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For all pitchers, pitchers' families & coaches.

by Amanda Scarborough

How is pitching different in the Olympics?

Uncategorized Jul 22, 2021
 

I bet you’re watching Olympic softball games at night!

And you’re probably wondering why some pitches look “illegal” based on the rules you know and aren’t being called…

Or why the umpire is calling an illegal pitch before the umpire goes into her motion.

There are a few differences!

Have you noticed any others that I’m missing?

Who is your favorite pitcher in the Olympics??

IN GAME: Next Pitch

It's all about the NEXT PITCH when you step onto that pitching rubber.
 
 

1. Let it go.

 
Cue the Frozen soundtrack. Whatever happened the pitch before, LET. IT. GO. You can't change what happened, so don't give energy to it. Let it go as quickly as you can. You can reflect back to it after the game to learn from it as you move forward, but it serves no purpose as you go into the next pitch.
 

2. Focus on what you want to do, not what you DON'T want to do.

 
Tell yourself phrases that you know work for you. Think about the 2-word dictionary post I have pinned up at the top of this page. This is a great time to use those phrases as you're walking up to the pitching rubber.
 

3. Take your time & also take a breath.

 
There's no rush. You control the pace of the game. Go at a pace that fills you up with energy and positive thoughts. Go at a pace that does not feel rushed to you.
 

4. Remember the count.

 
Are you working from ahead or behind? Always be aware of the count so you can visualize if you want your pitch (whatever is called) to be more on the plate or less on the plate based on if you need a strike or if you're ahead.
 

5. Attack, one pitch at a time.

 
Remember you're in control. Attack the hitter, have confidence and remember that you can't win the game with one pitch. Give each Individual pitch its own attention and make that ONE PITCH the very best it can be in that moment by not holding on to what happened against hitters you faced previously.

How to Get Mentally Tough in the Circle

mental game softball Feb 01, 2021

You’re inside the circle, both feet are on the rubber, it’s a 3-2 count with bases loaded, tie ball game and the clean up hitter is up to bat.  What’s going on in your head? Do you hear the opposing team in the dugout?  Do you hear your own thoughts more than the loud voices in the stands?  Is your mind clear?  The more important question that helps you feel good about answer these questions is, how did you prepare for this moment?  You’ve got to slow the game down….

 

PREPARATION GIVES MORE CONFIDENCE

To me, it all comes down to preparation for the big moments.  Preparation breeds confidence. The more prepared you are, the more confident you can feel to handle any situation that comes your way in a game.  Preparation gives you tools to handle adversity or tense situations.  Practice competitive, tense situations at practice during the week.  By putting players under pressure at practice to perform, they are going to be more used to the feeling when it comes game time.  If you have players who never practice pressure situations, then most of them are going to get tense and fail when it comes down to it.  Give the loser a consequence. OR give the winner a reward.  It doesn’t have to be anything major.  But, they need to learn what it feels like to be put under pressure and learn both – what it feels like to succeed and what it feels like to fail.  To appreciate both, you have to learn both.

 

In order to be successful in a tense, important situation, the one thing that has to happen, is that you have to be confident.

 

With confidence, you are SURE of which pitch to throw to get that clean up hitter out.  With confidence, the game slows down.  When the game slows down in your mind you have better chances of breathing.   If you’re not breathing, there’s no way to get oxygen into your body.  That oxygen is going to be another form of fuel so that your body uses so it can perform to its highest potential. Instead of giving focus to being nervous, give focus to remembering to breathe and slowing your breath down.  When your breath slows down, the game slows down.

 

WHAT ABOUT CROWD NOISE?

I’ve gotten asked, “How do you drown out crowd noise?”  Those players who slow the game down do not often hear crowd noise.  They are so focused on the task at hand and living presently in every single moment and every single breath, that outside forces do not affect them as much.  You are able to truly give focus and belief in yourself by preparing before game time comes.  If you are not as prepared, you are going to be the player who gives outside forces more attention and focus, and be the one who hears the crowd or dugout trying to rattle you.

 

PRACTICE IDEA: Have a pitcher and a catcher out on the field with a better up, with the rest of the team in the dugout yelling at them for an entire at bat.  This is going to help the pitcher focus, this is going to help the batter focus.  PRACTICE noise.  Practice working through adversity so that you are a little bit more prepared for it, or at least FEEL more prepared for it, when it comes down to a significant in-game moment.

 

STAY WITHIN YOURSELF

Stay in your own thoughts. Remember to have positive self talk. Don’t talk yourself out of the positive talk that should be going on in your head.  Be confident and so focused that nothing else matters other than the catcher who is in front of you behind the plate.  Be so focused you don’t even see the batter standing in the batter’s box – she doesn’t matter.  The only thing that matters is what YOU do.  Remember you are in control.  Remember if you put the ball where you’re suppose to, and you are 100% behind the pitch with confidence before you throw it, you will have success.

SITUATIONS CREATE FEELING – (this to me is the most important to understand)

In this critical moment in a game, instead of letting thoughts run through your head about what might happen if you don’t succeed (i.e. she gets a hit off of you, you throw a ball, you a hit a batter), only let positive FEELINGS run through your mind before the pitch.  Yep, FEELINGS. What do I mean by this? Everything we go through in life creates a certain feeling (a reaction) when it is happening (happy, sad, mad, nervous, etc), even sports.  There is an instant feeling of excitement or happiness created after you throw a strike (if you’re a former player, you know exactly what I mean!).  There is an instant feel of madness or sadness after you walk someone or give up a hit. Whether you know it or not, those feelings are being created….

Before you throw the pitch, let a situation run through your head where you see yourself having success in an event that happened in the past. (This could be the pitch you threw before that was for a  strike on a corner; it could be a game winning strike out a year ago; maybe even you had been in a tough situation earlier in that game and you got out of it).  When you think about that moment, your brain automatically connects with the feeling that was created in that moment to give you more positive energy and positive feel for the task you have at hand.  When you see yourself having success, your body feels like it wants to create that same positive feeling again.  (Warning: it can happen for the negative situations too….so when you think about not wanting to walk someone, your brain thinks about those negative feelings and doesn’t want to feel it again, which makes you way more tense).  So, draw from past experience to create positive feelings in your head that you will feel throughout your entire body, so that you are entering the most important pitch in the game feeling nothing but positive energy towards what is about to happen. Have belief in yourself and confidence in your skills and preparation.

Being mentally tough in the circle is a huge thing to work on as a pitcher.  The more tense situations you are put in, the more experience you get with it, and the better you will be able to handle adversity when it comes along.  The best advice I can give is to be the most prepared person on the field; you gain confidence from that preparation.  Also, start paying attention to your feelings and being able to draw on past experiences and what they felt like.  Be in touch with your body and what you are feeling. Know how to talk about them, articulate them, and recreate those positive feelings!

 

What are other ways that you have found that help to be mentally tough in the circle?

10 Questions to Ask When Trying Out for a Team

August is the month of tryouts across the country! Girls are changing teams, coaches are looking for new players, and there is a lot of migrating.
 
It's important as a parent and as a player to think of some questions to ask the coach of the team who you are trying out for. Just as much as your daughter may be trying out for a team, that team should also be trying out for your daughter. It's not a one way street.
 
Being on a team is like being in a relationship, and the goals of the team must align with the goals you have for yourself as a player and for your daughter.
 
You represent a team just as much as the team represents you.
 
What does the team believe in?
Are the coaches fully committed to the team?
Are they fully committed to upholding standards/values?
How do they coach?
Have you watched this team play?
 
There is so much moving around/quitting teams that occurs during the actual season, and maybe some of this could be limited if you asked the right questions BEFORE you committed to playing on a team.
 
A parent and a player have every right to ask coaches of the team questions before committing to the team. In fact, it's not out of the question to do some research before ever trying out for a team.
 
Don't rely on what OTHERS are saying about a certain team. The best way for you to see if a team is a good fit is to go out and watch the team play/interact yourself. You can pick up on certain energies and coaching tactics by going out and watching a team play in a tournament.
 
It takes some extra effort and legwork, but it's important that this process is THOROUGH, as you don't want to waste a year on a team that is not a good fit. Every year is critical in development - mentally and physically - and every year is critical to use wisely to take steps toward playing at the next level!
 
Here are some questions I always suggest asking! 
 
1) How many girls do you plan on carrying?
More girls = less playing time. Always. There might be the 2-3 KEY players who are undoubtedly going to play every single inning of every single game, but the rest leaves room for rotation and sharing of innings.
 
2) Which tournaments are you planning on playing in in the fall, summer (and spring)?
This especially plays a big part once the girls get to high school and start thinking about the college recruiting process. There are so many college exposure tournaments and round robins that are played in the fall and in the summer, and it's important the your team is going to some, if not all, of these tournaments in order to give your daughter the maximum exposure to college coaches' eyes so she can play at the next level.
 
Also, the best teams from across the nation are at these tournaments, which is what draws in the college coaches to begin with.
 
They want to see the best playing the best.
 
So not only is your daughter performing in front of college coaches, but also competing against the best talent from around the country - which makes her BETTER.
 
Another awesome part about playing in more competitive tournaments is that even if a college coach doesn't know about your daughter or your team, they might show up to a game to specifically watch a team you are playing or a player on a team you are playing. Then, indirectly, they could see your daughter, even though that wasn't the main point that brought them to the game. Playing better teams in more competitive tournaments gives many more chances to be seen by a college, even if your team is not the marquee team.
 
There is no better way to prepare her for what she is about to go up against when she takes her game to the next level.
 
3) How many girls do you have returning to your team?
 
4) What kind of college contacts do you and your coaching staff have?
Does this coach have many contacts from across the nation and various schools or are they limited to regional contacts?
 
What school does YOUR daughter want to play college at and does the team you're trying out with have access to communicate with that college coach and a relationship already formed? You can also look to not just one coach, but the entire coaching staff and see the collection of college contacts that they have acquired over the years. The more college coaches they know, the better, and also the more diverse group of college coaches the staff knows as a whole, the better.
 
Under this same umbrella, there will be younger, newer coaches just getting into the game who may not have the collection of college contacts like the veteran teams. We all have to start somewhere with our networking right? If this is the case, ask how this new coach plans on getting to know college coaches! Ask how much time the coach plans on dedicating to getting his/her name out in the college coach community in order to meet as many college staffs as possible.
 
5) Have you watched this team play? What kind of energy do they have?
The best way to understand the feel and energy of a team is to actually show up at one of their games and watch them play.
 
Watch the energy of the girls on the field and in the dugout and watch the way the girls/coaches interact with each other in between games and most importantly DURING the game. You want to pay attention to the atmosphere that is created there within that organization and get a feel for if you feel like your daughter would flourish or take steps back if she played for them.
 
Is it serious, focused business? Are players talking to their parents in the stands? Are uniforms tucked in? Are girls hustling to their positions? Are players throwing their equipment in the dugout? Are players engaged in the game in the dugout?
 
What a team looks like when no one is watching should reflect your priorities/values as a family and as an individual player.
 
Every player is different. Every coaching staff is different. And instead of asking other parents or players, go watch for yourself. That's genuinely the best way to determine if that organization fits with the needs of your daughter and puts her on the right path to succeed.
 
6) Parent involvement in the organization, more hands on or stand back?
Are you one of those parents that likes to take initiative at the practices and be very involved in the stands in the game? Every team's rules are different for the involvement of their parents.
 
Make sure you know what you WANT for your involvement to be and what is accepted on that team, so that there are no speed bumps along the way.
 
7) How do you see my daughter fitting into your system? How will she be utilized?
THIS IS THE BIGGEST ONE! Especially for players who are athletes and can play multiple positions and can showcase their talents in different ways. For example... A catcher who is also a great short stop. A second baseman who also is a great centerfielder. A pitcher who is also a great third baseman.
 
Another topic under this same question is if a pitcher will be allowed to hit. A pitcher who hits makes for an IDEAL candidate for a college coach to want to recruit because it's like getting a 2 for 1 special. However, you will come across select team coaches who discourage their pitchers from hitting and do not put them in the lineup. If you are just as passionate about hitting as you are about pitching, it's vital you go to a team that is going to allow you to do both.
 
To prevent problems from occurring, go ahead and clear the air and understand what the coach's philosophy is on his/her pitchers hitting and pitching at the same time. Some coaches won't budge. Some coaches have wiggle room. And some coaches are all for hitting pitches. You see it vary with travel ball coaches as well as college coaches!
 
8) Philosophy on playing time v philosophy on winning? Winning Championships v Individual player development?
 
9) If your daughter is a pitcher, who calls the pitches?
 
Pitch calling is critical and is a tool that needs to be practiced just like throwing a rise or a drop ball. Pitch calling can either help or hurt a pitcher in a game. As a pitching instructor, I personally think it's important that a pitcher is able to shake off pitches during the game if she doesn't feel 100% comfortable in throwing the pitch.
 
It's more important  to be 100% behind the pitch and WANT to throw it, than just going through the motions and looking at the signal that is dropped down and rolling through it. I want a pitcher to be involved in the game, and what better way to tell me that they are thinking about the situation and how they feel than to shake off a pitch?
 
With pitch calling, if the coach is calling pitches from in the dugout, I think it's important for the pitcher/catcher battery and the coach calling pitches to have a relationship and to be able to communicate in between innings about different situations and what worked well/didn't work well. The pitch caller, if called from within the dugout, must be approachable and give out the energy that everyone is working together as a team and it's not a dictatorship.
 
10) In the event of a disagreement or something occurring that's not ideal, how does this team suggest handling it? Scheduling a player - coach meeting? A phone call? A player-coach-parent meeting? 
Talk about this at the beginning, so there is a path to be followed if something goes wrong and doesn't feel right. Open lines of communication and a set proactive plan are always important.

In conclusion....

Communication wins.
 
Make sure you go to a team fully informed; you have every right to do so. It's your money and more importantly your daughter's future that is at stake. There are always different goals of going to a new team, so make sure you identify what those goals are to make sure that the team's goals align with the goals of your daughter's and your family's.

Why Fastpitch Pitching Leaves So Many In Awe…

mental game pitcher Jul 15, 2020

I love everything about fastpitch pitching. It’s an art – physically and mentally. A very small percentage of people in this world can say that they have taken a stab at it, and even fewer can say that they ended their career as a pitcher and made it through the whole way. There is a certain splendor in watching someone perform the action of underhand pitching, and actually doing it well.

Let me be the first to tell you – pitching is not easy because of how unique the motion is and how each part of your body does something on its own while it still contributes to one full, complete, pitching circle. Softball pitching leaves fans who aren’t around the sport jaw-dropped. Pitching is an act that so many people want to do, but very few last until the very end in the collegiate or professional ranks.

What makes pitching so beautiful is the motion, the dedication and the pressure...

The Motion

There is such a high percentage of parents, especially dads, who have thrown overhand and can teach their sons and daughters the general idea of how to throw a ball in an overhand motion. The percentage of those parents who have any idea on how to pitch underhand is minute, which causes it to have a certain mystique to those who watch. The motion of fastpitch pitching is intriguing.

When watching a fastpitch pitcher, there is truly so much more to it than meets the eye, especially when it comes to physical mechanics of pitching. It’s not easy to perform the action, and it’s even harder to actually excel at being a great pitcher. Because of all the moving parts through one pitch, all of them add to the allure.

There is so much that goes into creating 1 pitch:

  1. Explosiveness – you get ONE BIG PUSH every time you go to complete the act to get the absolute MOST energy from your body. One burst of energy, then you get a break, then another burst of energy. This explosiveness is NOT just a step or a lunge – it’s a giant glide off of the pitching rubber. 
  2. Balance / Smoothness – while you’re making that explosive push out, your head and eyes must stay still, you must stick your finish like a gymnast on a balance beam after exerting a ton of energy through your pitch.
  3. Rules – while you’re trying to be explosive, you have rules you have to worry about concerning your pitch being a “legal” pitch by the rulebook.
  4. Timing –there are many moving parts throughout an underhand pitch, and all have them have to be in the right place at the right time in order to throw a strike. Not only is timing critical for accuracy, the timing is critical in order to have speed and spin. Timing is everything. The muscle memory and repetition to create that timing is the most important because think about the full motion and how many different things are moving at once at a HIGH pace – elbows, calves, legs, finger tips, shoulders, core, wrist. Pitchers are asking their bodies to move at the fastest rate possible, but also be on time every single time in order to throw strikes. Because of that, timing takes repetition after repetition to master.

There is no other motion in sports quite like the underhand delivery, which leads people to be in awe of pitchers.

There are so many things that need to go right in every single pitch in order to have success in a single game, nevertheless in an entire career. The feel of knowing when a good pitch is coming out of your hand is a feeling that cannot be created with any other action in softball. It’s a feeling of success, effectiveness and control and a feeling only pitchers can understand.  To create that feeling over and over again through hard work and dedication is what it takes to create a beautiful, fluid motion that leaves ordinary people in admiration.

The Dedication (aka Sacrifice)

What adds to the attractiveness of a great pitcher is the fact that they are dedicated to their craft. Because of the things listed above about the motion of a pitcher, it takes repetition after repetition to form the correct habits and mechanics. There are so many small drills you can work on as a pitcher to make a complete motion beautiful. You can skip those drills, but being dedicated to those small drills day in and day out is what adds to the absolute beauty of a pitcher with a solid foundation and will add to her success in the long run.

It takes so much time and you must be willing to put in the extra work – more work than any other position player may put into their swing or fielding a ground ball. Are you will to sacrifice giving up some other things to become a GREAT pitcher? If you are willing to, I promise the sacrifice will seem worth it when you look back.

A pitcher pays more attention to detail than any other player every time you go out to pitch, as pitching is the most intricate position to try to master.

It’s that attention to detail and dedication to practicing that creates body awareness, feel and smoothness in a pitcher’s muscles.  Yes you may be dedicated, but a pitcher’s motion is always a work in progress.

Mentally, it can take a toll on a pitcher to put in the work and always having to correct or tweak a little something here and there. For as many things that are going correctly in your motion, there is always something to work on, always something you can be doing better or getting stronger at. The devotedness to practice for a pitcher should be relentless. With devotedness comes perseverance, all the while you are learning the greatest lessons about yourself.

When you look back, you realize the sweat, fatigue, pain and sacrifices were all worth it.

The Pressure

The pressure a pitcher goes through in a game is extraordinary. Think of how a playing field is called a “diamond.” Who is in the middle of that “diamond”?  The pitcher.  Remember, a real diamond is made from high pressure and temperatures. So, seeing as how a pitcher’s position is right in the middle of a diamond, the pressure will be high… 

A pitcher is battle tested so many times throughout a season. If you have never been on a pitching mound or in a pitching circle when the bases are loaded and the game is on the line, you have no idea what thoughts go through a pitcher’s mind and the intense pressure that an be felt at that point. All eyes are on you and you play a tremendous part in what the outcome of the game will be. From the stands, you may think you know, but it’s one of those things one must experience in order to get the full effect.

In the middle of the pitching circle there is no hiding. Everyone watching THINKS they know when you are doing well or when you are doing bad. Sometimes they are right with their assumption, other times they are completely wrong. BUT, as pitcher, you have the most chances out of anybody on the field for others to see your results.You can look at it as the most chances for opportunity to show the world what you’ve got, or you can look at it as the most chances to mess up – the choice is yours. In a game, a hitter may get anywhere between 0-10 swings in 4 at bats. A pitcher is throwing 100+ pitches in a 7 inning game. Your skills are put on display for everyone to see every time you release the ball.

The pressure is a huge part of what makes pitching even more beautiful to watch and take in.

Pressure adds adrenaline and fuel to the fire. Do you use this to get motivated, or do you let it get the best of you?? At the end of the day, if you can handle the pressure and learn to take the bad results like you take the good results, stay consistent with your emotions and be able to handle the pressure one pitch at a time, the sky is the limit for where a pitcher’s abilities can go. You learn to FEEL the pressure, embrace it, but not let it take over your emotions. The pressure will ALWAYS be there, it will never go away. But what makes a pitcher even more amazing, is when they handle the pressure and are able to move on to the next pitch, next inning and next game with a fresh, clear way of approaching it. The best pitchers will change their mindset of thinking of pressure as something negative, and start thinking of pressure as an opportunity.

Pitching. Ugh, I love coaching it, I love still getting a chance to do it. I just think that everything about pitching is beautiful. It’s one of the hardest things to do in sports, which is why the victory of having success when you pitch is one of the biggest highs of the world. It’s the hard that makes it great. There’s a beauty to being in control and having the ball in your hand. You feel the seams under your finger tips and you may even feel your palms sweat a little while you hold the ball. This feeling is OUR feeling – the pitchers in the world who want to take not only the ball in their hand, but they want to take the GAME in their hand and lead their team. This is what it takes to be a great pitcher, are you ready?

Not everyone can pitch. It’s mysterious, it’s difficult, it’s a never-ending project.  When you pitch, you get to be in your own world, like tunnel vision. No one else knows what is going on in your head and your inner thoughts. When you pitch, you can actually become a different person; it’s almost like a yearly Halloween costume. It is your chance to enter a different place and become a different person. If you have never pitched before, it’s hard to even remotely understand what I am talking about, for being a pitcher is its own special breed.

If you can dedicate your time to trying to perfect your mechanics, while persevering through the pressure, then THAT will get you through until the end.

‼ If it’s in you, never give up on being a pitcher. Finishing your career as a pitcher is an accomplishment in itself; it’s like entering into a exclusive sorority. Compared to the mass numbers, very few will be there with you, but if you make it, you share an exceptional bond that very few will ever know.

 

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