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.
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…!
As you grow up and reflect on the years of your life, you can probably count on 1 hand the people who have made a major impact on you. You are told to surround yourself by people who make you better; a search to seek out the people who pull out the very best in you. But what if one of those people actually found YOU, knowing she could be the one to get the very best out of you? And then, what if you were surrounded by that person for 4 years, 40 weeks out of the year, 6 days out of the week, 4-5 hours of every day? Do you think this person would have a major influence on you in your life? I know firsthand, the answer is yes. I know from having the opportunity to be around Jo Evans, Head Softball Coach at Texas A&M, who just recently won the 1000th game of her career.
When deciding where to play ball in college, some players look at what majors a school has to offer, some decide based on athletic and academic facilities, others may look at a previous win-loss records or national championships. I looked at Coach Evans.
I saw a coach who could make me a better player, but more importantly, I saw a coach who could make me a better person.
I still remember being 15 or 16 years old, and seeing Coach Evans in the stands recruiting me and watching me play. I get asked often if I always knew I wanted to go to Texas A&M. To be honest, I wasn’t one of those players who ALWAYS knew she wanted to go to Texas A&M. I have no family members who went there and had no real ties to the university before I made my decision. When I was that age, I had no idea where I wanted to go to school! But then…Texas A&M showed interest in me, and it was almost as if I knew instantly that I wanted to play for her from the moment I met her. Jo Evans is what pulled me in.
The decision to play at Texas A&M for Jo Evans is definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. When I was there, taking the field every day in College Station, I didn’t realize the magnitude of all that she was teaching me on a daily basis. In those 4 years, I was constantly growing as a player, growing as a leader, and helping to grow a program, all by the guidance of a spunky red head, named Jo.
Coach Evans makes a “big deal” about leaving a legacy, as she asks every senior class, “What’s going to be your legacy?” She reminded our senior class, as she does with every senior class, that we are leaving a lasting mark on a program, and we got the chance to control what it was going to be. From her, we knew we would be leaving a legacy at Texas A&M, but what she did not know at the time, was that she, too, was leaving a lasting legacy on us. A first impression may stay with you for weeks, a lifetime impression stays with you for eternity; it’s one that will stays with me well after I left my cleats on the field in Oklahoma City signaling my playing career at Texas A&M had come to an end. Coach Evans makes lifetime impressions on the players who play for her at Texas A&M University.
Little did I know when I was 16 years old, making the decision to play for Coach Jo Evans, that I would be playing for a coach would achieve the 1000 wins mark. That coach, the one who chose ME to come and play for her at her school, had a monumental weekend, as she won her 1000th career Division 1 game this past Saturday. Quite a milestone, as she becomes the only active coach in the SEC to have 1000 career Division 1 wins and becomes the 8th coach in the country to achieve this.
But in my mind, Jo Evans is more than a softball coach piling up scoreboard victories under her belt.
What has helped lead to those thousand victories is the fact she is a coach who teaches more than the game of softball through the game of softball. She genuinely cares about her players, and has the ability to get them each in the right mindset to go out and compete to their highest talent level, thus the ability to compete for championships. By caring, by teaching, by directing, she is making them better women when they leave her program to go and take on the real world, once their cleats are left on home plate.
It’s a college coach’s duty to teach more than the game of softball, as those 4-5 years of a player’s life are preparing them for the rest of their lives in more ways than one. I know in my heart that many other players feel like I do about the relationship they have or had with their college coach. I speak from my heart and from my own experience as to what I was taught in those 4 years that has honestly, completely changed my life and made me into the woman I am today.
I could write an entire book about what all Coach Evans has taught me. (I laugh because this article is already going to be long enough.) Looking back, I honestly cannot tell you which of these things are the most important and rank them in any particular order, but I do know that they all continue to change my life. Jo Evans left her legacy on us, just like she told our senior class to do on the A&M program.
1) Plain and simple — She taught me the game.
I really learned the ins and outs of the game from Jo. At practice she’s teaching, in the game she is teaching, after the game she is teaching. Doesn’t matter big or small, she will see it, and she will use it as a teaching moment at many point at practice or in a game. At practice, I learned the details of defense from her. In between innings, during a game, I remember her going over pitch calling with me for different situations and letting me know what I could have done better or chose differently. I learned a little bit deeper about what the whole “make adjustments” thing meant as a hitter and as a pitcher, alike.
In post game talks, she would let us know down to certain at bats and certain pitches/counts within that at bat what went wrong, what should have gone differently, and why it changed the energy and outcome of the game or an inning. Because she taught us, we could be more aware of different situations in future games to be able to make adjustments on our own when we experienced that same situation again. She was the best at reminding us of plays of execution throughout the game, that may never go down in the scorebook or get written about in the newspaper, but they were parts of the game that you can’t be a championship team without. During and after the game, she reminded us which plays were a “big deal” for our team.
A huge part of this game is knowing your role on a team. She made me look at the game in a whole new way when it came down to actually playing the game itself, but also, she taught me every player has a “job.” She pointed out different roles that were an integral part of a team; roles that went deeper than the star pitcher and the homerun hitter. Every single player on a roster has value and has a job to do. When you are being reminded that everyone has a role and a job to do at any point in the game, it brings a team together. EVERY player has value.
The more you respect each other’s roles, the better you play together, thus leading to more wins. You keep it simple and worry about doing YOUR job, not someone else’s.
This idea of roles and doing your own job made the game much more simplified. It was important to remember what YOUR job was, and not try to do everybody else’s. You have a job. You execute it. You succeed. “What can YOU do to help OUR team win?” — love that quote.
Looking back, her teaching me the knowledge of the ins and outs of the game has helped me immensely in my career as a softball analyst on ESPN. We did not learn to play as robots on the field – we learned to take responsibility and ownership for every situation throughout the game. Because I wasn’t a robot, I learned quicker and the concepts I learned were able to stay with me longer. Now, I can talk about an array of situations that happen on the field defensively and offensively, taking that knowledge I learned playing under her to relaying knowledge to the viewer on TV listening and watching the game. I know the game from Jo.
2. Respecting the game
Coach Evans takes more of an “old school” approach. She loves textbook softball when it comes down to execution and more importantly, upholding a certain standard to which the game should be played and respected on the field.
Our game has history and our game has value, and she is a coach that doesn’t just ask for her players to respect that history, she demands it. Respecting the game is one of the few things Coach Evans demanded of us, as she is really not a demanding coach. For the few things that she “demanded,” we knew that they were of extra importance, because her demanding anything from us, were things we knew WE could control.
Along with respecting the game, comes respecting the players who played in front of you. Not just at YOUR school, but the players who paved the way to get our sport to where it is today. This is a respect of what they sacrificed, and what they have accomplished ahead of you. Our sport is growing, and our sport is beautiful. This didn’t happen over night. It was made this way from those who laid the foundation before us to make this sport as we know it today. And for that, every time you take the field, you are playing for something that’s bigger than yourself.
What else does respecting the game mean? It means you play hard. It means you leave it all out on the field. It means that when you step out onto the field, nothing else matters – not school, not relationships, not any personal problems. It means keeping a good attitude. It means by knowing that if you stick with the process, the game will reward you. If you are player or former player, you know exactly what I mean.
I had never really thought about the game in this way until I had played for Coach Evans. Yes, I loved to play hard, but I did it a little selfishly, not understanding the real importance of respecting the game. However, she taught me to play hard, for something bigger than myself. Because she loves and respects the game of softball, it’s something that she has pulled out from inside of me to the forefront. Not that it wasn’t always there, because it was, but she showed it to me in a way I had never thought about the game before. If you know me, you know I love EVERYTHING about this game. Coach Evans brought that out of me.
3. Respect Your Opponent
With respecting the game comes respecting your opponent. Jo kept us humble with wearing that Texas A&M across our chest. Yes, we played at a school who week in and week out, usually found ourselves ranked in the Top 25; but she taught us the game doesn’t know who is supposed to win when you step on the field. She taught us that no matter who we were going up against, they deserved our upmost respect, because anybody can beat anybody on any given day. The more I’m around this game, the more I see this, and it’s actually one of the things that still gives me the most excitement about spots in general. As sports fans, we live for the underdog to get the big win. It happens, and it gives everyone out there a little bit of extra hope, as we all feel like an underdog at some point in our lives.
She taught us that even though we respected our opponent, no matter who they may be, a win and a loss 90% of the time comes down to a team playing THEIR game and not worrying about what the other team was doing. She taught us to give so much more attention to ourselves than to the other team, and control the things that WE could control. This is something that as we were playing, made the game seem a little bit more simple. Wow, what a thought – I don’t have to worry too much about the other team, because if we play OUR game, the way WE are supposed to play, then we will put ourselves in a position to win.
Coach taught us a part of respecting your opponent is winning and losing graciously. Any kind of attitude towards another team or disrespect of the game was not allowed. To be honest, we never even really came across anything like this during a game, because we were so engrained to respect our opponent, that it never was really an issue. Respecting your opponent means playing with class and playing within yourself. Jo reminded us of this.
4. Ownership Of OUR Team/ OUR Actions
At the very beginning of the season, Coach Evans will remind a team, “This is YOUR team.” The players are supposed to run the team, with the help of the coaches – it’s not the other way around. This gave us accountability for all of our actions. We monitored and patrolled each other for everything – whether it was about tucking in our shirts at practice, making in game at-bat adjustments or making the right social decision outside of the field. It’s kind of like when your parents buy you a car versus when you buy a car yourself. When you buy the car yourself, then the responsibility and accountability seems to go WAY up. It’s YOUR investment and it’s YOUR car. Every decision you make from that point on has more weight on it.
With ownership of your own team, came ownership of our own pitch calling. As a pitcher, I loved being able to call my own game. It made me LEARN. It made me a better player, and it made me a better coach after college was done. I loved challenging myself and having to think constantly throughout the game. In a way, it gave me independence and confidence in my own decision making. Think about it – I threw 100+ pitches in a completely game, which meant I was making 100+ decisions every time I was in the circle. I don’t know if this was supposed to be a direct bi-product of pitchers/catchers calling their own game, and I’ve never really thought about it this way before, but I think it’s pretty awesome, and it gave me accountability and confidence with my own decision making.
When the players take ownership of THEIR team, it’s astounding how much more accountability and investment it creates. You no longer want to just worry about yourself and YOUR actions, you worry about the TEAM more than you worry about yourself. The team comes first. Because of this, the team starts thinking big picture, monitors each other, and really, the team should pretty much be able to run itself. I can still hear her saying in our team meetings, “This is YOUR team,” and it was true. When we ran OUR team, it gave us more ownership of every win and every loss.
Jo Evans loves to compete. She HATES to lose. “Compete” was a word that we heard daily at practices and in games. The idea of not competing is just like not respecting the game. It’s a long season of over 50 games and Coach expected us to compete for all of them. She wanted us to go out and compete to represent the name on the front of our jerseys.
We had a duty to wear that jersey proudly with Texas A&M represented on the front, and we knew we were representing the 12th man and our incredible university. By not competing, we weren’t just letting our team down, we were letting the 12th man down.
Part of competing is that never give up mentality. To compete and to fight go hand in hand. Not every game is going to be an easy win. There are going to be times you fall behind and need to come back. When you have a coach with the experience and drive that Coach Evans has, she teaches to her team that there is always a chance to win if there are outs left in a game. If she thought that and believed it, then why wouldn’t we, as players, believe it, too?
I remember being a freshman and losing games for the first time early in the season. Some of the losses, we were just beat. Other losses we beat ourselves. But, a loss was a loss. A loss was to be taken seriously with no laughing and cutting up after the game. Our freshman class learned this very fast from our seniors (remember, we patrolled each other). A loss in college was taken much differently than in high school or tournament ball. I learned to hate the way it felt after a loss. As a team, we hated disappointing ourselves, but more than that, we hated disappointing Coach Evans. We hated the way losing made us feel, and we didn’t want to have to feel that feeling very often. We learned from our losses, and were able to move on, but losing was never fun.
Because she was so competitive, our team was competitive. Because she had fight, our team had fight.
Individually, we were expected to compete, and as a team we were expected to fight until the very end. It wasn’t a demand, it was an expectation. It is because of her I am more competitive and have more fight in me than when I entered her program. If you want to win, you’ve got to learn to compete and learn how to fight until the very end, because you never know when the game can change if there are any outs left…
I sincerely believe that Coach Evans taught me the true meaning of what it is to be loyal. She constantly talked to us about loyalty throughout my 4 years. Loyalty means allegiance and trust. When you build a loyal team, you build a team that is going to trust each other and play better together on the field. She encouraged us to be loyal to the program and to our teammates. If we were supposed to take ownership of OUR team, then a big part of that is feeling loyalty from and towards our teammates.
It feels good as a player to be surrounded by loyal teammates. It’s a long season. Not everything is going to go your way. There are going to be team talks, team meetings, and adversity. There are going to be things that are said in a team meeting that need to stay within a team. A loyal team keeps those issues within the team. It is so important to be a loyal teammate. Loyalty establishes faith and belief, and helps with team cohesiveness. Loyalty forms a team who plays for each other8
A team has to feel united at the end of the season to win games and win championships.
When you are a loyal teammate for 4 years, it becomes a habit in your every day life outside of softball. Because Coach Evans taught me the true meaning of loyalty, I bring that quality into my relationships with my friends and family. I hope that they call me a loyal friend – that might be one of the biggest compliments someone can give me. So much of being a good teammate and a good friend comes down to being loyal and trustworthy. If you have teammates who represent those things, then your team chemistry is going to help you get more W’s than otherwise, as Coach Evans taught us throughout the years.
As I saw in Coach Evans, motivation stems from passion. Coach Evans has the ability to speak in a room and motivate everyone who is listening – from the trainers to the managers to the players. Even now, in the rare cases where I get a chance to hear her speak to the team in a pre game/post game talk, it’s moving. It makes me want to go play. It doesn’t just make me want to go play, it makes me want to be great.
She can move you and change your mindset with the passion in her each of her words. Even when it can seem like there is nothing positive to build on after a bad game, she can find it. She can turn a room of emotions from defeat to compete within a few minutes of listening to her speak. She is an extraordinary speaker, because she speaks right from her heart. You can tell it comes from deep within a place built by experience and a place of confidence. It’s hard to NOT be motivated before a game when Jo Evans is your heard coach. It’s that motivation that gets her players ready to play before any given game.
8. She “Gets” Her Players
Coach Evans genuinely cares about her players on and off the build. She takes the time to get to know each player, and figure out a way to coach and communicate with them. Because of the way she forms relationships with her players, a sense of family is built within the program, firmly assembled on the foundation of respect. She can tell her players the hard thing. She is a coach who will always be honest with her players. It might not be always what you want to hear, but she can say the hard thing. She KNOWS her players. She even knows qualities about her players that the player might not have figured out about herself, yet. Sometimes, it takes a few years to understand and appreciate some of the things she brings to your attention in those meetings. It’s hard to hear the truth, and it can be hard to learn about yourself and understand how you are being perceived from the outside. This was “grown up stuff” we were learning to deal with throughout our tenure at A&M. However, in the end, no matter what, Coach Evans told us that she had our backs – each and every one of us – and she meant it. Because we knew she had our back, we had hers.
Coach Evans exuded these noteworthy qualities on a daily basis. We wanted to play and fight for her and for our school. She exemplified what it looked like to model all of the qualities that she was teaching us through her own actions. Because we saw it every day, eventually it just became a part of us. You want it to become a part of you. In some of our most impressionable years, ages 18-22, we were around a woman who was constantly teaching us how to be a good teammate, but an even better person.
For me, playing for Jo Evans at Texas A&M is like the gift that keeps on giving. The life lessons I have learned from her through the game of softball are amazing. I learned a way to play and understand the game, but more importantly I learned ways to improve myself that I could carry on into the real world. When you dig deep to understand why she is a coach who now has 1000 wins, it’s not too hard to figure out how win after win has accumulated over the years. You can tell she has passion, she surrounds herself with a trustworthy coaching staff who exemplify the same qualities that she is trying to teach and she has the ability to reach the players who are in her program to a deeper level. It’s the coaches who have surrounded her and who currently surround her, who cannot be forgotten about as well. Without the help of an incredible support staff, not as many games and championships can be won, trying to steer a program in the right direction.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter how much softball you know and how much strategy of the game you know, if you can’t get your players to play for you, play for each other and play for themselves, then that knowledge is meaningless. I look back to 12 years ago, and I am incredibly thankful she picked ME, Jo Evans picked ME, to play for her at Texas A&M. I cant imagine having played for anybody else, and I would not be the woman I am today without her.
A BIG congratulations to Coach Evans! Her 1000 wins mile marker is a “big deal!!”
Regardless of how hard you throw, how you swing or how much movement you have, you should have a certain look about you. No, I’m not talking about make up, or headbands or uniform color. I’m talking about how YOU look from the inside out.
When should this look happen? All. The. Time. – at practice, in games, walking up to the ballpark, at lessons, warming up.
“The Look” will eventually become a part of your every day life, even outside of softball. The Look will be something you feel at school walking down the hall, or walking into a room where maybe you don’t know anyone. (That is when The Look REALLY matters even more…when softball is done).
No matter what else is going on, you always have The Look in your back pocket. You own it, nobody else does.
Best thing about The Look is that it’s free. You can’t buy it with make up or a designer top. It’s not about those things. The Look is priceless, but it pays off in so many different ways.
Sooo…what is she talking about? Where should you start if you’ve never thought about The Look before?
Let’s start with getting out of the car at the ballpark. Think about your look as your two feet hit the ground from getting out of the car. Grab your bat bag from out of the car confidently. This is where it can begin. Walk confidently. Keep fidgeting to a minimum. Walk with your eyes up and have a soft focus in front of you. If someone is walking with you or comes up to talk to you, look them right in the eye when they are talking. When you walk into the ballpark confidently, you set the tone for how you’re going to approach your game(s) that day – composed and poised.
Soon, The Look will be something you don’t have to think about anymore. The Look is just something you will do; it will become a habit. It’s something you want to do because you notice the response you get from other people around you – teammates, adults, friends. They will look at you differently; they will talk to you differently. They may even be a little bit more intimidated to go up against you if they are on the other team. This is exactly what you want. You want to win the unspoken confidence battle before a pitch is even throw in the game. You want to be one step ahead of everybody else. That’s exactly where you like to be. One step ahead is how you play your game.
You’re warming up with your team now. Still represent the way you want to look even if your teammates and friends don’t have the look yet. They will. Soon. Once they see what you can accomplish with The Look.
You’re confident, but humble. You’re eager, but calm. You feel prepared. You’re having fun, but you’re focused.
If you’re warming up in the bullpen, you’re not constantly messing with your hair or pulling on your uniform. You’re not showing emotions after every pitch – good or bad. If someone walked up and just watched your body language, they would never be able to tell if you were having a good warm up or a bad warm up. You want to be consistent with The Look. How you play will have ups and downs, but The Look doesn’t know the difference.
You’re content with exactly how you feel and you’re remembering to stay where your feet are. No matter how you warmed up, it’s your job to have The Look if it’s the best warm up or the worst warm up – The Look doesn’t know the difference between a good warm up and a bad warm up. Every day will feel different, but The Look should feel un-phased.
It’s game time. Your teammates look at you in the and they feel more confident just because they see it in your eyes every time you catch the ball back from your catcher that you’re beyond assured in what you are doing in the circle, and you believe in yourself. You aren’t scared to look your teammates in the eyes out in the field, point a finger at them and say, “Hey, we got this.” Your eyes are up. Your shoulders are back. Your focus is on your team and your catcher. As a hitter, your teammates can tell you are focused and collected in your at bat in the box. They will strive to have the same presence and confidence as you when they go up to the plate. In return, they will begin to have better ABs after following your lead.
Regardless of the outcome of the game, win, loss, completely game, getting pulled in the first inning, it has no effect on The Look. The Look knows no result. The Look only believes in you and the abilities that are within you. The Look doesn’t remember what happened the last time you played. It only knows the future. It only knows chasing after your dreams in a way that is professional, mature and determined.
The Look knows no age. Best thing about the look is that it has no boundaries. It doesn’t know location. The Look only knows you.
I CHALLENGE you to be aware and practice The Look. Take pride in every single thing that you do. All of your movements should have a look of confidence, posture and poise about you. From tying your shoes to the way you take a deep breath before every pitch you throw. When you walk into a room, make your presence known. Not because you are the loudest one in the room with your voice, but because your presence alone before even saying a word, speaks volumes about the way you feel about yourself. Remember, The Look is from the inside looking out.
Most importantly, the Look is yours; it is no one’s to take from you – not your parents, not your coaches, not a significant other,
not your teammates, and definitely not the other team. The Look means you are in control of your emotions. The Look can take on anything thrown at her and know that at the end of the day, YOU belong. But before others believe it, YOU have to believe it.
If you don’t feel confident enough yet to have the look, fake it. Fake it until you grow into it, because I promise, you WILL grow into it.
Even faking the confidence will feel good and you will be amazed at the results it will produce for you. The best thing about The Look is that it is free. The Look can start when you are ready. Everyone has The Look inside of them, some have just already decided for The Look to join them in their every day lives. If you don’t have it yet…it’s only a matter of time.
TEACH FEMALE ATHLETES HOW TO BRAND, TEACH’EM, TEACH’EM HOW TO BRAND!!
What exactly is a brand? Simply put: a brand is an IDENTITY. It is a set of associations we make with products or services and what differentiates particular products and services from competitors. In sports, we have popular apparel brands like Nike and Under Armour, league brands like the NFL and NASCAR, team brands like the Yankees and Manchester United, and athlete brands like LeBron and Tiger.
Wait, are athletes brands? Similar to the associations we make with products and services, a personal brand is the set of associations we make with a particular person. Athletes with strong brands can benefit from lucrative endorsement deals during and after their careers. Even after their careers end, well-branded athletes can transfer their brand power to entrepreneurial endeavors, appearances, or other business aspects. Want to be like Mike still?? He’s over 10 years removed from his playing days and his Jordan brand is stronger than ever. Well-branded athletes not only earn more, but they have the ability to influence larger masses and opportunities to transfer their brand power beyond the playing field.
So what about the not-as-well-branded or not-as-well known personas in sport? Are they still brands? Tom Peters says: YESSS! Peters is the author of the article titled “A Brand Called YOU” where he claims we are all brands. In fact, we are all CEOs and brand marketers…of our own brand. The way you dress, style your hair, the friends you associate with, the books you read, the food you eat, the car you drive, the content you post on social media. All of this makes up YOUR BRAND. As brands, we each have our own unique name, reputation, credibility, and image. We all have our own brand personalities, or the human element of your brand. We all have different qualities…..
I’m a firm believer in experience. There’s nothing like the experience of pitching or hitting in the “big game” or with the bases loaded, and the game is on the line. Your thoughts are rushing quickly through your mind, you are completely aware of what’s at stake and how the next pitch you throw, the next time you swing or the next ground ball you field can be a defining moment in an important game. In this moment, all eyes are on you, and believe me, you can feel it. The experience itself comes down to more of a mental state than a physical state. Your physical skills are there from the hours of practice and thousands of reps you have taken at your skill. However, your mental state will determine how your physical state is allowed to perform during the game at any point, especially those few defining moments in every game when it comes down to that one pitch. One of the biggest questions is how to help a player to be strong in that moment. A big part of that strength comes from drawing on past experience.
How are you going to handle your defining moment?
It’s hard to simulate this same sensation you get in the big moment in the game without actually living through it on the field itself. There’s really no practice that you can do to fully compare to the same feeling that is created when you are actually in that big moment with the ball in your hand. The only way to simulate it is to actually do it…multiple times. The more you do it, the more relaxed you can feel to be able to play to the highest of your ability without your muscles tightening up and thoughts overwhelming your brain in your head. The pressure you feel is as much a mental sense as it is a physical sense of feeling pressure and tightness throughout your whole body. I’ve felt it. Multiple times. It’s that adrenaline rush that you get before the game and during the game that never goes away and is what makes sports addicting. I want to be frank, if you’ve never been the pitcher in the circle or the hitter at the plate in that game-defining moment, you truly have NO IDEA what it feels like mentally to be present in that situation. You don’t have the experience. There may be things that you have been through that are similar, but it when it comes right down to it, the feeling that is created with the “big moment” is sometimes incomprehensible.
But it’s these moments that we all live for in all sports – as players and even as fans at the edge of our seats.
How do you deal with the pressure? You have to experience it. You have to breathe through it. You have to learn from it. You have to be confident that you can handle it. You have to recognize what it FEELS like, be in tune with your body and grasp how to cope with the tightness, the pressure and all of the intense energy that is surrounding that big moment. The more familiar you become with these feelings, the more you understand what it is like to tackle them and become victorious in that big situation. It’s in these situations where you give more thought to breathing and calming your brain and heart down than you do to actually how to throw a pitch or swing a bat. You practice experiences. You practice breathing. You practice how to keep your emotions under control when the game is on the line. The more you have at practicing this, the more you WANT to be the one in the key point in the game.
Experience in ANYTHING we do gives us confidence the more and more we perform an action, in a certain situation, under certain conditions. If you are bad at something (anything, no matter WHAT it is), the more you do it, the better you become at it, as your body and motor skills become more comfortable with handling the new skill you are trying to pick up. The skill in the “big moment” is practicing how to control your emotions, thoughts, and calmness. Even if you start as “good” at something with little to no experience, you will become GREAT at it the more and more you do it. We can see this in real life outside of sports in our careers or different hobbies that we take on. Sports are the same and even more pressure-filled because in a sport, everyone attending the game knows immediately if you failed or succeeded. You are out on a stage called a field, and all eyes are on you watching your physical performance and waiting to deem your physical performance as a success or a failure. Immediately after you perform a skill, every single person watching knows if you failed or succeeded. Think of a player giving up a home run – everyone watching knows that the pitcher just “failed” and the hitter just “succeeded,” or at least they think they know. Think of a basketball player and the eyes that are watching every shot taken. We all know as fans whether or not a player messed up when he/she took a shot based off of the physical result of the ball going in the basket or not. A job can be different than sports. Maybe only 1 person knows that you “failed” – your boss. Many times in a job, you aren’t out on a stage where literally every single person watching, or in the room, knows when you failed. In a softball game, if you strike out or have a homerun hit off of you, AT LEAST 20 people know if you failed or not (at least 9 on each team, plus a few coaches on each team). The thought of failing in front of people added creates pressure.
Okay, so I set the stage for you. After innings and innings of play, and numerous games, sometimes we forget what the “big moment” is all about and what it really feels like to be in that pressure situation – we take it for granted that a player should be good at handling the big moment. This especially happens because we, as coaches and the parents, are older and have either seen or been through those experiences many times ourselves, so we assume that the 11 or 12 year old should be better at dealing with it. Not the case! They are just babies, they are just learning and trying to get their feet underneath them. They are just getting a grasp at the physical part of the game to think about, and now they are having to think about this monumental mental side of it that can make or break them. To understand what is at stake in the experience, is almost as important as learning to understand and deal with the actual experience itself – from a support position as a parent or as a coach.
Everyone comes around in their own time. This is life. We all learn differently, we all experience differently.
Take walking for example (not the softball walking of 4 balls take your base, but the actual skills of walking as a baby) – an experience that all of us can draw from – one of our first physical skills we attempt to do. We got up, we fell. We got up again, we fell again. After days, maybe even weeks of getting up and trying to take that first step, we eventually stand a little longer. We eventually take one step, then maybe two steps, And before you know it, we are cruising all over the room and our parents can’t keep up with us. We had to experience each fall before we could actually get to the end result we wanted. Now, I imagine that standing for the first time or trying to walk for the first time is a bit uncomfortable. (I honestly can’t remember, but I’m just going off of a simple guess here) Your body is probably thinking what the heck is going on? What am I trying to do?
It’s new. You have to figure it out. You have to learn. You have to understand what you’re feeling and your muscles and brain are learning each step of the way (no pun intended). Each and every one of us didn’t all learn to walk in the exact same amount of time, or at the exact same point in our lives. Our parents were there supporting us, encoring us that we could do it. They believed in us, and they knew it was only a matter of time. We experienced failing to become the walkers we are today. We may not have walked exactly when our parents expected us to, but eventually we figured it out.
Playing in the “big moment” is the exact same way. It can feel and will feel uncomfortable.
Anything new feels uncomfortable. Experience will create a comfortability (just made up my own word there, but you get the point). We don’t get as many experiences in the “big moment” as we do when we were walking. When we were walking, we were working on that every single day of our lives. For the “big moment,” you MAY experience it once a weekend. Maybe you don’t experience it on a weekend of games at all. If someone is not experiencing different situations, then you cannot be upset with them for not being good at it. Our parents didn’t get mad at us when we couldn’t walk on our first try.
The more you can experience the pressure situations and the make or break moment, the better and better you will become at being able to handle it.
Nobody wants to fail. Nobody likes to fail; but it’s the failing that can make us GREAT. That “failing” moment where a homerun is hit off of you or someone strikes you out should be looked at as a learning moment, not a failing moment. Where was that pitch she hit? Where could it have been? Where did she pitch you this at bat? What part of the plate was strike 3 on? Where do you think she will pitch you next at bat? What are you going to do the NEXT time so that you feel more equipped to have success than feeling like a failure from your last experience. Teach teach teach teach! When you react, don’t judge the experience, teach the experience.
No matter what age someone is at, especially a young girl, we don’t want to let someone down – especially in the big situation. I PROMISE this is the case. Some might not admit it, but I’m telling you it’s true – I know from experience. Most girls don’t want to let other people down more than they don’t want to let themselves down. Girls are looking for a reaction from their coaches and from their parents. Girls are pleasers. They don’t want to see a reaction that they let anyone down – especially someone important to them.
If you are a coach or a parent, what reaction are you giving when someone “fails” out on the field?
That instant reaction you are giving with your words, facial expressions or body language IS IMPACTING THE NEXT BIG MOMENT THAT PLAYER WILL PLAY IN. No girl fails on purpose – no chance, no way. When she looks to the dugout or into the stands, she is looking to see if she let you down. Yes you – the coach, the parents. If she did let you down, then you’re making it more about you than you are about her. Remember, it’s about those players wearing the uniform, learning every step of the way. They should never feel as if they are letting you down if they don’t make the plays that you think they are supposed to make.
If a girl is scared of a bad reaction, when the big moment comes, she will be drawing back on that experience in her mind from the last time it happened. Even if it is not consciously being thought about, I promise to you it is in the back of her mind. This is only going to make her TIGHTER in the big situation, not relaxed. The player that is in the positive, encouraging atmosphere and mindset will become the player that does better the more and more they get to experience the big situations because they will become more relaxed and more comfortable. These players will be able to understand and deal with those tight feelings and a brain that is running at 1000mph.
Sports are similar to how life works in all aspects. We do something, we fail, we learn. But in the same breath – we do something, we succeed, we learn. There’s a chance for both, but you have to allow the failing to teach you without effecting your confidence. Learn from your successes just like you learn from failing. More importantly, how people are reacting around you are teaching you how to feel about and how to feel in the defining moments of the game. The first thing you should look to if it looks like a player plays down when the pressure situation increases are her coaches and her parents. How do they react? What are they telling her after the failure? What do they look like when things don’t go exactly how they planned? Was there a certain situation that happened in the past where maybe the parents and coaches didn’t even know that they showed to the player that they let her down? I’m telling you — you want a player who can handle the big situations, then you want coaches and parents (authority figures) who react in a positive manner.
SEEK OUT THE EXPERIENCE
Experience is absolutely critical in the development of a player, especially at a young age up until high school. Don’t get me wrong, even in high school and college, experience is one of the most important things, but the experience the older you get becomes more about dealing with extra outside forces. The games start to mean more, the competition becomes tougher, the games become televised. Gaining experience and a mental edge at a young age is instrumental for gaining confidence in the big moment at the older ages when it matters even more. You can’t start from scratch one you get to high school and college. If too many poor, negative experiences and bad reactions are engrained in someone’s head in high school and in college, then it’s toughed to overcome them – similar to bad mechanics and poor muscle memory
It does no good to be on a really well known/best team in the area if you are sitting the bench watching other people get the experience – especially as a pitcher. In 10u, 12u and even moving into 14u, you’ve GOT to be getting experience in the circle and up at the plate. You have a few choices:
Say you are the #2 or #3 pitcher on the team. You can stay on the well-known team, even though you aren’t the starter and keep practicing very hard to continue to get better. Stick it out for a year or two, BUT sign up for a local league and get pitching time. Yes, I know the competition isn’t as good, but I don’t care. You are getting mound time and you are practicing throwing to an opposing team while working hitting your spots and gaining command. This is a perfect place to improve confidence, get reps and work on some mechanical issues you are trying to get better at. PLUS, if you are staying on that team where you are the #2 or #3 pitcher on the team, you add to the competition to be the lead pitcher. Because you a re getting better, you are making the other pitchers better and there becomes more competition at your position. I actually did this, and I know from experience that it worked to my benefit. I wasn’t getting as much pitching time as 1 or 2 other pitchers on my select team in 12u, and me and my parents weren’t in denial about it. We knew that I needed to get better in order to earn more pitching time. So we signed up for a fall league to get more innings and more pitches thrown. To this day, I really think it’s one of the best ideas we came up with as a family. I got drastically better after that season because I was getting the experience I needed, and my results on my select team started to improve and eventually I got more and more time. Yes, it was a bit of a time crunch, and there were probably times I didn’t want to go, but I really feel like it helped out in the long run.
You can change teams. I always recommend doing this at the end of the season and not in the middle. With this being said, I am not an advocate of team hoppers. However, I am an advocate for experience and how essential it is to have playing time at a young age. Experience, when it comes to time in the circle and number of at bats you are getting, is SOOO important.
I DON’T THINK QUITTING IS AN OPTION IF SOMEONE LOVES TO DO SOMETHING. This will be an option that many people are quick to jump to. The only time I would encourage quitting is if the passion is not there for someone and they are not putting in the time and effort it takes to become solid player. There is a difference between not having passion and not being as talented as the other players VS having passion and being slower to catch your talent level up to speed.
If someone has the passion to do something, I am convinced they can and will achieve anything they put their mind to, and you can’t tell me otherwise. The people who don’t have passion end up quitting and weeding themselves out.
PRESSURE IS PRIVILEDGE
Have you ever heard this saying before? I love it. It reminds me of that movie, Remember The Titans. The older I get, the more I understand those 3 words. When you look at pressure as an opportunity, not a fear, the game becomes a bit more simple….not easier, but unescapably more simple. When you get more experiences to choose how you are going to handle different in game situations, you get more experience in choosing the right thoughts, and understanding which thoughts connect with which results. When the bases are loaded and the game is on the line be thinking, “I get to show everyone how good I am and how I am going to come through” not “I hope I don’t mess up and fail.” The experience of being in tight situations is all about controlling those thoughts. It’s easier to control those thoughts when you are in a positive, encouraging environment with your parents, coaches and teammates who support you.
Positive self talk should be something that is without a doubt engrained in players from a young age, especially when they are young and most impressionable. It should be discussed with players as much, if not more, than the actual mechanics of softball. Take time for it. It is so important in the development of players not just in their physical game, but in the part of the actual game itself when the “big moment” comes up and it’s time to shine.
It’s that positive self talk that will help you understand and realize that pressure really is a privilege and you should WANT to be the one with the bat or ball in your hands to come up to be the one for your team.
Realize this: We aren’t going to be perfect, especially in this game of failure we call softball. Every time you are in that pressure situation it’s a chance to prove that you’re in the right frame of mind. The “success” and “failure” comes from being in the right frame of mind and giving yourself a chance to have success when the big moment comes; it doesn’t always necessarily come with the outcome, despite what all eyes watching might think. When you take pressure off of the outcome and the fear of doing something wrong and not pleasing others, you give yourself the opportunity to have more success. The experiences you go through should be learning moments that are making you a better player. It shouldn’t feel like punishment or that you did something wrong as a player if you don’t come through in the clutch. It should be used as a moment to teach, so that when the moment presents itself again, you absolutely nail it.
Only YOU can define your moment. YOU create your opportunities – what are you going to do with them?
Want to share something VERY COOL with you to get you (and me) active for the next 30 days. ANYONE can participate – kids and adults alike. It would be AWESOME to get your teams involved in this, as Taylor Hoagland (All American from Texas & USA National Team) is the one who has started this CHALLENGE.
So this morning, I will start #30DaysOfGreatness with Taylor and lots of other people around the country, including my bestie, Savana Lloyd (SL Fastpitch). I want YOU to start with me and hop on board!!! #30DaysOfGreatness is a fitness challenge to workout (lift, cardio, crossfit, pitch, hit, take ground balls, etc) for at LEAST 30 minutes every day for 30 days straight!!!! Here’s what you need to know:
1) 30 minutes of work out every day. GET MOVING!!! To officially enter every day to PROVE that you’re participating, you must take a picture with a short recap of what you did and tweet it to @taylorho6 with the hashtag #30DaysOfGreatness. I would LOVE to see your pictures posted on my Facebook, too! Please, please please please let me see them, especially if they are pitching & playing softball!
2) The OFFICIAL start date of #30DaysOfGreatness is today, January 26.
3) For participants who make the 15 day mark, at halfway, there will be a Google Hangout for everyone to participate in, including Taylor Hoagland, myself, maybe even Patrick Murphy, and some other people who are participating. — THIS is going to be REALLY cool.
4) For the participants who make the 30 day mark, you will receive a shirt as a token of your achievement. (You will only be eligible for this if you have tweeted to Taylor (@tayloho6) every day for the 30 days.
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.
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?
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 ground. Your 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Lessons. Practice. Travel. Games. Recruiting. Repeat. The ingredients of elite softball are all in the air. Getting lost in emotions, information and games can be an everyday occurrence. Some days are easier than others. It’s a grind. Always remember there is light at the end of the tunnel, and the benefits of making it through the months ahead of you are completely worth it in the end. As a parent, remember there are other parents going through exactly what you are going through. As a player, remember there are other players going through exactly what you are going through. It helps to remember you’re not alone. It also helps to keep some things in perspective along the way to help you and your family stay sane.
Realistic Expectations: There is a home for everyone.
I feel as though this is tougher for parents than it is for players. Players usually have a realistic understanding of their talent level and they can see through lenses that are not rose colored. When you start to get into elite softball, there is a general understanding and goal that you want to play at the next level. Period. Understand from the very beginning that at the top 25-30 schools, only 3-5 players will be recruited in your year. Putting expectations of only going to those 25-30 schools can be quite a letdown if you don’t make it. Put into perspective the amount of girls vying for those positions and how the probability is most likely higher that you won’t make it to that school. BUT, if you love the game and are invested in continuing your career, you are going to find a better fit at a school that has your name written all over it. Playing with unrealistic expectations makes you play tight, and usually leads to being let down. There is a great home for everyone.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from my dad when I was in the recruiting process was to stay humble. I was extremely lucky that many bigger schools were after me. At the time, since recruiting was happening a little later than it is now, it was quite common for schools to send in questionnaire profiles through the mail early in the recruiting process. I would sit down after dinner in front of the TV and fill out every single questionnaire that was sent to me. It didn’t matter if it was a junior college, a mid major or a top division 1 school. My dad’s thinking was that I was not too good for any school. If they were interested in me, I was going to be appreciative and never turn my nose up to anybody. You never know what could happen and you don’t want to completely shut anyone out until you know for certain where you are going. What if you think you are going to go to a big D1 school and you have a major injury? What if you go through something major that mentally takes you out of the game? You never know what can happen. Be appreciative for attention. Stay humble with coaches who are interested in you. Stay humble around your teammates. The same can go for the opponent you are playing. You’re an elite team, but the game doesn’t know that. Go into every game with consistent emotions by respecting every opponent. Respect the game. The game doesn’t know…
Don’t Compare your Experience to Your Teammate’s.
You and each of your teammates will most likely have a different experience in how you get recruited and who is watching you. It takes too much energy to compare. That energy should be put into YOUR skills, mindset and plan. Worry about yourself. If you are doing all that YOU should be doing on and off the field, then what other people are doing should not matter! Be you. Do you. Grow you. YOU are awesome. YOU have your own story.
Make friends, not enemies.
This goes for players AND parents. With every person you come in softball contact with, you never know how much you might be around them in the future. I’ve noticed enemies in the softball world usually come from jealously. At every exposure camp, combine, all star event, opening ceremonies, make a good impression! A good impression could be just that, a good impression or it could be a lasting friendship. You just never know when you are going to possibly play with these people you meet again. You may meet someone at an exposure camp and may end up being college teammates with them. In the stands, be nice and supportive. Everyone you meet is going through exactly what you are going through. Don’t judge. Be respectful and just know that the softball world is a REALLY small world, so make a good impression. People talk, coaches hear. You want what they are talking about to be nothing but positive things about you and your family. With that being said – avoid drama.
As an elite athlete, you are pushing your body to its limits on a weekly basis. You have to pay attention to your body and realize when it’s talking to you and when you need a break. Be honest. Create that relationship with your parents and coaches from a young age where you can gain their trust and you can say “I need to take today off” or “I need a break.” Breaks are GREAT. They absolutely have to happen for your mind and for your body. You live a softball-is-life mentality, but mixed in there, there has to be time with no softball. You create your own balance. Figure out what that balance is so that you can perform the best. You want to love softball, not hate softball because at the end of this ride, softball continues to still pay off in your life – promise!
Own Your Role.
I get it, you want to PLAY; you don’t want to sit the bench. On an elite team, 15/15 girls on your team are GOOD and there are only 9-10 starting positions. The talent only gets better once you go to college. Many times, a player will learn a new position just to find a way on the field. Be flexible and be studious. There are so many examples of players getting to the next level and not playing the same position they played on their travel team and in high school. If you are not physically out on the field, it does not mean you become a spectator to the game. There is always something to learn, to watch, to do. Try to pick pitches. Try to notice pitcher’s tendencies. See if the defense is giving away anything. Create a role and totally own it. There is no time to feel sorry for yourself, you have a team to help, you have a game to win. Championship teams have roles and buy into those roles. This game is not about one person’s playing time, it is about the entire TEAM. Learn to contribute to the team and find a way to be involved in the game. THIS is a team player. THIS is the kind of person a college coach wants to recruit. If you are on an elite team, you will be competing for championships, so find a way to contribute.
Parents – Stay out of it at the field.
Give your children responsibility for their softball career. Give them a voice. If it’s about playing time, have your daughter call a meeting with her coach to discuss what she can do better. Eventually your daughter will have to speak to a boss or another authority figure. Give her practice NOW so she can learn to communicate LATER. Mentor her and help her with what she should say or when she should say it, but don’t say it FOR HER. Once warm ups start, parents should stay completely out of the way. No bringing hot dogs and Gatorade to the dugout. No coming up to the dugout to remind her to keep her front shoulder in on her next at bat. The days of that are over. Elite softball is conducted in a businesslike manner. You’re there to compete; no distractions and you have a job to do. IN the stands during the game, remember you never know who is in the stands WITH you. If you are going to cheer, yell only positive things. (I honestly feel that saying nothing positive nor negative can sometimes be your best bet. Just let them play the game.) If you are going to chat with another parent on the team, make it positive. You NEVER know who is listening. Your daughter is taken as a direct reflection of YOU.
Make good grades.
Even if you are not planning on going to some place like Harvard or Yale, your grades are so important. Your goal is to play at the next level right? Well, at the next level, if you don’t make the grades, you don’t get to play. Create good study habits and make school a priority. Because you are playing at an elite level and have big tournaments every weekend, some of which you are having to travel far, you are going to miss out on things with your friends because school + softball + family are more important. While you may be missing out on a birthday party or going to the movies, your friends are probably going to miss out on playing a sport collegiately. Rent the movie later and send her a birthday card/present to let her know you wish you could be there and you’re thinking about her. I PROMISE, getting the opportunity to play softball in college is WAY better than any movie or birthday party you miss. There is a much higher percentage of those you don’t play sports in college than those who do. Do whatever it takes to find time to study, write papers and do homework because this prioritizing is not changing any time soon once you make it to the next level.
Play on the best team where you can PLAY.
This is tricky, but I am going to give you my mentality on this. I encourage people to play on the BEST (most competitive) team they can possibly play on AND be in the starting 10-11 players on that team that get playing time. It goes no good to be on the “best” team in your area, and all you do is sit the bench. If you are only sitting the bench, you are missing out on college coaches being able to see you in action and gain the experience of competing on the field against top level teams and competing for championships. Again, I know people are going to have different opinions on this, and I am just giving you my perspective. Find a team with a solid tournament schedule. Two things I want you to remember while thinking about this: 1) The college coaches are going to be where the best teams/talent are. 2) Don’t be jealous of the best player on your team, that “best player” is most likely pulling college coaches in to watch. Don’t just think of those coaches as being there to watch that player, think of this as an opportunity to grab some attention and as a mini audition! You WANT that player on your team because she helps you win and she draws attention…especially standout pitchers.
Softball Does Not Define YOU.
Understand there is a difference between performance skills and moral skills. This, to me, is the most important thing a parent can teach a player. The way you teach it is completely up to you. Some examples of performance skills: hardworking, competitive, motivated, confident, disciplined. Some examples of moral skills: unselfish, appreciative, loyal, caring, trustworthy, caring. There HAS to be a balance. When softball is all said and done, all you have is your character…your inner you. This goes for players and it goes for parents. Parents, you are not defined by how your daughter is at softball or the scholarship she gets. Neither is she. She is defined by being a good teammate, a good friend, a good daughter. Start noticing the differences and explaining the differences to your daughter and your team. THIS will help make leaders out in the real world and empower them with a different skill set once they grown into WOMEN.
We are all in this softball world together – don’t lose sight of that. While everyone wants to be on the team that is the last team standing at the championship game, this sport is so much more than just that. Play softball not to just eventually grow to pitch 70mph and hit 20 bombs in a season. Play softball because it grows you together as a family and each individual as a family. Along the way, be genuinely excited for teammates who get the big hit, the big strikeout or the big verbal commitment. Remember karma is a real thing. No matter how good you are, never stop learning. Never stop being appreciative. The schedules and commitments can get a little crazy, but always remember to take a step back and see something bigger than the scoreboard. Big things are ahead of you….
CONFIDENCE: a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something.
Definitions are reminders to us of the real meaning of a word – not the meaning that others have applied to it, or meanings that have formed in our head over time from up and down experience. The thing that sticks out to me about this definition of confidence is that it only has 1 pronoun in it, “you.” The true definition of confidence has nothing to do with other people who surround us or 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.
In my opinion, a “belief” is stronger than a “feeling.” It’s one thing to feel like you are confident (a feeling can vary from day to day, can be short term), but it’s another thing to believe you are confident (a belief can control your inner thoughts for the rest of your life, can be long term). It’s important to not let those down feelings that we get on some days in our life to snowball into a belief that we are no longer worthy or no longer confident in ourselves. A feeling can just be a feeling – a single act, a one time thing. A belief runs deeper.
A belief runs down through your inner core that no matter what has happened in a game earlier that day or yesterday, that you know deep down, without listening to what anybody else has to say, that you are meant to do great things. Because you are. We all are.
In sports, we are never ever in a million years going to be perfect. Let me repeat, we are never going to be perfect. In fact, we are all perfectly imperfect. And in a game of failure like the game of softball, it’s going to challenge us to our max to dig deep in our own thoughts and mind, and believe that there is a confident athlete on the inside, at all times no matter what.
Remember, don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Unrealistic expectations get in the way of our belief. It’s unrealistic that you’re going to go 4 for 4 every game or throw a 7-inning shutout every time you take the field. If we make this an expectation, then we can only let ourselves down, because we won’t ever be perfect. On top of that, we usually judge the outcome when we don’t meet the expectations we have set. The important thing to remember is not to judge the result. When we judge, we feel like we are letting ourselves down and others down, and then we stay down feeling like we failed. It creates negativity in our mind to where we might not be as productive the next time. Instead of judging, recognize instead what you did wrong – don’t attach a feeling or an emotion to the outcome. By recognizing what you did wrong, you can still keep the belief of confidence inside of you, and have a high chance of making adjustments. This is something that must be practiced and become routine.
Play bigger than a feeling. Play with a belief that others might not be able to understand.
When you step out onto the field or into the batter’s box, you can’t go out there hoping that you don’t mess up and being scared to make a mistake. If you think this way, you’ll play tight and you might get lucky throughout the game, but the game won’t come as easy and won’t be as fun. Realize you are thinking this way. Don’t judge it. Just notice it, and change your thoughts. Understand when you think this way, that not only do you give yourself the impression that you’re scared, you give others the impression that you are scared (coaches, parents, fans, opposing team). That helps give others the upperhand.
I remember taking the field and trying to have the mindset, “I get to show the other team and the fans how good I am.” This wasn’t to put pressure on myself and it surely wasn’t to be cocky (if you know me, you know I am far from it). It was because I loved to play this game, and I believed in my preparation and how FUN the game can be when you really let your negative thoughts go, and you play like you really believe in yourself. “I can’t wait to show them how much I’ve worked on my pitch selection.” ” I get to show that other team how much my change up has improved since last season.”
The thing that I chose to believe in was my preparation and hard work, more than any negative outcome that tried to take that belief from me.
Unfortunately in this world, others put their unrealistic expectations on us, watching us, thinking we are supposed to play perfect. Other people around us may second-guess our physical talent or second-guess decisions that we make. A lot of times, it’s parents questioning playing time or coaching decisions. Go back to the definition of confidence. It didn’t say “they” or “he” or “she.” The only thing it said was “you.” Because if YOU believe, then “they”, “he” and “she” don’t have any choice other than to believe in you, too.
Remember, it comes from a belief, not just a feeling.
It doesn’t matter what others think – it matters what you think and the belief that you truly feel deep down about your own self and your own abilities every day you wake up. That belief can feel quite liberating and can be used as a shield towards what anyone else has to say.
I know it can be hard to push what others say away. At the end of the day, remember that other people’s opinions are never greater than the belief that you have in yourself. But here’s the thing: YOU must believe you are worthy to be out there and believe in your preparation. Believe it deep down. Don’t let others take away from your own belief – your beliefs are some of the strongest things you own on any given day.
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.
“To live is rarest thing in the world – most people just exist.” To truly believe is to live. When you let others or outcomes dictate your confidence, you are just existing. Every day, when you wake up, make a commitment you are going to believe in yourself unconditionally, and you get to show the world (including yourself) that you are meant to do great things.