I can guarantee she will not become the best player she can be because there is no one right there next to her breathing down her neck wanting to take that position.  That is pure competition.

Competing for a position will prepare her for college.  The ultimate goal of any college team is to win, a coach’s livihood at his/her schools depends on it.  So you better believe that the best players will play and that coaches want this friendly competition out on the field within their team so players are day in and day out pushing each other.  If your daughter is not preparing for it now, she won’t be ready for it when she makes it to the next level, whichever level that may be – high school, all stars, league team, college.  Encourage competition, don’t shy away from it.  Teach your daughter that if she wants something, she has to prove a point and send a message by working harder than she’s ever worked before to be named the game day starter.

Lastly, an important thing to remember for this kind of competition is not to give up.  Anything can change.  Maybe the person you are competing with stops working hard, but you continued to work your very hardest and you end up beating them out at the end of the season.  If you want it bad enough, you will work hard enough to achieve your dreams.  If you don’t put in the work or make the changes, that tells me you never wanted it in the first place.  Every player wants playing time, but it should always be earned.  The reward is getting to be out on the field come game time. Passion, or lack of passion, is shown when competing for a position.  How bad do you want it?

Is there competition at your position?  Are you being pushed by your teammate?  Are you pushing your teammate?  Are you caving when you have opportunities?  Make the most of your opportunities…be so good they can’t ignore you. 

COMPETE EVERY PITCH.

 

Understanding The Strike Zone – As a Hitter

A discrepancy that comes up in about 90% of all games is the umpire’s strike zone.  Pitchers complain about it.  Hitters shake their heads in the box about it.  Coaches whine about it.  And parents in the stands let the umpire know exactly what they think about the zone.

An umpire’s strike zone should NEVER be used as an excuse of not performing well.

Can you control the umpire’s zone? No. What can you control? Keeping your emotions in check to be able to adjust to his/her zone.  What are you going to choose to do about it DURING the game? An umpire should establish his/her zone within the first two innings.  All you can ask of that umpire is to be consistent with what he is calling, and as a player, it’s your job to pay attention to his/her zone.  You can actually use an umpire’s strike zone to your advantage if you look at it as an opportunity instead of disadvantage…

As a hitter..

Recognize if the umpire has a wide zone (calls a lot of strikes) or small zone (doesn’t call a lot of strikes).  You can recognize this by paying attention to the first couple of innings when you are in the dugout or out in the field.  Even when you are not up to bat, you always need to be paying attention to your surroundings.  If you do not hit at the top of the order, or if you are a hitter who did not start the game, your job is to pay attention to your teammates at-bats and recognize where exactly the umpire is calling strikes, and where he is not. Sometimes one side of the plate might be wider than the other side.  Sometimes he may be an umpire that has a lower strike zone.

Small zone

A game should be controlled by the offenses when there is a small strike zone.  Games with small zones usually lead to higher scoring games.  When there is a small zone being presented, it’s your job as a hitter to have patience at the plate.  With a smaller zone, you change your game plan and approach to not be as aggressive, especially in an important situation.  You want to challenge the pitcher to throw strikes.  Don’t help her out until she proves that she can find the umpire’s strike zone consistently. With a smaller strike zone, comes more walks.  It’s important to pay attention to the hitter in front of you.  Did the pitcher just walk that hitter on 4 straight pitches?  If she did, then you probably should not swing at the first pitch of your at bat, since clearly that pitcher is struggling to find the strike zone.

Finding a way on base is critical in our game.  Realize that a walk is just as valuable as a hit.  It may not seem the same to you as a hitter statistics wise, but taking that walk puts you 60 feet closer to scoring than you were before you started your at bat.  Have patience at the plate, and definitely challenge yourself not to swing out of the zone.

When you’re up to bat, look for a mistake in your at bat.  With a smaller strike zone comes more added pressure to the pitcher, not the hitter.  With added pressure, a pitcher is more likely to be more tense and frustrated.  She will probably start aiming the ball a little bit more trying to find the strike zone, and she is going to be more likely to come over the heart of the plate.  LOOK FOR THIS MISTAKE.  Don’t fall asleep at the plate just because a pitcher is throwing more balls than strikes.  Be ready to hit.

In the dugout, be paying attention to the pitcher’s body language.  If she is getting down on herself and showing that she is not confident with what she is throwing, then it’s even more important to not help her out in your at bat.  Don’t give a pitcher any confidence when she is struggling to find the zone by helping her out and swinging at a pitch that is not a strike.  That gives her a little bit of positive energy and could be exactly what she needs to get back into her groove. When a pitcher is struggling, offensively, it’s your job to keep her struggling.

Wide zone

A wide strike zone can be a hitter’s worse nightmare.  If the umpire is going to have a wider zone, you can be a little bit more aggressive.  You still never want to get out of your true strike zone.  If an umpire strikes you out on a pitch that was clearly not a strike, don’t get discouraged or consider it a failure.  Don’t let that at bat take you out of your next at bat, and more importantly, don’t let the wide strike zone carry over into the next game and get you out of your zone.

When I was playing and there was an umpire with a wide zone, I made it my goal to get not get 2 strikes.  I wanted to hit a strike early in the count so that the umpire didn’t even have a chance to strike me out! YOU can control hitting early in the count. You CAN’T control the umpire calling you out on a pitch that is out of the zone.  So be aggressive early in the count so that you get a better pitch to hit, and you don’t stand a chance of getting struck out on a pitch that is out of your zone.

Also, if an umpire has a wider zone, DON’T SHOW EMOTION.  Players show emotion at the plate when they get strikes called against them just to make sure everyone else knows who’s watching that they didn’t think it was a strike.  Control your emotions.  Don’t let your opponent know that something is wrong with you – that fuels them and let’s them think they have you right where they want you.  If you’re showing body language (i.e. rolling eyes, shaking head) after a certain pitch, and I am pitching against you, I am probably going to throw you that exact same pitch again, since you just clearly showed me disgust after the umpire called that strike against you. Why would I throw you anything else? Clearly you are not looking to hit that pitch that you were just shaking your head about…

Understand which part of the plate the umpire is being “wide” on.  For example: Is it the outside pitch to a right handed hitter that he’s calling way off the plate? If this is the case you have 2 options: 1) Go up looking for an INSIDE pitch, if the pitcher is still showing you that she is working on that side of the plate. 2) If the pitcher is controlling the outside corner because that of where the umpire keeps calling it, crowd the plate the very most you can, and take away that outside pitch so that it doesn’t seem as far outside to you.  The same can be applied for the inside corner by backing way off the plate and looking for that pitch.  If an umpire has a higher strike zone, it’s important to not swing at pitches that are too far high and out of your zone.  Something I did when facing a pitcher who threw higher pitches in the zone was to hold my hands a little bit higher when I was in my stance before the pitch was thrown; this adjustment helped me keep my hands on top the ball so that I was not as likely to pop up.  This was a small adjustment on my part to be able to able to win the “battle.” Your job is to win the battle and do whatever it takes to come out on top – no excuses necessary.

The best players are going to be able to adjust during the game, no matter what is thrown at them!  Softball is a game of adjustments.

Instead of complaining about a wide zone, be proactive in practicing during the week about the approach you will take as a hitter or as a team if you come up against an umpire with a wide strike zone.  It’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of time.  By practicing this, you’re turning what some think as a disadvantage, into something you can feel more confident about at bat when it happens in a game.  Have the discussion before it happens about how your approach changes at the plate when facing different umpires.  An umpire is never the one who comes away with a win in the win column at the end of the game.  By letting the umpire beat you, you indirectly are letting the other team beat you.  Quit the excuses, and use an umpire to your advantage when you’re up at the plate by adjusting how YOU approach YOUR at bat.

 

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