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Dani Tyler Answers My Ten Questions

Dani TylerOlympian Dani Tyler answers my 10 questions. Written By Gary Leland

1996 Gold Medalist
Height: 5’6″
Position: Infield – R/R
Hometown: River Forest, Illinois
School: Drake University
Graduation: 1997

Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?

A. I was very fortunate to grow up on a block with a lot of kids (mainly boys) around my age. We started playing pickup baseball games in our front and back yards around Age 4.

Q. Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?

A. As with anything in life, I believe that success comes from surrounding yourself with a great support system of family and friends. I credit the kids on my block that I grew up with in starting my love for the game. I credit all of my teammates and coaches along the way from High School to Summer Ball to College to the Olympic/National Team for helping me grow and develop as a player. Most importantly, I credit my parents for instilling in me the values of how to be a good teammate, and more importantly a good person..for helping me learn that the game is just a “game” and that what really matters most is that you give 100% percent effort in practice and in games and that you always treat your coaches, teammates, opponents and the umpires with respect. In the end, what people really remember most about you and your career, is not your batting average or how many wins and losses you had, but how you treated them and others along the way.

Q. How do you get ready for a game?

A. I had 2 songs that I would always listen to on the bus ride to the field 1) Lionel Richie “Destiny” and 2) Sister Hazel “All For You”. I found that both of these songs had a great cadence and/or rhythm to them that could help me really visualize fielding ground balls. I could actually “feel” smoothly fielding a ground ball and making the throw when listening to these songs. I kept my playlist a “secret” for a few years (for obvious reasons), until one of my teammates on the Olympic/National Team (MV) listened to my CD Player when I wasn’t looking… (boy, that makes me feel “old” just saying that…CD player, not IPod).. Anyway..As you can imagine, I took a little “heat” for that. It is kind of embarrassing when your teammates are listening to Metallica and Jay-Z to pump up for a game while I am listening to Lionel Richie..but hey, whatever works, right?

Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?

A. When I changed careers in the year 2000 from my Olympic/National Team softball career to my next career in Public Accounting, I really developed a love for Golf and Running.

Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?

A. My parents have been the strongest influence in my life. As I have gotten older, it has developed into even more appreciation and respect. It wasn’t until later in my life that I truly realized the tremendous sacrifices and the amount of time that my parents put in to helping me grow as an athlete and as a person. I hope that I can eventually become half the person that both of my parents are. If I can ever accomplish that, I will know that I have truly accomplished something amazing in my life.

Q. Do you have any routines are superstitions that you implement regularly?

A. I had a few superstitions/routines when I played..in college, I would put a green M&M under my lip before I would go up to the plate to hit. I believe that routine started by mistake early in my career..I did it one time and I happened to hit a homerun during that at bat, so I continued doing that same routine throughout my college career. During my Olympic career, I always made sure I was chewing gum when I was on defense. I think it relaxed me and calmed me between pitches before it was time to zone in and refocus for the next pitch.

Q. What is your favorite softball memory?

A. My favorite softball memory was the gold medal ceremony in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympic games. Watching our American flag being raised, listening the National anthem play, and standing alongside some of the most incredible women/teammates that I have ever had the pleasure to play with was an amazing feeling that I will never forget. Even to this day, whenever I am at a sporting event or I hear the National anthem play and see our American flag being raised, my mind always go back to that special day in Atlanta.

Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?

A. I have always felt that so much of the game depends on your mental mindset when you walk onto the field. Getting this mindset starts way before the first pitch of the game. The BEST days are when you walk onto the field at game time and you know everything is clicking..a zone, if you will. When you run onto the field for defense, and you KNOW nothing is going to get past you today. When you step into that batters box you have a have the confidence that you are going to touch and drill any ball that comes at you today. When you have those feelings of confidence on game day, that’s when you know it is going to be one “exciting day at the ball park’. I have found that to obtain that type of zone or confidence, you need to KNOW that you have done the “work” in practice and on your own personal time. Confidence comes from hard work, practice, repetition, drills and a lot of sweat. When you have put in that kind of work, you should be able to step on to the field on game day, and you should not be thinking at all, you are just naturally reacting and playing the game with that feeling of confidence because you know that anything that comes at you today, you have already done a million times before.

Q. What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?

A. The greatest obstacle that I had to overcome was choosing to stop playing the game that I loved so much and move into a career outside of softball. I still love the game. I always will. It has given me so many memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. The game of softball teaches you so many things about yourself and about life. You learn that you can always work harder and push farther than you ever imagined was possible. You learn that by working together as a team, you can accomplish amazing things, way more than you could ever accomplish alone. The game makes you laugh and it makes you cry. It’s the best game in the world and the people who have touched my life along the way throughout my career are some of the most amazing people on earth. I am very thankful for all that the game has given to me.

Q. If you could do anything else in the world as a profession, what would it be and why?

A. I currently work at a Certified Public Accounting firm in Chicago (Bansley and Kiener, LLP). I have worked at Bansley and Kiener, LLP for over 15yrs. My fellow Partners and our amazing employees are my teammates now. I feel truly honored to work with such an incredible group of people. If I “had to” choose another career, I would either be a college history professor (that wealth of knowledge about history would make you a great conversationalist) or I would be a high school teacher and teach personal finance (as I strongly believe that high school students should receive more guidance about how credit cards work and loans and how important saving for retirement is at an early age, etc..).

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Softball Could Return To Olympics in 2020

2020 Olympics

“Softball Could Return To Olympics in 2020″ Written By Bill Plummer

It appears that softball could possibly return to the Olympics following recent changes made by the IOC. The changes include removing the cap of 28 sports, which would mean an events-based program and allow for more new competitions while staying at around 10,500 athletes and 310 medal events.

Host cities will be allowed to propose the inclusion of one or more additional events, and 2020 host Japan is hoping to add baseball and softball. Softball was first contested in the Olympics in 1996 then again in 2000, and 2004 before being taken off the program following the 2008 Olympics. The USA won three gold medals before settling for a silver in the 2008 Olympics with Japan winning the gold.

Softball and baseball are extremely popular in Japan and, according to Reuters, the IOC will likely approve the addition, possibly at the IOC scheduled meeting in July.

The probable decision could come earlier. Yoshiro Mori, president of Tokyo2020, said he expects Tokyo2020 will present its plans for staging the Games in a report to the IOC in February. The Wall St Journal predicted that, in addition to softball and baseball, Tokyo2020 might include squash and karate.

Skateboarding and racketball have been supported for 2024.
“It is not sure for baseball and softball, because most other federations are against this,” Francesco Ricci Bitti, head of the Association of Summer International Sports Federations, told several Italian journalists.

The World Baseball Softball Federation reacted with predictable joy.
“Today, there is there is great hope that our athletes will now have a real opportunity — the pinnacle and highest honour in our sport — to play for their country, aiming to win an Olympic gold medal,” WBSF President Riccardo Fraccari said in a statement.

If softball does get back on the program, it behooves the ISF, the WBSF and the ASA to work together to ensure everything is in place if this becomes a reality. Players 13 and 14 now would be members of the softball team and possibly some younger members of the current USA National Team. Tryouts would have to be held, etc, plus the naming of a coaching staff and who knows what else to ensure a smooth transition back into the Olympics. Softball should never been taken off the program in the first place, but politics reared its ugly head and did an un-justice to a sport that didn’t deserve it in the first place.

If Toyko gets to have baseball and softball back on the Olympic program, you can be assured that the attendance at both disciplines will be excellent considering the popularity of the two sports in Japan, and especially since the Japan women’s team is the No. 1 team in the world currently. What better place to show off the No. 1 team in the world than in front of a hometown crowd. The 1996 USA Olympic Team can attest to that when Olympic softball made its debut at Golden Park in Columbus, GA, drawing crowds in excess of 8,700.

The debut of softball was as spectacular a debut as anyone could imagine for an Olympic sport and of course playing it in the USA guaranteed sellout crowds with eight teams competing. The USA won the first-ever gold medal, defeating China, 3-1, in the Gold medal game with each team getting four hits. The USA scored all its run in the third inning and USA shortstop Dr. Dot Richardson, now the head softball coach at Liberty University, went two-for-three with two RBI including a home run. Michele Granger and Lisa Fernandez combined to pitch the Gold medal game with Granger going five and two-thirds innings, striking out eight. Fernandez finished the game and fanned three batters, allowing no hits.

Christa Williams Answers My Ten Questions

Christa Williams Answers My Ten Questions

Photo Courtesy Of ASA/USA Softball

Olympian Christa Williams answers my 10 questions. Written By Gary Leland

Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist (1996, 2000)
Height: 5’7″
Position: Pitcher – R/R
Hometown: Houston, Texas
School: Texas
Graduation: 1999

Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?

A. I started playing ball when I was 8 years old. Things are much different now. We used the fall to perfect our mechanics so that we were ready to play at a high level. Also, tournaments almost all had winners and very few exposures.

Q. Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?

A. I would say my dad was my biggest influence on my success. He caught me every day and was my coach. He knew my flaws both on and off the field and always found a way to motivate me to practice when I didn’t want to.

Q. How do you get ready for a game?

A. I typically just relax listen to music and focus on the upcoming game and visualize the pitches that I needed to throw.

Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?

A. When I am not involved with softball I just enjoy watching other sports and spending time with my family. I have never been that person that has to be busy all the time to be happy.

Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?

A. I would say my dad was my biggest influence. I always hated to lose and still do. I loved to do what people told me I couldn’t do which can work for and against you at times. I love the competition the thrill of executing the perfect pitch against a great hitter in a tough situation.

Q. Do you have any routines are superstitions that you implement regularly?

A. I typically eat the same items and or go through the same warm up routine as far as throwing, throwing partners same music placing my bag in a certain place.

Q. What is your favorite softball memory?

A. My favorite softball memory is winning the gold medal in both the 96 and 00 Olympics. Obviously winning is nice, but I loved it because of all the hard work paying off and standing higher than everyone else with our national anthem playing and knowing that everything that we had gone through both as a team and individuals was worth all of the sacrifices.

Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?

A. Mental training is super important. I wish that while I was playing there was more emphasis on it. There was enough towards the end of my career for me to realize how critical it is to have your mind right in order to perform at the highest level possible.

Q. What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?

A. There are several obstacles that I faced as a player. When I made the US team at such a young age I didn’t know how to deal with the pressure or the emotions and I didn’t always handle things the correct way. The pressure to be perfect was always there and at times I rebelled because I got tired of that feeling. I finally met a coach that helped me deal with the internal pressures. As a coach my biggest challenge is getting my players to overcome their fears and put everything on the line every time. Along the same lines is that its about the TEAM first and you second.

Q. If you could do anything else in the world as a profession, what would it be and why?

A. I wish I could have been a professional baseball player so that I could have played the sport I loved and done this as a job. Seeing that it is not a possibility to do this I would say that I am doing what I love to do which is coaching kids and trying to help other young ladies reach their dreams.

A FEW ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist (1996, 2000)
Two-time ISF World Champion (1995, 1998)

EXPERIENCE

2000: Gold medalist at Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia
1999: Gold medalist at U.S. Olympic Cup
– Pitched a complete game shutout against Australia in Championship Game
1998: Gold medalist at ISF World Championships
– Went 1-0 with 0.00 ERA and 17 strikeouts
1996: Gold medalist at Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia
– Went 2-0 with 0.00 ERA and 15 strikeouts
1995: Gold medalist at ISF Junior Women’s World Championship
– Went 6-0 with tournament-high 86 strikeouts
1994: Gold medalist at Pan American Games Qualifier
– Threw perfect game and no-hitter
– Finished with 3-0 record, 0.00 ERA and 45 strikeouts

AT TEXAS

Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and NCAA Regional Tournament MVP (1998)
Two-time NCAA All-American
Helped lead Texas to 1998 NCAA WCWS
GETTING TO KNOW WILLIAMS

Recipient of the “Mary Lou Retton Rising Star Award” in 1995
Two-time ASA Women’s Major Fast Pitch National Champion (1996, 1997)
Born on February 8, 1978

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How to Separate Sport And Family

How to Separate Sport And Family

“How to Separate Sport and Family” Written By Keri Casas

This may not be something every parent thinks about, but it is completely necessary to understand why and how a separate relationship for sports and home life is important to every female athlete.
 
Why Separate Sport and Family?

As a parent, you want to be involved in your daughter’s life; be supportive, encouraging, and a mentor.  When your female athlete is young, they will listen to you, take your advice, and let you teach them the basic things about the game.  The issue with teaching, or coaching, your daughter is that they tend to grow independent with age.  When female athletes mature into their sport, they want to listen to their coaches or private instructors, those who have played the game.  And even if you played the sport when you were younger, techniques and styles have changed.  Remember that female athletes tend to be a little more defiant towards their mom or dad trying to teach them than a male athlete.  There is nothing wrong with helping your athlete reach their athletic goals, but it is important to take notice when to step down as their “coach”.

Female athletes strive to learn from others than their parents simply because you’re their parent.  If they have the opportunity to learn from a female coach or private instructor, they have a mentor to look up to; someone that they can work with that doesn’t tell them to clean their room or be home by six.  They have your structure and guidance at home, but let them explore other options when it comes to their sport.

I know it is difficult to let someone else coach your daughter, but it is necessary to divide sport and family.  I have seen countless exceptional athletes give up on their dreams of collegiate softball because their parent was too involved in their sport.  I have seen too many dads coach their daughter to a breaking point where the sport was just not fun anymore.  Aside from that, I have seen families torn apart and parents lose their relationships with their daughter because of constant interference with their sport.   As a parent, you don’t want to be the reason why your daughter gave up and quit something they love.  And most of all, you don’ want to lose your daughter.
 
How to Separate Sport and Family?
 
As I mentioned before, you want to be involved in your daughter’s life by being supportive and encouraging.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing that; your female athlete needs your support in her athletic endeavors.  So how do you stay supportive without interfering?  Don’t give your advice unless she asks for your advice.

After a game, let your athlete talk and share her thoughts about what happened.  This way, you can listen to your daughter’s feelings and ideas without your feelings and ideas conflicting.  Let your daughter know you are proud of her no matter what and have her back 100%.  Female athletes need a sense of security and they need to be able to feel that they can open up about a game or their team to someone.  This is a perfect role for you as the parent; you want your athlete to be able to talk to you and your athlete wants to be heard knowing you aren’t going to critique her.  A female athlete wants you to be their parent, not a coach.

It may be difficult to step aside as a “parent-coach” because you want the best for your daughter, but realizing that the best for your daughter is for you to watch her from the stands is essential in her athletic growth and your parent-daughter relationship.

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Danielle Henderson Answers My Ten Questions

Olympian Danielle Henderson Answers My Ten Questions Written By Gary Leland

Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?

A. I was in the 3rd grade when I started playing softball. I was 15yrs old when I first learned how to pitch

Q.Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?

A. I feel that everyone that has ever coached me has helped me get to where I am today. If my travel coach Kim Gwydir didn’t teach me how to pitch I never would have went to UMass. Playing with the Brakettes I had the opportunity to work with John Stratton who taught me how to move the ball

Q.How did you get ready for a game?

A. I try to treat everything like a normal day. I try to keep the routine the same for practice as I would for a game

Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?

A. I am obsessed with HGTV so when I have time off I am either doing some wood working or home renovations. I also enjoy going on long walks with my dog.

Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?

A. I feel like my failures have influenced me the most. Every time I have failed at something the journey of getting back has taught me so much. It teaches you how to fight thru things and never settle

Q. Do you have any routines are superstitions that you implement regularly?

A. never wanted any superstitions. Didn’t want to feel like some outside force had any impact on the result of my play

Q. What is your favorite softball memory?

A. There seems like so many to choose from but the one that sticks out the most is one of the first ones. It was the first time we went to the WCWS. We were in the losers bracket and because of rain the day before we would have to win 3 games in 1 day to go. I pitched all 3 games and the energy from the crowd is what kept me going.
Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?

A. It is such an important part of the game, it will determine whether or not you succeed. There are a ton of great books out there to help improve on this area. You need to use it every day so it becomes part of your routine. Like anything else you do you have to practice it to get better at it

Q.What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?

A. Not doing as well as I would have liked after college. I lost all confidence and was feeling pretty bad about myself. It took years to get back to were I was mentally which affected me physically. I learned a lot during that time period and now it helps me to be a better coach. Being thru the highs and lows helps you relate to more athletes and help the ones before they reach that same point.
Q. If you could do anything else in the world as a profession, what would it be and why?

A. Have my own show on HGTV or DIY network.

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5 Great Training Aids For Fastpitch Softball Pitchers

5 Great Training Aids For Fastpitch Softball Pitchers Written By Gary Leland

tightspin1. Spintech Tightspin Trainer

In fastpitch pitching, spin is everything. The tighter the spin, the more violent the break and the more movement it has. Every pitcher should use this pitching aid! The Spintech Tightspin Trainer allows pitchers to practice spins with resistance, making her wrist stronger and her movement even better!

CLICK HERE to improve your pitching!

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strikezonemat2. Strike Zone Mat

A truly portable home plate! The Strike Zone Mat is a home plate with three colored zones. The green areas are the ideal places to throw, the yellow areas are not the best place to throw a pitch, and the red is an area you NEVER want to hit. Add this mat into your pitching routine and you will see the plate differently.

CLICK HERE to improve your pitching!

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SPINNER_YELLOW3. Spin Right Spinner

Not sure if the ball has the correct rotation when you pitch? The Spin Right Softball Spinner is exactly what you are looking for. If you are not spinning the ball correctly, this disk will wobble and tumble instead of rotating and breaking. It comes with instructions that show how to hold the Spinner to get maximum results.

CLICK HERE to improve your pitching!

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windmill trainer4. Windmill Trainer aka Perfect Circle

Are you new to pitching and are not sure when to release the ball? The Perfect Circle is the training aid for you! It comes with a DVD explaining exactly how to use this aid properly. After a few sessions with the Perfect Circle, you will be building positive muscle memory and consistency in your motion.

CLICK HERE to improve your pitching!

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Ambrosa Ball5. Christie Ambrosia Ball

Have you ever wanted to pitch like an Olympian? Now you can at least learn the grips from one! The Christie Ambrosia Ball is an 11” softball with finger prints that show where the pitcher should hold the ball for certain pitches. It comes with a booklet explaining each color and has both left and right handed fingerprints.

CLICK HERE to improve your pitching!

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Tairia Flowers Answers My Ten Questions

Tairia Flowers Olympian Tairia Flowers answers my 10 questions. Written By Gary Leland

Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?

A. I was probably about 9 or 10 when I started playing softball.

Q.Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?

A. I would say multiple people. Neither one of my parents really knew softball so they pushed me to go all out if I was going to play. My dad was the work ethic. My mom was the “are you having fun, make sure you enjoy it, you did great (whether I did or not)” person for me. I also had several great coaches throughout my career.

Q.How did you get ready for a game?

A. I don’t think I was super specific in a routine. I just want to get my reps in before game time

Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?

A. Now I spend a lot of time with my kids and I kind of like being lazy. I spent a lot of time travelling and playing games so now it’s nice just staying around the house with my family and watching movies.

Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?

A. I was never the most gifted so I was always taught to work. For me and softball and coaching, I always talk about doing extra, give 100% all of the time. Even if you are sick and only have 80% to give, give 100% of that 80%

Q. Do you have any routines are superstitions that you implement regularly?

A. I would write my jersey number in the ground and I would shake and stretch before stepping in the box, but otherwise didn’t have any superstitions.

Q. What is your favorite softball memory?

A. Being a part of Team USA in both the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games and winning the Gold medal in 2004.

Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?

A. I think it’s huge. If you can’t figure out mentally where you want to be or what you want to accomplish, you’re lost out there.

Q.What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?

A. As a player, not being as naturally talented so I had to work longer and harder than everyone else to end up where I did. As a coach, I have been my entire career at mid-majors so you’re not always working with the most talented athletes.

Q. If you could do anything else in the world as a profession, what would it be and why?

A. I’m doing what I love in both aspects, in coaching and being a mom.

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Dr. Dot Richardson Answers My Ten Questions

Dr. Dot Richardson Answers My Ten Questions Olympian Dot Richardson answers my 10 questions. Written By Gary Leland

Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?

A. I was 10 years old when I started playing softball because I was playing catch with my brother one day and a little league coach saw me throw, came over and asked me to play on his team. He said I would have to disguise myself as a boy and call me “Bob”. As much as I wanted it, I said, “Sir, thank you but no thank you if I have to hide who I am then I don’t want to play”. I walked over to another field and was playing catch with a friend of mine when a fastpitch softball coach came over. She brought me onto the field and gave me a few ground balls, then asked if I wanted to play for her team, the Union Park Jets. The average age of that team was 22 and I was only 10, but my parents said yes, so that’s when my fastpitch softball career started.

Q. Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?

A. There is always someone special in my life, first and foremost is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I could see Him working in my life from a young age, feeling the Holy Spirit and the joy of life. Through my mom and my dad I saw what it was like to serve others. I felt that God had given me a gift in athletics because it always felt so natural and I felt so alive doing it, whether it was bouncing, kicking, hitting, or diving for a ball, just feeling alive in what you do. When you feel that passion, you know it’s a God given gift and be ready to seize those opportunities. The influence I have had from Him and my parents is something that I always take with me in everything I do.

Q. How do you get ready for a game?

A. I get ready for a game first mentally. Mentally be able to visualize it and to feel it within my body to become one with the ball. Visualize moving faster than I did the last time, being able to see the ball off the barrel of my bat and feel what that feels like. Then in preparation on the field, as soon as I put my cleats on I am in a whole other world; nothing else exists except for being one with that ball.

Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?

A. When I am not involved with softball, I like to influence the lives of others as much as I can in positive ways. If I have a chance to speak to others to give motivation, hopefully inspiration but obviously as a physician to impact the lives of those in the health care field, to be able to be the executive director of a national training center to open opportunities, to have a not for profit with FPX athletics, to impact young girls and women in sport, to serve under Former President George Bush as vice chair in the president’s council of physical fitness and sport, to be able to live life to the fullest and let everyone know how special they are because they are an amazing gift to the world.

Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?

A. Without a doubt my belief in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Realizing that we are on Earth for a short time in this eternity and what we need to do is to show Him in all that we say and do. I take that with me and try to use it in learning the life lessons He has meant for me to learn.

Q. Do you have any routines are superstitions that you implement regularly?

A. More routines than superstitions. I always put my left shoe on first, maybe just because it felt more natural. I would double tie the bow in my shoelace because I tripped on it when I was really young. There were times when I played in tournaments and ate peanut butter cookies before the game and felt awesome on the field so I kept that routine around. Really I just feel that since being a young girl denied me the chance to play sport drove me to seize the moment and any chance I have to play to the fullest and be all in.

Q. What is your favorite softball memory?

A. I have several favorite softball memories. First and foremost was after winning the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal. In celebration we were all on the field and there were security guards preventing anyone from getting on the field. I remember looking up and reaching out to the fans and I saw a boy and a girl standing together trying to reach over the railings to share in the Olympic gold medal moment. It hit me that these Olympic Games in ’96 was a moment that I felt that the world started recognizing the gifts that God had given each and every athlete no matter what gender they are. That boys and girls and men and women alike can enjoy athletic talent no matter whether it is participated by a girl or a woman or a boy or a man.

Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?

A. I place an extreme amount of value on the mental part of the game. People throw that around to say “mental toughness” but the reality is can you mentally put yourself in a state where you can visualize it to the point where when you execute it, you can feel like you are living the dream, that you have been there before, almost like a déjà vu. It’s a talent to do that. When I talk to young players and ask them if they can visualize it, they can’t and you need to. For all of those reading, you need to be able to visualize in your life where you see yourself going, what you want to experience, how you want to see that plan of action be, and trust that God is going to have you in your life prosper, then you will feel like you are living the dream . I actually wrote a book called “Living the Dream”, and it was really about that, to be able to visualize it and to dream about it and believe it to the point where you achieve it.

Q. What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?

A. The greatest obstacle in my life, without a doubt, is that girls were denied the opportunity to play sport when I was a young girl, just dreaming about the opportunity to be able to express what God has given me on the field. Looking out and seeing boys being allowed to play and girls were not. The boys had no problem with me, in fact they picked me first for their pick up teams after school. Society made it a rule that girls could not play. When Title IX came into effect in 1972, it was an amendment to the constitution giving us all the opportunity regardless of race or gender, that anyone could have the opportunity to express their gifts. There was a huge change in girls and women in sport from then all the way to today and it has been spectacular. I have been very blessed to be a part of that evolution.

Q. If you could do anything else in the world as a profession, what would it be and why?

A. I have been very blessed in my life to have a number of careers. Everything from being one of the elite athletes in the world achieving the Olympic gold moments, to the NCAA Player of the Decade for the 1980’s and a NCAA champion in sport, to becoming a physician (I’m an orthopedic surgeon), to be able to experience the fun of playing golf as an athlete, and to be able to now be a head coach, to be on boards like the FPX athletic board, to impact the girls and women in sport, to be on the board of the Fellowship of Christian Athlete softball ministry. I just think that as much as we can do to make a difference it the world for the time that we are here, we need to do it and love every minute of it.

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My Top 5 Backpacks For Softball And Baseball

MY Top 5 Backpacks For Softball And Baseball Written By Gary Leland

Louisville Slugger EBS714-SP Series 7 Stick Pack1. Louisville Slugger Series 7 Stickpack

If color is what you’re looking for, look no further. The Louisville Slugger Series 7 Stickpack comes in 9 bright colors. It holds up to 4 bats, has a vented outer compartment for a batting helmet, features a hard outer pocket for any valuables, and can hook to any fence with ease.

CLICK HERE for more info or to order!

Easton Walk-Off II Bat Pack 2. Easton Walk-Off II Batpack

Perfect for players and coaches alike, the Easton Walk-Off II has plenty of room everything they will need. This bag comes in 6 colors, can hold up to 2 bats, has a vented outer pocket for a batting helmet, and a large center compartment. It also has a small zippered pocket to hold valuables and a padded laptop sleeve.

CLICK HERE for more info or to order!

DeMarini VooDoo Paradox Backpack3. DeMarini Voodoo Paradox

Dirty and smelly cleats finally have a place of their own in the DeMarini Voodoo Paradox! This bat pack has a vented cleat compartment on the bottom of the bag so all of the mess stays away from the rest of your player’s equipment. It features two bat sleeves. The Voodoo Paradox comes in 8 popular team colors and has a generous center compartment.

CLICK HERE for more info or to order!

Mizuno Organizer G3 Batpack4. Mizuno Organizer G3

This Mizuno bat pack has a pocket and compartment for everything you need for a big tournament. It features a shoe compartment, large center pocket, two outer pockets, fence hooks, and comes in 8 vibrant colors. The Organizer G3 can hold up to 2 bats, which are secured in a mesh pocket with a drawstring closure.

CLICK HERE for more info or to order!

Louisville Slugger EBS914-SP Series 9 Stick Pack 5. Louisville Slugger Series 9 Stickpack

This bag is massive! Louisville Slugger took everything that was great about the Series 7 stickpack and made it even better. The Series 9 batpack not only has a huge center compartment, but also holds 4 bats in zippered sleeves and an expandable bottom compartment for a glove, cleats, or whatever you want to keep separate from the rest of your equipment.

CLICK HERE for more info or to order!

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Dionna Harris Answers My Ten Questions

Dionna Harris Answers My Ten Questions Olympian Dionna Harris answers my 10 questions. Written By Gary Leland

Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?

A. I started playing softball when I was 9 years old with Stanton-Newport Little League in Wilmington, DE.

Q. Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?

A. My greatest influence in my life has always been my Dad…he was not an athlete, but he always believed in me & dreams & always told me to never go through life with regrets.

Q. How do you get ready for a game?

A. I used a lot of visualization and meditation techniques when I played. I listened to a tape that helped me get to a comfortable, relaxed place and practiced visualization.

Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?

A. When I finished w/ softball, I went back and received my masters degree in counseling and I have been counseling students with disabilities for the past 18 yrs. For fun, I do a lot of hiking and camping at National Parks.

Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?

A. The influences that affected me the most were my ability to set goals, determination to achieve them, and perseverance to overcome any obstacles that may have gotten in the way. I am fortunate to have surrounded myself with positive people who believed in me and pushed me along if I needed a little pushing.

Q. Do you have any routines are superstitions that you implement regularly?

A. When I played, I never touched the field lines. I also used visualization tapes and wore a bear necklace that a friend had given me that symbolized looking within yourself for answers.

Q. What is your favorite softball memory?

A. My favorite softball memory by far is standing on the Gold Medal stand and hearing our National Anthem played.

Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?

A. I hold mental training in the highest regard. Coaches always stated that hitting was 20% mechanics and 80% mental and I never understood why so many people spend so much time on the 20% lol. I would recommend players learning techniques to control the mental part of hitting and incorporate them into their daily practice routines.

Q. What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?

A. I think the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was growing up in Delaware and being the first one in my family to go to a four year college. I was always putting myself in situations where I would get exposure and learn from the softball greats, and rarely passed up an opportunity to try something or learn something new.

Q. If you could do anything else in the world as a profession, what would it be and why?

A. I have to say that I am doing what I believe I was intended to do…..school counselor for students with disabilities.

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Dealing With Distractions as a Coach in Softball

Didtractions

“Dealing with Distractions as a Coach in Softball” Written By Shannon McDougall

Many factors can represent a source of distraction and can affect your overall performance as a coach, both in training and in competition.
*coaches preparedness
*athletes preparedness

Scouting information
As coaches we spend almost as much time scouting our opponents as we do analyzing our own teams.  We have software programs on our phones and computers, radar guns, scorebooks, our observation skills and even video for analysis in putting together files on our opponents.  If you (the coach) have not taken opportunities to gather this data, you may not feel ready and confident when the major competition arrives which can be a distraction for you and for your team that cannot prepare as effectively as they might have been able to. 

Put the information together logically so that all members of the team can read it with ease and keep it up to date so that prior to games it can be reviewed.  By the end of the season you can have a binder or book on each team that can be used as a preparation tool technically and psychologically.  I have done that with teams and at the end of the season had coaches and officials be amazed at how we performed using the data compiled through the season.  It was awesome!

Preparing the athletes
If you have been preparing properly from the beginning of the season, you have been preparing your athletes physically, mentally and technically.  This starts with your yearly training plan, where you schedule your training, competition and events from the first training session, to the last regular season game and tapering for the playoffs.

If your athletes have been given the tools with good direction, their progress has been facilitated in a way that they should be ready.  If you have done that still you feel they are not prepared, you need to consider that in your preparedness as a coach.  What do you do with that?  First you need to accept the situation and then work with it.  It will determine how you set your line-ups and could perhaps make your planning more difficult as you will need to not only prepare for success, but you will also need to maintain a positive atmosphere with the team.

Preparation Strategies
There are many different strategies you can develop and implement as a coach to deal with these factors and to maximize their impact, both before and during training and competition. Following are some of those strategies, as well as how and when you might manage the situation.

Athlete Motivation
If your athletes are motivated your job is so much easier than if they are not.  A motivated athlete is most times also self-directed and will work as hard as they can to improve their skills in all areas of the game.  This athlete is also generally more coachable and has a good level of respect for
*environment
*equipment flaws
*team standings
*tardiness by athletes
*athlete injuries
*weather
*facilities
*officials
*fatigue
*spectators
*access to athletes
*athlete fatigue
*parents
*athlete preparedness
*phone calls
*opponents
*observers
*media
*public
*travel
*promotional and social events
*Importance of the event
*stress

Before a training session
*Weather
Dress appropriately before you leave and ensure that you have discussed with your athletes how to prepare for the weather such as sun screen if it is hot and to dress in layers if it is cold because during training they may get warm and need to cool off without getting cold.

*Be prepared for practice
Record practice on computer/print before you leave, make sure that you have a backup plan for your practice and extra drills in your book in case you are finished early.  Be prepared to drop a drill if you are running out of time and check all equipment and the facilities so there are no delays or unnecessary surprises.

*Access to athletes
Setup email / phone team list at the first meeting.  Make sure you have access to them before practices so that if you are missing anyone you can check and they can contact you f they need to.

*Parents boundaries
There is nothing more distracting as a coach than a parent or someone who is upset coming at you just prior to the beginning.  Set guidelines for supporters at your first meeting so that there are no interruptions that will distract you from your goals and task at hand during practices and training.

During a training session
*Motivation
Monitor your athletes during training to plan your breaks.  Allow the team to re-focus when needed to make sure you get the most out of your drills.  Fatigue will slow things down and take away from the excitement of the drills.  Plan drills that are challenging yet not too difficult so that they do not get bored or discouraged.

*Tardiness by athletes
Planning the schedule in advance gives the athletes time to arrange their schedules to fit the training sessions.  Establishing guidelines for tardiness at the beginning of the season will make it easy to respond to latecomers because they will know what to expect.  If you set up a procedure that is not distracting such as having late comers warm up on their own and wait until the drill is complete to join in then you can minimize that distraction.

*Fatigue
A tired team or individual is not going to be able to attack the drills with enthusiasm at the beginning of the practice and by the end of the practice they will not even be interested.  By ensuring that athletes are getting adequate rest and recovery post/pre training, they will be eager to participate in challenging and fast paced practices.  Nutrition is also a huge part of recovery contributing greatly to the energy level of your players.

*Facilities knowledge and awareness
Knowing your facility and doing a pre training check will prevent injuries and allow you to make adjustments if needed during your training session. Look for anything unusual and make a note of it while you are inspecting the grounds.  

*Being approached by parents or supporters
As with prior to training, it is best if parents and supporters refrain from approaching you to discuss anything.  Again this would be established at the first team meeting so hopefully there is no need for reminders.

*Cell phones
Another huge distraction which most times is very easy to deal with is cell phones.  It is best of course to not have them on the field.  Simple.

Before a major competition
*Adequate preparedness
Being prepared for the big game is done before the competition arrives.  Detailed planning which begins with the end of previous season will give you the information required to build on the teams strengths and to build confidence that will make them successful.

*Team standings
The standings can be a distraction if you are not aware of them through the season.  In some levels the regular season standings do not determine if you make the playoffs for the province or state but in some levels it does make a difference.  You need to know this and use it to prepare your team to know its place and to continue to focus on the process right through rather than the outcome.

*Media familiarization
Will there be media at the event?  Will you or your players from your team potentially be interviewed by the media?  You need to prepare.  Practice or rehearse interviews using students from your school newspaper.  Use all of the equipment that you expect to see at the venue.  This will do wonders to alleviate distraction for the athletes and you.

*Travel
Will you be traveling to the competition?  Prepare well in advance for this. What do you need to take with you.  What will the facility have and not have that you need to prepare your team.
Is there an equipment room for you to access?
Will you need to worry about accommodations?
What can you bring with you?
What do your athletes need to bring with them?
Do they have an Emergency Action Plan?
What about any medical conditions you might need to know about?
If you can, travel to the playoff facility with your team for a tournament or weekend to get familiarized with the environment before the competition

*Promotional and social events
Will there be events put on for the athletes during the tournament.  When and where will they be?  How close to the competition times will they be?  Set your guidelines early so that they can enjoy the moment yet be prepared to compete.  Discuss them with the team so that everyone understands and feels good about them.

*importance of the event

During major competitions
Environment Know what is in our control
athlete injuries follow PET recommendations
weather be prepared for anything
officials know the rules
spectators distraction control strategies
athlete fatigue
opponents – use your scouting reports
stress

Training Stressors and Competition Stressors
Developing and implementing a plan to facilitate coach mental preparation for competition

Adequate Preparedness
Being prepared and feeling prepared are critical to ensuring the lowest amount of stress for you as a coach.  If you feel that you have truly prepared, then you do not have anything that you need to worry about.  You can simply enjoy the games and carry out your plan as scheduled.  Much of your preparedness includes how well you have prepared your team.  Do you feel that you followed your plan to success as planned with regard to physical, technical, tactical and mental training?  This will have a large impact on your ability to relax and enjoy the process as you encourage your team to do the same.

Your preparation during competition in reality begins with the first practice and team selection. The parents meeting and/or team meeting is where your program is described and how it will be carried out. Carrying out the program with a detailed yearly training plan guides you in your training plans and competition milestones. At the end of the day, if the team and you have done all that you can and should have done during the season to attain success then the final competitions should be easy to carry out and enjoyable. If you spend adequate time on monitoring during the season and with measurable milestones then there would be no reason at all for your team to play to its fullest potential.

Coach stressors during competition
The following are some of the most common distractions during competition:
*officials
*my preparedness
*athlete preparedness
*environment
*opponents

Some things you can do to prepare and ensure these things do not become distractions:

For Officials – know the rules thoroughly so that you know the officials part in the competition and educate your athletes and establish ground rules regarding conduct on the field with each other and officials.

Your Preparedness as a coach – by ensuring that you have done your job up to the competition and done everything you can to assist your athletes in their preparation, you should not have any reason to doubt yourself and your readiness for the task at hand

Athlete Preparedness – implement regulations to ensure that athletes are taking responsibility for their own preparedness and have measures of evaluating their readiness while providing opportunities and resources to assist them

Environment – with the amount of distractions in the environment that you need to deal with, you need to have strategies such as distraction control, relaxation, focusing, and relaxation. The strategies would be solidified during the pre season.

Opponents – By having as much information as you can on the opponents you will be ready for them when you hit the field. Their success or lack of success should not interfere with your game plan or decision making process during the competition.

Competition Facilities
By finding ways to familiarize you and your team with the competition facilities in advance, you will have a better chance to foresee any potential distractions that might occur as a result of the unfamiliar environment.

Some of the ways that you can do that are:
*acquire photographs of the facility
*draw on athletes previous experiences
*find any video if you can
*find out how loud the facility is and emulate it in practice
*will they be expecting a large amount of fans and spectators
*what is the altitude compared to yours
*is the temperature different than your location

Before competition
Your preparation plan is crucial to your ability to be mentally prepared during competition. It will reduce the amount of stress and anxiety that most of us have experienced when unprepared. Feeling confident in the procedures and your abilities to deal with unforeseen circumstances are much easier when there are no other distractions. Your preparedness will also have an effect on how you deal with and relate to your athletes during the competition and the time leading up to it.  If you are feeling prepared and ready to go that will be passed to your players who will feel the same way.  If you are unsure and not feeling like you have done everything you could to prepare the team then you may find yourself relating negatively to your environment which will definitely also be picked up.  If there is an emotion that is more noticeable than others it is negativity.

Implementing a practice that integrates mental training strategies / skills with athletes

In the beginning of the season is when you want to be introducing and learning mental training skills.  Learning how to use the skills in simple situations will give the athletes familiarity with them as they begin to devise their own strategies to use during competitions and training.  If the skills are refined adequately during the preparation phase of your training the you only need to allow time to solidify them during the pre season and competitive season.  You will also find that the athlete’s ability to utilize mental training strategies will ensure that they are prepared in most all components of softball due to the goal setting and preparation activities that should be a part of their ongoing maintenance of their skills

A strategy that can be implemented into a practice for example could be distraction control.  Keep in mind that this is a strategy and not a skill so it actually incorporates many skills such as self-talk, focusing cue words and relaxation.  How can you design a practice plan to incorporate these skills in acquiring the ability to not be distracted?

An activity such as throwing is a perfect one ass you can have the athletes participate in a drill that requires focus such as the star drill. If they get distracted ….. it could hurt.  You might want to use indoor balls for this drill if the focus is to not be distracted because you may be doing things to intentionally distract them during the activity.

Assessment of Preparedness
One of the ways to ensure that your team is ready for the playoffs is to periodically assess the team and their responses to situations.  You can rate the performances for example on a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 being “not doing well” and 5 being “very prepared”  Here are some factors you can rate.
*Response to errors
*Knowledge of plays
*Ability to adapt
*Response to officials
*Awareness of role within the team
*Level of Confidence

In monitoring your athletes throughout the season you can give them every opportunity to play to their fullest potential when it counts.  And at the same time your mind will be at ease knowing that you did everything you could to create those opportunities.  Do you see a pattern here?  I am referring often to knowing you did everything as it is one of the keys to you as a coach being in the zone and enjoying the tournament as much as your players do.  Now that is the best place to be.  Isn’t it?

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