Photo Courtesy Of ASA/USA Softball
Olympian Jennie Finch Answers My Ten Questions Written By Gary Leland
Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?
A. I was 5 years old. I have two older brothers who both played baseball and for me I wanted to be like them, so when I turned 5 my parents signed me up for tee ball and it was softball at the time. Unlike a lot of others I started out with softball. I fell in love with it and have been playing ever since.
Q.Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?
A. I have to give credit to my dad. He was my backbone, he spent all of the time on the bucket catching me, and he developed the Finch Windmill, the shoulder exerciser I have been on since I was 12 years old, so I have to give him a lot of credit. He had a catchers mitt on one hand and a radar gun in the other and he pushed me all the way through. He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, he made me practice when I didn’t want to practice and I’m so grateful. As hard and tough as he was, it never crossed the line to the point where I wasn’t into the game or didn’t like the game because of it. It was that fine balance of pushing, motivating, and driving me, but never did it affect my love of the game. I’m so grateful for him knowing where that line was, even though when I was that age I didn’t think he knew where that line was. Looking back now, he knew how far to push and he knew there was more in me and he knew how to get it out of me.
Q.How did you get ready for a game?
A. I’m an athlete who likes to stick with her routines. Basically just be consistent, lay low, do the same thing I did every single day. For me the preparation happened the week, the months, the year prior to, so when I did get that uniform on, it’s done, it’s go time, it’s game time. That, as an athlete, is where the confidence comes from, is that preparation; the blood, the sweat, and the tears, the hard work that you put in prior to putting that uniform on. When you get that uniform on, you’re confident, you’re ready to compete and trust what you have done and go out there and put your best foot forward.
Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?
A. I have 3 amazing, crazy little kids and I adore every second I get to spend with them. We live on a ranch and we just got cattle, there is always something going on out in the country. We love to go fishing. I love being outside and being active, and really with them anything is good.
Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?
A. So many factors! Hard work, dedication, many, many sacrifices, and that was one of my biggest reasons for writing my book, “Throw Like A Girl”, was because everyone sees the trophies, the medals, they see all of the lime light stuff. They don’t see the blood, sweat, and tears, the heartache, the disappointments, the losses, the failure, that I had to experience and go through to help shape and build the athlete and the character that I was. Going through those hard times made me stronger.
Q. Do you have any routines are superstitions that you implement regularly?
A. Where do I begin, I’m a pitcher! Yeah, for me I like to recite Philippians 4:13 before every pitch, that started my junior year of college. I put my uniform on the same way. My roommate, Toni Mascarenas, and I would spray our uniforms with perfume before we left for the game. I had a spot for my bag, my glove, at Arizona it was the end of the dugout and that was my spot, and I wanted it to be in the same spot every time. You learn who has the superstitions, who has the routines and you kind of follow those. You ride them until you have to switch it up, then you have a new one.
Q. What is your favorite softball memory?
A. How do you pick one? So many, winning a National Championship with the University of Arizona. We had 8 seniors that year, and to send them out with a championship was such a thrill. Then playing for the national team, nothing greater than wearing USA across your chest competing for your country. At the top would be winning gold in Athens with Lisa Fernandez, Laura Berg, Lori Harrigan, Leah O’Brian-Amico, who I looked up to. I was in their autograph line 8 years prior to. To be able to play with the women I looked up to was such a thrill for me, and to do it in Athens, Greece, where it all started was great.
Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?
A. The mind is your most powerful tool. Young athletes think it’s their hands, their legs, all of these things, but it all starts with the mind. You have to believe. If you think you are going to fail, you are going to fail, so it’s a matter of fighting that negative voice within you. I played for 24 years and still to this day I still have this doubter, this negative voice within my head and you have to battle it, you have to knock it down as soon as it comes in. You have to trust your hard work, your preparation, and go for it. I think for me to be mentally tough, it took for me to work and train and build that preparation because that was my foundation. I knew that I was ready and I had prepared in every way that I possibly could, so when I had that uniform on, I was ready. Ultimately I could live with the outcome because I gave everything I had and I think that is where you want to be. It starts with the preparation and building off of that, then you become confident. There will be times where it’s like, “whose right arm is this”, but you just have to ride it. Like Coach Candrea says, don’t get too high and don’t get too low. This game will take you through the highs and lows if you let it, but it’s a game of consistency and average and it’s a matter of plugging away.
Q.What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?
A. I would say staying mentally tough. I think every single day we can give in with our bodies and our minds or we can fight against it and continually strive to be better. It’s a matter of every day turning that good to great. We can have a good day or have a great day and that’s our decision. Especially with three kids now there are some challenging days, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s about controlling what you can control and being the best you. That’s one of my favorite sayings. I just heard the other day “your greatest competition is in the mirror” and that’s so true. It’s how far are you willing to push, how far are you willing to go, and how good do you really want to be.
Q. If you could do anything else in the world as a profession, what would it be and why?
A. I would love to work at a zoo, I love animals so just to be around animals. But, you know I am so blessed I don’t think that I would trade it. This life has been more than I possibly could imagine and by the Grace of God, it’s been such a thrill so I’m blessed, extremely blessed. With my family now, I get to experience the same memories I share with my parents now with them. It’s a good life that’s for sure.