10 Things She Must Do to Stand Out on the Field

“The Top 10 Things She Must Do to Stand Out on the Field” Written By John Michael Kelly

As championship season is upon us the summer push to win and be noticed is like no other time of year. Whether you daughter and/or team is playing in a regional or national tournament, or one of the major summer showcases here are some proven tips for things your athlete MUST do to stand out from the crowd and be a difference maker, a game changer…someone every coach wants on his or her team.

Remember, if your athlete is looking to get recruited keep in mind that for a college coach this is their career, their job. Ask yourself the question, “Would I invest $100,000 to $250,000 in my daughter to play softball in my program…knowing that my job is on the line?”

Follow these 10 tips and your daughter will shine and stand out every time:

1. Hustle – This should be a “no-brainer.” Run from pre-game to the dugout; run on and off the field each inning; run back to the dugout after an out; and for gosh sakes RUN out every ball hit. Dive for balls….ALWAYS. If your athlete is on deck she should run to pick up the bat for the batter after a foul ball. Remember, hustle is a CHOICE and coaches are ALWAYS watching.hoover09cut-11

2. Attitude – This takes form as body language, using your voice on the field, cheering in the dugout. Your athlete, again, must be aware that her every move is being watched and any demonstration of frustration, anger or sadness is seen as a huge weakness and liability in the eyes of a coach. This falls under the heading of mental toughness…get some!

3. Intelligence – I call it “Softball IQ” and every coach likes to see a prospect show her knowledge for the game. Why? Because it will make the coach’s job easier; less remedial teaching allows for more advanced teaching. Have your athlete pay attention playing the game, observing the game or watching on television. How much can she learn about the game? Again, it’s always her CHOICE.

4. Superior Concentration/Focus – Softball is a game that requires immense focus and mental concentration for short bursts of time; usually less than 5 seconds. However, if your athlete cannot summon that focus the game will inevitably punish her with mistakes or due to poor decision making. In big games or bigger stages she must keep her focus in the present moment.

5. Bounce Back from Adversity – Softball is a game of failure and, more accurately, a game of overcoming failure. For your athlete to stand out she MUST be able to have a short memory and put past mistakes behind her as QUICKLY as possible. Carrying an error in the field over to her next at bat, or a poor at bat out into the field on in the circle is a recipe for disaster. Have her see a mistake as an opportunity to learn and move one step closer to game mastery instead of the end of the world!

6. Play Fearless! – Every coach wants that player who flies around the field, afraid of nothing…always giving 110% effort, trusting her decision making and her talent. Playing fearless means NO HESITATION. Coaches would prefer an athlete make a mistake as the result of playing aggressive as opposed to playing passive, unsure, afraid of making mistakes.

7. Do the Little Things Well – See #3 again. Have your athlete take pride in her game and take good leads, backup plays properly, look for the extra base, get the signs right. It is ultimately the little intangible parts of the game that only a trained coach’s eye will notice that will determine how much your athlete stands out from the crowd. Do all of the little things well and good things will happen!

8. Execute – No matter how good your athlete is at performing the other 9 tips in this email she MUST be able to execute when her number is called. However, keep in mind that coaches watching prospects don’t expect a pitcher to strike everyone out or every hitter to go 5-5. Execution has as much to do with showing the athleticism, precision, knowledge and effort in the execution of the various game tasks/skills than simply the result itself. So get the bunt down, hit behind the runner, hit the cutoff, and throw strike one.

9. Make Adjustments – As the game of softball is dynamic, meaning full of variables always changing, any athlete that wants to stand out must learn to make numerous adjustments during the game to give herself the best odds for success. These adjustment “opportunities” are everywhere: batting, fielding, base-running, pitching. Here is the key…if your athlete DOES NOT make adjustments she will never be able to play her best. So have her look for adjustments based on the ump’s strike zone, the pitcher calling, the defensive positioning, etc. All game adjustments are easier if she follows my advice in #3 and #4.

10. Love the Game – In the end your athlete will stand out simply because everyone watching her can clearly see how much she loves playing the game. Her joy, enthusiasm, and genuine desire show up in every move she makes on the diamond. Coaches love these types of players because they are easy to coach and nearly always are willing to do whatever it takes to get better and help their team to succeed. As an athlete love, appreciate and respect “the game” and you will absolutely stand out!

Well, that’s it. Ignore these 10 tips and your athlete will have a very difficult time standing out. Follow them and coaches will be lining up to recruit her to their team/program!

Thanks for reading! –John Michael Kelly

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Lauren Haeger Made Her Mark at Florida

“Haeger Made Her Mark at Florida” Written By Bill Plummer

OKLAHOMA CITY – Lauren Haeger made her presence felt in 34th annual Women’s College World Series in more ways than one and because she did the Florida Gators repeated as NCAA softball champions.

The 5-11 Haeger compiled a 4-1 pitching record jn the WCWS with an eye popping 1.18 ERA and also starred on offense batting .571 with 15 total bases, six walks and six RBI.

For the year, Haeger was the third leading hitter on the team with a .348 batting average and led in homers (19) and RBI (71). As a pitcher, she compiled a 32-2 record losing only to Tennessee and Michigan. She hurled 12 shutouts and fanned 214 batters in 222.1 innings pitched. Opponents batted only .185 against her and she finished with an ERA of 1.63.

Haeger was a double-threat all the way around and head coach Tim Walton perfectly summed up Haeger’s performance.

“Lauren left her mark,” Walton said of the only player in college softball history to win at least 70 games as a pitcher (73) and hit at least 70 homers (71). “She’s one of the greatest Gators that ever played and put a uniform on.”

For her career at Florida, Haeger was 73-12 from the mound with an ERA of 1.72. She struck out 531 batters in 572.1 innings and hurled 23 shutouts. She won more games this year that she did her first two years, 31-7, as she became the stopper for the Gators and it was her time to shine in the circle as well as at-bat. Offensively, she had a career .326 batting average with 243 hits including 71 homers with 260 RBI and 388 total bases.

With Haeger graduating, don’t worry about the Gators not being a contender once again for top honors. They have two quality pitchers in Aleshia Ocasio (18-3) and Delanie Gourley, (10-2), who will anchor the pitching staff next year plus incoming freshman kelly Barnhill, rated as the No. 1 prospect in the country. Barnhill compiled a 29-5 record her senior year of high school with an ERA of 0.59 striking out 534 batters in 224 innings.

The Gators aren’t rebuilding. They are just reloading and will try for a three-peat in Oklahoma City.

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The Championship Formula


“The Championship Formula” Written By John Michael Kelly

After watching another exciting NCAA softball championship season it got me to thinking what exactly determines champions; meaning what separates them from everyone else?

Championship games are always thrilling spectacles because of the endless unknown variables and the pure drama of personal heroics. Or as ABC Wide World of Sports said, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” There is a winner and a loser; the victor and the vanquished.

Two weeks ago I experienced a championship game of my own as my high school team was shooting for the school’s first California section Division 1 softball championship in 16 years (the equivalent of our state championship). We started five freshmen and were playing against a senior heavy team that would be playing in their fourth section championship game in a row and were defending champions. But I liked our chances!

Winning a local, regional or national championship at any level of competition is incredibly special and takes a number of clearly defined ingredients to propel any team to play their best when it matters most.

My team…yes we won 2-1, after falling behind 1-0 in the top of the 6th. We were frustrated with our inability to hit after we crushed the ball in our 10-3 semi-final win. However, big time players step up with the game and season in the balance. Winning a championship, in the end, is far more mental than physical. Three of our mentally toughest players (one senior and two juniors) led our way back with two clutch two out hits to go ahead and ultimately close out the 2-1 championship victory. But our C.I.F. championship was no accident; it was the product of design, hard work and a formula every champion must follow.

Scripps Ranch’s Lauren Lipe jumps into the arms of Makayla Martin, center, as Kylee Brown joins in the celebration of beating Carlsbad Saturday in the Division I playoff game. photo by Bill Wechter

Scripps Ranch’s Lauren Lipe jumps into the arms of Makayla Martin, center, as Kylee Brown joins in the celebration of beating Carlsbad Saturday in the Division I playoff game.                                     Photo by Bill Wechter

So what, specifically, are the ingredients that make up this championship formula?

1. A culture of success. Champions cultivate a culture of hard work, extreme camaraderie, a “do whatever it takes” I’ve got your back, never settle for less than your best attitude. I call this the “Champion’s Mindset.”

2. Maintain “Big Picture” thinking. Meaning as a coach, player or parent doesn’t freak out about every error or loss. Champions are made and as with game mastery sometimes athletes and teams must take a step or two backwards in order to grow and mature. Your lineup at the start of the year may not resemble your lineup at the end. Allow players to develop as your team matures. As a coach understand that your team is always a masterpiece in progress.

3. Playing fearless. Champions never play with fear! Champions trust their abilities because they ultra prepare for their ultimate success. Fear = Doubt + Hesitation…a guaranteed formula for failure or, at best, mediocrity on the diamond. Playing fearless means being unafraid of making mistakes; focusing on their effort and the process of mastery instead of simply the black and white results.

4. Keep the pressure on! Champions are always on the attack. They keep the pressure on their opponent all the time in every facet of the game. Why? Champions believe they are always the better team and make you play their game at their pace on their terms. Champions force their opponent outside of their comfort zone which leads to mistakes, errors in judgment and doubt (see #3 above).

5. Focus on the details…all of them. Champions know that the consistent and successful execution of small tasks will eventually lead them to the winner’s circle. These small, but crucial, tasks include focusing relentlessly of the mental details of the game: looking for any strategic edge they can gain as a player or team to increase their probability for game day success.

6. Have a plan. The focus on details in #5 really looks like an intense commitment to Herculean preparation. I believe the harder practice and training is for any athlete or team the easier the actual competition will become. All preparation, whether physical or mental, should have a definite purpose, best achieved by the development and execution of a detailed plan.

7. Playing in rhythm. All champions level athletes and teams play with a clearly visible rhythm that allows their immense talent to flow without mental or physical resistance. This rhythm is what propels certain athletes to reach almost unimaginable heights of athletic dominance in the biggest games (think Michael Jordan, LeBron James). Playing in rhythm brings any athlete’s and team’s joy for playing the game bubbling to the surface. In this mindset the game is fun, easy and far simpler to succeed at.

8. Expectancy. Champions play with an unquestionable expectation for good on game day. This expectancy for success, for greatness is the direct and cumulative results of every other key ingredient of the championship formula in this post. It is an undeniable, rock-solid confidence earned through hard work and prior successes. This is why it is said that “champions are made not born.” This expectant mindset for success means that no victory is out of reach, no challenge too daunting, no goal too steep.

So whether you are a coach, parent or athlete follow these eight key ingredients and your team will skyrocket the odds in their favor to become champions. It’s the same formula I used for my championship high school team pictured above.

Remember, there are no shortcuts to success, but success can be achieved with a proactive plan properly executed one step at a time, one day at a time, one pitch at a time!

Thanks for reading!

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Gators Elite Program With Better Days Ahead


“Gators Elite Program With Better Days Ahead” Written By Bill Plummer

OKLAHOMA CITY — Florida was a solid softball program before it won back-to-back NCAA titles. Now it’s an elite program and certainly the second title has solidified the program.

Florida joins UCLA and Arizona as the only programs ever to go back-to-back.

“It’s hard to do,” UF athletic director Jeremy Foley beamed during the post-game celebration after the Gators had defeated Michigan, 4-1. “These girls came here as the No. 1 seed and with a target on their backs. Obviously, Michigan is a great team. I mean, every time I looked up on the scoreboard someone was hitting .400 with like 20 homers and 80 RBI.”

Michigan entered the WCWS with a 28-game win streak and obviously was one of the top two teams in the field of eight. The other top team was Florida in a well balanced field of teams.

But there was a difference and as it often happens that difference was in the circle where Lauren Haeger stood.

Haeger was 4-1 in the World Series with an ERA of 1.18. Her overall NCAA Tournament record was 8-1 with an astounding 0.65 considering the emphasis on offense in the last few years.

“Every team that wins a national championship has someone like that,” Foley said. “Everything just kept falling on her shoulders and she just accepted the responsibility. Lauren Haeger has the heart of a champion.”

Besides being the difference on the mound, Haeger was a threat at-bat, hitting .433 in the tournament and .571 in Oklahoma City. She finished the year .347 with 19 homers and 71 RBI.

Haeger is one of the few athletes in Division One that is a double-threat and replacing her will be difficult let alone impossible. UCLA was in the same situation when the total package Lisa Fernandez graduated. She’s now coaching first base for the Bruins.

Florida will try for a three-peat next year and it appears the Gators will have a good chance at making it a three peat considering the nation’s No. 1 pitching prospect, Kelly Barnhill, who hurled 22 no-hitters in her first three years of high school softball, and No. 2 prospect Amanda Lorenz will be coming to Gainesville, Fla. And it won’t be for a vacation either.

Head coach Tim Walton completed his tenth year and during that time he has lost only 121 games while winning 552 for a winning percentage of .829. Including three years at Wichita State Walton’s career winning percentage is .785.

Who knows what Walton and the Gators will do in the next decade, but for now they are atop Division One softball and better days appear on the horizon.


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Statistics, Fact or Fiction


Statistics, Fact or Fiction Written By Mike Adams

Trying to wrap my head around a few thoughts and my ADD kicks in. Rather than trying to stretch out a few thoughts into full out blogs, I thought I would just a give quick hit to something I have been thinking about

Stats. Our local paper recently posted top stats of players in baseball and softball. As I was looking through them I started thinking about what do stats really tell? Or even better, what does it NOT tell?

1. Does not tell accurate/consistent statistics

I have looked in several news publications and all have pointed out that the statistics presented are provided by the teams. If I sent to the publications that my player hit 1000 home runs, it would be printed 1000 home runs.

Most, not all teams, have a parent(s) recording stats. While this is very helpful, do we know that they are taking them correctly? Are they consistent between different people keeping books at different games?

2. Does not give a real picture of the player.

Example. Player A seems to always get into the game at a point where a sacrifice bunt(hit) is needed. That is (according to NCAA) not counted as an at-bat. So player A could be seen as having far less at-bats leading some to think they are not playing as much, where in reality they are very valuable.

3. Does not tell if the player is a consistent player.

All players have off days (even at the professional level). A Good coach realizes this and replaces them for the sake of the team and the player. (mainly you see pitchers and catchers, but any player could fit this bill) If the coach doesn’t pull them, or can’t because of roster, this single game came greatly push the statistics down. On the other hand, a player who is very inconstant and gets pulled before the stats can be lowered will hold a higher stat.

4. Does not tell how a player plays the game.

This is a big one. Softball is a TEAM sport. as such, no individual player wins or loses a game. I have seen/coached players that may not be the big scoring player, may not have been the big outs player, but was a true team captain and kept everyone in the game. Motivation is an important part of a team. and that stat cannot be a number. How a player plays when they are down cant be equated. Errors happen, as you have heard from me before, it is what happens after the error that is really important. That also isn’t a Statistic.

5. Does not tell how tough the opponents are.

This goes both ways. Play in an easier league (for a given year) and you can end up with insane statistics. Have 3 of the top 10 state teams in your league and batting 300+ against them is pretty darn good! Fields also vary in conditions to depth. Errors occur more on an improperly kept field. More home runs occur in a 200ft field than a 225. Less steals are going to be successful on a soaked surface while drizzling (or in the case of my home state Michigan, snow) than a nice dry sunny day .

This is just a basic way of making a point. When scouting out players, going by statistics is the worst way to go. Can it give you a rough idea? sure, very rough. The only true way to see how good a player is is to watch that player in several games, in several situations.

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Gators Repeat as NCAA WCWS Softball Champion’s 2015


“Gators Repeat as NCAA WCWS Softball Champion’s 2015″ Written By Bill Plummer

OKLAHOMA CITY — After being shutout the night before, the Florida Gators came back with a vengeance Wednesday night before a crowd of 7,680 to defeat Michigan in the final game of the NCAA Championship Series and win the 34th annual Women’s College World Series, 4-1.

Pitcher Lauren Haeger allowed one run and scattered five hits as the Gators repeated as national champion and became only the third team to repeat, joining UCLA and Arizona. Haeger was named the Most Outstanding Player of the WCWS and also won the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year and is only the third player to win both awards. She finished the year 32-2.

Haeger compiled a 4-1 mound record in the Series allowing six earned runs in 36 innings. She also batted .571 hitting three homers, driving in six runs and walking six times as the Gators finished the year 60-7. It marked the third year out of the last four years that an SEC team has won the WCWS.

“When you work hard good things happen to you,” said Haeger.”I am so thankful to be a Gator. It’s been a great time.”

In repeating as national champion, Florida joined UCLA and Arizona with Arizona winning in 2006-07.

“We used it as motivation,” said Haeger.”We realize this isn’t going to be handed to us and we really needed to work hard. Michigan is a great team. And we just had a different attitude today. You could see it in our eyes. You could see it in each other, you will hear it in our conversations. We were a different team. We were who we are today. And I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates.”

In Tuesday’s loss Michigan attacked early and scored the game’s only run in the first inning. On Wednesday, the Gators turned the tables and scored three times in the bottom of the first and once in the second for all the runs they would need. Michigan scored a run in the fifth on an RBI single to center field by second baseman Sierra Romero with two out.

In the first, the Gators scored an RBI single by Haeger and a two-run single to left field by Taylor Schwarz, scoring Haeger and and Nicole DeWitt. In the second, the Gators added another run on an RBI double by Kelsey Stewart to left field scoring Justine McLean, who had singled to open the inning, went to second on a throwing error by the third baseman and advanced to third on a sacrifice by Aubree Munro.

“That first inning obviously broke our back,” said Michigan head coach Carol Hutchins.

Haylie Wagner, who had shut out the Gators Tuesday evening, took the loss and finished the year 25-3. She allowed four hits and four runs. She didn’t strike out or walk anyone. Wagner was relieved by Megan Betsa who hurled four innings allowing only one hit and no runs. She walked three and struck out eight.Michigan finished the year 60-8 and was seeking its second NCAA national title after winning in 2005.

Michigan had five players named to the All Tournament team including Wagner, Kelsey Susalla, Sierra Romero, Kelly Christner and Abby Ramirez. Florida had Aubree Munro, Kelsey Stewart and Haeger. Joining them were Carlee Wallace and Branndi Melero of Auburn, and Ally Carda of UCLA.

The attendance Wednesday upped the overall attendance to a record 78,078 breaking the previous mark of 75,960 in 2012. Four of the ten sessions in the 2015 WCWS also were records and the attendance for the third game was the fourth highest. This was only the fourth time that the WCWS reached the third game.

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