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…

Remember – We Are All in This Together

We’ve all had those LONG weekends at the ballpark, with early mornings and late nights, possibly 3-4 hours of sleep before you have to be back at the field for an 8am game. (8am games should be banned from our sport, by the way, they are just awful).  As softball players, coaches and softball families, we share these moments together.  Though our philosophies may be different on how to hit, pitch, throw or run a 1st and 3rd play, at the end of the day, we are ALL in this together and go through similar situations together, all involving things that actually make us more similar than sometimes it may seem or feel.

Amanda Scarborough we are all in this together softball

I used to get made fun of because I take pictures of EVERYTHING, from meals to desserts (I love food and I am not ashamed) to my friends & traveling across the country, you name it, I’ll probably take a picture of it. Sometimes my picture-attention is drawn to the sky and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets I see no matter where I travel to, no matter where or who I am coaching – the sky and the beautifulness of the earth remains a constant.

Amanda Scarborough sunset

It made me think, at the ballpark, we are all a part of different organizations and teams.  It feels like it can separate us because we are in different uniforms, wearing different colors, playing for different coaches.  We lay it all out on the field and may have different ways of competing, cheering and leading, but we all share a vision of beauty through a sunrise or sunset, where all of that individualism can go away, and we are able to share something together at a place that consistently feels like it divides us.

Because really, at the end of the day, we (coaches and parents) share a sunset just like we share the same vision to inspire and support as many girls as possible to get to the next level, and make every player out there the most beautiful player they can be.  This is REALLY what our game is all about.  A shared sunrise and sunset can be a daily reminder of our ultimate goal, and the very reason why we are even up there at the ballpark at all hours of the day.  We all share a common sacrifice of time and commitment.  However, so many times the true meaning of why we are out there is lost…

Next time you are at the ballpark and feel confused, frustrated, or annoyed, take a look at the clouds, stars, or moon and remember that no matter at who or why you’re frustrated, everyone out there shares stronger commonalities than differences.  If we keep it simple, and remember that we all SHARE a common vision, even though we may not be sharing the same colors we are wearing, the ballpark can become gathering place where familiar goals are trying to be achieved.

You see, out at the ballpark we are much more alike than we are different, even though sometimes the ballpark tends to bring out our differences, it should actually be bringing us together.

Amanda Scarborough sunset

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.

High School Softball Season Survivor Guide – Grievance 4: Teammate’s Drive Not There

This is the last and final Grievance! If you missed parts 1-3, see below!

Grievance 1: Playing Time

Grievance 2: The Competition

Grievance 3: Teammates

Grievance #4 – The Drive of My Teammate is Not There

Uncontrollables: Your teammates’ drive; Your teammates’ attitude; Your teammates’ competitiveness

Controllables: YOUR drive; YOUR attitude; YOUR competetiveness

Yes, it’s hard when you are surrounded by players who aren’t as driven as you, and with high school ball, you don’t really have a choice!  You ask yourself, what are the things I currently can control? The answer is that it’s all about YOU.  It’s not about anybody else.  Now is the time you push YOURSELF harder and day in and day out try to maintain a consistent mindset.  Every day at practice you show up to the field wanting to get better. Every game you show up to the field wanting to leave it all out on the field.  Nobody else’s mindset should control this or change what YOU are about.

  • Lead by example
  • Don’t let others attitude affect you
  • Push yourself more and maintain a consistent mindset

This game is what YOU make it, not what someone else makes it.  Any given day YOU are in complete control of how you approach the game, how you approach your teammates and how you approach becoming the best player you can possibly be.  High school softball is preparing you for the next level of softball for you in college or the next level of your life in getting a job.  You must always be able to control what YOU can control, no matter what.

In the end, remember, you are playing someone else when you look at the scoreboard, but this game is really about YOU competing against YOURSELF.  You should be pushing yourself in different ways and getting uncomfortable in different situations so that you continue to grow, and you are prepared for anything that is thrown at you when you make it to the next level.

Always control what you can.  Look at every situation, and give an honest answer of what you can and cannot control about it.

What does it mean to be competitive? Part 3 – Competing Against Yourself

(This month’s topic will be broken down into 3 parts)
This month, I have sent out Part 1 and Part of this topic “Competing Against Other Teams” and “Competing For Your Position.”
To see Part 1 of this topic click here
To see Part 2 of this topic

One of the words I most frequently heard at Texas A&M from head coach, Jo Evans, was “COMPETE.” 

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

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

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

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

Competing Against Yourself 

In my mind, this is the form of competition that drives a player the most and is the deepest form.  This is the competition that actually drives the other 2 forms of competition (competing for a position and competing against other teams).  As important as it is to have drive to go out and compete against another team and to beat someone out for a position, it all comes down to a player competing against herself.  The drive for the other 2 forms of competition comes from pure competition against your own self.

What does it mean to compete against yourself?  You can answer that question by answering what are you doing when no one is watching?  When no coach’s eyes are on you, who is pushing you?  When there are no other players around at practice, who is pushing you?  The answer to this must lie internally that you become your own coach and your biggest motivator to compete against yourself.  True passion comes out when no one’s eyes are on you.  This includes not cheating the number of reps and not always looking around to make sure that your coaches aren’t watching you.  Nobody should be having to make sure you are doing the right thing at all times other than yourself.  Take pride in being your own coach and your biggest motivator. If someone is constantly pushing you to try to get you to compete and to be motivated, maybe it’s time to re evaluate whether this is the sport for you.

Me against myself

These moments of competition come by trying to become a better player with every swing you take or every pitch you throw.  It’s this internal motivation that will push you to become a great player.  When you’re competing against yourself, you don’t even need anybody else to push you.  This is something learned at a young age.  I believe it’s important to try to teach players the want to practice on their own.  The more they are forced, the less competitive with themselves they will be since they were forced to be out there in the first place.  An internally competitive person will ask the dad to go out and catch her pitching, instead of the other way around.  An internally competitive person will take the tee outside on their own to hit in the backyard with no one prompting her to do so.  When you compete with yourself, you can’t wait to practice to get better and work hard to see just how good you can really get.

Work for a cause not for applause
I believe some players are scared to compete with themselves because they don’t want to see how good they can actually get because they don’t want to let someone (coach, parent, friend) down on the field.  More importantly, they don’t want to let themselves down.  Let me explain this a little bit further and give an example:

“I’m Amanda and I am a pitcher.  I know that the more I practice, the better I get.  Every time I go out to practice I feel like I get better and have good command of my pitches.  I look great in the bullpen.  When I go out to a game, I walk a lot of people, give up a lot of hits and I feel like I am letting my coaches down.  I am letting myself down, too.  So I might as well not even practice, because if I am going to let people down anyway, maybe it will look like I’m not trying as hard and that’s why I don’t have good game results.”  The fear of letting someone down is greater than the drive to compete, and it takes over mentally. Being a girl myself, and a former player, I know for a fact that girls think this.  It might sound crazy or fake, but it’s a well known fact that girls are pleasers and want to make everyone happy.  So this absolutely goes through their head.  The less a player feels like they are going to let their coach or parent down, the more their inner competition will be able to thrive.  The only person a player should play for is herself and the rest will fall into place.

Creating a positive atmosphere with coaches and parents will actually increase a player’s ability to compete with all of her heart.  It’s important as a coach and a parent to communicate that no matter what happens or how a player performs, your relationship will be okay, and nothing from the softball field possibly the end of the world.  When a player is surrounded in this atmosphere, she will push herself the most and be the most competitive player.  Always remember happiness is beautiful.

You have to compete with yourself first before any competition can happen with anybody else or any other team.  When you learn to compete with yourself, the sky is the limit to what you can achieve.

Practice as if your're the worst

 

COMPETE EVERY PITCH.

What’s Taking Away From Your Confidence?

I get asked about confidence…A LOT.  Mainly because confidence (no matter what your softball mechanics look like) is a HUGE key to an individual’s success on the field and in life. I might not know you, and I might not know your daughter, but what I know for absolute certain is that if she feels fully confident and happy, she will flourish and feel like she can achieve anything she puts her mind to.

Instead of thinking of confidence like it’s a big mystery, it’s important to keep it simple and know going into it that confidence will fluctuate (just like our bank accounts). It’s vital to realize what is taking away from our confidence (just like what is it that we are spending our money on) and also what is replenishing our confidence (just like adding money to our account).

Everyone knows what it’s like to look at your bank account and see deposits and withdrawals of money. Most people have a certain idea of where they want their checking account to maintain at. Maybe some people want $5,000 in there, maybe some people want $10,000. The amount of money each individual person wants to know is in there is different; the amount of confidence each person needs to feel is different, as well. Confidence is so subjective, but there is a way to make it more objective in each of our eyes…

Checkbook

Okay, imagine your confidence is like balancing a checkbook.

Your confidence has its own Checking Account. There are things in life that will withdraw your confidence, and there are things that will deposit into your confidence.  The items or situations that will deposit and withdraw confidence are different for every single person (in life and in sports). No two people are going to be exactly the same.

We each have different types of Confidence Accounts. For example, maybe you have a Pitching Confidence Checking Account, a Hitting Confidence Checking Account, a Fielding Confidence Checking Account.  Then, of course you have a “joint account” that is your Softball Confidence Checking Account.

Amanda Scarborough Confidence Checking Account

Let’s say you start at $1,000 in your joint Softball Confidence Checking Account, and $1,000 is where you know you perform your best. Maybe you are on a team where your coaches constantly yell at you, your parents don’t show you enough support and you also gave up 3 homers the last tournament and struck out 5 times. All of those things are major things that withdraw from your Confidence Checking Account.  The closer we get to $0, the less confidence we will have. (Just like a real checking account, imagine being close to $0 and the amount of anxiety and negativity one might feel). If you’re close to $0 in your real checking account, you are going to find ways to make money to get that account back up. The exact same thing should happen with our Confidence Checking Account, although I feel a lot of young girls don’t know how to get off of Empty.

So what is depositing into your Confidence Account? How is your “tank” getting filled back up? Most importantly, do you know what can fill up your Confidence Account? It’s easier to find the things that are withdrawing from our confidence than the things that are adding to it. Every person, every player, will have a breaking point. The situations that lead to that breaking point and the amount of time it takes to get there will differ for every person. There are SO many things that can go into it – did you just recently move? Did your best friend on your team leave? Have you practiced as much as you think you should? Are you making big mechanical adjustments? Is your family supportive?

There will be times where your Confidence Account is overflowing, and there will be times where it’s almost empty. It’s only normal. However, the biggest question is if you know what it takes to get it back to where it needs to be. Are you able to recognize the situations that give YOU more confidence? Do you know what to do to get back to your confident place? Are willing to put yourself in situations and surround yourself with great people to help get you back where you know you are best and happiest?

I encourage you to monitor your Confidence Checking Account just like you monitor your bank account. Sometimes things are taking out of our Confidence Checking Account that we don’t actually know are taking away from it. (Think of if someone steals your account information and goes on a shopping spree, and all of a sudden you look at your account and it’s lower by $2000) The same can happen with our confidence.

Also, remember the more accounts you have to manage, the more difficult it may be to keep them all balanced and give them the attention they each individually deserve. A pitcher who hits and plays short stop has MANY different accounts. The more accounts you have, the more time you have to invest to making sure they are all fully loaded and being refilled. It is also important to make sure that one account is not effecting the other account (i.e. a pitcher taking her emotions to bat with her).

Try to find the ways to keep your Confidence Checking Account loaded! Oh, and also, every now and again, put some into savings….you may need it at a later date…!

 

Experience Makes You Shine

I’m a firm believer in experience.  There’s nothing like the experience of pitching or hitting in the “big game” or with the bases loaded, and the game is on the line. Your thoughts are rushing quickly through your mind, you are completely aware of what’s at stake and how the next pitch you throw, the next time you swing or the next ground ball you field can be a defining moment in an important game.  In this moment, all eyes are on you, and believe me, you can feel it.  The experience itself comes down to more of a mental state than a physical state.  Your physical skills are there from the hours of practice and thousands of reps you have taken at your skill. However, your mental state will determine how your physical state is allowed to perform during the game at any point, especially those few defining moments in every game when it comes down to that one pitch.  One of the biggest questions is how to help a player to be strong in that moment.  A big part of that strength comes from drawing on past experience.

How are you going to handle your defining moment?

It’s hard to simulate this same sensation you get in the big moment in the game without actually living through it on the field itself.  There’s really no practice that you can do to fully compare to the same feeling that is created when you are actually in that big moment with the ball in your hand. The only way to simulate it is to actually do it…multiple times.  The more you do it, the more relaxed you can feel to be able to play to the highest of your ability without your muscles tightening up and thoughts overwhelming your brain in your head. The pressure you feel is as much a mental sense as it is a physical sense of feeling pressure and tightness throughout your whole body.  I’ve felt it.  Multiple times.  It’s that adrenaline rush that you get before the game and during the game that never goes away and is what makes sports addicting.  I want to be frank, if you’ve never been the pitcher in the circle or the hitter at the plate in that game-defining moment, you truly have NO IDEA what it feels like mentally to be present in that situation.  You don’t have the experience.  There may be things that you have been through that are similar, but it when it comes right down to it, the feeling that is created with the “big moment” is sometimes incomprehensible.

But it’s these moments that we all live for in all sports – as players and even as fans at the edge of our seats. 

How do you deal with the pressure?  You have to experience it.  You have to breathe through it.  You have to learn from it.  You have to be confident that you can handle it.  You have to recognize what it FEELS like, be in tune with your body and grasp how to cope with the tightness, the pressure and all of the intense energy that is surrounding that big moment. The more familiar you become with these feelings, the more you understand what it is like to tackle them and become victorious in that big situation.  It’s in these situations where you give more thought to breathing and calming your brain and heart down than you do to actually how to throw a pitch or swing a bat.  You practice experiences.  You practice breathing.  You practice how to keep your emotions under control when the game is on the line.  The more you have at practicing this, the more you WANT to be the one in the key point in the game.

Experience in ANYTHING we do gives us confidence the more and more we perform an action, in a certain situation, under certain conditions.  If you are bad at something (anything, no matter WHAT it is), the more you do it, the better you become at it, as your body and motor skills become more comfortable with handling the new skill you are trying to pick up.  The skill in the “big moment” is practicing how to control your emotions, thoughts, and calmness.  Even if you start as “good” at something with little to no experience, you will become GREAT at it the more and more you do it.  We can see this in real life outside of sports in our careers or different hobbies that we take on.  Sports are the same and even more pressure-filled because in a sport, everyone attending the game knows immediately if you failed or succeeded.  You are out on a stage called a field, and all eyes are on you watching your physical performance and waiting to deem your physical performance as a success or a failure.  Immediately after you perform a skill, every single person watching knows if you failed or succeeded.  Think of a player giving up a home run – everyone watching knows that the pitcher just “failed” and the hitter just “succeeded,” or at least they think they know.  Think of a basketball player and the eyes that are watching every shot taken.  We all know as fans whether or not a player messed up when he/she took a shot based off of the physical result of the ball going in the basket or not.  A job can be different than sports.  Maybe only 1 person knows that you “failed” – your boss.  Many times in a job, you aren’t out on a stage where literally every single person watching, or in the room, knows when you failed.  In a softball game, if you strike out or have a homerun hit off of you, AT LEAST 20 people know if you failed or not (at least 9 on each team, plus a few coaches on each team).  The thought of failing in front of people added creates pressure.

Okay, so I set the stage for you.  After innings and innings of play, and numerous games, sometimes we forget what the “big moment” is all about and what it really feels like to be in that pressure situation – we take it for granted that a player should be good at handling the big moment. This especially happens because we, as coaches and the parents, are older and have either seen or been through those experiences many times ourselves, so we assume that the 11 or 12 year old should be better at dealing with it.  Not the case!  They are just babies, they are just learning and trying to get their feet underneath them.  They are just getting a grasp at the physical part of the game to think about, and now they are having to think about this monumental mental side of it that can make or break them.   To understand what is at stake in the experience, is almost as important as learning to understand and deal with the actual experience itself – from a support position as a parent or as a coach.

Everyone comes around in their own time.  This is life.  We all learn differently, we all experience differently.

Take walking for example (not the softball walking of 4 balls take your base, but the actual skills of walking as a baby) – an experience that all of us can draw from – one of our first physical skills we attempt to do.  We got up, we fell.  We got up again, we fell again.  After days, maybe even weeks of getting up and trying to take that first step, we eventually stand a little longer.  We eventually take one step, then maybe two steps,  And before you know it, we are cruising all over the room and our parents can’t keep up with us. We had to experience each fall  before we could actually get to the end result we wanted.  Now, I imagine that standing for the first time or trying to walk for the first time is a bit uncomfortable. (I honestly can’t remember, but I’m just going off of a simple guess here) Your body is probably thinking what the heck is going on? What am I trying to do?

It’s new.  You have to figure it out.  You have to learn.  You have to understand what you’re feeling and your muscles and brain are learning each step of the way (no pun intended). Each and every one of us didn’t all learn to walk in the exact same amount of time, or at the exact same point in our lives.  Our parents were there supporting us, encoring us that we could do it.  They believed in us, and they knew it was only a matter of time.  We experienced failing to become the walkers we are today.  We may not have walked exactly when our parents expected us to, but eventually we figured it out.

Playing in the “big moment” is the exact same way.  It can feel and will feel uncomfortable.

Anything new feels uncomfortable.  Experience will create a comfortability (just made up my own word there, but you get the point).  We don’t get as many experiences in the “big moment” as we do when we were walking.  When we were walking, we were working on that every single day of our lives.  For the “big moment,” you MAY experience it once a weekend.  Maybe you don’t experience it on a weekend of games at all.  If someone is not experiencing different situations, then you cannot be upset with them for not being good at it.  Our parents didn’t get mad at us when we couldn’t walk on our first try.

The more you can experience the pressure situations and the make or break moment, the better and better you will become at being able to handle it.

THE REACTION

Nobody wants to fail.  Nobody likes to fail; but it’s the failing that can make us GREAT.  That “failing” moment where a homerun is hit off of you or someone strikes you out should be looked at as a learning moment, not a failing moment.  Where was that pitch she hit? Where could it have been? Where did she pitch you this at bat? What part of the plate was strike 3 on? Where do you think she will pitch you next at bat?  What are you going to do the NEXT time so that you feel more equipped to have success than feeling like a failure from your last experience. Teach teach teach teach!  When you react, don’t judge the experience, teach the experience.

No matter what age someone is at, especially a young girl, we don’t want to let someone downespecially in the big situation.  I PROMISE this is the case. Some might not admit it, but I’m telling you it’s true – I know from experience. Most girls don’t want to let other people down more than they don’t want to let themselves down.  Girls are looking for a reaction from their coaches and from their parents. Girls are pleasers.  They don’t want to see a reaction that they let anyone down – especially someone important to them.

If you are a coach or a parent, what reaction are you giving when someone “fails” out on the field?

That instant reaction you are giving with your words, facial expressions or body language IS IMPACTING THE NEXT BIG MOMENT THAT PLAYER WILL PLAY IN. No girl fails on purpose – no chance, no way.  When she looks to the dugout or into the stands, she is looking to see if she let you down.  Yes you – the coach, the parents.  If she did let you down, then you’re making it more about you than you are about her.  Remember, it’s about those players wearing the uniform, learning every step of the way.  They should never feel as if they are letting you down if they don’t make the plays that you think they are supposed to make.

If a girl is scared of a bad reaction, when the big moment comes, she will be drawing back on that experience in her mind from the last time it happened.  Even if it is not consciously being thought about, I promise to you it is in the back of her mind.  This is only going to make her TIGHTER in the big situation, not relaxed.  The player that is in the positive, encouraging atmosphere and mindset will become the player that does better the more and more they get to experience the big situations because they will become more relaxed and more comfortable. These players will be able to understand and deal with those tight feelings and a brain that is running at 1000mph.

Sports are similar to how life works in all aspects.  We do something, we fail, we learn.  But in the same breath – we do something, we succeed, we learn.  There’s a chance for both, but you have to allow the failing to teach you without effecting your confidence.  Learn from your successes just like you learn from failing.  More importantly, how people are reacting around you are teaching you how to feel about and how to feel in the defining moments of the game.  The first thing you should look to if it looks like a player plays down when the pressure situation increases are her coaches and her parents.  How do they react? What are they telling her after the failure? What do they look like when things don’t go exactly how they planned?  Was there a certain situation that happened in the past where maybe the parents and coaches didn’t even know that they showed to the player that they let her down? I’m telling you — you want a player who can handle the big situations, then you want coaches and parents (authority figures) who react in a positive manner. 

SEEK OUT THE EXPERIENCE

Experience is absolutely critical in the development of a player, especially at a young age up until high school.  Don’t get me wrong, even in high school and college, experience is one of the most important things, but the experience the older you get becomes more about dealing with extra outside forces.  The games start to mean more, the competition becomes tougher, the games become televised.  Gaining experience and a mental edge at a young age is instrumental for gaining confidence in the big moment at the older ages when it matters even more.  You can’t start from scratch one you get to high school and college.  If too many poor, negative experiences and bad reactions are engrained in someone’s head in high school and in college, then it’s toughed to overcome them – similar to bad mechanics and poor muscle memory

It does no good to be on a really well known/best team in the area if you are sitting the bench watching other people get the experience – especially as a pitcher. In 10u, 12u and even moving into 14u, you’ve GOT to be getting experience in the circle and up at the plate.  You have a few choices:

  1. Say you are the #2 or #3 pitcher on the team.  You can stay on the well-known team, even though you aren’t the starter and keep practicing very hard to continue to get better.  Stick it out for a year or two, BUT sign up for a local league and get pitching time.  Yes, I know the competition isn’t as good, but I don’t care.  You are getting mound time and you are practicing throwing to an opposing team while working hitting your spots and gaining command.  This is a perfect place to improve confidence, get reps and work on some mechanical issues you are trying to get better at.  PLUS, if you are staying on that team where you are the #2 or #3 pitcher on the team, you add to the competition to be the lead pitcher.  Because you a re getting better, you are making the other pitchers better and there becomes more competition at your position.  I actually did this, and I know from experience that it worked to my benefit.  I wasn’t getting as much pitching time as 1 or 2 other pitchers on my select team in 12u, and me and my parents weren’t in denial about it.  We knew that I needed to get better in order to earn more pitching time.  So we signed up for a fall league to get more innings and more pitches thrown.  To this day, I really think it’s one of the best ideas we came up with as a family. I got drastically better after that season because I was getting the experience I needed, and my results on my select team started to improve and eventually I got more and more time.  Yes, it was a bit of a time crunch, and there were probably times I didn’t want to go, but I really feel like it helped out in the long run.
  2. You can change teams.  I always recommend doing this at the end of the season and not in the middle.  With this being said, I am not an advocate of team hoppers.  However, I am an advocate for experience and how essential it is to have playing time at a young age.  Experience, when it comes to time in the circle and number of at bats you are getting, is SOOO important.
  3. I DON’T THINK QUITTING IS AN OPTION IF SOMEONE LOVES TO DO SOMETHING.  This will be an option that many people are quick to jump to.  The only time I would encourage quitting is if the passion is not there for someone and they are not putting in the time and effort it takes to become solid player.  There is a difference between not having passion and not being as talented as the other players VS having passion and being slower to catch your talent level up to speed.

If someone has the passion to do something, I am convinced they can and will achieve anything they put their mind to, and you can’t tell me otherwise.  The people who don’t have passion end up quitting and weeding themselves out.

PRESSURE IS PRIVILEDGE

Have you ever heard this saying before? I love it. It reminds me of that movie, Remember The Titans.  The older I get, the more I understand those 3 words.  When you look at pressure as an opportunity, not a fear, the game becomes a bit more simple….not easier, but unescapably more simple.  When you get more experiences to choose how you are going to handle different in game situations, you get more experience in choosing the right thoughts, and understanding which thoughts connect with which results.  When the bases are loaded and the game is on the line be thinking, “I get to show everyone how good I am and how I am going to come through” not “I hope I don’t mess up and fail.”  The experience of being in tight situations is all about controlling those thoughts.  It’s easier to control those thoughts when you are in a positive, encouraging environment with your parents, coaches and teammates who support you.

Positive self talk should be something that is without a doubt engrained in players from a young age, especially when they are young and most impressionable.  It should be discussed with players as much, if not more, than the actual mechanics of softball.  Take time for it.  It is so important in the development of players not just in their physical game, but in the part of the actual game itself when the “big moment” comes up and it’s time to shine.

It’s that positive self talk that will help you understand and realize that pressure really is a privilege and you should WANT to be the one with the bat or ball in your hands to come up to be the one for your team.

Realize this: We aren’t going to be perfect, especially in this game of failure we call softball.  Every time you are in that pressure situation it’s a chance to prove that you’re in the right frame of mind.  The “success” and “failure” comes from being in the right frame of mind and giving yourself a chance to have success when the big moment comes; it doesn’t always necessarily come with the outcome, despite what all eyes watching might think.  When you take pressure off of the outcome and the fear of doing something wrong and not pleasing others, you give yourself the opportunity to have more success.  The experiences you go through should be learning moments that are making you a better player.  It shouldn’t feel like punishment or that you did something wrong as a player if you don’t come through in the clutch.  It should be used as a moment to teach, so that when the moment presents itself again, you absolutely nail it.

Only YOU can define your moment.  YOU create your opportunities – what are you going to do with them?

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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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 Depth Chart Doesn’t Define You

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

My answer might surprise you….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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