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…

High School Softball Season Survivor Guide – Grievance 2: The Competition

In ANY situation we come up against in life, there are going to be things that we can control and things we can’t control.  It’s important to always take a step back in any situation, and understand which are which.  Limit the excuses and understand what YOU can do better to get the most out of a situation.

You will recognize that my grievances have a common theme — worrying about yourself, controlling what YOU can, keeping a positive mindset and working as hard as up can. If you missed Grievance 1: Playing Time, then click here.

Grievance #2 : Competition Isn’t “Good Enough”

Uncontrollables: How fast a pitcher is throwing; ball/strike ratio of an opposing pitcher; how well the other team hits; how well your defense fields behind you as a pitcher

Controllables: Your intensity and focus in the circle; your intensity and focus at the plate; playing YOUR game at YOUR level; learning from game-like situations; making adjustments

Ok, fine.  So maybe high school ball does not have as high of quality of players as the travel teams you play for during the summer, but really this excuse is laughable to me as an excuse of why they don’t like high school ball.  Does this mean you’re going to use it as an excuse to play down to their level?

You have a choice to play down to the level of your competition or you can choose to shine!!

“The Pitchers Throw Too Slow / Too Many Balls”

Controllable: Swinging at good pitches; trying to be on time; going opposite field; good approach at the plate

Oh boy, this one is pretty funny to me.  Okay, so you face a pitcher that doesn’t throw “hard.”  You should be thinking LUCKY me not POOR me!  A pitcher who isn’t throwing a lot of strikes? Perfect!  I can work on taking pitches, seeing the ball all the way in. and my pitch selection. Visualization training. Patience training. Working on patience at the plate and understanding your strike zone is essential to being a good hitter.

The BEST players will be the players who can adjust the FASTEST, no matter what is thrown at them.

A pitcher who doesn’t throw as hard as you’re used to gives you more time to see the ball, more time to make a decision whether it’s a ball, or a strike and gives you the ability to work on hitting opposite field. Hitting opposite field is one of the things I see out there that is hardest across all levels. EVERY PLAYER can pull the ball. But NOT ever player can have the patience to let the ball travel and work one riving it on the middle or to the opposite side of the field (right field for a right handed hitter, left field for a left handed hitter).  Clearly, if you are someone who struggles with slower pitching, this means this is something that you need to work on with your swing. I promise, even in college, there will be slower pitchers that you have to face and YOU have to be able to make an adjustment.

When you face a pitcher who is throwing slower, take it upon yourself to try to hit opposite field.  Work on keeping your wait back, work on pitch selection, work on letting the ball travel. This is showing bat control.  You can work on this and be someone who is able to adjust to different speeds of pitching with no problem. If you are saying this pitcher isn’t “good” then you should be perfect with you plate appearances and get a hit in your first at bat every single time that you go up to bat.  Set an example for your team on how to adjust to a pitcher.

  • Work on pitch selection
  • Take your walks when they are given to you
  • Work on letting the ball get deep and waiting on slower pitching (just like waiting on a change up)
  • Take slower pitching to opposite field
  • Work on quick adjustments

If you are worried about not being ready for travel ball pitching speed, then take some time on your own to have your travel team pitcher throw to you or go to a batting cage where you can raise the speed and still work on having quick hands and making quick adjustments. Also, go to the cage next to it and go to the slower speed. Alternate going from cage to cage and see how quick you can make the adjustment.

“I’m A Pitcher, and My Defense Can’t Make Plays Behind Me”

Controllables: YOU; Work a little bit more off the plate to get swings and misses; mix speeds to get them to swing and miss; add more movement or better location to induce ground balls that are not well hit;  keeping a good attitude/body language; learning how to work through long innings with endurance and precision

At some point in my playing career, I know I have either been on a team or been in an inning where my defense just can’t seem to make plays back behind me.  Does not matter what kind of level you are at, you will go through an inning or a game like this.  It’s one of those things like having a homerun hit off you – it’s going to happen, and then it’s probably going to happen to you again, and then probably again.  So you can get frustrated and upset over it, or you can figure out a way to be a little bit better in the circle to get more swings and misses or to not have balls as sharply hit to your infielders or outfielders.  This CHALLENGES you; it makes you think; it makes you be creative; it makes you be BETTER.

Pitchers who blame their defense behind them for reasons that they aren’t getting better as pitchers –  I can’t stand that.  This is another EXCUSE.

You’re working through real-game softball situations. You’re working through problems. These are problems you will be faced with again at some other point in your playing career.  Think of it as a challenge; think of it as making you a better pitcher to be able to work through adversity — working on your attitude and keep your emotions in check. BE A LEADER.

What CAN’T happen is that you get a bad attitude and show it to your teammates.  That is going to make your defense that much more tight behind you, and then they REALLY aren’t going to make a play for you.  This is a great test of patience of pitchers.  If you can get through a team that struggles to make defense behind you, it’s going to make you that much better mentally and physically when you get to a team that has a sharp defense. By having better body language and a better attitude, you will help your teammates stay confident behind you; ultimately you a making your TEAM better. By being more concerned with your own personal ERA or how many runs are scored off you, you are more worried about YOU than the team.

It’s ALL about how you choose to look at the situation and how you choose to view what you are getting out of it.

Also, this is a great time to work on being a good teammate.  It says a lot about a pitcher, whose defense continues to make errors back behind her, but who continues to stay positive towards that teammate and not letting it negatively affect her attitude.  This can be a challenge, but this is ONLY going to make you a better TEAMMATE to be around so that your teammates can trust in YOU and believe in YOU even more.

When your defense is struggling behind you, you should get STRONGER and step up.  If your high school team doesn’t play great defense, in my mind, the easy way out is to quit, blaming that the defense isn’t good enough.  You are NEVER bigger than the game. It is what YOU make of it. When you start feeling uncomfortable, do you rise up to the challenge, or do you surrender? YOU control how you handle it.

You can’t change your defense.  Instead of complaining and blaming, step up YOUR game mentally and physically. CHALLENGE YOURSELF.  Challenge your mind.

  • Stay calm
  • Stay positive
  • Work on small adjustments with locations of your pitches
  • Keep good energy
  • You get stronger when the situation gets tougher
  • Think strategically to which of your infielders field the ball the best. Work on throwing to the side of the plate where the hitter will most likely hit it to your best infielder.
  • Think of pitch calling and situations.
  • Look to hitter’s weakness by noticing what they are doing in their swing.

You can be getting better by being creative in what you are learning in tough game situations and thinking/analyzing situations to make yourself a more well rounded pitcher.

“I’m a Pitcher and I Strike Everyone Out, The Hitters are Not Challenging For Me”

This is a perfect time for you to work on a different pitch you’ve been trying to learn or master. Maybe your curve ball is your favorite pitch, and you throw it 85% of the time, and you’re learning a drop ball.  If you’re striking everyone out with your curve ball, then start working on your drop ball.  Throw it in different counts.  Work on placement of it and movement of it.  Know that you can always go back to your curve ball when you need a strike or need an out.  Working on a new pitch in a game situation is so important.  This can create a new focus and determination to add another pitch that will help you, once you start facing more competitive hitters.

  • Work on something new
  • You can still work on getting better despite your competition

There is SO MUCH to be learned from game time experience, regardless of what THE OTHER team is or isn’t doing. Challenge yourself during the game to be the best teammate and lead be example. Any game-time experience is our greatest teach. Softball presents so many different situations in and throughout a game that practice cannot teach you. Be thinking one play ahead. Think one pitch at a time, but when you can be really creative and you’re a pitcher, think one pitch ahead.


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For Love of The Game…

Throwback Thursday.  Freshman Year in 2005. Pitching with a helmet on.  Why? Because….

When you love the game, you’ll do ANYTHING to be able to play.

My freshman year, I had an injury at the end of the season.  On May 9, the day before our team was to leave to go drive to Big 12 Tournament, I got hit in the head with a line drive at practice.  I was playing first base (when I didn’t pitch, I always played 1B).  At practice, our pitchers would always throw live to our hitters to give them at bats.  But like I said, I wasn’t pitching, I was playing in the field and a left handed hitter was up to bat with a runner at 1B.  Because it was a bunt situation, I was expecting bunt, but instead, I had a line drive hit at me from an upperclassman who pulled the ball down the line.  This ball was crushed.  I had no time to react and get my glove up to protect myself.  It didn’t hit any part of my glove, it hit me on the side of my head.

They allowed me to go back to the dorm room for the night, but when me and my fellow freshmen classmates were at the dorm room, I couldn’t eat anything without throwing it up, not even tylenol would stay down, which is the sign of a concussion.  That night, I went to the Emergency Room..and from there it’s all a little blurry of what happened when.  Somewhere along the way I got a CT Scan where they found that my brain was bleeding a little where I got hit, and I had a small fracture in my skull.  I stayed in the hospital over night, and the next day, May 10,  the team left to go to Oklahoma City without me.  I was so bummed, I wanted to go so bad.  The Big 12 Tournament signified the official started of the post season in our minds.  On top of that, the Big 12 Tournament was played at Hall of Fame Stadium, where the WCWS is played.

May 10 is also my birthday. Double bummer to be stuck in a hospital.  When the team got to Oklahoma City, they didn’t start games the first day, they attended the Big 12 Banquet.  A banquet where all of the teams attend, and they announce the Big 12 Awards (Player of the Year, First Team, Second Team, Academic Awards, etc).  On that day, after the banquet, I remember laying in the hospital bed, and I got a call from Coach Evans.  She wanted to let me know that at the Big 12 Banquet I had been named Big 12 Freshman of the Year and Big 12 Player of the Year.  I was the only person in Big 12 history to achieve this.

After about a day, they were able to release me from the hospital because I was actually able to keep food down.  I went home with my parents while my team was in Oklahoma City, as no one really wanted me to do anything.  I didn’t understand.  Yes my brain was bleeding, but all I wanted to do was be with my teammates at the field! Why couldn’t I go?  I remember being at my parent’s house in Magnolia and listening to my teammates on the radio broadcast in our computer room play Oklahoma State (I think it was).  It was SO WEIRD to listen to them on the radio without me being there.  BUT…I talked my parents into driving me to Oklahoma City if we won that game.  Well…..we won! So guess what…we drove to Oklahoma City!!!

I remember being so happy to get to be with the team.  Our semi final game against Baylor was on Fox Sports, and since I couldn’t play, they invited me into the broadcast booth for a half inning.  Maybe you could call this my big break into TV?! We ended up losing that game and I drove home with my parents while my teammates rode home on the bus to start practicing for the post season, as NCAA Regionals would be that next week.

We hosted Regionals in College Station, as that year we were at Top 8 National Seed.  I did not get to play…apparently this whole brain bleeding and fractured skull thing was a big deal.  Who knew!!  We won that Regional, and the next week we were to face Alabama in Super Regionals, hosting them in College Station.

Amanda Scarborough Sharonda MCDonald

What we called “Club 190.” In between innings, the players who were not playing out in the field would run down to left field to keep legs fresh. It was always a time where we had fun, stayed loose and made some smiles. You see Sharonda McDonald and I in tennis shoes. We were both injured and unable to play.

The week going into Super Regionals, it had been about 2 weeks since I had gotten hit, and the doctors, trainers and my parents said I could play in Super Regionals BUT I would have to wear a mask when I hit, and if I pitched, I would have to pitch withs something protecting my head.  Me, Jamie Hinshaw, Jami Lobpries and our trainer, Leah, made a trip to Academy to figure out something I could put over my head.  We tried soccer headgear, wrestling headgear, and none of it was satisfactory.  I couldn’t pitch if we didn’t figure something out.  So…..we decided I would have to pitch with a batting helmet on if I wanted to play.  In order to get a little breeze, they cut a whole in the back of the helmet where my hair bun could go through, and a little air could circulate through.

I practiced 1 or 2 days before Super Regionals started, and Coach Evans wanted me to throw to some hitters with the helmet on to see if I could do it and how it felt– a trial run for what was to come in the actual game.  The first hitter I pitched to was Jamie Hinshaw, a fellow freshman teammate, left handed hitter.  She came up and in her first at bat against me at practice, ironically, I hit her in the head!  We laughed about it and one of the local reporters was there, and he ended up writing about it.  Good times.

Super Regionals started as Pat Murphy and Alabama came in to College Station.  We lost the 1st game of the Super regional, I pitched the second game of the series the following day.  It was May in Texas and it was SO HOT.  In between innings for my warm up pitches, I wouldn’t pitch with the helmet on, I would leave it off in the circle, and then I would put it on when it came game time.  Yes, it was a little embarrassing, but I just wanted to play, and I would have done anything to play because I loved it.  I’ve never seen anyone do this before…maybe no one has had to.  But we had to be creative, even if it meant pitching with a BATTING HELMET on my head against University of Alabama.

Amanda Scarborough Amanda Scarborough

Amanda Scarborough

Amanda Scarborough Pitch with Helmet on

We ended up losing that Super Regional, falling short of the Women’s College World Series. We were seeded higher than Alabama, and had SUCH a good team.  We had won the Big 12 Conference that year, and had such high hopes of this team in 2005 making it to Oklahoma City.  Unfortunately, in the last conference series of the year, our amazing center fielder and lead off hitter, Sharonda McDonald had tore her ACL sliding into home when we were in Columbia playing Missouri.  And then a week later, I got hurt.  These were 2 major blows to a team, terrible timing for injuries, especially to 2 starters.

What I did my freshman year to pitch with a helmet on, I would do again.  I didn’t know any better.  If there was a way that I could play, I would figure it out.  If you love the game, you’ll do ANYTHING to be able to compete at the sport you love.

What does it mean to be competitive? Part 1 – Competing Against Other Teams

(This month’s topic will be broken down into 3 parts, 1 in each of the next 3 weeks.)

 Competition Quotes

One of the words I most frequently heard at Texas A&M from head coach, Jo Evans, was “COMPETE.” 
 
Competition fuels desire.  Competition adds drive. Competing has become somewhat of a lost art for this generation of softball players, and one that I hear from many college coaches that is a characteristic they are searching for in their future athletes.  Nowadays, more often than not,competing is a quality that is having to be taught, instead of being innate.

 

When I use the word “compete” I am referring to that inner fire that burns to go out on the field and beat the team in the opposing dugout, to compete for a position and to compete against yourself to see just how good you can really be.
Competition is one of those lessons that sports builds in you, if you allow it.  However, being around the softball fields at the select and college levels, I see fewer and fewer girls who are showing up and just flat out competing when they are out on that field.

 

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

1) Competing Against Other teams

Competiting against other teams

 

The ability to be competitive against other teams…

 

 …sounds easy right?

 

Who would’ve ever thought that you would have to teach/motivate a player to just competeagainst another team.  This is your most basic form of competition a college coach is looking for.  This kind of competing involves stepping out onto a field and knowing that at the end of the game there is going to be a winner and there is going to be a loser, and dreadfully not wanting that loser to be you.  It’s these people who are the upmost competitive on the field who hate to lose more than they like to win.  Competing on the field against another teams means having an inner fire and inner desire to beat whoever is in the opposing dugout.  Most players will show up for the “big” game to compete, but it’s the most competitive players who will show up for the game against a team they know they SHOULD beat.  This kind of competitive player knows that at this time that all stats are out the window, and you compete knowing that anybody can beat anybody on any given day no matter who you’re going up against.

 

Even though this is the most basic form of competing, and some people take it for granted, I find that sometimes it has to be brought out in young girls playing today.  The mere idea that if there is a game being played, that you should want to beat the other team more than anything else going on in that moment at that time.  It comes out as a passion to win.  A passion to win should not just come out when there is a lot at stake for the game (ie. playoff games, nationals, championship games).  A passion to win should just come out because there is an opponent standing on the other side of the field in a different uniform.  A passion to win for those uber competitive players shines so much that it glows on other players on the team in attempt to lead the team and get everyone focused on the same goal.

 

One theory I hear all too often deals with the fact that nowadays, “everybody wins”, and “everybody gets a trophy”.  This is not how life really is when girls get older and are in the “real world”.  There are parents who are too overprotective and want to make sure that their daughter feels like a winner, even though she may have lost the championship game.  I am all for making a player feel better after a big loss, but there also has to come the honest truth and realization that there IS a loser.  By teaching a player that she lost, it makes her that much more hungry not to ever feel that feeling of losing again, thus creating that inner fire  to go out and win that much more when she steps out onto the field the next time.  More importantly, it pushes her work harder and get mentally tougher in game situations.  The idea that everybody wins is not realistic when you get to the “real world” and players are all grown up.  Build your desire to compete now, so that it pays off later even when sports are over.

 

In any type of game there will always be a winner and a loser, which is what makes sports so interesting to watch from the outside and from the inside, builds character.  It is that internal drive of simply not wanting to lose that makes the most competitive players stick out to college coaches when they are at the games.  College coaches are looking for more than a player who can hit a homerun or throw 68 mph.  They want heart, passion, drive and internal motivation so that when you get to their program, that is one less thing they have to teach.  Plus, if you are that player who is competitive, it can rub off on the other players on the team. Lead by being competitive.

 

Part of that inner drive deals with playing through injuries, sicknesses and being tough.  Competitive players compete through minor physical setbacks because they love to play so much and want to help their team win.  Players who are not as competitive look for reasons to get out of playing in games – a cough, a runny nose, bad weather, a broken nail.  Players who love to competeFOR their team and AGAINST other teams will do whatever it takes to be out on the field and play the game they love.

 

Are you competitive? Are opponents scared to play you?  Do your teammates look to you as someone they want to go to war with? Answer these questions truthfully so you know if you need to reevaluate your outlook and passion for this amazing game.
COMPETE EVERY PITCH.

 

A Palm Springs Weekend

Went to Palm Springs for the Mary Nutter Softball Classic at the Big League Dreams Park.  What an amazing weekend of watching high level softball, getting to listen in on interviews from many of the top teams’ coaches and players, and then an awesome video shoot with a camera called the Phantom that shoots at 3200 frames per second.  (In comparison, this video was shot at 1000 frames per second).  By the way — the views you will see in these pictures are stunning.  AWESOME weather with sunny skies and beautiful backdrops! The teams that were there at the tournament included Tennessee, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Nebraska, Texas, Stanford, Texas A&M, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Cal St Fullerton, UCLA, Cal, LSU, Pacific, Cal State Northridge, Oregon State, UNLV, Missouri, amongst others! To see all of the results of the many, many great match ups from this weekend, click here.

What I learned: I love this game more than anything, this weekend was definitely a reinforcement for that. But what I also learned, is that the talent at the D1 level is spread out amongst all conferences.  In the past, there were just a few schools who would “take the cake” year in and year out.  What’s so fun about going out to a game now, is that you really don’t know who is going to win simply by looking at the names on the uniforms.

Who I enjoyed watching: I really enjoyed being able to see Ellen Renfroe pitch in real life.  She is someone who doesn’t really throw above 60mph, but her spin is amazing.  She is a true pitcher.  She is not going to blow the ball by you, she is going to be crafty in her locations and precise in her spots by mixing up her pitches in different quadrants.  I highly recommend being able to go and watch this senior pitch in real life or on TV to see a real pitcher and not just a thrower.  She is living proof that you do NOT have to throw hard to have success at the collegiate level. (If you remember, she helped pitch Tennessee to the National Championship game last year in Oklahoma City to go up against Oklahoma).

Offensively, I enjoyed watching Stanford third baseman Hanna Winter. She plays third base and she hits left handed.  If you want to see someone who might be one of the quickest, most athletic players in the country, she’s your girl.  I saw her make some amazing plays at 3B, and the way she runs bases and has such great bat control front the left handed side of the plate is just awesome.

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Tatum Edwards, senior All American pitcher for Nebraska, throwing against senior, All American short stop, Madison Shipman, on Fenway at Big League Dreams in Cathedral City. Great drop ball and change up that Edwards has and throws about 65mph.

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All American, senior pitcher, Ellen Renfroe led the way for Tennessee, So awesome to get to watch her pitch from back behind home plate. The first time I had seen her pitch live. Remember the National Championship Series last year when she went up against Oklahoma and threw an amazing game against them? Some of the best movement and spin of any pitcher in the country.

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Always a packed Wrigley Field whenever UCLA takes on anybody at the Palm Springs Classic. Californians love to come out and see their Bruins play. Check out the background and getting to play in the mountains.

LSU vs Oregon softball

Senior pitcher for LSU, Ashley Czechner, going up against Oregon senior third baseman, Courtney Ceo on Fenway!

Cal vs Texas A&M

Texas A&M taking on Cal on Yankee.

Throughout Friday and Saturday, teams were stopping by to take go through different stations, taking pictures, getting video footage and also interviewing with Holly Rowe and Jessica Mendoza.  I tagged along for some! They interviewed over 12 teams this weekend, and next weekend they will go out to another big tournament in Orlando, to get some of the top teams there, too.  I got to hear about so many different team’s cultures and head coaches talking about individual players who make a difference on their team.  There were tons of good stories from the head coaches and the players, many of them you will be able to catch on ESPN’s coverage of the regular season and post season, which will start at the end of March.

Coach Jo Evans Texas A&M

Head Coach of Texas A&M sitting down and talking to Holly Rowe about the 2014 Aggies, their experience in the SEC, approaching 1000 career wins, and previewing their televised match ups against Florida and Tennessee.

Ellen Renfroe

Senior pitcher for Tennessee talking to Jessica Mendoza about her senior year and last year’s WCWS National Runner Up season.

John Rittman and Jessica Mendoza

Stanford Head Coach, John Rittman, talks with Stanford alum, Jessica Mendoza. Cool moment to get to see them interact, as he used to coach her when she was a player in the PAC 10.

Saturday morning, the ESPN crew met up at the field to use an incredible camera that shoots at thousands of frames per second — 3200 frames per second to be exact. Kristyn Sandberg, who played at Georgia and currently plays for USSSA Pride, caught and hit, I pitched, and Jessica Mendoza also came to hit, too.  This camera was so awesome – the detail it catches of every little thing is so amazing.  They zoomed in on my release from a side angle, my drag from a side angle and then they filmed from back behind Kristen catching me to get the ball coming out of my hand, too.  They also shot some catching, fielding and hitting clips all done by myself, Kristyn Sandberg and Jessica Mendoza.  These will be used for different shots throughout the coverage of college softball.  You most likely won’t be able to see or tell that they are me or Kristyn, because they were more about cool shots like the look of a ball coming out of a pitcher’s hand at release, the look of a pitcher’s feet dragging, the ball coming off the bat, a tag being made at 3B.  WE will know that the shots were of us, but not very many people will probably be able to tell!

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Jessica Mendoza

Mental Toughness vs Feeling Good to Play Good

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 are different 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.

Redefining Failure

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

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

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

So, how do you define success in softball?

Is a hit success?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find the Mini Successes

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

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

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

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

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

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

This game….haha, this game is tricky.

Softball is Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Reasons Softball Can Change Your Life

When I first started playing softball at age 5, I never would have guessed that I would end up where I am now – calling games on ESPN and coaching young softball players all over the country. Softball teaches and allows young girls to experience more than just striking people out and hitting a home run (yes, I know, those are 2 of the best feelings in the entire world). But SPORTS have the ability to teach us so much more than what meets the eye.

There are so many things to learn through sports, and I wanted to take it a little bit deeper than just the basic ra-ra about teamwork and hard work. What is it about working with your teammates that stretches you as a person? What is it about the beautiful combination of failing and winning that keeps us coming back for more? I want to start with one of my favorite things to do in this entire world that I learned from softball.  Travel…

1) Travel:

Playing on a select tournament team led me to my current passion that I have for traveling.  I loved going to the tournaments that were outside of Houston, inside of Texas, but what I really enjoyed was getting a chance to visit states like Florida, Arizona, California, Oregon, Colorado, and many others.  I even got to go play in Australia when I was in 7th grade against teams from Japan and teams from within Australia.  Had softball not been a part of my life, I may have never gotten to have these amazing travel experiences.  I consider travel such a great way to explore the world and to get to know another culture and another state.  I remember being a young girl and going to a different state and just taking in everything about it from the way that their highways were different than ours in Houston to how the houses were built differently.  It’s fascinating to me and such a good learning experience.  This traveling continued and increased once I got to Texas A&M as we traveled almost every other weekend in the spring.  I have such a passion in my life for travel now, which works well since I am always traveling outside of Houston for camps/clinics/television games. Also of course, I love to do it for fun as a hobby, as I have been to many different countries including, Australia, Thailand, Dominican Republic, Honduras, and many countries in Europe. It’s because of travel, I want to make memories all over the world.

2)  Networking (old coaches, former teammates, girls who I played against, former private instructors, old coaches I played against, parents of players who I played with):

Little did I know that even as a young girl I was networking for my future.  You parents may laugh at this one, as networking seems like a concept that you really only start once you get to college. But for me, I look back and that is just not true.  I am still in contact with so many amazing coaches and adults from my childhood.  It may have been years since I last spoke to some of them, but they always have a place in my life as we shared a bond growing up from softball that will always tie us together. I had no idea that….

…. while my coaches were impacting ME, I had the ability to make an impact on THEM even though I was much younger.

Imagine that. The networking and relationships formed does not just deal with the people who were adults when I was growing up, but also with my teammates I played with on various different teams. We now have a new relationship as some of them are coaching collegiately across the country.  Now our relationship is not based on a competitive “team spirit,” but with me talking to them about potential players they may want to recruit to their college teams or about a new pitching/hitting philosophy we can debate and learn from each other on.Just like when choosing drugs online you look at several familiar experts corpvisionlife.net. When you play a sport, it can become an  instant bond with anyone you meet who played that same sport. People who were once your opponents become your friends just because of the connection of our sport.  One of the most important things you can remember is that you never know the impression you are leaving on someone- teammates, coaches, opponents- make it a lasting one. And better yet, you never know where that teammate or coach or other parent might end up, head of a company, head of doing volunteer work you want to participate in, or even have mutual friends.

You can never learn too early that people won’t always remember what you said, but they will remember the way you make them feel

– one of my favorite quotes and I think that it can make an impact the fastest in people’s lives. Plus, you never know who people know…..

3) Time Management:

The older you get, the more you realize what a big concept time management is.  When you have 40 things on your to do list and only 8 hours to get them all done, how are you going to manage your time and emotion to be able to come through? More importantly, how are you going to be able to look at that to do list and rank priorities? When you’re playing softball as just a kid, already you’re learning how to balance your time with practice, school, homework, lessons, friends, quiet time, family, church, other sports, extra curricular activities and games.  And let’s face it, it’s hard.  That’s a lot to try to manage, especially as a 12 or 13 year old.

But like anything, your body and mind learn to adapt to the challenge gradually as you take on a little more and a little more.

Softball players (and athletes, period) have the ability to be one step ahead of everyone when they get to college and things start to move a little faster and there is more of an individual responsibility on each student.  The concept of time management grows even stronger once you make it as an athlete in college; but after college, you are set.  If you make it past collegiate sports, it feels a little bit easier to manage time once you are in the “real world.”  

This time management helps build accountability and dependability– if you’re young, I know these are big words, so my best example to you is just imagine you told your friend you would meet her at the playground and you didn’t show up because you were doing something else.

Being late? It makes me anxious to even think about it. I don’t want to be late to a hair appoint, movie, party, game. Noooooo….the thought of it makes my heart beat fast.  As an athlete, you learn that if you are on time, you’re late, and if you’re early you’re on time. Being late is a selfish act- even if you are not MEANING to be selfish. If you’re late and making people wait on you, you’re saying to the other people who made it there on time, their time is not as valuable as yours. You learn fast in college that there are VERY few, VERY VERY few acceptable reasons to be late. Start being on time now and create a punctual, early habit that you can take into your life post-sports.

4) How to Manage Relationships on a Team:

In a team setting there are so many different personalities. When you play sports, you have to pay attention to everyone’s personality and learn what the best way to is to talk to each person.  Every teammate is going to be different with how you can talk to her. You learn that you do not have to be best friends with everyone, but you will respect them.

So quickly on a team we learn everyone is NOT just like us, and recognize differences in personalities, opinions, leadership and attitude.

Are you going to be the one who shuts down when things go wrong and someone doesn’t agree with you?  Or are you going to be the one that learns to communicate and work through a problem? Ah, problem solving. One of the keys to success of the future. Being on a team puts you in a position to gain experience on this. In order to get the best results on the field, you have to manage your relationships off of the field.  Managing relationships and being best friends are two separate things. Once you hit that field, nobody in the entire complex should be able to tell that there is an argument or something going on between you and a teammate stemmed from off the field problems. Understand you need seperation, aka compartmentalization.

5) Communication:

To me, there is no bigger concept in our lives than communication. Communication is a commodity in every type of relationship. If you cannot communicate, life is going to be a long, tough road ahead.  Through sports as a kid, you’re on a path to communicate in many different situations to gain experience and confidence for when you are an adult. So you know you want something or you need something. It’s in your mind. How are you going to be able to articulate it so that someone actually HEARS what you are saying?

  1. a) With your Coach I remember as a kid, one of the hardest things to do is have a conversation with an adult – whether it was to order my own food at a restaurant or talk to my coach about a specific play. (I remember the beginning times when I was about 9 maybe 10, shoot it could’ve been 8….but we were ordering pizza and my mom told ME to make the call. What? Me???) But there’s going to be an adult on the other line and I might mess up. There comes an age where it is time for a player to approach her own coach about playing time, pitch calling, or any kind mechanics questions. If you do not understand what someone is telling you, you have to learn to speak up!!  That simple dynamic of a player communicating with a coach is just like an employee going to speak with his/her boss. It takes confidence, and it takes a plan of knowing what you want to say and the message you are trying to convey.  It doesn’t just deal with the words that actually come out of your mouth, but more importantly HOW you say those words. Softball teaches you how to communicate with those who are in authoritative positions about something you really want.
  2. b) With your Teammates Communication on the actual playing field is critical to our game, or someone could get hurt. However, “hurt” can be more than just physical injuries.  Important to remember that this communication is two-sided; as a player you are learning not only how to speak to someone, but also how to TAKE IN what someone is trying to tell you. You could be great at communicating TO someone, but how are you going to handle it when that person is going to start communicating BACK to you. Sports teaches you how to communicate (both talking AND listening) and how to compromise with your peers. In the real world, you are most likely going to be on another “team” in the future. You have to learn how to work together with a group of people, sometimes even your friends, for the betterment of a single goal. A big part of reaching that goal will include effective communication and being able to adjust your communication so that someone else can hear what you are saying.
  3. c) With your parents Let’s face it – we are stuck with our parents.  🙂   To be able to feel like you can communicate with your parents is a process that does not just need to happen while you are playing softball, but lasts an entire lifetime.  There are many things a player should be able to communicate to her parents about: if she feels like she is injured, if she feels like she needs a break, if she feels like she needs to practice more, if she feels like she needs more support, if she feels like her parents are being too hard on her. How a parent listens sets the example for the child of how to listen. Are you open minded? Are you someone your child can come talk to?  The open communication about softball helps make your relationship stronger from growing up to when you become an adult.  I was very lucky that I had parents who told me that I could talk to them about anything and built a strong relationship.  They did such a good job of communicating to me that softball was not the only thing that defined me and that at the end of the day, if I didn’t want to play softball anymore, they would be okay with that.  I never felt forced into playing softball, and because of that, it made me feel like I could open up to them and talk to them on rough days. Because the communication piece of our foundation was set when I was younger, our relationship only gets stronger as I get older.

6) Failure:

It’s inevitable. We are going to fail at softball sometimes. We are going to fail at SOMETHING in life. We cannot be perfect. My mom used to tell me we are all perfectly imperfect, and that’s a phrase that has always stuck with me. Softball teaches us how to be able to rebound from that failure quickly. The quicker you rebound, the quicker you will get to feel success again. How do you fail? Do you do it gracefully? Do you do it where everybody in the entire stadium knows you failed? Are you able to make an adjustment, or do you repeat the same mistake over and over again? Fail fast, but learn faster. If you are learning from your mistakes and making adjustments, you have no reason to fear failure.

7) Winning:

In the same breath that we have to learn how to fail, we have to learn what it takes to win. Not just win…but compete.  A winner’s mentality does not have to be a negative, in-your-face mentality. You win gracefully AND lose gracefully. Why wouldn’t you want to win? A winning mindset is a pure WANT to win. A winner hates to lose more than he/she likes to win.

A winner likes to compete – not just when things are easy, but when things are tough.

Winning is a sense of achievement. A winner only knows one speed – FULL OUT, because they know if you go full out you have a higher chance to WIN. A winner knows that some days if you want to win, you have to fight. Not with someone else, but with yourself. Fight to win. Fight to be the very best you, so that more days than not, you have the higher number on the scoreboard when it’s all said and done. That number should not represent your pure physical talent, but you’re pure fight and determination to give your all every single time you take the field.

There is something to be said of an athlete who has been on championship/winning teams. They know what it takes to not only get to the big stage, but compete at the big stage. They know how to handle pressure. Competing for a position, having pressure at a big job, how to win – these are things sports teaches us. Everybody likes a winner. 

10 Reasons Softball Can Change Your Life

 8) To Never Give Up:

Do you know what a dream is? Do you know what it feels like to never give up on that dream? Do you know what it feels like to fight for a dream? Softball teaches us (if we let it) a work ethic that makes us forget failure and forget people around us who may not believe in us. (On a side note, I don’t understand those kind of people. The people who are looking to pull you down instead of help you rise up. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time for those people. I am too busy envisioning my future).

When we can learn to work through failure, our dreams gain  in our mind, they seem more within reach.When we can learn to push those negative, outside thoughts away, dreams can feel more tangible. A dream or goal is used as motivation.

Put an idea in your head, feel it in your heart if it’s your passion and keep moving forward, outworking everybody around you along the way. Hard work pays off. Hard work leads us to our dreams. Softball has this magnificent way of proving to us that if we never give up, and we put our all into something, good things will come in return.

9) Presence:

More than what comes out of our mouth, we are communicating with so many non verbals every day. We start to learn body language as little kids. It’s like learning as a toddler that if we throw a temper tantrum, we still might not get what we want. And all we do with the temper tantrum is draw unnecessary attention to ourselves. Well in life we aren’t always going to get what we want, and as adults it should not affect our body language and the energy we are giving off towards others. Throughout a game and a practice you have opportunities to practice your presence and your body language – at the plate AND in the circle. There are a few reasons for this:

1) Fake it til you make it – Even if you are feeling a little down or a little off, if you have to try to work through it on game day, a lot of times you can fake yourself out into feeling good and have good results. As a girl, and as a human, I understand there are some major parts of life we aren’t and shouldn’t hide our feelings from. But when it comes to how you warmed up, or if one pitch isn’t working, or if the weather is bad, you learn to be a leader and work through some things to show yourself and your team that you can be a leader. Can’t make excuses..you just gotta go get it.

2) Don’t show your enemy your weakness– You want to appear strong and confident. You want to appear stoic, like nothing can change your emotions. When your enemy sees weakness, they know they can attack. And on the other half of that, when your enemy feels an abundance of confidence (even if it’s the fake it till you make it confidence), they can be set back a little bit and you get the apprehend.

3) Strong Presence = Leadership– Eventually you may become president of a company and many employees will be looking up to you. Because in sports you’ve practiced having a strong presence under pressure, it can translate to a real job or being on a different kind of “team.” Your presence speaks volumes about who you are as a player, a person and as a leader.

 10) Be Present and Let Go:

We are going to make mistakes throughout games and throughout life. We can’t take ourselves too seriously. If we hang on to those mistakes, it’s so much harder to rebound and be present in the next play ahead. You quickly have to learn, but not judge, your mistakes. Be able to focus on the present play at hand without hanging on to the past.

If you can give the current play your FULL focus, you are going to have a much higher chance at success!

If in the back of your mind is something that happened 2 days ago, 2 weeks ago or a year ago, you will never be able to live up to your full potential. Learn from your mistakes, have them teach you, but be able to move past them.

These things combined…used all together…have the ability to grow your confidence and belief in yourself more than you ever imagine.  Picture a well traveled woman who is independent, confident, can multi task with ease, communicates with her peers, and isn’t scared to go in and ask her boss for what she really wants. Envision a woman in the future who lets things go quickly because she has confidence in herself and in the beauty of her dreams even when there are bumps in the road. Softball teaches us every bit of this. This is what we go through as softball players and this is what is building us and preparing us to take on the world ahead of us once we hang our cleats. I would want that woman on my team any day……..

 

 

Visit Amanda Shop’s for Softball Inspired Apparel

Dream Big Guest Blog by Kaylee O’Bryan

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

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

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

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

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

The Power of Shaking Off

As a pitcher, I’ve never understood a coach’s philosophy of  NOT allowing pitchers to shake off a called pitch. I, personally, never played for a coach that said, “Never shake me off,” or “You better throw what I’m calling.” 90% of being a successful pitcher does from feeling confident…feeling good….feeling comfortable.

How do you feel those things?

By being 100% invested in WHAT you are going to throw the next pitch. The slightest bit of uncertainty will show in your pitch if you are not fully committed. (Parents, I’m SURE you know what I am talking about and you can see it from in the stands.) Also, in my mind, being able to shake off a pitch holds higher implications than just trying to get the batter out.

As a little background….The majority of the time, my dad called pitches for me for my travel ball team. Occasionally, another dad would call them who also had a pitcher on the team, but nothing beat the comfort of having my dad call for me.

In high school, my catcher and I called the game together, as well as when I got to Texas A&M.

For 8 years I got my own practice and in-game experience of calling my own pitches with my catcher.  I had to think for myself through the ups and downs of a game or even in the ups and downs within an at bat. “What pitch should I throw next?” “What’s my next move?”

These are decision making skills being a pitcher teaches you. When the pressure is on, bases loaded, playing the best team you’ve played all year, tie game, one pitch can make the difference, and I got to be the one who had the last say. Pretty awesome when you think about it – giving a young woman that much power and leadership at a young age.

Of course, at first, the concept of knowing what I wanted to throw seemed like a different language to me. It was nerve racking. My brain was in constant work mode. But I learned. I distinctly remember (to this day) the feeling I would get of know exactly what pitch I wanted to throw after I delivered a pitch and my cacher threw it back to me. I was so focused and trusted myself so much that I already knew what I wanted to throw the next pitch before I even got back to the pitching rubber.  If you have ever pitched and taken control of a game before, you know this feeling I am talking about. It was a feeling that ran threw me after watching the outcome of the LAST pitch, and I would know instantly what I wanted to throw next. I was going to shake off until I got THAT pitch because that’s what I had the most confidence to throw.

When you have coaches who allow you to think for yourself and help you learn HOW to think for yourself, you grow as a pitcher; you grow as a young woman.

You learn to trust your gut instinct. Being able to trust your gut is such an important trait to have in life and that gut instinct can be a pitcher’s best friend and your inner guide. That instinct does not always come naturally, it progresses and can be felt over time.

In a game, if you throw 100 pitches, that means you have 100 chances, 100 reps, of learning to feel and trust your gut instinct if you are getting the opportunity to throw your own game.

You can still throw your own game even when your coach is calling pitches from inside the dugout if he/she is the type who allows you to shake off. You’re thinking EVERY pitch, focused on one pitch at a time in what you want to throw.

As with anything in life, the more you practice calling your own game, the better you get at it. Little by little you start to trust that feeling in your stomach more.

All too often, as pitchers and as human beings, we push that gut feeling aside and try to out-think the situation. But then when we look back, it was like we had the answer all along if we would have just trusted that initial feeling/thought.

This is a large part of how a pitcher grows and matures in the circle come throughout her career.

She learns to think for herself.

She learns to make her own decisions.

She learns to eat her own mistakes.

She takes responsibility.

She becomes a leader.

She might lose the opportunity to learn these important values if she is a robot out on the field, looking at a signal, getting no feel of the situation, and just automatically doing what someone else is telling her to do without the option of shaking off – the power of saying no.

Take a step off of the softball field for and think about that-  THE POWER OF SAYING NO.

Let it sink in for just a few moments.

The power of saying, “You know what, I don’t feel comfortable with that” or “I would rather not do that.”

How many times in life have you had the option of saying yes or no? MILLIONS. Every day.

Sometimes, saying no is not always easy, but it’s IMPORTANT.

You don’t always have to say yes, you can choose to say no.

A lot goes into our decision making, but practicing saying no and getting the confidence to do so on the softball field could translate to having more confidence to say no OFF of the softball field.

Think back to middle school, high school, hanging out with your friends, being confronted with situations where you have to make choices.

If you have relied on someone else to make a decision for you your whole life without the ability/care to say no (shake off) on the softball field, then why might at a high school party where there is peer pressure be any different? That kind of pressure feels just like when you are in the circle, all eyes on you, tie game, 7th inning, 2 outs. Added pressure and YOU get to pick what pitch YOU want to throw.

Pitching has the ability to teach us different versions of STRENGTH. Yes, the strength to throw hard and hit corners, but the real STRENGTH comes in being an individual in the real world who can make her own decisions.

Learning how to say “no” is hidden deep in the life lessons you learn when being a pitcher. Having the body/mental awareness to trust your gut instinct of whether a pitch feels right or wrong and whether an outside situation feels right or wrong. The more experience you gain in saying no, the easier it is to say no. 

Allowing your pitchers to shake off pitches is just one small example within softball to coach these girls the way you would want them to live their lives outside of the softball field.

Give them tools to gain strength every time you are with them at practice and in games that allow them to be independent thinkers, make decisions on their own and take ownership of those decisions.

Empower them to feel peace with the decisions they make – whether it turns out being right or wrong within the game. That’s the way you learn. That’s the way you get through to them through softball, which is where they are spending the majority of their time.  It’s where they can learn through trial and error the pressures and the ups & downs life will throw at you sometimes.

It means shaking off a pitch to get the pitch YOU want because you just feel it on the inside and there are specific details you have noticed that the pitch you want, if executed properly, will get the out.

Allowing a pitcher to shake off pitches is powerful BEYOND MEASURE.

Who are you Surrounded by?

Does being surrounded by players who share your values about confidence and being in the right mental state help you as an athlete?

 

 Being surrounded by players that share these values absolutely helps improve your mental state. Players can push each other on the physical side of the game, but can also push each other on the mental side. Players should be surrounded by other players who are reinforcing that feel good, play good mentality.  Try to get your teammates to hop on board with those same values. Confidence is contagious.  Be someone that your teammates can look to, who plays the game confidently and with a strong presence.

Be a teammate who makes your other teammates better and stronger.  By playing the game with confidence and with a strong mind, you make others around you play the game better, as well.  Not only will  you feel better and stronger off the field, but you will see positive results on the field — having more fun, winning more games, relaxing while you play.

These values not only affect you on the playing field, but off the playing field.  The confidence and the mental state you are learning on the softball field greatly affects you in every day life at school and at home.  To be completely honest, it doesn’t just have to do with players who share the same values, but with coaches who share similar values and are reinforcing a positive mindset and helping players to feel their most confident.

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