My mission is to inspire softball players to DREAM bigger, WORK harder, and SMILE more often. I look to not only help to improve their physical softball skills, but also show them the importance of confidence on AND off the field. Through my website you will find information on all things softball—motivation, inspiration, blogs, quotes, videos, tips, preparation, etc. Feel free to leave questions/comments, I’ll get back to them as soon as I can!

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

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

But you ARE strong enough to overcome.

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

Why She Has 1000…

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.

Amanda Scarborough Coach Jo Evans Texas A&M

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.

Coach Jo Evans 1000 wins Texas A&M Softball

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.

Jo Evans 1000 wins

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.

Amanda Scarborough and Jo Evans

 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.

Texas A&M Softball

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.

Coach Evans 1000 Wins

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.

Amanda Scarborough

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.

5.  COMPETE

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.

Texas A&M CompetePart 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…

6.  Loyalty

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.

Texas A&M Softball

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.

 Texas A&M Softball

7.  Motivation

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

USA11_196Coach 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!!”

Coach Jo Evans Texas A&M

High School Softball Survivor Guide – Grievance 3: Teammates

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

Grievance 3: Teammates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Things to do When Approaching a Pitcher During a Game

So a pitcher is in a bit of a pickle, and as a coach, you know you need to call time out to go and talk to her. A big part of coaching, in my opinion, is knowing when to call that time out to go and talk to a pitcher. Timing is everything with those time outs. That time out can serve as a tool to calm down your pitcher and/or defense. It can also serve as a way to slow down the other team. You must have a feel for the game and understand when that time out needs to be called!  Sometimes it can be called too early and sometimes it can be called too late.

EVERY pitcher has been through those tough innings; innings where you can’t throw strikes, innings where your pitches can’t seem to miss a hitters bat. Negativity is most likely already running through a pitcher’s head, and if that is the case, it’s going to be hard to get outs with all of those negative thoughts piling up in a pitcher’s mind. If a coach is going to call timeout to go and talk to her, don’t make it worse! Be positive for her. Be a rock. Be a source of information that is going to HELP her get through this icky situation.

Remember, when a time out is called it is all about HER in the circle.

Give Her a Small Mechanical Fix

Amanda Scarborough Texas A&MMaybe ONE thing mechanical might be helpful. I’m not always one to like to talk about mechanics during a game, in fact I do not really endorse it, but in some situations I do think it can be helpful. I know from being a pitcher myself that pitchers look for quick fixes in practice and in games. Them trying to think about one small mechanical change can help get their mind off of the pressure they are feeling in the circle and they can feel like that one mechanical fix can be the one thing that turns their game around. I know it sounds silly, but pitchers are funny and quirky like that!

We are so used to hearing coaches tell us what to do, and knowing that when a coach tells us a mechanical fix that we get better results, that this could actually work during a game. I am all for a pitcher thinking for herself and being her own pitching coach in the circle during the game, BUT I also know that sometimes the game passes you by very fast when nothing is really going your way, and you need that shoulder to lean on to try to help dig you out of the hole you got yourself into.

I am NOT saying to go out and reinvent the wheel, but one thing a pitcher could key on. “Hey make sure you have a quick back side.” “Hey make sure you’re not falling off.” “Let’s get some faster arm speed going on and attack this hitter.” There are certain comfort mechanics that makes every pitcher feel better and put back at ease. Find out what those comfort mechanics are for each pitcher.   The worst mechanic you can tell her to fix is the one she has been trying and trying at practice to work on but can’t seem to get.  Tell her just one quick thing, not 5-6 things.  That one thing could get her in the right frame of mind to mentally take on the next hitter with a positive attitude.

Mind you, the mechanical fix might go in one ear and out the other if she is not used to working with you. She won’t trust what you’re telling her, so she is less likely to feel better and stronger in the circle after you talk to her. You better build a relationship prior to calling the timeout with your pitcher. 

Stay positive, stay calm

If you go out there and look like you are in a panic, then your pitcher and infield will start to panic – I GUARANTEE it. Girls are so good at picking up on emotions and tightness from people, especially their coach. So even if you THINK you are being calm and are collected, are you really? Panic mode does not help anybody, and it really doesn’t help your team stay calm through a tough situation and feel like they can work out of a jam and end up making a come back. Nobody plays well tight.

Amanda Scarborough Texas A&MThings like “let’s throw strikes” might seem like the ideal thing to say and may seem positive because it doesn’t have a negative word in it, but it really doesn’t have a great connotation to it. A pitcher is fully aware when she is or is not throwing strikes. It’s pointless for you to tell her “let’s throw strikes” if you are not going to tell her anything after that comment to help her do so. It just makes her more frustrated, and you’re stating the obvious.

Every pitcher wants to feel like her defense and coaches believe in her.

“I know you can do it.” “You can work through this.” “I believe in you.” Mind you, this must be said with good body language and a good attitude coming from the coach or they are pointless comments and actually work against you. Give her a sense of comfort, not disappointment. The last thing girls want to do is disappoint anybody. Girls are such pleasers.

Things that are generally good to say to every pitcher are, “Slow yourself down. Take a little bit more time in between every pitch and remember to breathe.” A lot of pitchers get in trouble because when things start to go downhill they start to work faster and take less time in between pitches. By slowing down, it gives you extra breathing and extra time to think/focus on the task at hand.

Tell her the plan for going at this next hitter

We all like plans. Plans can give us a bit of ease and confidence. Knowledge gives us comfort. If you go out to talk to your pitcher, a helpful thing can be letting her know how you’re planning on throwing the next hitter. “Hey this girl got out on a change up her last at bat, you made her look really bad on it. Let’s try to set up that pitch again in this at bat.” OR “I noticed that this girl CANNOT hit the outside pitch. Let’s throw her out there and see if we can get her to swing and miss or roll over a ground ball to the left side.”

Amanda Scarborough Texas A&MOR “Hey this girl is seeing the ball well, we are going to try to pitch around her, not give her anything good to hit. You’ve had success against the girl on deck, let’s try to go at her.” THIS is helpful information.

If she has had 3-4 hits off her in the game, where the hitters have really squared up on a ball, then it can be good to tell her the plan is to start mixing speeds a little bit more OR remind her to work slightly more down or slightly more off the plate. Minimize the adjustment. It’s not a BIG one, just being able to work inches in order to have more success against the hitters in getting them to miss.

Help a pitcher recognize what pitch is working best for them. As a pitcher sometimes you get so caught up in the inning and in the moment that everything is going by really fast. You’re just throwing. You’re not pitching. That time out can be used as a reminder to point out what is working well for a pitcher, “Hey your screw ball is looking awesome, let’s stick with that pitch and go at these hitters and see if we can get out of this!” (Now..realize sometimes as pitchers we can be delusional and think that one pitch is working, when it’s really not…)

You as a coach have to be really in tune with the game and really in tune with your pitcher.

If you are not going to go out there and give her helpful information, then your timeout is only really going to be used to slow down the other team, but your pitcher isn’t going to mentally be getting anything out of the meeting.

One of the coaches on the team should be dedicated to working with the pitchers so that they can develop a relationship and an understanding of each other. It’s hard for a pitcher to listen to 3 different coaches giving her information.  All 3 coaches may think they know pitching, and they may be giving a pitcher different information and different things to work on.  That is mixed signals and can be confusing.  One coach working with the pitchers is the best in order to develop a strong relationship and keep things simple mentally for the pitcher.

Every pitcher is different with how she wants to be approached (we all have different personalities). Every pitcher is different with the things she keys on with her mechanics. Instead of thinking about what YOU like to say or teach, or what YOU like to hear, really understand what SHE likes to hear. Work with her before the game, and understand what her pitches are looking like. Understand what some of her “quick fixes” are when she is pitching and things she likes to hear that make her feel comfortable outside of the game.

The more a pitcher feels like you are trying to get to know HER, the more likely she is going to be to listen to you. Where coaches get into trouble is that they make it all about them and are not customizable with how they approach or work with a pitcher. Remember there may be things that you are saying that seem like good mechanical fixes to YOU, but doesn’t resonate well with a pitcher. She might not understand it; it might not click with her. So it’s up to you as a coach to communicate differently to truly speak to her. Challenge yourself to come up with something different. Or here is a novel idea, ASK her what she wants to hear during a game that can help her get through a tough situation. If she doesn’t know because she has never thought of it before, then tell her to take a couple days to think about it, and get back to you.

Amanda Scarborough Texas A&M

Understanding The Strike Zone – As a Hitter

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

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

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

As a hitter..

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

Small zone

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

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

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

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

Wide zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Summer Tryout Q&A with Amanda Scarborough

When I think of tryouts I think of the following emotions: nervousness, anxiety, excitement, eagerness, pressure.  This is a time, in my mind, where a player is tested mentally, even more than she is tested physically.  If you have practiced hard and worked hard during the summer, a try out should feel like just another practice in terms of what you are about to take on physically.  That’s the mindset you should have. You’ll take some ground balls, you’ll throw each of your pitches and you will take some swings either off of front toss or a machine. Your PRACTICES are where you should have been fine tuning some mechanics and working on fundamentals to make you feel COMFORTABLE heading into the tryout.

The tryout is NOT the time to fix mechanics and worry about making changes in your pitches, throw or swing.

How are you going to respond when eyes are on you and it’s your chance to take those swings in front of everybody? How will you handle the pressure?  A tryout is just like a game!  It adds pressure to completing the skills you were born to do.  You can either take that pressure, work through it, and learn to shine.  Or you can feel that pressure and crater.  I would be willing to bet that the players who crater at tryouts are the players who are not successful in a pressure situation in a game, either.

Here’s the thing: It’s all about what your inner thoughts are telling you, and also what your parents have been telling you leading up to the tryout.

How YOU are handling the conversations with your daughter days and weeks before the tryout is going to affect how she handles the pressure of the big day!  How you handle her successes and failures in every day life are going to be in her mind when she is at the tryout.  Is she afraid to let you down?  Does she know that you support her no matter what happens?  Can she feel from you that you are more worried about her well being, attitude and work ethic than you are about the results from the tryout? 

Explain to her in different ways that the tryout is NOT something to be fearful of, but the tryout is an OPPORTUNITY to SHOW a coach what she’s got!

If you have worked hard and prepared for this opportunity, then you should feel excited about it!  If you didn’t work as hard as you possibly could during the summer, and then you show up to the tryout, THEN that stands for grounds to be scared, unsure and anxious.  I would feel the same way if I didn’t prepare for something…any of us would feel that way! The best thing you can do as a parent is keep reminding them of their preparation, to believe in that and to stay within themselves. Remind them to breathe, and also remind them that it’s not the end of the world if they don’t make it.  Try to take away pressure, not add on to it.  Have a backup plan if the #1 team you want to go to doesn’t want to take you.  This is a perfect opportunity as a family to have a contingency plan, and remember that EVERYTHING happens for a reason. Yes, EVERYTHING.  Of course, if you don’t make the team you wanted it’s a bummer and you can feel like you aren’t good enough.  BUT choose to look at it in a different light.  If you don’t make one team, it means that there is an open door for you somewhere else, which is most likely going to be a better fit anyway. As a parent, you MUST have faith and stay positive for your daughter during this situation. 

If your daughter had a bad try out, it’s ok!  The experience alone was valuable for her to go through and LEARNFailure is our best teacher. Because of that experience, before the next try out (whenever that may be),  you can make some adjustments and think about what you want to do differently at practice and in your conversations to assure that that doesn’t happen again.  It should drive you more than it makes you sad.

Don’t DWELL on the bad tryout.  It happens!!  Just like a bad inning in a game happens!

There are SO many different questions you may ask about tryouts.  About a week ago, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me some of their top questions heading into tryouts, and below are some of their questions! Important to remember: there is NO SET answer for ANY of these questions.  I base my answers off of experience of being around the game as a player and a coach, and also seeing what OTHER people have experienced to give my best advice.

Q: Is Gold ball really worth the more than $12,000 cost per season (membership, airfare, hotels, meals, gasoline) or if my daughter is good enough will she be recruited without playing Gold? If Gold is the way to go, at what grade level do we make the switch?

A: –       First of all, there are SO MANY different directions to take this question, sooo that is why my answers are a little bit diverse. LOTS to consider, but wanted to give you a little bit of insight to a few things….

–        When entering the college recruiting world, remember that there are many different levels of collegiate ball.  Most people think of college ball and only think of the top Division I schools like UCLA, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, etc.  There are SO many more schools than that in terms of Junior Colleges, NAIA, Division II and Division III.  There are SO MANY opportunities to take your game to the next level that are outside of “The Dream Schools.” When you are thinking of Gold ball, most of the top athletes in the country are playing at that level on the top teams at the top tournaments which draws in the top coaches.  In my personal opinion, the word “Gold” doesn’t mean anything anymore, it’s so watered down and it has lost its allure because of its overuse. Every team wants to be a Gold team, even if their talent doesn’t necessarily match the “Gold” criteria.  At the 18UGold level, since they comprised of older girls, a good majority of those girls are already recruited and committed to go play ball, since many of them are Juniors and Seniors.  If the big Division I college coaches are there at those games, yes they are recruiting a little bit, but usually at that level they are just going there to WATCH the girls they have already recruited to go and play at their schools. The smaller schools will be at those 18U tournaments looking for the uncommitted/unsigned juniors and seniors. (Players are verbally committing to go to a school in 8th and 9th grade, it’s CRAZY).  So playing Gold ball is NOT the only way to get seen because college coaches are recruiting at these different age levels, too. Lots of them will be at 14U and 16U tournaments, as well in order to get an early look at those players who will eventually get up to the 18U level. College coaches want their players to play on the BEST teams because those top teams are playing in the top tournaments against the top teams in the tournament – which gives them invaluable experience and makes them compete at an even higher level.  Because of that competition level and how that prepares a player to play at the next level, you can see why college coaches would want to recruit players who play at the highest level possible when they are playing on their select teams.

–       I WILL tell you, in order to be recruited, you do need to play travel ball to be able to get the exposure to the college coaches.  There is probably a 90-95% chance that you will NOT be seen by JUST your high school team.  College coaches do not usually go to high school games to recruit.  My best advice in one sentence to truly answer your question: Play on the BEST travel team that you can play on where your daughter will be in the starting 9/10 on the team.  It does NO GOOD to be on one of the top teams and not play.  You are missing out on getting seen by college coaches when you are sitting the bench AND more importantly, you are missing out on game-time experience to prepare you to play at the next level.

–       Lastly, in regards to getting recruited, you need to start EMAILING coaches and putting your name out there to them.  Send emails to the schools that best fit your critieria.  Maybe you want to stay close to home.  Maybe you want to go far away.  Maybe you want a high academic schools.  Keep your options open and take TIME to understand what the options even are. They are ENDLESS.  But the player must decide what is the criteria she wants in a school, and then consistently email coaches and keep your name fresh in their minds.  College coaches are getting 100’s (literally) every day and you need to find a way to be different and stand out. When is a good time to start emailing coaches?  If you are serious about playing ball in college, you should start emailing coaches in 8th or 9th grade. If you are older than that right now and reading this, then get on it!

My favorite college recruiting website is NCSA.  They post SO MUCH helpful information.  It’s the best site I have found out there.  Their Facebook page is full of amazing tips.

Q: What should parents/players look for in a team? How do you pick the best fit – what should the decision be based on?

A: –       There are so many things that fit into a decision personally for YOUR family.  You can base it on finances and how much the team is traveling around and if you are able to afford that commitment.  You can base it off of how serious your daughter is about wanting to play in college.  The more serious she is, the more she should be traveling around to be seen in showcase/exposure tournaments with college coaches.  You can also base how serious your daughter takes softball as to how much she is practicing and the time she is willing to commit to playing in tournaments on the weekends and practicing during the week.  With that being said, are you, as parents, going to be able to make the commitment to driving her around and taking her to different tournaments?

–       More specifically regarding the team, I think you should also base your decision off of the coaches – this is a big one! Ask around about their personalities and how they treat their players and how they are DURING the games. Do they have daughters on the team?  If your daughter is a pitcher, how many pitchers are they going to take on the team?  I think it’s good to ask them point blank and get an honest answer about where they see your daughter fitting in to the lineup.  Ask the hard questions BEFORE you commit to being on the team.  Sit down as a family and think of questions that are important you know the answers to.

–       I would NOT base it just off of if your daughter has friends on the team.  That can be a big one that younger players hold on to.  You can make friends.  It’s good to get out and meet new people and explore new things!  It challenges a player to become more social and make them a little bit uncomfortable!  LIFE is about being uncomfortable in some situations and learning how to deal with it and handle it. She can make NEW friends and still have the OLD friends she played with before.

Q: Should you move a kid up in age group to challenge them or leave them down to shine and build self confidence?

A: I like for a player to stay down and play in their age group, especially in 10U, 12U and 14U. To me, this experience of “shining” can yes, give a player confidence, but also teaches them to be a leader and a player that their teammate looks up to. In my mind there is no rush.  NOW…with that being said, if a player is simply not being physically challenged enough, I think it is in their best interest to move up to be humbled, learn failure and how to play against the big girls.  I think the best person to make this decision is NOT the parents.  Usually parents (no offense parents) think much higher of their player than an unbiased opinion would from their team’s coach or their private lessons’ coach.  Be honest, be real.  Don’t move a player up just to be able to brag about it to other people.  That is not the point of playing up.  Playing up should be something that is earned and NEEDED and it should have NOTHING to do with ego.

Q: How do you demonstrate “softball smart” at a try-out? Seems like most coaches look for pitchers/catchers and shortstops, how do you make yourself shine at a try-out if you are not one of these?

A: GREAT QUESTION. If you make an error, you rebound quickly by having great body language and a positive attitude. Don’t let it affect you.  Players stick out who have a certain softball savvy without even TRYING to have that look.  They just walk on the found and have it because they are, like you said, “Softball smart.”  They are confident where to go with the ball.  They don’t question themselves.  Also, be LOUD with communication to call a ball or to cheer on other people at the tryouts.  Make new friends, be social and friendly.  Pick up another person trying out when they are struggling.  You can show signs of being a great teammate even when you don’t necessarily KNOW other people. Lay out for balls.  Hustle on and off the field, no walking.  Ask for extra reps if there is time. Ask the coaches questions.  Stay after the tryout and introduce yourself.  Play fearlessly.  Do not just fade in with the rest of the crowd with how supportive, energetic and passionate you are.  Make yourself stand out and be known. Along with these intangibles, either shine with your speed or shine with your swing!  If you are really fast, you will stick out.  If you have a pretty swing you will stick out. If you hit for power you will stick out.  Coaches love offense.  Know what your strength is.  When it is your chance to go up to the plate and show them what you’ve got, you have to take advantage of that opportunity to shine!  I also found this article, and it has some great little tips!

Q: Is it okay to try out for different teams even though you are staying with your current team so you see have you stack up against the other girls out there?

A: If you are really wanting to do this, I would say it’s VERY, VERY important to have an open, honest conversation with your current coaches. I would think the other coaches at the other try outs might think you are wasting their time when they are needing to evaluate players at the tryouts who are there really wanting to be seen? – that comes into my mind when I think of doing that.  Finally, I personally think the BEST way to see how you “stack up” against other girls is to do it on the actual playing field come game time.

Featured image from Ringor.com and this website.

 

10 Ways to Stand Out At A Softball Clinic

So you go to a clinic, there are a lot of other girls there, and that means you need to find a way to stand out of the crowd. It could be at one of our Packaged Deal clinics, or it could be at the clinic of your FAVORITE university. Maybe you’ve never heard of the people who will be instructing, maybe you’ve been counting down the days until you got the chance to go to this clinic. Either way, there are ways that you can STAND OUT from the 40 or even 100+ girls you are at the clinic with. Don’t you want to make a good impression? Standing out (for all the RIGHT reasons) can only be a good thing, because you never know WHO people know, and who might be able to put in a good word for you somewhere down the road….

Take for example your goal is to play at the University of Michigan, but you’re from Florida and you’re at Packaged Deal clinic in Florida. There’s us (the four girls from PD), and then also guest instructors at our clinic. Though you’re thousands of miles away from Michigan, one of those coaches may know the Michigan head coach. It takes just one phone call or one text to Carol Hutchins (Michigan Head Coach) to say, “Hey Coach, you’ve GOT to see this girl from Florida play, she’s the type of kid you would want on your team.” Or…the opposite could happen. Maybe one of us run into Carol Hutchins at a tournament and she says, “Hey, have you ever worked with this one girl, she’s from Florida, really wants to come to Michigan she said she’s been to one of your clinics. How was she?”  We will have to respond with the truth. If you didn’t’ hustle, if you weren’t coachable…we have to tell her that.

There are things you can do to make a great impression and represent yourself the best so you have a better chance at achieving your goals. Be memorable…

  1. Walk in with confidence – even if you have to fake it.

Ok, so you’re a little nervous. You don’t know what to expect, you’ve never even been to the facility before. You don’t know how many people are already going to be there. You have ONE chance to walk in for the FIRST time – be aware of what you look like! Even if you have to fake it, walk in with confidence. Walk in with a look in your eyes of excitement. Walk in with the feeling of not caring what anyone might say about you. From the minute you get out of the car, own it….own how you carry your bat bag, to the way you open the facility door, to the way you put your shoulders back and walk like you BELONG.

 

  1. Meet a friend, introduce yourself to new people

 

You might not know anybody at the clinic, but that’s totally ok! It just means you have a chance to make a NEW friend. While you’re waiting for the clinic to start, you could go up to another person who looks like she is by herself and introduce yourself. Then, once the clinic starts, it feels like you know someone there. If you are broken into groups, take it upon yourself to meet your other group members. Find out their name, maybe even where they’re from. Who knows…you could meet a lifelong friend if you just put yourself out there!

 

  1. Eye Contact

 

THIS is a big one. When an instructor is talking to you individually or in the group setting, give them your BEST eye contact. Even if they’ve been talking for a little while, lock in and give your focus. This means…no playing with your glove or your shoe laces or looking across the facility at what distracting things may be going on. You’ll soon realize, the more eye contact you give, the more the instructor gives you because she knows you are LISTENING. Take away eye contact from a clinic and bring it to conversations with your parents, brothers, sisters, teachers, coaches and even friends.

 

  1. Hustle – No Walking

 

Hustling is infectious to the rest of the players who are at the clinic. It even makes the COACHES want to give more/ The minute the clinic starts, there is no walking. – similar to not walking in between the lines out on the field. Hustling from station to station allows you to get more work in. Hustle is the sign of an athlete wanting to get better and not wanting to waste any time. DO NOT walk. Even if it seems like a short distance, just pick up your pace and hustle over when you’re changing stations or going to get water.

 

  1. Try New Things

 

Come into the clinic and BE OPEN. The worst mindset you can have when you go to a clinic is to be close-minded and unwilling to change. A clinic can help grow you by making you feel uncomfortable and pushing you to try new things. If you are open to trying new things, you never know what new drill or piece of information can take your game to the next level…

 

  1. Don’t Make The Same Mistake Over and Over Again

 

A clinic will allow you to go through lots of REPS. Don’t make the same mistake over and over again without making an adjustment at each station. If you are making the same mistake, then you are not learning, and it gives the impression that you are uncoachable and/or that you do not care that you’re making the same mistake over and over. On the other hand, if you make quick adjustments, it gets noticed. Making quick adjustments shows that you have great body awareness AND that you are coachable. Being coachable is one of the BEST things someone can say about you to someone else. Especially a coach who might be recruiting you.

 

  1. Be Inspired

 

Be inspired by the instructors, not afraid of them. Sure, they might be a little intense, they might be loud, and they might pick up on things you’ve never heard before or done before. But, don’t be scared of them, be inspired by them. At the end of the day, they most likely have been in YOUR shoes in the past. Listen and hang on every word they are sharing with you because their goal is to have you leave the clinic feeling more motivated than when you came in.

 

  1. Make Sure The Station is Clean Before Rotating

 

If you’re at a station where you’re going through a lot of balls, do not rotate to the next station until every single ball has been picked up. Leave the drill like you found it. Do NOT leave one person to be the person who is always the last one picking up the balls. Do NOT rotate without your entire group. This may seem like a small thing, but it speaks volumes about your character and the type of teammate you are. Softball is a team sport, being a good group-mate more than likely means that you’re a good teammate. This I know with certain is Jen Schro’s #1 way to stand out for the WRONG reason if you leave balls behind…

 

  1. Write Down Important TakeAways

 

You just learned a TON of information. After the clinic is done, go WRITE DOWN (not text) things that you learned from the clinic. Maybe it’s a quote that sticks out in your mind that really hits home, maybe it’s a drill, maybe it’s a mechanical fix that someone helped you with that you need to work on. When you write things down, you’re more likely to remember them, and go practice them. This will help you elevate your game faster.

 

  1. Thank Your Parents

 

Say THANK YOU to your parents (and/or whoever brought you) for letting you attend the clinic. Never forget that almost every clinic you go to costs money to allow you to participate. That money comes from someone’s hard work. Your parents are working hard to earn that money so that you can enjoy a sport that you LOVE. What THEY love is when you show appreciation. Your parents would do anything for you, but saying thank you makes them feel good and makes them want to continue to do things for you. You can write them a note, send them a text, or tell them when you’re leaving the facility. Whichever way you feel most comfortable, make it happen and never take things that you have or get to do with softball for granted.

 

3 Things To Do Post Clinic:

 

  1. Follow all forms of social media.

 

By following on social media, you have a chance to stay connected with the instructors one your clinic is done. By staying connected, you can now ask questions, learn new drills they post and also find out when they will be back in your area. By staying connected, you are showing that you’re invested and passionate. Find new drills even AFTER the clinic, they’re there for YOU. Softball knowledge is posted daily and it’s all for YOU. So even though you might not be physically WITH the instructors, you’re still apart of their tribe and can benefit just from following their social media accounts – as a whole and individually.

 

  1. Practice the drills daily/weekly.

 

The only way the drills that you learned will work is if YOU work. So get to it. Go practice the drills or mechanically positioning you learned and WORK to get better. You will leave the clinic on a high of excitement. Use that feeling to build momentum to take into your practices, working on the drills you learned. Most likely you learned drills that you could do on your OWN, even without anybody else. How bad do you want it?

 

  1. Continue to thank your parents for the investment they are making to allow you to play softball.

 

Not just after the clinic, but for the rest of your softbsll career, thank your parents. NEVER take what they do for you for granted. Softball is a time investment and a financial investment and they do not HAVE to let you play softball. The gas, the time driving, your clothes, your cleats, your equipment – all of these things cost money. So, THANK your parents and be appreciative for them letting you play the sport you love.

The Depth Chart Doesn’t Define You

Someone asked me this, “What was the turning point for you? Was there a stage where you suddenly began passing people? And how much of it had to do with your willingness to out-work everyone? Were there times when you thought your work wasn’t going to pay off?”

My answer might surprise you….

This is actually something over the past couple of years I have given a lot of thought and always am trying to take a look back my travel ball days! I was not always the #1 pitcher for my team growing up until probably my junior/senior year, and even then we had several good pitchers on my travel team and it was always good competition. In high school, my fresh/soph year I pitched behind a girl who was a junior/senior. I earned my way up to the #1 once she was gone. In travel ball I started as a #2/#3, then solidified #2 then later was in competition for #1. And then, once I actually got to college, I was the #1 pitcher starting on opening day as a freshman in the circle. Then it was solidified.

But there was so much that led up to that moment…

When I was growing up, I never thought of it that way of where I was on the “depth chart.” I never thought of how much I enjoyed playing softball by the number of innings I was pitching, I just knew that I liked to do it. What I think was a game changer for me was the fact that I had an amazing pitching and hitting coach (they were married) from around the ages of 11-15 who taught me and showed me the foundation of mechanics of a swing and a pitch. They did this by constantly breaking down the pitch/swing from the very beginning.

(Let me focus more on the pitching aspect…….) Because of how much we broke things down, I was a little bit slower to “come around” when it game to full pitch progress and speed and consistency – that would come later. There would be days where over half of the lesson I would not pitch a ball but just look in a mirror and work on a balance beam and do tubing drills. They taught me through SO MANY drills about where my body mechanically should be. At the time when I was younger, I thought it was a bit boring, but here was the kicker……we would do video analysis about 4 times a year. Back then, video analysis consisted of pulling out a video camera, then putting the tape into the VCR and slow-moing the VCR and holding up photos of old pitchers like Lisa Fernandez, Dee Dee Weiman and some japanese pitchers. There was a check list of different mechanics that I, myself, needed to look at as we went through the full video analysis and write down what I did right and what I did wrong. Why I liked this was because we did it enough to where I could see I was PROGRESSING and getting BETTER because of my hard work. I literally got to SEE it on the screen. So not only was I working hard in between lessons on the things I knew I needed to adjust, I was able to get satisfaction by seeing the progress I was having.

My parents were not result oriented in the sense that they were constantly letting me know I was a #2 pitcher or I pitched x amount of innings and the other pitcher pitched x amount of innings. No. They were focused on the fact that I was getting better at these lessons and my mechanics were forming properly. I could SEE it, they could see it, I could feel it. That part was more the focus than the playing time & field RESULTS. I saw what I needed to get better at, I went back and worked hard at it, and then I was able to see the results of my mechanics getting better. We all need our little forms of “success” along the way in this softball career.

How are you defining success? By playing time or by actually getting better and progressing at something that you love to do?

Were there days where I felt like I wanted to quit? YES, absolutely. Were there days where I cried, 100%. It’s normal. I guarantee that every college player out there has had those days. My parents never panicked when I had those days, they took it in stride. They did not overreact, which caused me not to overreact. The thing when I look back that was defining was that it was just 1 bad day. 1 bad day didn’t turn into a bad week. 1 bad day was just that. The next day, after I breathed a little bit, got some sleep, I woke up with a fresh outlook and ready to go back at it and practice and take on the world. But that’s how you know you really have a passion or it. You are wanting to go out and practice and the bad days don’t linger for long. When you are back at it practicing, you are pitching with getting better in mind, not pitching with # of innings pitched in mind.

Lastly, I will say, the best thing my parents told me growing up and would remind me during hard times was that I didn’t HAVE to play softball if I didn’t want to, and they would love me anyway.

 

They would ask me if I still enjoyed playing and they would genuinely listen to my answer. We communicate with so much more than words – with our actions, body language, tone. They asked me in a way I knew they cared and I felt like I could be honest with them, and I answered by more than just a simple, “yes” in the way that I was motivated to practice and how I looked when I was out playing ball.

Many just see me as an All American and during my time at Texas A&M one of the best players in the Big 12….but I am so much more than that BECAUSE of the time and emotions I invested growing up.

 

I am GLAD I wasn’t the #1 pitcher the entire time when I was younger. It taught me so much more. Mainly about myself and giving me the ability to help make my own decisions, work extremely hard at something and then feel the reward of what it is like to actually EARN a #1 spot and earn the awards that followed in college. That work ethic and the process of working on mechanics when I was younger made me into the coach I am today. Because of that foundation of mechanics that I would spend hours upon hours without a ball and paying attention to my own craft, I have the knowledge that goes along with pitching and was able to stand at 5’5 and throw 70mph especially once I got stronger and developed physically towards my my final years of high school and into college.

 

Everyone comes around at a different time and it’s unfair to compare yourself to anyone else other than you.

Soooo….I am sorry that this is a longer answer, but this particular topic defines me, what I coach, how I coach and the career I lead. Never would I have thought that when I was 9-10 and someone told me that I never would be a pitcher that I would play at the D1 level, and then lead me past college to coaching clinics around the country and being a college softball analyst on TV. I can’t HELP but think and know that anyone else can find their own passion AND if you have a passion for it, if you REALLY have a passion for it, then things are going to work out. The things that don’t work out are the things that shouldn’t be forced and aren’t supposed to happen, anyway. There are ups and downs, but the ups are all greater than the downs if you truly love to do it.

 

If you don’t love it, then you let the downs define you, and you’ll eventually end up quitting. But in my mind, it just means you are meant to do something else anyway.

 

I can only talk about my experience and my own story….but looking back, I think it’s a pretty dang good one and it’s more the “norm” of what softball players across the country go through growing up WITHOUT being the #1 pitcher their whole life.

Dealing With Injuries Part 1 – Attitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) ATTITUDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inspirational Photo Contest!!!

Okay y’all! I want to see you and hear from you! From NOW until Friday, March 14  at 11:59pm CT I want you to send in playing pictures (pitching, hitting, teamwork, teammates, fielding, etc) WITH a your favorite QUOTE that goes with the picture! Be creative!

— Quotes and pictures can be about ANYTHING – happiness, passion, working hard, dream, determination, focus, fun, beauty, energy, role model, etc. Think of something that motivates you or you believe in. Whatever you think the word could be, it’s totally ok! It’s all about YOU.

— One picture per email please WITH the quote in the body of email. Also, full name, age and team! (You can send however many emails you’d like!)

— Email picture and quote to amanda9pictures@gmail.com with the subject of the picture you are sending in. Ex. “Happiness” Ex. “Passion”

— There will be at LEAST 5 winners that will receive a signed (optional) Amanda Scarborough t shirt. The winner may also find your picture in an EBOOK to be written this year by me!

— **By sending me your picture, you are giving permission to be my social media or my website. If you are not okay with picture going public, please specify in the email!**

SHARE this with your teammates, friends, family, whoever!!

My picture here is an example of the quote about a picture to send in like I am talking about.

Subject: Passion
“Do it with passion or not at all.”

Amanda Scarborough

“Do it with passion or not at all.”

My Favorite Catcher. Ever.

My favorite catcher was never an All American.  My favorite catcher never caught me a single day in a college or high school game.  My favorite catcher is actually 31 years older than me, and I always call my catcher, Dad.

Now, you won’t be able to find his name, Mark Scarborough, anywhere in a press release, a starting lineup or recognized for any major collegiate award. But because of the impact he made and continues to make on me, I’ll always be able to find him in my memories of growing up playing softball and inside of my heart.  Some of my best memories are throwing at a park nearby the house where I grew up, where we put in endless hours of time, not just pitching, but taking groundballs, fly balls and hitting.

When I was younger, I knew my dad got off work at 5pm, and I would be waiting outside in the driveway around 5:15 with his bucket, his glove, my glove, and a ball, ready to go pitch.

He had just spent an entire day at work, but was always willing to catch me whenever I needed or wanted him to, without complaining at all.  He knew that it would make me happy and that we would get to spend time together.  I actually looked forward to wanting to go out to the park and work with my dad; I didn’t dread it.  I imagine that if I would have dreaded working with my dad, or my mom for that matter, I wouldn’t have WANTED to practice as much.  But because my relationship with him was so strong, I actually wanted to practice more, creating a work ethic inside of me that is relentless today. I don’t know anything other than working hard for what I want….it’s engrained inside of me from a young age. I’ve watched my dad forever, and when I was younger, my dad LET me work hard by helping me when I needed him to, even in the moments he may have been exhausted from work.

As a family, you spend so much time together doing softball (practicing on your own, going to and from games, at team practices, at lessons, etc), and at the end of it, I came out loving him even more.  Some players grow up despising their dads – not wanting to practice with them, not wanting to take their advice, and copping an attitude with their dads.  That was never really the case with me, and I can tell you, it still pays dividends in our current relationship we have to this day.  I love calling him and getting to have conversations with him, even though we both have a really crazy/busy schedule.  It never gets old.

Amanda Scarborough Dad

My dad has always had a calm demeanor, always wanting the best for me, but never going to raise his voice in order to get what he wants.

He didn’t raise his voice, because he could communicate with me in a way where he got his point across in a normal tone, and I would still hear him without him having to scream. 

Looking back at all the times I worked with my dad, I can tell that he was content with himself and his own personal achievements in his lifetime; never did I feel he was trying to live vicariously through me, whether it was at lessons or games.  By him having a calmer demeanor, I truly feel that it let my inner motivation develop, grow, and shine, so now it is a quality that I still possess today, even outside of pitching.

Every dad or mom is not going to have the same personality, and how they choose to handle working with their daughters will vary.  But know that no matter which personality you have, you are similarly having a daily impact with your daughters where you will see effects years and years down the road.  When I say “daily,” I absolutely, 100% mean daily impact.

The interactions you have now (at practices, during lessons, during games or AFTER games) are molding how you will interact with your daughter later on (when it really matters while talking about things that are outside of softball…..yes there ARE things outside of softball).  It’s not about what you know, it’s about how you deliver what you know.  The softball conversations, feelings and impressions you are making with your daughter now are shaping the relationship outside of softball you will have with her later.

Amanda Scarborough Family

I think the very most important part is that both parties (adult and child) figure out a form of communication and practice what works for BOTH sides.

Remember, Communication 101, is that for communication to happen, there has to be a sender AND a receiver.  If you are not being heard, then you are not communicating – plain and simple.

The more you get creative and figure out a way to talk to your daughter, the more she will listen to you and the more she will want to work throughout the week; thus, creating a better player and better work ethic along the way (which lasts a lot longer than softball). The parent may have to give a little bit, and probably will have to give a little bit more than the player, because at the end of the day it’s about the player, not about the parent.  And it’s about the player because you’re trying to get that player to 100% of her potential and do whatever it takes to get that to come out.  So….sometimes, it’s having customizable communication plans –  it could be different day to day, week to week, year to year. If one way of communicating is not working, and it’s leading to fights and unproductiveness, then it sounds like something needs to change.

One thing about my dad, is that I never felt like he was trying to PROVE anything when I worked with him – to me, to himself, or to anyone else.

When he corrected me, it wasn’t by yelling, or trying to hold above me that he KNEW more than I did.  He was teaching me, not just wanting to tell me what he knew – there’s a difference.

He offered suggestions based off of observations.  A lot of times he would wait until I needed help and asked for it before he gave it. When he did give it, he talked to me in a way that I respected listening to his input.  He established that connection from the first times of going out to pitch that we ever had.  We had conversations (two-sided) about pitching. This continued through all ages when I pitched with him, even when I would come back from college and throw over the summers or over winter breaks.  I would look forward to throwing to him, sitting on his bucket with his legs off to the side so that his shins/feet were out of harms way (there’s a story to this, and my mom has a theory….later blog, on a different date!).  I WANTED to throw to him. I enjoyed it; we both did. It’s some of the best times we have ever spent together.

I can’t thank him enough, and I am so THANKFUL for him and our relationship. I know I am a little bit biased, but a lot of people like my dad.  He’s definitely a fan favorite.  He’s awesome to be around; he knows sports, can talk business, can talk hunting or fishing, and boy, does he love his Houston sports (and the Cowboys).  He’s so humble.  (In fact, I know he’s going to be embarrassed when he sees this blog.)

I am so lucky that he is the way he is, because after all the time we’ve spent together, he’s had such a major, positive influence on me.  He’s so hard working, and in fact, he’s one of the ones who has taught me that hard work will pay off. 

It’s such a simple lesson, but when you are surrounded by someone who is truly living and breathing the hard-work-pays-off lifestyle and mentality, then only you, yourself, can take it on after seeing the rewards it reaps.  He rarely, rarely complains.  And somewhere along the way (maybe after watching hours upon hours of different sports on TV),  he taught me what it meant to compete.  He taught me a way of competing where you don’t rub it in anyone’s face – a quiet competitiveness – where you just go about your own business, doing your own thing, and prove it in your own way.   There’s never a need to rub it in or say loudly what you can do.   He taught me your actions speak for themselves.

It’s because of all these things that he’s my favorite catcher of all time.  You can spend A LOT of time with a catcher, and the endless hours and thousands upon thousands of pitches I threw to him mean so much to me. To be honest, I can’t remember exactly what we worked on on all those different days, but what I can tell you, is the way he made me feel when I was out there doing the thing I love, getting to throw to the person I love, is what I will remember forever and ever.  I felt supported.  I felt like someone was on my side and on my team.  I felt like I was learning.  I felt like softball was fun. I felt like I had a voice. I never felt like I had  to pitch; I felt like I got to pitch.  He helped create an environment, where I looked forward to practicing to try to become the best player I could possibly be.  Indirectly, he was teaching me to become the best person I could be, as well.  In the end, it’s not about how you’re teaching to hit or teaching how to throw a change up, it’s about making a girl, with a ball and a bat feel AWESOME about herself, and like she can go out and conquer the world.  I know it’s hard to think about that in a 30 minute practice, but just consider that the way you are talking to your daughter now WILL, for better or worse, have a major impact on her (and your relationship) later.

Big thanks to my mom for choosing such a great guy. I love you both so much.

Amanda Scarborough family

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