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.
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
Maybe 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.
Things 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 coachesbelieve 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.”
OR “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.
The picture speaks volumes. I can still remember exactly what happened; it felt like slow motion. I can still remember exactly how it felt when I was at the highest peak in the air at this moment. It was probably the highest I have ever jumped in my life out of pure excitement, relief, joy, happiness and adrenaline. Sports can bring out the best in us. This was one of my favorite moments of my entire career, and I remember it like it just happened yesterday.
It was the 2007 NCAA Softball Super Regionals, and we hosted the University of Florida in College Station. (For those who don’t know, Super Regionals is like the “Sweet 16” of softball during the post season. It’s a best of 3 series with 2 teams. During Super Regionals, there are only 16 teams left playing all around the country, vying for the 8 spots in the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, OK). The magnitude and meaning of the game was so high. The goals we had set as a team at the very beginning of the season, 4 months before this picture was taken, were all riding on this one game, and I was in the pitching circle, the one who had the ball in her hand for the 3rd game of a 3 game series. There were big moments and 2 games that led up to my favorite moment…
This series, in particular of all the Super Regionals, was absolutely amazing. It was two top notch and very talented teams, battling against each other, trying to get 2 wins to meet up with 7 other teams in Oklahoma City. SEC vs Big 12, Texas A&M and Jo Evans going up against Florida and Tim Walton. All of the games were nail biters. We played the first game on Friday, May 25. We won 2-0. I pitched a complete game against Florida All American, Stacey Nelson. Winning the first game of a 3-game series is always SO important, and probably the most important game of the series.
Score by Innings R H E
Florida............. 000 000 0 - 0 3 0
Texas A&M........... 011 000 X - 2 7 0
Florida IP H R ER BB SO AB BF NP ERA
Stacey Nelson....... 6.0 7 2 2 1 2 23 25 104 0.91
Texas A&M IP H R ER BB SO AB BF NP ERA
Scarborough, Amanda. 7.0 3 0 0 2 8 23 26 105 1.00
We came back the next day, on Saturday, knowing we were just 1 win, potentially 1 game, away from Oklahoma City. But Florida wasn’t going to go down without a fight. Megan Gibson started the game 2 of the series. She ended up pitching into the 5th inning, and then I came in in relief into a tie ball game. The game continued to be tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the 7th inning. Even though we were in College Station, Florida was the home team for game 2 of the series, as we were the home team in game 1 of the series. With 1 out in the bottom of the 7th, Lauren Roussell came up and hit a solo home run off of me to end the game and send the Super Regional to 3 games. I had given up a walk off home run. We were 1 run away from ending it and making our way to Oklahoma City. The game would go on to the third game of the series, and would be played immediately after that game. I knew I would be getting the start in the circle for game 3.
Score by Innings R H E
Texas A&M........... 200 000 0 - 2 6 1
Florida............. 001 010 1 - 3 6 0
Texas A&M IP H R ER BB SO AB BF NP ERA
Gibson, Megan....... 4.1 5 2 1 1 3 17 19 72 1.52
Scarborough, Amanda. 2.0 1 1 1 3 1 7 10 37 1.02
Florida IP H R ER BB SO AB BF NP ERA
Stacey Nelson....... 7.0 6 2 2 4 6 25 31 109 0.94
Now to set the stage a little bit more for this amazing series…it was May in Texas, and it had rained that weekend. It was hot. It was humid. The air was so thick, you could cut it with a knife (bad hair weather). But, with Florida being from Florida, and us being from Texas, both teams felt right at home. The series was so tense up to this point through 14 innings of play, we knew that game 3 would be an absolute battle. And it was.
Our offense ended up putting 2 runs on the board the entire game, 1 of which came in the bottom of the first inning, answering back right away from the loss just minutes before. The fact that we wasted no time in scoring was absolutely huge for the morale and attitude of the team. This was a team that never gave up. Florida’s lineup was so tough. I remember being in the circle and being so mentally locked in and focused. I had to be. One swing of the bat could totally change the ballgame, as they had proven against me in the game before. Florida, with Tim Walton as their hitting coach, was and is an awesome, powerful, offensive team.
The energy on the field throughout this game, and energy from the stands ,was so contagious. We were sweaty, we were hot, but we just had one goal in mind, and we were on a mission. In the field behind me, the defense played amazing. The team was locked in and there were tense moments and Florida base runners getting on in different innings in the game. We remained strong, and kept them scoreless through 6 innings. Finally, with a 2 run lead, we made it to the bottom of the 7th inning, and this time, we were the home team.
Thanks to the help of my defense, we got the first two hitters out, who were the 8 and 9 hitters in the lineup, and it brought back up, with 2 outs, the leadoff hitter of Florida. I remember being in the circle, my feet on the rubber and already feeling the excitement running through me, feeling so many emotions knowing that we were 1 out away from the Women’s College World Series. To be honest, I had to check myself and refocus on the task at hand, because you know how this game goes — it just takes one person to get on to start a rally. I knew it was so important to get out this leadoff hitter to be the last out of the game. I threw an inside drop to the left handed leadoff hitter, and she grounded out to second base. In my mind, I can still feel the pitch come out of my hand, I see the swing, and I can see each bounce of the ground ball to our second baseman, Joy Davis. I remember being a little tight just hoping that she would field it cleanly, and she did, and make the toss to Megan Gibson, who was playing first base. The minute that Megan caught the ball, it was one of the best feelings in my life. That out, that ground ball, secured our spot in heading to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 1988. All the hard work and determination came out in that single jump as I looked around at all my teammates and knew what we had accomplished together.
I love this picture and this moment of my career so much because the look on our face is priceless and what we had accomplished together spoke volumes to the rest of the country. In the picture, Megan still has the ball in her hand, and in the background behind Megan, you can see Stephen Grove, our Director of Operations, jumping over the fence and heading out onto the field to celebrate.
I cannot begin to tell you how absolutely amazing it is to claim a spot in getting to go to the Women’s College World Series. There are over 200 Division 1 teams that start out with this goal at the beginning of every season in February. At the end of May, only 8 teams are left standing. Texas A&M had not put a team in the Women’s College World Series before this moment since 1988, And we were the team to finally break through to get the Aggies back in Oklahoma City.
Score by Innings R H E
Florida............. 000 000 0 - 0 5 0
Texas A&M........... 100 010 X - 2 8 1
Florida IP H R ER BB SO AB BF NP ERA
Stacey Stevens...... 2.1 5 1 1 1 3 12 13 61 2.22
Stacey Nelson....... 3.2 3 1 1 1 4 14 15 69 0.95
Texas A&M IP H R ER BB SO AB BF NP ERA
Scarborough, Amanda. 7.0 5 0 0 2 7 26 28 104 0.99
The college softball season is about to start. When you have a chance to watch college softball on TV, know that these kinds of moments are constantly being created, especially in the post season. If you are a player, you will be creating these kinds of moments this season. Remember them. Cherish them. Live in the moment and know that there is nothing else out there like the feeling you get when you throw a big pitch or win a big game. The memories you get from sports are captivating, and they are moments that you can remember forever.
What’s the difference between mental toughness and feeling good to play good? Are they one in the same or completely different?
Mental toughness and feeling good to play good aredifferent in my opinion. Mental toughness comes into play when a game is on the line and you can stay calm and focused when all of the pressure is on YOU. You are able to focus on the task at hand and ignore everything else that is going on around you (fans cheering, dugout hollering, the intimidating batter at the plate). It’s very similar to that idea of “clear the mechanism” in the Kevin Costner movie, For Love of the Game (if you haven’t watched this movie you need to!). Mental toughness also comes from ignoring tiredness that may be setting in or any kind of small pain you may be feeling. When you are mentally tough, NOTHING ELSE matters but the task at hand. Mentally tough hitters want to be the one up to bat with the bases loaded and 2 outs in a tie ballgame. Mentally tough pitchers want to be the one in the circle with a full count and the 4-hole hitter up to bat with the game on the line. Mentally tough players are not complaining about weather, umpires, opponents, soreness. Mentally tough players do not even notice these things. One thing about mentally tough players, they don’t even have to have the best mechanics — they are so mentally strong and their will to succeed is so high, they will do whatever it takes to win.
Feeling good to play good deals with the general feeling you get about the game itself. If a feel good to play good atmosphere is not created, then it will be more challenging for a player to be mentally tough in clutch situations. Feeling good to play good deals with the atmosphere and scene that is going on around the game itself. Do you feel like you have coaches who believe in you? Do you feel like you have parents who support you no matter if you strike out or give up home runs? Do you feel good in your uniform? Did you prepare enough at practice that week? When a player plays in an atmosphere that gives her confidence, she is going to flourish and surpass anyone’s level of expectations. Feeling good to play good is especially important for girls. Girls are different than boys. Girls have to FEEL good to PLAY good. And boys PLAY good to FEEL good. Surround a player in an atmosphere where it’s nothing but positivity, strong role models and a big support system, and you’re going to see a player SOAR when it comes to her results.
Regardless of how hard you throw, how you swing or how much movement you have, you should have a certain look about you. No, I’m not talking about make up, or headbands or uniform color. I’m talking about how YOU look from the inside out.
When should this look happen? All. The. Time. – at practice, in games, walking up to the ballpark, at lessons, warming up.
“The Look” will eventually become a part of your every day life, even outside of softball. The Look will be something you feel at school walking down the hall, or walking into a room where maybe you don’t know anyone. (That is when The Look REALLY matters even more…when softball is done).
No matter what else is going on, you always have The Look in your back pocket. You own it, nobody else does.
Best thing about The Look is that it’s free. You can’t buy it with make up or a designer top. It’s not about those things. The Look is priceless, but it pays off in so many different ways.
Sooo…what is she talking about? Where should you start if you’ve never thought about The Look before?
Let’s start with getting out of the car at the ballpark. Think about your look as your two feet hit the ground from getting out of the car. Grab your bat bag from out of the car confidently. This is where it can begin. Walk confidently. Keep fidgeting to a minimum. Walk with your eyes up and have a soft focus in front of you. If someone is walking with you or comes up to talk to you, look them right in the eye when they are talking. When you walk into the ballpark confidently, you set the tone for how you’re going to approach your game(s) that day – composed and poised.
Soon, The Look will be something you don’t have to think about anymore. The Look is just something you will do; it will become a habit. It’s something you want to do because you notice the response you get from other people around you – teammates, adults, friends. They will look at you differently; they will talk to you differently. They may even be a little bit more intimidated to go up against you if they are on the other team. This is exactly what you want. You want to win the unspoken confidence battle before a pitch is even throw in the game. You want to be one step ahead of everybody else. That’s exactly where you like to be. One step ahead is how you play your game.
You’re warming up with your team now. Still represent the way you want to look even if your teammates and friends don’t have the look yet. They will. Soon. Once they see what you can accomplish with The Look.
You’re confident, but humble. You’re eager, but calm. You feel prepared. You’re having fun, but you’re focused.
If you’re warming up in the bullpen, you’re not constantly messing with your hair or pulling on your uniform. You’re not showing emotions after every pitch – good or bad. If someone walked up and just watched your body language, they would never be able to tell if you were having a good warm up or a bad warm up. You want to be consistent with The Look. How you play will have ups and downs, but The Look doesn’t know the difference.
You’re content with exactly how you feel and you’re remembering to stay where your feet are. No matter how you warmed up, it’s your job to have The Look if it’s the best warm up or the worst warm up – The Look doesn’t know the difference between a good warm up and a bad warm up. Every day will feel different, but The Look should feel un-phased.
It’s game time. Your teammates look at you in the and they feel more confident just because they see it in your eyes every time you catch the ball back from your catcher that you’re beyond assured in what you are doing in the circle, and you believe in yourself. You aren’t scared to look your teammates in the eyes out in the field, point a finger at them and say, “Hey, we got this.” Your eyes are up. Your shoulders are back. Your focus is on your team and your catcher. As a hitter, your teammates can tell you are focused and collected in your at bat in the box. They will strive to have the same presence and confidence as you when they go up to the plate. In return, they will begin to have better ABs after following your lead.
Regardless of the outcome of the game, win, loss, completely game, getting pulled in the first inning, it has no effect on The Look. The Look knows no result. The Look only believes in you and the abilities that are within you. The Look doesn’t remember what happened the last time you played. It only knows the future. It only knows chasing after your dreams in a way that is professional, mature and determined.
The Look knows no age. Best thing about the look is that it has no boundaries. It doesn’t know location. The Look only knows you.
I CHALLENGE you to be aware and practice The Look. Take pride in every single thing that you do. All of your movements should have a look of confidence, posture and poise about you. From tying your shoes to the way you take a deep breath before every pitch you throw. When you walk into a room, make your presence known. Not because you are the loudest one in the room with your voice, but because your presence alone before even saying a word, speaks volumes about the way you feel about yourself. Remember, The Look is from the inside looking out.
Most importantly, the Look is yours; it is no one’s to take from you – not your parents, not your coaches, not a significant other,
not your teammates, and definitely not the other team. The Look means you are in control of your emotions. The Look can take on anything thrown at her and know that at the end of the day, YOU belong. But before others believe it, YOU have to believe it.
If you don’t feel confident enough yet to have the look, fake it. Fake it until you grow into it, because I promise, you WILL grow into it.
Even faking the confidence will feel good and you will be amazed at the results it will produce for you. The best thing about The Look is that it is free. The Look can start when you are ready. Everyone has The Look inside of them, some have just already decided for The Look to join them in their every day lives. If you don’t have it yet…it’s only a matter of time.
Savana Lloyd, from SL Fastpitch, hit a hot topic, covering how often a pitcher should practice. As pitching coaches, we CONSTANTLY get asked this question. It’s everyone’s favorite! There is no concrete answer…but Savana describes how YOU (as a pitcher and as a parent) can come up with your own, customized answer for pitching practice time. Here below is a preview of the blog, to go ahead and skip to the full blog, click here
How Often Should You Practice?
“One of the most popular questions a pitching coach gets is, “how often should I practice and how many pitches should I throw?” The reason this is the most asked question is because there is no simple or magic answer. One thing that always comes to my mind when I get asked this is not only how often are you practicing, but what are you practicing. I am going to do my best to help answer this question in a way that YOU can determine your answer!
First, lets outline some of the questions you need to ask yourself…
Do you have a clear plan?
Practice is about excellence, educating yourself, being smart, and having a clear plan. To start, let’s determine your needs:
How much time can you give to pitching?
What can you commit and what is realistic?
Who is your catcher? Do you need a catcher every time you practice?
How old are you?
Younger pitchers need more drills to develop mechanics
Older pitchers need situational pitching in addition to basic maintenance on mechanics.
Are you having fun?
a. To have fun you need to have a certain amount of success and in order to have success you need to practice enough to get there.
Having fun is IMPORTANT
Losing the fun often leads to losing motivation
Becoming great at anything takes repetition, therefore pitchers who practice more often seem to have the most success. I notice pitchers who practice consistently for shorter amounts of time (5 days a week, 30-60 minutes) make adjustments faster than pitchers who go out for long workouts less often (2 days a week for 1-2+ hours).
With that said, practice too often can have a mindless approach: simply repeating drills and throwing pitches without thinking or having a specific focus will not help you. Your time is precious and it needs to be directed, not just random. What exactly is it that you need to work on; throwing strikes? your reaction when you throw a ball? your footwork? The older you get the more specialized these questions become, but you always need to ask them.
How to Set-up a Pitching Practice
Before even picking up the ball its important to get your body moving. The movements you do in this part of the warm up should ask similar things of your body that your pitch will. For example, arms overhead, hips open like your stride, push-offs….”
One of the biggest questions in our game today is, “What are college coaches looking for in recruiting an athlete?” There’s not just ONE thing that coaches are looking for. In my mind, there are multiple things that add up to being a recruitable player. Some are tangible, some are intangible. What separates you from the thousands of other girls out there who are trying to be recruited who can hit, pitch and field a ground ball?
This question can be answered go into a very position specific answer with a coach once they identify a player (ie what a coach is looking for when recruiting a pitcher, what a coach looks for when looking at a swing), but there are definitely some factors across the board that all coaches are looking for to find a player who is going to come in and be able to make an impact on their program.
It’s great to be able to show versatility — a player who can play multiple positions, especially if you are not a pitcher, catcher or short stop. Pitcher, catcher, and short stop are those few positions out on the field where a coach is okay with finding a player that excels at JUST that position. If you are a standout pitcher or catcher, it’s an added bonus if you can swing the bat and produce at the plate, as well. However, college coaches are less likely to mind recruiting a pitcher who JUST pitches (pitchers really ARE special 🙂 ) and does not play any other position, and the same goes for a catcher. An awesome defensive short stop is a specialized position, as well.
Coaches will bend over backward to find the dime-a-dozen pitchers, a catcher who can throw out a girl stealing who can run a 2.6 and a short stop who can save runs and command an infield.
To have an impactful pitcher, catcher and/or short stop are game-changing positions. If you have a pitcher who can shut teams down, you don’t really care if she can hit the broad side of a barn. IF she can hit AND pitch, more power to her — then that player is probably one of the most highly recruited players, because coaches get more “bang for their buck” in getting a pitcher and a hitter in one player.
Also, if you are an awesome short stop, that means that you are most likely pretty athletic, as the short stop is usually labeled as the most athletic kid on the field. If you play short stop well, a coach sees you as an athlete that he/she might be able to convert to a different position with ease. Remember that once you get to college, every athlete on the team is solid, and there are only 9 positions on the field. So the more versatile you can be, and have the ability to play multiple positions, the higher your chance is of getting recruited……And then, once you are there, being able to get playing time. When I played at A&M, there were 5-6 players on our team who had played short stop in high school or for their travel team. 4-5 of those players ended up playing other positions than short once they got to college.
Please understand that I am not saying you have to be a pitcher, catcher or short stop to stand out. But being completely honest, those are probably the 3 positions most looked at when a coach walks up to the field empty -minded and with no agenda as to which position they are looking at.
After looking at those positions, coaches are looking to see which ATHLETES stand out from both dugouts. Coaches think that they can build off of pure athletes — turn them into any position if they are athletic enough. Because athletic player have more body awareness, then it is easier to transform them and find a spot for them on the field. If you have athleticism, show it off. I think of an athletic player as someone who is strong, agile, quick, can jump, and is flexible. You can have some of these qualities, or you can have all of them. The more you have, the better of an athlete you are.
Players who play multiple sports have higher chances of overall being more athletic because different sports develop different muscles and different athletic qualities.
Think of the jumping skills that come with playing volleyball. That jumping makes you more explosive with your bottom half, and also works on fast twitch muscles, as volleyball moves so fast and is a reaction sport. Think of the endurance that comes with playing basketball or track.
Your body can develop to become an amazing athlete by playing different sports. Many college coaches LOVE multiple sport athletes because of the athleticism that it breeds. However, at the same time, there are coaches that are impartial to multiple sport athletes. I played for a coach who likes multi-sport athletes, so I am more partial to encourage players to play multiple sports IF, and I mean IF, they can get in quality time towards their main sport and continue to show progression in the right direction. If they are staying the same or digressing in their main sport, that is when I feel it is time to cut back on playing multiple sports. My theory: play multiple sports for as long as you can. (Some talented athletes can even pull this off for the entirety of their high school careers).
The more athletic and versatile you are, the higher of a chance you have at being noticed and recruited, and then once you actually make a college team, the higher chance you have at finding playing time. Work hard to get stronger. Work hard to get faster. Work hard to develop athletic skills that do not just involve hitting or throwing or pitching a ball.
2. You produce offensively
Coaches are ALWAYS looking for solid offensive players. It doesn’t mean you have to hit tons of homeruns and it doesn’t mean you have to hit tons of doubles. Understand exactly what YOUR offensive game is so you can focus on it and capitalize on it. If you do have power, that’s awesome, but there are other offensive ways to catch attention, as well. I would say in 90-95% of colleges, if you are one of the top offensive producers on the team, a coach will find a spot for you in the lineup and figure out a way to put you somewhere defensively.
The Big Power Hitter
Can you crush the ball? You’ll catch coaches’ attention. In college, coaches are looking for the top 9 offensive producers to fill into their lineup. If you are one of the top hitters and have a willingness and ability to show that you can play a position you’ve never played before, you can find yourself in a lineup. Be sure you are a hitter who consistently shows that power and show that you’re not a “lucky” hitter. When college coaches are there watching you, you string together quality at bats, where you have a good approach and are hitting the ball hard more often than not. Take advantage of big RBI opportunities. If you are known you’re your power hitting at the plate, then it is your job on your high school team, on your travel team, and it will be your job when you get to college to come through with the big, RBI hits. A college coach wants a power hitter that thrives in clutch RBI opportunities. A big power hitter looks at bases loaded with 2 outs as an OPPORTUNITY, not as a fear. If you struggle in these RBI situations in tournaments or in high school, why would a college coach think you are going to be any different once you make it to the next level?
Do you have speed? Use it — consistently. Speed kills in our sport. Our sport is based around speed. But it does no good to have that speed, be a lefty slapper, and not consistently be able to put the ball on the ground.
If speed is your game, show that you are player who consistently gets on base – some way, some how. That’s your job.
Have a great short game. Remember to read the defense when you’re up to bat. Put the ball on the ground. Your speed does NOT matter if you are popping the ball up. Catch a coaches’ attention by consistently putting the ball on the ground and having great bat control. By putting the ball in play more often, you’re putting pressure on the defense, and if you have speed, you’re going to pressure them make errors, as they will hurry to get rid of the ball to get you out.
So, you have speed? You have speed AND power? Even better. The toughest players to play against defensively are the players who can drop bombs and can also read the defense and know when to drop a bunt down the line to keep the defense off guard. This greatly comes into play, too, because as a hitter you are going to go through slumps – it’s inevitable. If you are in a slump, and you aren’t seeing the ball well, if you have a little bit of speed, you can lay down a bunt down the line and find another way to get on. A college coach will notice if you are a player who is consistently finding a way on base. If you have speed USE IT, by putting the ball on the ground and causing havoc in the infield. On base percentage is such an important statistic – even more important than batting average.
The Singles Hitter
Okay, so maybe you can’t hit the ball 300 ft and you can’t run a 2.7 to first base. Then where do you fall? If you are a player who is more of a singles hitter, embrace that!! Don’t go up TRYING to hit homeruns, it’s only going to work against your game. KNOW that you are more of a hitter who is looking to hit a single, make contact, advance runners, execute your short game. A singles hitter can be a player who is one of the most “headsy” players on the team. She is always looking for a way to help the team.
For example: There’s a runner at 1B with 1 out. Your best power hitter is on deck. Your execution job is to either lay down a sacrifice bunt OR hit behind the runner (hitting the ball to the right side). If you happen to hit a single to the right side when you are trying to hit behind the runner, more power to you. A singles hitter has to be a little bit more crafty in her thoughts and knowledge of the game. KNOW that you are more of a singles hitter, be a hitter that is consistently making contact, a hitter who has great at bats and and a hitter who is great at putting the ball into play. I promise if you do this, coaches will notice (because coaches know the game and they understand that everybody has their own role), and you will be a benefit to have in the lineup.
Every offensive player in a lineup has a role. All of these offensive roles are needed in a collegiate lineup to work together in a strategic lineup. Don’t try to be something you aren’t. Know your strengths. Be consistent with those strengths. Believe in your strengths. Allow those strengths to flourish when college coaches’ eyes are on you.
3. Softball “Savviness”
Coaches love finding players who just KNOW the game. These are players who can think for themselves and trust their softball instincts. I’ve noticed a lot of times, on tournament teams when I am out coaching, SO many player’s are programmed to just do exactly what their coach tells them – whether it’s when to swing or the exact defensive position to be placed in. These player are learning to be robots, they aren’t learning to be instinctual players out in the field. If you do not learn to think for yourself and position yourself in the game, you will not become the best instinctual softball player you can be. A collegiate coach does not constantly want to be moving the robots out in the field during a game – there are way too many other things to worry about.
Softball savvy players are so aware of their surroundings and the game situation, that they innately know what to do almost every time the ball comes to them.
Coaches like this because then it’s less teaching they have to do about basic nuances of the game once you get to their program. Becoming softball savvy comes from watching softball on TV, it comes from watching baseball on TV, it comes from asking questions, learning and then trusting in what you learned once you get out on the field. If you do not trust your knowledge of the game, and you are second guessing every play and every situation, then it doesn’t matter how much you KNOW about softball, you’re not going to be able to make good decisions once you’re out on the field.
Is it in you? Are you learning or are you a robot? Don’t be a robot!!!! Love this game so much that it just is molded into your brain and your movements out on the field. Ask questions and learn. TRUST what you learn and trust in yourself. Do not be told what to do at all times — this is NOT learning.
4. Competitive / Knows how to win
I’ve talked about this before in a different one of my blogs :: the ability to be competitive and have a fire in your belly that you want to win is a HUGE quality that cannot really be taught. Knowing how to win might sound like an obvious quality, but it is a TRUE quality that college coaches are looking for in their programs.
They want players that come from winning teams (winning high school teams or winning tournament teams) because then the players get to their collegiate programs and EXPECT to win, because they don’t know anything else. They like players who come from winning programs:: high school teams that win championships and go deep into playoffs and/or travel ball teams that play at the highest quality tournaments AND go deep into those tournaments. Coaches are paying attention to how the teams you are apart of are doing and if winning is a culture that you are around day in and day out. If you are used to winning, it drives you; it becomes a part of you and once you get to college, that winning attitude will stay inside of you.
Remember, college coaches keep their jobs by WINNING. Their livelihood depends on it. So they are going to put out on the field the best lineup that is going to give them the best chance to win. If a player has played in a big championship game at a tournament level or high school level, then that player has championship experience at a young age, which prepares you to compete in championships at the collegiate level.
You can’t teach what it is like to feel a championship game. You have to experience it.
The adrenaline is higher, the stakes are higher, the competition is higher. You have to be able to control your emotions and get ready for THE BIG GAME. So if a college coach knows that a player has championship experience, then this is an added benefit of coming to their team. All coaches expect to be competing IN championship games for their conferences and for the post season. Championship experience and having an attitude of “been there done that” entering the game will calm their team headed into an important game. (No, I am not talking about players who are cocky with the “been there done that” attitude….I am talking about the players who don’t let their emotions get the best of them and are able to go into a big championship game and keep their emotions in check)
They want players who fight, who are internally competitive and hate losing. College coaches want players who hate losing, because THEY hate losing. (Yes, I heard those of you out there who commented on my Sometimes You’re a Loser blog, and I am in agreement with you that there IS a right and wrong a way to lose. BUT in this instance, and in the Sometimes You’re a Loser blog, I am talking about an internal drive that causes you to hate losing and not want to FEEL what it’s like to lose). But back to what I was saying about being a player who comes from a winning team– think of it this way – the more you are winning, the more games you are playing because you stay in tournaments longer, and the longer you are in tournaments, the better the teams you are playing, so quality of competition increases.
Overall, it’s just a win-win, no pun intended. By playing better competition, you become a better player. So you’re playing more games, you’re playing higher talent, and you’re learning what it’s like to truly compete in a championship atmosphere against the best of the best —– which is EXACTLY what you’re doing once you make it to college. See why winning is important?
5. Good Attitude & Coachable
What do your high school coaches and travel ball coaches say about your attitude and if you are a coachable player?
A coachable player is one who listens respectfully to any coach giving you direction. A coachable player is one who does NOT think she knows more than any coach she comes across.
If a coach is giving her information, she is taking it in like a sponge. A coachable player is someone who never stops learning and wants to continue to grow. If your high school and tournament team coaches think that you are NOT a coachable player, then what would lead a college coach to believe that you would just magically become a coachable player whenever you got to their school? College coaches want someone who is raw and has talent, but also someone who they can coach into an even better athlete once you get to their school. If you are not coachable and you don’t want to learn, then you are not one of those players.
Along with being coachable, a coach wants a player who has a good attitude (This might sound cliche here, but it cannot be stressed enough). College coaches and college players are around each other A LOT. A good attitude makes people around you better, and you’re enjoyable to be around. A bad attitude that is negative is not something that most of us want to be around, especially with the amount that a college team is around each other. Also, remember that our game is a game of failure — it just is! So a coach wants player who have the ability to deal with failure throughout a season because it’s going to be happening — a lot. Sorry, but you’re not going to get a hit every time. Hate to break it to you, but you’re going to give up a home run (or two…or twenty) in college. A player with a positive mindset and attitude can rebound faster. A player with a negative mindset holds on to these things. You have to be able to move on, it’s a long college season.
A good attitude involves caring about the team more than you care about yourself.
Players who throw fits in the dugout and show body language on the field, to me, are more worried about themselves than they are about the team. Remember we play a team sport, because the end result of the team is more important than the end result of an individual player. A player with a bad attitude and a selfish attitude is a cancer, I REPEAT, a cancer to ANY team. You are only as strong as your weakest attitude. Once you get to the collegiate level, it’s all about doing whatever it takes to win and compete. Players who have bad attitudes hold teams back. A coach, then, has to give that player more attention and more time than anybody else on the team, thus making that player a selfish player.
Be aware of your attitude AND your body language!! When coaches come to your games, they can see these things! Even if you don’t think are you giving off bad energy, you very well might be! Coaches are around so many different types of players and WATCH so many different types of players; they are experienced in the arena of picking up on whether or not a player is a team player or not. Work on your attitude and being a good teammate just like you work on your swing. In order for a team to win a championship in college, they must have good team chemistry and a college coach does not want 1 player to hold them back from achieving their goals because that one player has a bad attitude.
You can’t talk about getting recruited to play college ball without the discussion of grades and what kind of student you are in the classroom. (In fact, I probably should have not put this one last on the list as it easily could be #1 and #1 for the simple reason that if you don’t pass, you don’t play…and then this whole talking about getting recruited thing is pointless).
You can be the most talented player on the field or even in an entire tournament, but if you don’t make the grades, then you can’t make it TO college or make it IN college.
I am not saying this because teachers sent me a check to write about this, or parents out there emailed me and wanted me to write about the importance of grades. I am writing about this because this is real life and this is SOOOOO IMPORTANT. With that being said, I am not saying that you have to make all A’s in high school; this might be achieavable for some student athletes, but definitely not for all. I am not an expert on what exact GPA and SAT scores you have to have to get into certain schools, I will leave that research up to you. What I do know, is that a college coach has SO much to worry about, that they don’t constantly want to have to be worried about if their players will be eligible to play due to their grades from semester to semester. But let’s back up a second before talking about actually making the grades when in college….
….FIRST, you have to get IN to a college. There are certain GPAs, ACT, and/or SAT scores you have to make to even be able to make it into a school to be able to play. For some student athletes who don’t have the grades to get into a Division 1 school out of high school, some of them might even start at the junior college level. **Remember that once you become a freshman in high school, EVERY GRADE YOU MAKE COUNTS. So even though you may think, “Oh I’m just a freshmen, my fall semester doesn’t count too much” — you’re wrong.
Study. Make time for school. Going to school and applying yourself in the classroom matters.
One of the first questions a college coach will ask after they spot a player on the field they are interested in is, “How is she in school?” A lot of times this will make or break an athlete if they do not have good grades. A coach looks at someone who doesn’t put in effort in school as someone that they are going to have to baby-sit once that player gets to college. There are so many other things a college coach is worrying about and would rather worry about than making sure his/her starting centerfielder is making the grades every semester to stay eligible. If you don’t make a certain GPA in college every semester and pass a certain amount of hours, then you become ineligible. (Once again, I will leave it up to you to know exactly what that GPA is according to the NCAA). If you are not making the grades at a college and become ineligible, it doesn’t matter if you have the capability of hitting 40 homerun in a season or striking out 400 girls in a year, if you don’t pass, you don’t play, and then you are unable to help your team win.
Another reason it is so important to show that you make good grades in high school is because your to-do list gets better in terms of how many different things you have to balance once you get to college. You are on your own – no parents to monitor how you are managing your time and if you are doing your homework. You have a lot more on your schedule to handle and time manage — class, practice, weights, study hall, study hours on your own, when to eat, practicing on your own outside of normal team practice time, and oh yeah, a social life. So it becomes important to know what your priorities are, and the two main ones are school and softball—- in that order.
There is A LOT that goes into being recruited by a college. Things are happening so early now, with girls committing to play at a school when they sometimes are even in 8th grade or freshmen in high school. It’s important to stand out. Understand from a physical aspect what you do well – and excel at that, that’s how you can stand out. It’s important to learn this at a young age, but at the same time, it’s never too late to learn this. As a coach, communicate with your players about what is important and BE HONEST with them about what they need to get better at. As a player, if your coach is trying to communicate with you about these things, it’s important to listen and be open minded. Your coach is trying to help you get to the next level. None of the things above matter if you don’t have a true love and passion for this game. When you love the game, it shows.
Learn. Grow. Play hard. Be so good they can’t ignore you.
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 LEARN. Failure 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.
One of the things every coach is looking for at any level are coachable players. Coachble means a willingness / openness to try new things and to learn new things. In order to be coachable…..
1) Show Humility – Have a sense of humbleness; a modest view of one’s own importance. You can always get better. There is always something to be learned. There are always people out there better than you. You can learn from anyone.
2) Have Faith in Others – Trust others. Everyone has had experiences. Be open to learning different points of views and seeing the best that others bring to the table. You must trust yourself first before you can trust others.
3) Be Approachable – Have fun! Don’t take yourself too seriously. When you are having fun, you are inviting other people to have fun with you, teach you and learn with you. The more people who want to give you information the better! Now you have all this information, you get to try it and sort through what works and what does not work! Invite people in to help you, don’t push them away.
4) Look Attentive – Look at someone in the eyes when they are talking to you. No matter who is talking, looking at someone in the eyes is a sign of respect. Your coaches, your teammates, family and your friends deserve this attentiveness from you. When you are attentive, your brain is soaking more things in!
5) Be Curious – When given feedback, ask questions. It shows that you’re more interested in digging deeper into what someone is trying to help you with. A lot of times people aren’t coachable because they are afraid to try new things and are scared of not understanding what is being asked of them. To fully understand, take a pause after someone tells you something, take a moment to understand and process, and THEN make a decision of whether you do or do not fully understand. If you do not fully understand, organize a question to dig deeper more into a better understanding. Ask questions!
At all times – listen with intent to learn. All of these fall under the umbrella and goes without saying, to have a good, positive attitude. The more coachable you are, the more enjoyable you are to be around as a teammate and as a player under a coach.
Understand if you are or are not coachable. If you are getting feedback from others that you are not coachable, be willing to change. If you are getting this feedback numerous times, quit blaming that it is other people, and understand that it is you not them. Accept it, commit to making a change and DO IT. There is always time to change and make a difference in your own life. You can do it! Have faith in yourself and have courage that you can become the best player you possibly can be!! It all starts with being coachable!!
Allow me to introduce Chez Sievers to you! I must start out by saying, Chez is a Longhorn, but I absolutely love her anyway. Chez is one year older than I am, and I played against her from across the diamond for 3 years- me wearing maroon, Chez wearing burnt orange. I remember Chez – not vaguely, but distinctly. Chez is a competitor. Chez loves the game. Chez knows the game. Most importantly, Chez respects the game of softball. I am THRILLED for her to write from HER perspective of what it was like to be a softball player with her much shorter frame. I think this is something that many players go through, so to get her own words on here is my pure pleasure….
Playing Big Being Small
Throughout my life, I’ve heard every short joke imaginable. It used to drive me crazy! My father taught me such a valuable lesson in my young life. Because I was small I had to do everything harder, faster, and more efficiently. I grew up with two older brothers who never took it easy on me. At the end of every practice baseball/softball and basketball practice, we would end with a competition. I never won one shooting game or one hitting game. It was incredibly frustrating, but I always felt that there would always be a chance for me to win because I had the opportunity to compete.
When I was 11, I played on two basketball teams and two softball teams. I played softball for my Bellflower Bobbysox softball league and the Tustin Wildcats, which my first travel ball team. I was a starter on every team except one, the Tustin Wildcats. I was by far the smallest player on the team and I either rode the bench or played left field in the late innings. During the course of the season, I began to get discouraged. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. Why wasn’t I playing? I hit and played whatever position they put me in.
Our national qualifier came around and I still wasn’t playing. The qualifier was double elimination. We lost to the Firecrackers and we were on to the next game against the Newberry Park Pumas. If we won, we would go on to Nationals in Oklahoma. I didn’t start, but I kept my head up and still supported my team. We were tied up in the bottom of the sixth with a runner on second. Tensions began to rise. That’s when I got the call to pinch hit. I put on my helmet, strapped on my gloves and grabbed my Steele bat. Finally! Here was my chance to play. As I walked up to the plate, the coach from the opposing dugout signaled to the outfield to move in. With a Cheshire grin, I dug into the batter’s box. I visualized crushing the ball in the left center gap hoping that they would be running for days. First pitch, ball. I stepped out and set my sights for the left center gap. Pitch two, I swung like my life depended on it. I crushed it into the left center gap for a triple. My adrenaline was pumping and my team and parents were going crazy. Pure satisfaction.
Looking back, I wasn’t bitter and I didn’t use my size as an excuse for why I couldn’t do something. In my mind, I was so hungry for the opportunity to compete. In my mind, I was fearless and 10 feet tall. I believed I could make every play on the field.
That was a defining moment in my playing career because I carried that mindset with me through high school and on to the University of Texas.
Playing at a high level no matter your size is all about your mindset and your work ethic. In life, you always encounter roadblocks, but it’s how you respond to those situations. You make the choice to overcome and persevere or give up. The power within is your greatest source of strength. If you believe in yourself and have the discipline to be great at everything you do, there is no limit to the things you can accomplish in this life.
You can find TONS of softball information on Chez’s website http://smart-softball.com. Her website includes podcasts with some of the TOP names in college coaching, instructional videos on hitting, instructional defensive videos, and her own personal blog. SO proud of her for what she is doing for our sport and her passion for the game!! Thanks Chez!!
April to the beginning of June tests me every year. Post season college softball starts to heat up which has me traveling across the country for various studio appearances or college softball games, where I serve as a college softball analyst. I break down players/teams, which is why this part of year is so busy, because it’s the part of the season that matters most, and at the end of it, a National Champion will be crowned.
I have people around me who have to remind me to breathe and take it one day at a time.
These people each challenge me to be better in their own unique ways. I tend to look ahead to the days and weeks ahead in the future and think of everything I have to get done and can start to feel overwhelmed. Not only do I want to get it done, but I want it to get done perfectly.
Most athletes, especially pitchers, for better or for worse, are perfectionists.
We want everything to be perfect RIGHT NOW. With everything I do in life, I want to be great at it…I can’t help it, guess you can say I am competitive with myself. I’ve been that way ever since middle school, I think, where I really wanted to prepare for tests and study hard. I had to in order to make good grades; and I didn’t just want good grades, I wanted all A’s. I wasn’t really competing against anybody else, just myself.
Because I have that perfectionism side to me, it’s so good to have people around me who remind me that things don’t have to be perfect in order for them to be okay. I kindly accept people in my life who remind me to breathe, because sometimes I feel like I forget. My mom loves to tell me just because it doesn’t get done today doesn’t mean it can’t get done tomorrow – something so simple, but always good to hear. (If it were up to me, everything on my to do list would get done in one day). (I love to do lists) But that’s not realistic, not everything can get done in one day. Those are unrealistic expectations. It’s just like on the field, it’s on every players’ “to do list” to be an All American, but you can’t be one by the age of 12. It’s unrealistic. You have to learn first to be able to become that All American down the road. You can’t jump over the steps of the process to go from A to Z over night in anything in life.
Learn. Grow. Repeat.
I am still like the average girl athlete, even as a 28 year old, only thing that is different is the setting. Instead of on a field practicing, I am on a plane flying from one location to the next. I still get stretched in ways I never thought possible with my time and sacrifice for the things I am passionate about. I am a perfectionist. I want to please everyone. And I want things to get done – fast. But sometimes…they can’t….and I am realizing that that’s ok
For the majority of the time, I understood on the field that results couldn’t come instantly, nor could they come perfectly.
I didn’t like it. But I understood it. Life is the exactly same way. You work at something (a job, a relationship, a hobby, etc) and you might not figure everything out in a day. But it’s okay not to figure it out in a day. It’s okay not to have answers right away. (Patience is a virtue). It might even be months or years before you see the exact results you are looking for, and that’s ok. Better yet, maybe the results came differently than you anticipated, and they ended up being better than imagined. I remind myself, in the end everything will be ok, if it’s not ok, then it’s not the end. I love that because it can apply to anything in life you let it apply to. (the key word there being “let”)
It’s so important to have those people around me reminding me to take it one task at a time, one day at a time.
One pitch at a time, one at bat at a time. Same song, different verse.
Those people around us who remind us we are ok when we are struggling and don’t judge the struggle are the ones who can matter the most and truly affect us.
They recognize when we are at our worst, or on our way to the worst, and they catch us from falling and pull us back up. Those people are the ones who keep us sane and make us take a deep breath and realize everything will be ok. We are so lucky to have those people. Be thankful and appreciative of whoever that person or people are. Tell them now how thankful you are for them being in your life. Don’t wait to tell them, you know who they are now. Let them know. Most importantly, open yourself up and allow those people to be there for you.
When you’re fighting yourself, don’t fight others.
Whether it’s your teammates, friends, sisters, brothers or parents, allow someone to pick you up when you’re at your worst. The hardest time to listen can be when we are most frustrated, and ironically that is when we need to listen most. Really listen to the advice they are trying to give you. The benefit can make you feel better on a day where you feel stressed, imperfect or unworthy.
Those people are like our little angels flying all around us, but they can only help if we let them.