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…

Playing Big Being Small – Guest Blog by Chez Sievers

Allow me to introduce Chez Sievers to you! I must start out by saying, Chez is a Longhorn, but I absolutely love her anyway. Chez is one year older than I am, and I played against her from across the diamond for 3 years- me wearing maroon, Chez wearing burnt orange. I remember Chez – not vaguely, but distinctly. Chez is a competitor. Chez loves the game. Chez knows the game.  Most importantly, Chez respects the game of softball. I am THRILLED for her to write from HER perspective of what it was like to be a softball player with her much shorter frame. I think this is something that many players go through, so to get her own words on here is my pure pleasure….

Playing Big Being Small

Throughout my life, I’ve heard every short joke imaginable. It used to drive me crazy! My father taught me such a valuable lesson in my young life. Because I was small I had to do everything harder, faster, and more efficiently. I grew up with two older brothers who never took it easy on me. At the end of every practice baseball/softball and basketball practice, we would end with a competition. I never won one shooting game or one hitting game. It was incredibly frustrating, but I always felt that there would always be a chance for me to win because I had the opportunity to compete.

When I was 11, I played on two basketball teams and two softball teams. I played softball for my Bellflower Bobbysox softball league and the Tustin Wildcats, which my first travel ball team. I was a starter on every team except one, the Tustin Wildcats. I was by far the smallest player on the team and I either rode the bench or played left field in the late innings. During the course of the season, I began to get discouraged. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. Why wasn’t I playing? I hit and played whatever position they put me in.

Our national qualifier came around and I still wasn’t playing. The qualifier was double elimination. We lost to the Firecrackers and we were on to the next game against the Newberry Park Pumas. If we won, we would go on to Nationals in Oklahoma. I didn’t start, but I kept my head up and still supported my team. We were tied up in the bottom of the sixth with a runner on second. Tensions began to rise. That’s when I got the call to pinch hit. I put on my helmet, strapped on my gloves and grabbed my Steele bat. Finally! Here was my chance to play. As I walked up to the plate, the coach from the opposing dugout signaled to the outfield to move in. With a Cheshire grin, I dug into the batter’s box. I visualized crushing the ball in the left center gap hoping that they would be running for days. First pitch, ball. I stepped out and set my sights for the left center gap. Pitch two, I swung like my life depended on it. I crushed it into the left center gap for a triple. My adrenaline was pumping and my team and parents were going crazy. Pure satisfaction.

Looking back, I wasn’t bitter and I didn’t use my size as an excuse for why I couldn’t do something. In my mind, I was so hungry for the opportunity to compete. In my mind, I was fearless and 10 feet tall. I believed I could make every play on the field.

That was a defining moment in my playing career because I carried that mindset with me through high school and on to the University of Texas.

Playing at a high level no matter your size is all about your mindset and your work ethic. In life, you always encounter roadblocks, but it’s how you respond to those situations. You make the choice to overcome and persevere or give up. The power within is your greatest source of strength. If you believe in yourself and have the discipline to be great at everything you do, there is no limit to the things you can accomplish in this life.

You can find TONS of softball information on Chez’s website http://smart-softball.com. Her website includes podcasts with some of the TOP names in college coaching, instructional videos on hitting, instructional defensive videos, and her own personal blog. SO proud of her for what she is doing for our sport and her passion for the game!! Thanks Chez!! 

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…!

 

The Pitching Staff – A Team Within A Team

A pitching staff is a team within a team. No matter which age group you are coaching, it’s important for the cohesiveness of your team that they understand that they are a team and they act and feel united. You can never start teaching and reinforcing this important lesson too soon – even at the younger levels. Start having the dialogue with them that the TEAM will do its best if they support each other and compliment each other.

The thing about a TEAM is that they should ball be working for the same goal. Maybe the team’s goal is to win a tournament. Maybe the team’s goal is to win Nationals. Maybe the team’s goal is simply to win one game.

No matter what the team decided is their goal, EVERYONE should be on board with that one goal and be on a MISSION to achieve that goal.

A team has a roster of maybe 12-18 players. The pitching staff will have somewhere between 2-5. The pitching staff has their own role in the team’s goal. There will be multiple pitchers on a team, and most likely no 1 pitcher will throw every single pitch. In most cases, there will be one pitcher who throws more than the others. That’s how it is on any team – travel team, high school and college, alike. As a pitcher on the staff, how do you handle this if you aren’t throwing in as many innings? As the parent of a pitcher, how do you handle it? As a coach, how do you speak to your pitchers? As the pitcher throwing the most innings, how do YOU handle it? EVERYONE has to work together to be united to work TOGETHER towards achieving the TEAM’S goal – pitchers, pitcher’s parents and coaches.

ANY player on a team should have a role. She owns that role. She embodies that role.

The acceptance and execution of that role helps work towards the team’s goal. Each member on the pitching staff should have a defined role, as well. It is ok for the role to change and evolve through the course of the season. That’s normal, and as a coach, you want this to happen. However, at any moment, a pitcher’s role should be clearly defined so that she can give her all to that role with no confusion. The most important part about roles is communication with honesty from the coaches – it forms clear expectations. The second most important part about roles is the acceptance of the role by the player – it means you’re a good teammate.

As an example, every team will have a #1 pitcher. Every team should WANT a #1 pitcher because it means you have found the player who is reliable in the big situation, it means you have found someone who has worked extremely hard, it means you have found someone who is consistent. Having a #1 pitcher definitely is not a bad thing, it’s a good thing for the team! Being a #1 pitcher is a role, and there’s nothing wrong with knowing you’re the #1, and there’s nothing to feel bad about. There could even be two #1s who share time fairly equally, but at the end of the day, one of those pitchers is going to be the one who the coaches choose to throw the Championship game, as we all know there can only be 1 pitcher in a game at a time. The other pitchers role is to support whatever pitcher is out there in the game. Another pitcher may own the role of being a great closer/finisher. Or maybe her role is to strategically throw against teams who can’t hit faster pitching or slower pitching. The options really are endless, but to me it’s all about the communication to form those roles. The more the pitching staff understands and accepts their roles, the more they are going to find success in games for their team. A pitcher’s role can even vary game to game. In that case, a coach’s communication to his/her pitching staff becomes even more important.

Often times I think where things go wrong is two fold…

  1. A coach not wanting to be completely honest with the pitching staff because they either are scared to tell the other pitchers they aren’t the #1, or maybe they themselves don’t quite know the role yet.
  2. PARENTS being unwilling to accept that their daughter is not the #1. They give more focus on that than the ultimate goal of the team – which is what EVERYTHING should circle back to – the team.

The thing about a pitching staff is that every pitcher has so much pride because of how hard they work on their craft. They want to get rewarded for their hard work with in-game pitching time because that has been the focus their entire life. Their practices have been so individual their entire life that it becomes difficult to take the focus off of yourself and place it on your TEAM and your team within the team, aka your pitching staff.

As a coach, from the very beginning, you have to make this known, and I think you will be amazed at the results it will yield if you have open and consistent communication with your pitchers from the beginning of the season until the end:

“Suzie, I want you to know you’re on this team because of the way you mix speeds, we are going to heavily rely on you to come in and be able to slow things down and keep teams off balance. Jill, you have ice in your veins when you are pitching. I see you pitching in a lot of close games in late innings because nothing phases you. Jenna, you have some of the top velocity in our area and I know we’ll be able to use that to go up against some good lineups.”

It takes time, it takes nurturing, it takes patience, but as a coach, it’s a MUST. They should commit to being the best for their team from the very beginning, and it should not get glazed over at the beginning. From day 1 your pitching staff should COMMIT to being the best for each other and being the best for their team. When you commit to specific expectations, especially in front of your team, it holds you accountable. Maybe you have them verbalize they’re going to commit, maybe you have them sign a sheet of paper that lays out the expectations you have of your pitching staff:

THE PITCHING STAFF…

Brings different strengths – mentally and physically.

You don’t want to pitch exactly how someone else pitches. You want to have your own strengths that shine when you get the opportunity.

Works together as ONE unit.

You win together, you lose together. When someone has a bad day in the circle, someone else comes in and picks them up immediately.

Has unwavering support for each other*

When you get taken out of a game, you support your other pitcher. Maybe that means giving her a high five as you get taken out and she is coming in. Maybe that means you have a glass of water ready to hand to her when she comes off of the field. Maybe that means you are yelling your hardest for her from inside the dugout. Be happy for her when she does well; feel for her when she has a tough inning.

* THIS IS THE BIGGEST ONE. If just ONE pitcher on the staff does not fully support the others, it makes it more difficult for the other pitchers to support her. Not saying it can’t be done, it just makes for an obstacle to overcome on the way to trying to reach the TEAM’S goal. No matter if you have pitched 20 innings in one weekend or 0, you COMMIT to support your pitching staff until the end – no exception.

Commits to making each other better.

They talk in the bullpen. They give each other tips during games and at practice. They learn to understand each other. They are not scared to help each other in fear that by helping someone else they won’t get to pitch as much.

Competes and pushes each other.

As much as you’re helping the other pitchers and wanting to make them better, you go out and compete your hardest and practice your hardest. When YOU compete harder and when you work harder, your pitching staff should feel that and want to work harder, too. Do not be scared of competition and when someone may be pitching better than you – that’s just an opportunity for you to work harder at your craft and you should thank them. Do not be scared to be great. You are pitch great for your TEAM, you pitch great so that you push your pitching staff to rise up as well.

THE PITCHING STAFF does NOT…

Pull other teammates aside and tell them why they should be pitching.

A big no-no. Absolutely 100% do not pull other teammates aside to your negativity and opinion. This causes friction on the team. Friction on the team means you’re hurting the chance at accomplishing the goal.

Pout in the dugout when they are not pitching.

Never ever cry/look sad/isolate yourself because you are upset that you are not the one in the circle. Don’t do it. Coaches, don’t accept it. Parents, don’t allow it. Under no circumstance, and I mean NO CIRCUMSTANCE is this ok. It is selfish and you are making the game about you. The game is never about one person.

Show an attitude when they get pulled from the game.

When you’re pitching and you get pulled, control your emotions. Your teammates, parents and coaches should have the expectations that showing an attitude when it is your time to come out of the game is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Showing this attitude is a direct reflection on the parents.

Forget about the ultimate team goal.

Every single action, pitch, play, practice is not about you, it’s about the team. It can be difficult for pitchers especially to remember this because a lot of pressure gets put on us, you are involved in a lot of plays, and there is high risk/high reward as a pitcher which brings more emotion to the table. At the end of the day, you are pitching for your TEAM, you are trying to throw strikes for your team, you’re trying to get outs for your team, you are trying to do your best to help the team WIN.

EVERY ACTION HURTS OR HELPS YOUR TEAM’S GOAL

When your team commits to expectations before the season even begins, they are now accountable for every single action because every action is either hurting or helping the TEAM’S goal. It’s better to tell the team the goal and expectations BEFORE any practices or games rather than having to go back and tell them the expectations you are wanting after an action occurs on the field that doesn’t support the team’s goal. Once they commit to this team’s goal, it’s no longer a coach being a bad guy when they call them out for their actions, it takes the blame off of the coach and on to the player. Your team should be held accountable from the very beginning. It is more difficult to go back and add the expectations you have of your team.

EVERY ACTION from the players and the coaches should support the team’s ultimate goal. This means the coaching decisions are made with integrity. This means each player is working hard on their own to get better for the TEAM’S goal. This means players accept their role in the lineup that day with grace and support of the other teammates. This means any bad body language on the field or in the dugout brings the team’s energy down, therefore hurts the chances of achieving the goal.

As a pitching staff, all eyes are on you. A pitching staff and how each pitcher understands her role is a direct reflection of the communication and leadership of the coaching staff. How a pitcher on a pitching staff chooses to handle her role is a direct reflection of her parents.

Players will only do what you allow them to get away with. Even at tryouts, it should be something you are seeking out in your pitchers –a complete pitching staff that you envision to fulfill different roles – they have different strengths and compliment each other. Find a complete pitching staff that you see as ones who will accept their roles – they have personality traits and parents who will commit to being their very best for their staff and for their team.

Players, Parents and Coaches ALL Have a Role

If you are the #1 pitcher – stay humble, earn your #1 position every single time that you go to pitch in the game, never take it for granted. If you are NOT the #1 pitcher, every time you go out to pitch is a chance for you to throw like you ARE the #1 pitcher. Every pitcher on the staff should have a presence that they ARE the #1. The ENERGY that comes from a pitching staff that ALL has confidence and works together is off the charts amazing, and it WILL take your team to the next level.

Pitchers, you are never entitled to any pitching time just because on the roster there is a “Pitcher” next to your name. You should earn EVERYTHING. Maybe you earn it by how you pitched the last time you were in a game. Maybe you earn it by how hard you’ve worked outside of the game at practice and at lessons. The opportunity for you to go in and pitch in a game is an opportunity for you to help your team towards its goal. Every opportunity is one that will be EARNED and it is YOUR job to take advantage of YOUR opportunity. 

Coaches, you are not automatically entitled to the trust of making coaching decisions, you have to earn that trust over time. The more trust you show the players & parents , the more they will accept and buy into their roles you are communicating to them. When decisions are made that do not support the team to reaching their ultimate goal, that is when drama starts to occur and people start to talk, and then players will not fully buy in to the decisions you are making. In essence, sometimes a coach will actually create his own problems by not making decision with one thing in mind – the team’s goal. Put politics aside, put parents aside, put ago aside and make decisions FOR your team because with every decision you are making about the team you are either hurting or earning trust.

Pitcher’s parents, your children will accept their roles in the same way YOU accept their role. If you are complaining, they will complain and not fully buy in. Often times they talk to their teammates and use the same quotes you say to them outside of the field. “I’m not pitching because our other pitcher is best friends with the coach,” or “I’m not pitching because we haven’t been with this coach for that long.”- Players don’t usually come up with these things on their own, they are hearing it from their parents.

When you are talking in the stands about topics that do not fully support the coach’s decisions, you are hurting the team from reaching their goal. It is ok for us as humans to not agree with every decision – that’s life. It is NOT ok to verbalize to others during practices and games and suck them in to your negativity/excuses. WAY too often parents become the cancers on the team because their pitcher is not getting the pitching time. Be real, be honest with yourself and support your child to become her very best. If she is doing HER best and she is still not getting THE most pitching time, it’s ok. Support your pitcher in her given role, remember what you committed to from the very beginning and keep pushing her to give her all.

Everything is about the team, EVERYTHING.

Finally, I know there will be the situations where as a family you decide that it might be time to change teams. Try to avoid leaving a team in the middle of the season. Stay loyal to that team and teaching your pitcher to stick things out and finish out the role she is in. Until after the last out is played of the last game on the team you are on, you give your ALL to that TEAM and try to help in any way you can. The only real time I support leaving a team in the middle of the season is if there is something major going on where there are coaches or players are being extremely negative or emotionally abusive, and it is affecting a player’s every day life/happiness. That’s a lesson in itself to get out of a negative situation. However, there is a clear difference between being sad/bummed out you are not getting pitching time and visibly being effected by the way a coach is talking/treating you and other teammates.

You will be amazed when a pitching staff buys in to being a real staff and SUPPORTS each other from the beginning to the end. Commit, think about every decision you make/action you take as either helping or hurting the team.

#30DaysOfGreatness – I’m in, are you??

Want to share something VERY COOL with you to get you (and me) active for the next 30 days. ANYONE can participate – kids and adults alike. It would be AWESOME to get your teams involved in this, as Taylor Hoagland (All American from Texas & USA National Team) is the one who has started this CHALLENGE.

So this morning, I will start #30DaysOfGreatness with Taylor and lots of other people around the country, including my bestie, Savana Lloyd (SL Fastpitch). I want YOU to start with me and hop on board!!! #30DaysOfGreatness is a fitness challenge to workout (lift, cardio, crossfit, pitch, hit, take ground balls, etc) for at LEAST 30 minutes every day for 30 days straight!!!! Here’s what you need to know:

1) 30 minutes of work out every day. GET MOVING!!! To officially enter every day to PROVE that you’re participating, you must take a picture with a short recap of what you did and tweet it to @taylorho6 with the hashtag #30DaysOfGreatness. I would LOVE to see your pictures posted on my Facebook, too! Please, please please please let me see them, especially if they are pitching & playing softball!

2) The OFFICIAL start date of #30DaysOfGreatness is today, January 26.

3) For participants who make the 15 day mark, at halfway, there will be a Google Hangout for everyone to participate in, including Taylor Hoagland, myself, maybe even Patrick Murphy, and some other people who are participating. — THIS is going to be REALLY cool.

4) For the participants who make the 30 day mark, you will receive a shirt as a token of your achievement. (You will only be eligible for this if you have tweeted to Taylor (@tayloho6) every day for the 30 days.

5) Throughout the 30 days, there will be GIVE AWAYS from GlitterBandz AND bellalete.

THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME!  I’M IN, ARE YOU?

To read more on WHY Taylor started #30DaysOfGreatness and to follow along on her blog, click here.

Comment below and let me know if you are or what you think!

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.

YOU Are YOUR Best Pitching Coach

Often, I will use the phrase, “Be your own pitching coach.”  You might not know exactly what that means or you might say, “But I have a pitching coach already…” and I would say that’s fine. BUT when it comes right down to it, and you’re in the middle of the circle with bases loaded and a full count on the hitter, that pitching coach can’t make the pitch happen FOR you. To “be your own pitching coach” means to learn to think for yourself, learn to FEEL for yourself and learn to make corrections on your own.

This just can’t magically happen in games, it has to be practiced at practice!

If you’ve taken lessons with me before, or come to one of my clinics, then you know one of my favorite things to ask is, “How did that FEEL?” I want a pitcher to slow her mind down, and actually have to take time to understand what her body just went through to create a certain pitch. In order to do that, you must take more time in between pitches to start to understand FEELING and let your brain figure out what exactly it did feel.  Feel is such a big part of pitching.

To feel means to understand what every body part is doing from fingers, down to hips down to knees and toes.

It means that someone can tell you an adjustment to make and simply by words alone, it can create a feel to that body part of what that body part needs to do differently the next pitch in order to make an adjustment. This is THE biggest thing to have as a pitcher. If you aren’t feeling, then you aren’t pitching. A pitching coach who is just going to tell the pitcher everything to do after every single pitch isn’t helping to create that feel. That’s making a pitcher a robot.  Robots don’t feel, they change on command. A pitching coach who tells his/her pitcher every single movement to make is not enabling that pitcher to think for herself

Being your own pitching coach is essentially like being your own boss.

How would you like it if your boss came into your office and said, “Do this…do that…no do is this way…no that’s not right…” Eventually, you would either get burnt out, or you would stop thinking for yourself.  Then, when it came time for you to change jobs or “perform” on a big stage, you might freeze, and not be sure of yourself because previously, someone had told you every single move to make.  Instead, I think it would feel more empowering to ask YOU, “What do you think about doing it this way?” or “How do YOU think we should do it?” Then you can answer, and think for yourself, and come up with an answer TOGETHER.  It’s teaching someone and not just TELLING them.  Teaching takes a little bit more time.  Just telling someone something is a quick way to get it over with, but it doesn’t help out the other person as much.  It’s the same way when a pitcher is learning not JUST what a pitching coach thinks, but also learning to form an opinion of her own about what she thinks works for HER.  By talking about what you feel with your pitching mechanics and having to actually talk about out loud about them, you learn to have more confidence and truly understand what your body does in order to make a pitch happen. You’re learning. You’re making mistakes. You’re growing. Most importantly, you are learning to take responsibility for YOUR pitching craft. It may be uncomfortable at first, but it is SO good for you, and you will eventually get more and more used to it.

Be your own pitching coach means thinking for yourself and being able to come up with an answer on your own without someone telling you what to do. Come game time, your pitching coach may not be at warm ups with you and he/she definitely won’t be out on the field with you. So how are you going to handle your own thoughts? How are you going to make your own adjustments and even REALIZE that it’s time to have adjustments? THIS is what pitching is all about. You can’t look to your parents for answers you can’t always look to your coach for answers. A lot of times, you have to look deep inside yourself. Don’t be a robot out there in the pitching circle. Be you.  Trust your thoughts in the game by learning to trust them in practice.

Look to yourself for the answers first.

Try new things. Be inventive. Something may work for you that a pitching coach didn’t TELL you to do, but if it WORKS (if it REALLY works), then you should be able to do it. I loved when I gave lessons and one of my girls would come up to me and say, “At practice, I was playing around with my curve ball, and I realized that when I throw it, if I put my hand HERE then it doesn’t work, but I slightly moved it back a little, and then it helped with the movement of it.”  <— THIS IS AWESOME…AMAZING…INCREDIBLE. If you can do this, if you are willing to even try new things on your own, you are going to grow and grow and grow. Nothing will stop you. This means that you are truly feeling what you are doing and are taking the time to understand pitching mechanics, think for yourself and isolating different body parts to make small changes along the way that will pay off to be big changes down the road.

At your next practice, think on YOUR OWN and be your own pitching coach. Think about what you FEEL is going wrong with a certain pitch or your mechanics. Slow your mind down to think about what your adjustment is. This pays off down the road. We should be free thinkers, able to express ourselves and come up with our own solution. It’s good to ask people for help, but it’s not good to ask people for answers ALL the time. Figure out some things on your own, it will stay with you longer and make you feel like later on when you need an answer or a quick fix, that the answer is already inside of you….just have to think about it a little to pull it out!

Softball Pitching Tips 101

Was just going back through old videos and came across this pitching mechanics one that has basic tips to help you out a long the way. What I love when I look back over this video is the fact that no matter what age you are at, you can always re-learn from going back over basic fundamentals and make sure your body is in check.

I would love to hear your feedback. Here is what others have said:

Thank you, you helped so much! I am 12 and I am going to try to be a pitcher for the fall at my school. I love how you say stuff like “it is just like opening a doorknob” those tips help sooo much!

-Rebecca S

This video helped me alot i am a 12 year old going into 12 -15 and im a pitcher thankyou so much ur amazing!!! 🙂

-SoftballPitcher22

This helped soo much! im in 7th grade and working on my pitching. i just wish i had a softball when i watched to remember where my hand goes! thanks team express!!

– Anna Williams

Thank-you I’m really new at pitching.This video is helping me with the basics.I am 12 and trying to become a good pitcher.I CAN DO. THIS!! 🙂

-pancakelover5656

 

Leave your comments below

Are You Willing to Learn? BE COACHABLE!

One of the things every coach is looking for at any level are coachable players. Coachble means a willingness / openness to try new things and to learn new things. In order to be coachable…..

1) Show Humility – Have a sense of humbleness; a modest view of one’s own importance. You can always get better. There is always something to be learned. There are always people out there better than you.  You can learn from anyone.

2) Have Faith in Others – Trust others. Everyone has had experiences.  Be open to learning different points of views and seeing the best that others bring to the table.  You must trust yourself first before you can trust others.

3) Be Approachable – Have fun! Don’t take yourself too seriously.  When you are having fun, you are inviting other people to have fun with you, teach you and learn with you.  The more people who want to give you information the better! Now you have all this information, you get to try it and sort through what works and what does not work!  Invite people in to help you, don’t push them away.   

4) Look Attentive – Look at someone in the eyes when they are talking to you. No matter who is talking, looking at someone in the eyes is a sign of respect.  Your coaches, your teammates, family and your friends deserve this attentiveness from you.  When you are attentive, your brain is soaking more things in!

5) Be Curious – When given feedback, ask questions.  It shows that you’re more interested in digging deeper into what someone is trying to help you with. A lot of times people aren’t coachable because they are afraid to try new things and are scared of not understanding what is being asked of them.  To fully understand, take a pause after someone tells you something, take a moment to understand and process, and THEN make a decision of whether you do or do not fully understand.  If you do not fully understand, organize a question to dig deeper more into a better understanding.  Ask questions!

At all times – listen with intent to learn.  All of these fall under the umbrella and goes without saying, to have a good, positive attitude.  The more coachable you are, the more enjoyable you are to be around as a teammate and as a player under a coach.  

Understand if you are or are not coachable.  If you are getting feedback from others that you are not coachable, be willing to change.  If you are getting this feedback numerous times, quit blaming that it is other people, and understand that it is you not them.  Accept it, commit to making a change and DO IT.  There is always time to change and make a difference in your own life.  You can do it!  Have faith in yourself and have courage that you can become the best player you possibly can be!!  It all starts with being coachable!!  

Remembering to Remember to Breathe

April to the beginning of June tests me every year. Post season college softball starts to heat up which has me traveling across the country for various studio appearances or college softball games, where I serve as a college softball analyst. I break down players/teams, which is why this part of year is so busy, because it’s the part of the season that matters most, and at the end of it, a National Champion will be crowned.


Amanda Scarborough ESPN

I have people around me who have to remind me to breathe and take it one day at a time.

These people each challenge me to be better in their own unique ways. I tend to look ahead to the days and weeks ahead in the future and think of everything I have to get done and can start to feel overwhelmed. Not only do I want to get it done, but I want it to get done perfectly.

Most athletes, especially pitchers, for better or for worse, are perfectionists.

We want everything to be perfect RIGHT NOW. With everything I do in life, I want to be great at it…I can’t help it, guess you can say I am competitive with myself. I’ve been that way ever since middle school, I think, where I really wanted to prepare for tests and study hard. I had to in order to make good grades; and I didn’t just want good grades, I wanted all A’s. I wasn’t really competing against anybody else, just myself.

Because I have that perfectionism side to me, it’s so good to have people around me who remind me that things don’t have to be perfect in order for them to be okay. I kindly accept people in my life who remind me to breathe, because sometimes I feel like I forget. My mom loves to tell me just because it doesn’t get done today doesn’t mean it can’t get done tomorrow – something so simple, but always good to hear(If it were up to me, everything on my to do list would get done in one day). (I love to do lists) But that’s not realistic, not everything can get done in one day. Those are unrealistic expectations. It’s just like on the field, it’s on every players’ “to do list” to be an All American, but you can’t be one by the age of 12. It’s unrealistic. You have to learn first to be able to become that All American down the road.  You can’t jump over the steps of the process to go from A to Z over night in anything in life.

Learn. Grow. Repeat.

I am still like the average girl athlete, even as a 28 year old, only thing that is different is the setting. Instead of on a field practicing, I am on a plane flying from one location to the next. I still get stretched in ways I never thought possible with my time and sacrifice for the things I am passionate about. I am a perfectionist. I want to please everyone. And I want things to get done – fast. But sometimes…they can’t….and I am realizing that that’s ok

For the majority of the time, I understood on the field that results couldn’t come instantly, nor could they come perfectly.

I didn’t like it. But I understood it. Life is the exactly same way. You work at something (a job, a relationship, a hobby, etc) and you might not figure everything out in a day. But it’s okay not to figure it out in a day. It’s okay not to have answers right away. (Patience is a virtue). It might even be months or years before you see the exact results you are looking for, and that’s ok. Better yet, maybe the results came differently than you anticipated, and they ended up being better than imagined.   I remind myself, in the end everything will be ok, if it’s not ok, then it’s not the end. I love that because it can apply to anything in life you let it apply to. (the key word there being “let”)

It’s so important to have those people around me reminding me to take it one task at a time, one day at a time.

One pitch at a time, one at bat at a time. Same song, different verse.

Those people around us who remind us we are ok when we are struggling and don’t judge the struggle are the ones who can matter the most and truly affect us.

They recognize when we are at our worst, or on our way to the worst, and they catch us from falling and pull us back up. Those people are the ones who keep us sane and make us take a deep breath and realize everything will be ok.  We are so lucky to have those people. Be thankful and appreciative of whoever that person or people are. Tell them now how thankful you are for them being in your life. Don’t wait to tell them, you know who they are now.  Let them know.  Most importantly, open yourself up and allow those people to be there for you.

When you’re fighting yourself, don’t fight others.

Whether it’s your teammates, friends, sisters, brothers or parents, allow someone to pick you up when you’re at your worst. The hardest time to listen can be when we are most frustrated, and ironically that is when we need to listen most. Really listen to the advice they are trying to give you. The benefit can make you feel better on a day where you feel stressed, imperfect or unworthy.

Those people are like our little angels flying all around us, but they can only help if we let them.

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