How to Motivate Your Daughter to Practice

How to Motivate Your Daughter to Practice By Keri Casas

“How to Motivate Your Daughter to Practice” Written By Keri Casas

You pay money for lessons, you travel to all her practices and games, you pay for her to be on the team, but she won’t practice.  You put in all the time and effort you can, because she says she loves the game and wants to play, but won’t put in the work to get better.  So what do you do?  How do you get your daughter to WANT to practice without nagging her daily? 

First things first. You can NEVER force a girl to do something they don’t want to do.  The more you push, nag, demand, force, etc, the more she will rebel.  She won’t want to practice if you make it an obligation.  The sport is fun, it’s a game to them, and when you make it a job, they won’t want to play anymore.  If you want your female athlete to practice, let them make the decision to practice.  If they really want to get better and really want to play at a high level, they will.

Secondly, let your daughter decide when it’s time to practice.  If it’s your idea to practice, for some unknown reason in adolescent female complexity, they won’t want to practice.  Even if you aren’t nagging or yelling or demanding, they will take it that way.  They want control in their lives and feel they have earned that right to decide what they want to do with their time. 

Third and final point.  If your daughter doesn’t want to do it, don’t let her do it.  If she isn’t willing to work for her goals, then you need to find another source of motivation.  Now I’m not saying that recreational sports require mass amounts of training and dedication, but if they are looking to pursue collegiate goals, they do need to find determination and work to earn glory.  Allowing your daughter to take lesson after lesson, play on the best team only to sit on the bench, and/or traveling all over the United States to play tournaments is just a waste of your time and money.
 Let your daughter earn lessons; let her earn playing time and traveling to big tournaments.  Not only will this better her dedication to the game, but her work ethic, drive, and discipline to work towards her overall goal.  If she just wants to play recreationally to socialize and be a part of a team, that’s fine; but if she really wants to earn the guts and glory, she has to practice. 

If the sport is your daughter’s dream, then she will practice.  She will be self-motivated to work towards her goal.  Even though she doesn’t need you to tell her when to practice, she may need your help.  Take your daughter to lessons, take her out to practice, watch her train, etc.  Even though you don’t need to be her coach, you can be her support system.  The more willing you are to go out to a field or workout with her; the more she will want to do so often.  Don’t let her use you as an excuse to why she can’t practice or go to lessons.  If you are able to help, be there for your daughter.
 
 
Key Points to Motivating your Daughter to Practice:
 
1. You can’t force a female athlete to practice.  The more you push, nag, and yell at them to practice, the less willing they are to do it.  Eventually, they will dislike the sport because it becomes a job rather than a game.
2. Let your daughter decide when it’s time to practice.  She wants it to be HER idea to practice, not yours.
3. If your daughter doesn’t want to do it, don’t let her.  If she wants to practice and play at the next level she will.  Be her support system when you can and be there to help her better herself.

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Does TV Affect Early Recruiting?

Does TV Affect Early Recruiting?

“Does TV Affect Early Recruiting?” Written By Jami Lobpries

I read a quote recently in a Boston Globe article talking about why fans ignore women’s sports. The author said, “it takes a lot of work to be a women’s sports fan.” What the author meant was that it’s hard to be a fan of women’s sports because you have to work so hard to find information—whether it’s live games on tv, player stories and stats, or even to buy merchandise of your favorite female athlete. Information on women’s sports and female athletes is not readily available. Thus, if you want to be a lifetime or consistent fan of women’s sports then it takes a lot of work.

I teach intro to sport management courses at the University of Tampa. What that means is I teach first year sport management students or students with a minor in sport management about what career opportunities exist in the vast sport industry. Being the women’s sport enthusiast that I am, I joke to my friends that I’m spreading awareness of women’s professional sports one sport management undergrad student at a time! With that mindset, I asked my students recently why they don’t watch women’s sports and you know what a common answer amongst my 50 students was? It’s never on! Again, it takes work to find women’s sports.

In my world of sport marketing research, we refer to this phenomenon as framing. In regards to media, framing defines how media coverage can shape mass opinion. For example, the massive amounts of media coverage of men’s sports over women’s sports help frame society’s opinion that women’s sports are inferior to men’s sports.

One thing that has become more common, and will continue to grow with the surge of conference networks, is college softball on television. I played from 2005-2008 when the Women’s College World Series was really blowing up and when the new post season structure had just been implemented. Every year since then, we have seen growing coverage of Super Regionals, Regionals, Conference tournaments, and now even regular season games. What that means is college softball fans don’t have to work as hard to be college softball fans AND hopefully it means we are gaining new fans—those mainstream fans who happen to be watching ESPN when a game comes on or those avid sports bar viewers.

Another interesting thing this means is we are creating framing even within our own sport. We live in a world of early recruiting—14, 15, 16 year olds are verbally committing to schools that they won’t even attend until 4, 3, or 2 years down the road. What schools do most kids want to go to? Easy, the ones they see on TV!

I’ll use my former 12U team as an example. I loved asking them where they wanted to go to school because their brutal honesty was priceless. My centerfielder wants to go to Oregon because “their uniforms, duh.” My pitcher wanted to go to Oklahoma because that’s where Keilani Ricketts played. My first baseman/outfielder wanted to go to Florida because “they’re so pretty and they wear cute bows.” And another utility player wanted to go to Alabama because she loved the way Hailey McCleney played.

Their decisions were heavily influenced by the softball they consumed on television. The coverage of particular softball teams was framing their view on college programs. The more games that were on tv, the more their decisions changed. Now, I will be the first to say this is a great problem because it means we have a lot of softball on TV. It means our young girls can watch role models who look like them. It means our athletes get an opportunity to showcase their talents to large audiences. And it means that hopefully our sport will continue to grow at all levels-youth, college, professional, and hopefully even Olympic.

But the interesting thing that is happening is how framing and the influx of college softball on television is shaping our early recruiting. [Side note—I also hate early recruiting and don’t have a problem sharing that!].

I’m not writing this article to tell college coaches to become better marketers or to tell ESPN and CBS to showcase more schools. Instead, I’m writing this article to bring light to framing and how it influences young girls decisions on the colleges they chose to attend.

If you’re a travel ball coach or a parent, you might want to make sure you ask your daughter or player “why” they really want to go to that school. Yes, cool uniforms, bows, and school colors catch your eye and play a large role in the aesthetics of a softball player with big dreams, but does that softball program offer an academic degree you’re interested in? Does that coach fit your learning style? Does that college town or city fit your personality? Will you mesh with the kinds of players that coach brings in? Deeper questions that a 17, 16, and now 15 and 14 years old have to make.

I think it’s funny though that at the age of 14, us girls were WAYYY more interested in cool uniforms and pretty bows than we are in potential college majors and the academic rating of a university.

Something to think about.

In the meantime, I hope softball coverage at all ages continues to grow. I know I’m biased, but I believe our sport offers one of the best made-for-television sport viewing opportunities there are. But as I continue to my own continuous sport viewing on tv and realize how framing affects some of my own decisions, I wanted to bring light to how sport coverage can shape the decision process of our young athletes.

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LSU Gets Player To Commit Before She Plays High School Softball

LSU gets player to commit before she finishes high school softball

“LSU Gets Player To Commit Before She Finishes High School Softball” Written By Bill Plummer

High school softball players usually commit sometime during their high school career. It’s rare when an athlete commits even before starting their high school career or even before she played her first game of her freshman season.

But although Shelby Wickersham of New Orleans, LA hasn’t played her first season of high school softball, she knows where she wants to go to college to play softball–=LSU. Shelby has already committed to LSU despite the fact she won’t graduate from high school until 2018.

While some may wonder why Shelby committed so early, Shelby didn’t have any problem in committing earlier than normal. “It feels like I am in a dream. I never would have thought that I would have committed this early, but I am super happy it worked out the way it did. I’m glad to have the recruiting process over and now I can just focus on developing into being the best pitcher I can possibly be.”

Already 5-foot-11 Shelby also played volleyball and basketball in addition to softball, and in fact had made the varsity volleyball team at Mt. Carmel High School in New Orleans. But after talking to her travel ball coaches, she decided to concentrate only on softball. They advised her that to get to the next level of softball to concentrate on her pitching and getting out to different exposure tournaments.

Before committing to LSU, Shelby went on unofficial visits to Alabama, South Alabama and Mississippi and had a few visits planned in the fall. She, however, cancelled them after committing to LSU. “I always knew that LSU was truly where I wanted to be, but I wanted to keep other options open just in case it did not work out, Shelby told FullCountSoftball.com

LSU coaches watched Shelby play in different tournaments and soon after they offered her an unofficial visit. During the visit LSU offered her a scholarship and she didn’t waste time in saying “yes.”

“I had always known that LSU was the first choice, so I committed within ten minutes of them offering. It was truly the best option for me because it was exactly what I was looking for, and no other school could beat it. It’s close to home, has great coaches and is one of the top softball programs in the country. It has the prettiest campus, the nicest facilities with great academics, and in the best location- it just cannot be anymore perfect, “said Shelby.

As we all know alot can happen during an athlete’s high school, or college year, but Wickersham is happy with her choice, and she figures to only get better during her four years of high school softball. She hasn’t played her first high school game “but is looking forward to being part of the team. Mount Carmel has many amazing athletes, and I am very blessed and humbled to play with them.”

Wickersham,who throws in the 63 miles per hour range, led her travel ball team to the USSSA 12-under championship and she was named the tournament MVP. She said that was one of the top highlights of her career and who knows what the future holds for this precious young pitcher who knows where she is headed and figures to have more highlights in her ever developing career. Only time will tell.

A Self-Assessment: Confidence, Cockiness, Self-Esteem & Self-Respect

A Self-Assessment


A Self-Assessment: Confidence, Cockiness, Self-Esteem & Self-Respect Written By Charity Butler

The Dove® soap company hired Gil Zamora, a Forensic Artist trained by the FBI, to conduct an experiment in self-perception. Without seeing his subject, Gil sat on the opposite side of a curtain sketching with his pencil while asking the person to describe herself. He drew her image based on the description alone.

This process was repeated with a number of individuals. After describing themselves, the subjects were then asked to describe another person they met while waiting to be sketched. Each participant ended the experiment with two sketches, one created from her own description and one drawn based on the description of the stranger. The artist did not get a glimpse of the subjects until all sketches were complete.

The resulting images were rather shocking. In each case, the pictures were obviously related but the self-described image was much more harsh and unbecoming than the likeness described by the stranger. This experiment depicts a difficult truth: we tend to view ourselves more cruelly than others view us.

In our culture, increased self-esteem is the automatically assumed remedy for the predisposition toward negative self-perception. Today in the US, the concept of increasing self-esteem is almost fashionable.

A simple Google search provides pages upon pages of information, evaluations, tests, tips, tricks, and curriculum geared toward increasing self-esteem.

In light of these popular notions, Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s observation may seem abrasive and potentially offensive: “Of all groups in the United States, convicted murderers are said to have the highest levels of self-esteem.” He further explains, “This makes sense… To kill someone else, you must think quite a lot of yourself.”

To understand more fully, consider Rabbi Lapin’s follow-up explanation: “Self-esteem is what you gain when you haven’t achieved anything and thus don’t deserve any self-respect.

The difference in self-esteem and self-respect seems trivial, but the disparity could not be more significant. Based on dictionary definitions, self-esteem is an “exaggeratedly favorable impression of oneself,” unwarranted thoughts without underlying substance. Self-respect, on the other hand, is “proper esteem for the dignity of one’s character or integrity”.

Building on the example above, convicted murderers generally maintain an unrealistically positive image of themselves and lack character or integrity. Using an extreme example makes a point, but the same concepts can be very real and applicable to our lives as coaches and as people in general.

On the field, I liken these concepts to the ideas of confidence and cockiness. Cockiness is basically self-esteem, thinking very highly of oneself without putting in the time, effort and energy to back up the big head. Confidence, on the other hand, is backed by proper preparation and results in genuine self-respect.

Would you rather coach a player with high self-esteem or high self-respect? We all know players with exaggeratedly favorable impressions of themselves. In my experience, players like this are more likely to cause trouble in a program. These are the kids who may be very talented but usually lead the way in making poor choices. When faced with consequences, they start a resulting full-team punishment workout with a smug grin. It sometimes seems that in their own minds (and many times in the eyes of their parents) they can do no wrong. These players are exhausting!

On the other hand, players with real character and integrity are the kids that encourage and lead the team through those difficult days despite their own pain and suffering.

Without hesitation, I would sign a less talented player with true confidence and solid self-respect over a cocky kid reeking of high self-esteem and entitlement.
In my book Prep Steps™ 31 day guide to success for female Student-Athletes, I tell girls plainly, “Don’t act better than others… work hard to improve so you can really be better! When you push yourself and work hard, you earn the right to confidence.”

Self-respect, like confidence, must be earned. It is the consequence of discipline and resulting achievement.

Although the Dove® experiment focused solely on the physical attributes of people, negative self-perceptions are more deeply rooted than appearance only.
Unkindness and disrespect incubate internally and surface in subtle ways. We tend to speak harshly to or of ourselves, sometimes without realizing it. Mental discipline requires the most personal control and restraint.

One of my routine thoughts following an absentminded mistake: “Wow, I’m an idiot.” When my mistake affects someone else, I will usually follow the line above with, “I am so sorry!”

These responses sound rather ordinary and quite insignificant, but the effects of seemingly innocent words can be subconsciously powerful.

“It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life,” shares Robert Kiosaki, “it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power!”

In the past, the word idiot was used in the field of psychology to describe “a person of the lowest order in a discarded classification of mental retardation, having a mental age of less than three years old and an intelligence quotient under 25.”

Psychologists no longer use the word because it is considered offensive. The same professionals with the expertise to diagnose people as legitimately psychotic will not use the word idiot to describe others, yet I use the word regularly when referring to myself?!

Furthermore to say, “I am sorry” is to say, “I’m wretched, poor, useless, and pitiful.” Wow, how harsh!

In light of this understanding, I try to replace the typical “I’m sorry” response with words that more properly convey regret: “I apologize” or “please forgive me”.

Quite often we are subconsciously cruel to ourselves, but the value of kindness to and patience with oneself is refreshing, powerful and ultimately practical.
According to Ayn Rand, author of The Virtue of Selfishness, “The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.”

Being kind to and confident in ourselves is not selfish. In fact, it is one of the most selfless skills we can learn. It is difficult and requires great self-control.

A person who develops a strong foundation of self-respect is then capable of more highly valuing others. We become better at working with people, motivating people and encouraging people. Others esteem us, we respect ourselves and ultimately we are healthier and better equipped to positively impact the world.

The discipline of kindness to ourselves does not make us weak but stronger and more effective than we could imagine. We must first understand and value ourselves before we can truly understand and value the world.

The Ancient Greeks sum it up in two words: “Know thyself.”

The Fastpitch Directory is a Hit

Fastpitch Search

The Fastpitch Directory is a Hit Written By Keri Casas

Whether you are new to travel ball or looking for a different team, The Fastpitch Directory is the latest and greatest tool in your Fastpitch softball search!

The NEW Fastpitch Directory is simple, direct, and easy to use in your search for a travel ball team. The site breaks down available teams by state, region, and age group so you aren’t stuck scrolling through unnecessary information. Furthermore, coaches are able to post positions they are looking to fill; making your search even easier to filter!

What is the best part of The Fastpitch Directory? Zero Spam. Unlike many “team posting” forums, the site does not allow for members sell product or tournaments, clinics, businesses, or to talk poorly of other teams, players, or coaches; it deletes any posts disregarding its basic concept.

If you want an easy, stress-free search for the perfect team for your family’s needs, Fastpitch Directory is the way to go! You can find the main page at www.Fastpitch.Directory

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The Cores Of Coaching: Teamwork As A Coaching Staff

Teamwork as a Coaching Staff Written By Shannon Murray

The Cores of Coaching: Teamwork as a Coaching Staff Written By Shannon Murray

As a softball coach, every day we emphasize the importance of teamwork and the value of working together to our players. Learning this worthwhile lesson teaches our girls to carry this on and off the field. Though we can tell them a million times there is no I in Team, there is another source of knowledge for them to observe: in our actions as the coaches. We may not always realize it, the players on our team soak up our actions in addition to our words. They need to see us practice what we preach. I have had the upmost fortunate opportunities to always coach with others that stay on the same page with me about this important concept of working together as a coaching staff. However, I know some coaches haven’t always had this pleasure. That’s why I would like to share one of the cores to coaching: Teamwork for Coaching as a Staff.

In the world of teaching, we have a saying that teachers are thieves. We are thieves in the sense that we are always stealing ideas for lesson plans, activities, strategies and assignments from each other. If we didn’t bounce ideas off one another we wouldn’t get anywhere. The same concept can apply to coaching. What good are coaches who work together if they don’t learn from one another? Every coach brings something different to the table: knowledge, drills, strategy, etc. It is of no benefit for anyone to hold onto ideas for themselves if you are working towards the same cause for your team to win. With that said, communication is key to the success of a coaching staff. Without communication, there is no way you can be on the same page about anything. Communication involves every area of the coaching position and nothing should be left out. Being a coach, you probably played on a sports team in the first place and should understand from basic knowledge that communication builds positive relationships with your team. Therefore, as a coaching staff you should want to build that open line of communication with one another. What happens if a situation should arise? Whether you agree with how one coach may handle it or not, just talk about it so all of you can come to a common understanding. You never want to be on two different sides when it comes to finding the solution to a problem on the team. It can lead to alienation of players, parents and of each other which completely wrecks team chemistry.

Preparation produces successful results when it comes to the coaching staff. Before the season starts, design and come to an understanding of a team management system (for warm-ups, how drills are run, expectations of the players and parents, etc.) so that everyone understands how the team is run and both coaches look synchronized on this. Discuss and come up with a system of how to handle different situations that might arise with the parents, players, etc. It can help you come to a quicker and more efficient agreement if the actual issue arises.

By working together you are setting a good example for the players. This teaches the girls to respect both of you and your other coaches where there is no divide. You are one coaching staff just like you are one team. Working together will contribute a large part to the success of your team and how your team is run.

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Win With Cooperation, Lose In Compromise

Win With Cooperation, Lose In Compromise

Win With Cooperation, Lose In Compromise Written By Charity Butler

The second baseman lays out on a one-hop shot down the first base line with beautiful full-body extension. She jumps to her feet to complete the play, and the first baseman is nowhere to be found. She runs toward first base and dives at the bag to make the out, unassisted. Great heads-up play!

The next hitter rolls a weak ground ball to the right side. The pitcher leaves the mound in an attempt to make the play, but the first baseman comes up with the ball. While moving toward the middle of the infield, she turns to throw to first for the out. Again, no one is covering the bag, but this time the runner is safe.

When the second baseman was asked why she wasn’t covering first base, she replies, “I was really tired after making that diving play, so I thought we should compromise. Since my first baseman had a break while I made the play by myself, I thought I deserved a break too.”
How infuriating, right? I sense my heart rate increasing as I tell the story. Let’s relax. This particular situation did not actually occur in a game.

The story seems peculiar because the idea of compromise does not fit competitive athletics. In compromising, one sacrifices and then feels entitled to an equal reward or benefit. The team dynamic breaks down when all members are not cooperating to elevate the success of the team. There must be an intentional disregard of individual priorities.

Consider the difference in compromise and cooperation. We often view them as similar, but the concepts are actually complete opposites.

Gandhi said it much more eloquently, “All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals.”

When it comes to the game of softball, compromise will not cut it! We must give together in order to gain together. True success is not achieved by cutting corners. Our game requires cooperation not compromise.

The founder of J.C. Penney department stores, James Cash Penney, said, “The keystone of successful business is cooperation. Friction retards progress.”

The keystone of a successful team is also cooperation. Compromise will produce friction, and it will retard progress. Cooperation, not compromise, produces success.

“I wish I had played team sports,” says Emmy Award-winning humorist, journalist and actor, Mo Rocca. “I think every kid should. Teamwork builds character – teaches people about leadership and cooperation.”

Even non-athletes understand the value of teamwork and cooperation. Successful business people and championship coaches reject compromise and prize cooperation.

Let’s be objective and observe an arena within which compromise is prevalent: politics. In the political world, giving leeway to the opposing side on one issue to gain ground in another area is so common that it seems to be part of the job description.

Examining compromise from a different perspective, consider romantic relationships. We are told healthy relationships require compromise.

Gordon Training International, an established leader in the world of communication and conflict resolution training, offers a different point of view. In the article, “The Best Relationships Lack Compromise,” the organization teaches, “Instead of putting ourselves through the frustration of not having our needs met through compromise, or feeling like we have to battle our loved ones in a ‘my needs vs. your needs’ battle, we can clearly state our needs and then discuss and reach a solution that meets everyone’s needs [cooperation]. In essence, everyone gets what they want.”

Our teams, programs and families should absolutely work to cooperate. We should willingly work together toward common goals. We must realize, however, cooperation is difficult when compromise is present.

Honestly, I was offended when my now husband stated during our pre-marital counseling that compromise would not be a precedent set in our home. My mind raced, “So what you say goes and what I think does not matter?” But, I was way off track! He understood cooperation is more valuable than compromise. Why not find ways to work together for the rest of our lives, rather than constantly lobby against one another to have our own needs met?

My pre-marital mindset was eerily akin to the attitude of the second baseman in the story shared earlier in this article. Although I was unable to articulate it, my mindset was: “I am entitled to have my needs met, and I will give in direct proportion to my gain.” How unhealthy! How selfish. We are a team, and we work together, for one another. We cooperate.

In our homes, at work, and with friends we should cooperate, but we must not surrender to compromise.

Remember Gandhi’s quote, “All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals.” He goes on to say, “Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender.”

Allow Andrew Carnegie to broaden our understanding. Mr. Carnegie is found on the Forbes Magazine List of Wealthiest Historical Figures and was one of the most well-known philanthropists of the 19th Century: “The ‘morality of compromise’ sounds contradictory. Compromise is usually a sign of weakness, or an admission of defeat. Strong men don’t compromise, it is said, and principles should never be compromised.”

The 2013 coaching staff at Tallahassee Community College in Tallahassee, FL, knows what it is to stand on principles. When several students disobeyed team policies the week before the start of post-season, these courageous coaches chose to implement the pre-determined program consequences.

Knowing they would not have enough eligible players to field a team in the Florida Junior College State Tournament, the staff benched all players guilty of team violations and subsequently withdrew from post-season play. They chose sacrifice over surrender and did not compromise.

We must be willing to work together, but we must never surrender what is right. Even when it is harder to do right (and usually it is), we must not concede.

Interestingly we find freedom in simply choosing right over wrong. When we choose right, cooperation with others of similar conviction is natural. Those who cut corners and promote compromise may be less enthused about our choices and may even be more inclined to sabotage our efforts.

No matter how others conduct themselves, however, we live lighter and sleep more soundly when we dig deep and find the courage to stand on honorable principles.

“Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval.” –Thomas S. Monson 


How To Coach The Natural Athlete

How To Coach The Natural Athlete

How to Coach the Natural Athlete Written By Keri Casas

The Natural Athlete is one that conquers most skills with ease.  They are able to perform actions more easily and quickly than some of their peers.  Even though we want female athletes to be mechanically sound, the natural athlete is able to “get the job done” her own way.  This can be a positive factor for your team, but it does not necessarily mean she does not need training.  The Natural Athlete can field, hit, dive, make remarkable plays, but they do not know how they do it.

You may say, “Well, if they can already perform the action, why do they need to know HOW they do it?”  It is important for your female athlete to know how to do it because they need to develop their mental game as well.  If your natural athlete has a poor game and does not perform to their potential, they may become mentally weak because they do not know why the game did not go their way.  This may also cause a domino effect with the rest of their performance and put them into a slump.  When an athlete does not know what they are doing wrong, the potential for them to pull themselves out of a slump is slim.

This is where you come in as a coach.   You need to help your female athlete hone in on her muscle memory and understand how her body works in order for her talents to shine.  If she does not understand how her body performs an action, she must learn it.  As I have stressed in previous posts, keeping instruction simple is the best way to get through to your female athletes; the Natural Athlete is no exception.  Now as a coach, you cannot teach natural talent, but you can teach mechanics.  Being that she does not know what or how to fix something, it is your job to teach her.  If she does not understand how she hits line drives, explain to her how she is doing it.  The more she understands her body’s actions that produce her performance reactions, the better she will consistently be in practice and games.

Lastly, your natural athlete must be treated as an equal to her teammates.  Even if she is the best athlete on your team, you want to maintain team unity.  When you single out your best player, or compare your athletes to her, it makes her teammates feel self-conscious; they already know she is the best player, they don’t need you to make it even more obvious.  Every female athlete seeks acceptance and if you continue to say things like, “Why can’t you field like Taylor does; did you see how Taylor hit that ball”, you are alienating your natural athlete from her peers.  This could cause major emotional problems among your team.  A great way to avoid such problems is to have all your athletes practice the same drills; your Natural Athlete needs drills just as much as the rest of her team and it helps maintain equality.
 
Key Coaching Tips for the Natural Athlete:
 
1. Even though your natural athlete can outperform you, it does not mean you cannot teach her.  You have knowledge of the mental game that she can utilize throughout her performance.
 
2. Teach muscle memory and sound mechanics.  It may be tedious to exaggerate the “little things”, but your athlete will understand her body and performance better with time.

i. Drills for the Natural Athlete:
A. One arm swings-switch between top and bottom hand getting the bat      through the zone.  The goal is to hit a line drive.
B. Bat toss- Use a wiffle ball bat and when she gets to her point of contact, she should throw the bat.  If it goes up the middle, she performed the drill correctly and is throwing her hands at the ball.
C. Soft toss with popcorn kernels- Have your athlete hit popcorn kernels to increase hand-eye coordination and focus.  If they are able to hit popcorn kernels successfully, softballs will look like watermelons to them.
 
3.  Just because she is a natural athlete does not mean she will not make mistakes.  Treat her equally to all of her teammates, even if their playing ability is unequal.

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Does She Believe In Herself?

Believe

Does She Believe In Herself? Written By John Michael Kelly

After coaching girls’ softball for over a dozen years I have found the female athlete to be amazingly determined, wildly passionate, fiercely loyal yet emotionally fragile.

This emotional fragility is heightened by parents and coaches who don’t understand the uniqueness of the female athlete.

A young woman’s self-esteem, self-image and self-beliefs need to be nurtured and respected, particularly as athletes in a game as difficult emotionally as fastpitch softball can be.

For an adolescent female athlete her self-belief on the field is everything. I marvel at how many players I see, work with and coach have issues with their self-confidence. I have come to realize that it’s just not easy being a young woman in a world obsessed with physical perfection and often expectations for flawless behavior.

In truth your athlete or team will only go as for in their skill development and on the field performance as they believe they will. These often limiting self-beliefs can greatly impact her motivation and desire, for if she really doesn’t believe she is good enough why is all that extra work really worth it?

On the field I witness an epidemic of “self-doubt;” athletes afraid of making mistakes for fear of letting down parents, coaches, teammates and self. I see so many young ladies searching for their identity on the diamond and having to cope with the inevitable emotional roller coaster ride that fastpitch is.

Then I see parents, usually Dad’s, and coaches berating an athlete or her entire team after a mistake or poor game and I cringe knowing the damaging they are doing to their athletes’ self-esteem and self-confidence.

In the world of sports psychology it’s called “self-efficacy;” one’s belief in their ability to perform a task successfully. From psychologist Albert Bandura:

People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:

–View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered

–Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate

–Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities

–Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments

People with a weak sense of self-efficacy:
–Avoid challenging tasks

–Believe that difficult tasks and situations are beyond their capabilities

–Focus on personal failings and negative outcomes

–Quickly lose confidence in personal abilities

So how can you help your athlete or team to build up this self-efficacy, the self-belief that “she can” be successful?

1. Support her and nurture her self-esteem, confidence and sense of self; particularly after a tough day on the field (or classroom).

2. Suspend your judgments, criticisms and need to be right around her. Step into her shoes and her world for a few minutes. I assure you that the amount of pressure she feels today in ALL areas of her life to excel is far greater than you experienced at her age.

3. Respect and honor her for her effort, her talent, her loyalty, her love for her teammates and the game.

4. Listen. As adults (yes I am often guilty of this with my daughter) we feel the need to talk too much when often all our daughters want us to do is put our arm around her and listen!

5. Continue to challenge her limiting self-beliefs and always encourage her to get better on the field (as in every area of her life). Start seeing her as having unlimited potential for greatness and watch her start to believe the same.

In truth the greatest gift we can give our daughters and those young ladies that we coach is the gift of confidence that propels their self-esteem, self-worth and their own belief that they can do anything they set their minds to in a sometimes difficult world!

Thanks for reading. –John Michael Kelly

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Winning Small

Daily Discipline: Winning Small

Winning Small Written By Charity Butler

“All the time I see people with purpose who are inconsistent in their progress.” –John Maxwell, Leadership Expert

This statement hit me like a sucker-punch to the gut! In recent years, I’ve been full of passion and purpose but, at times, have lacked the desired progress.

My passions and purpose have been driven by big dreams, huge goals. I became laser-focused and poured all my energy into creating and achieving insanely huge feats. I worked tirelessly, trying to maintain a sprinter’s pace under marathon-like circumstances.

Let’s just say life balance was a joke, and serious progress seemed ever out-of-reach. Projects that I believed in deeply blew-up in my face. I remained committed and worked tirelessly.

Are not the skills and disciplines we learn in athletics supposed to teach us to succeed in life? If we work harder, we are supposed to succeed, right?

Have you heard (or maybe even used) any of these motivational statements?

When you’re not working, someone else is.
Do today what others will not so tomorrow you can do what others cannot.
The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

As an athlete, my little heart was pumped full of mottos of success such as these. Off the field, I set out to conquer life in the same way that I did opponents in competition. I was working really hard, so what was I missing?

Robert Collier had the answer, “success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”

I realized that as an athlete, my passion and purpose were inspired by big goals and dreams, but they were backed by daily disciplines. I was the first to practice, the last to leave. I spent untold hours taking extra ground balls, reps in the batting cage, grinding it out in the weight room and pushing through hardcore conditioning programs. My nutrition was on point, and I stayed hydrated. My routines were structured and clear.

As an adult, I knew how to set big goals. Dreaming big is as easy as breathing, but at times my daily disciplines have waned. Oh, I worked hard alright. I gave everything I had in one segment of life, while all of the other areas suffered. I was like a player who only adopted one of the training aspects above. I was one-dimensional, at best.

As former athletes, it seems our discipline should propel us to post-player greatness. We are tough. We know what it is to push ourselves and to experience delayed gratification. Why, then, do many of us struggle? Why do our careers, our finances, our health, personal growth, family relationships, friendships and/or our spiritual lives seem like disasters at times?

The majority of us do not provide daily attention to all of these important areas. Some of us may be overwhelmed and burned out. Others may be bored. Some may be truly thriving. No matter the current state or season of life, our daily routines are crucial.

As a new school year begins, this is the time of year to focus on goals. What will we do, have and be in the next twelve months? What will our programs accomplish? For the 2013-14 season, I challenge you to dream big and win small.

Win small, you ask? Yes! Win small by establishing regular routines that will help you make progress in every category of life: career, finance, spiritual, physical, intellectual, family, social, etc.

Establish a small habit in each of the above areas. Your habits should fit you. Be clear about what you want and work within manageable, daily routines so you make regular progress in ways that are important to you. These habits must be realistic, otherwise consistency is impossible.

Follow through with the small habits every day, week or month (whichever is applicable). Peak Performance Coach Brian Cain advises, “It’s better to do a little a lot than a lot a little.” The implications of this tiny idea are staggering.

Some of my small, new habits include, contacting friends on my self-imposed lunch hour via text, email or phone. This little routine is allowing me to recharge in the middle of the day while staying involved in the lives of people that matter. The short window of time also keeps me from gabbing for too long!

I am also cleaning my house for several minutes each morning, instead of pushing all those responsibilities to the weekend. The load is much lighter! I get more done in less time and have less to do by staying consistent.

I have also set aside time each day to read, even if it is only 10 minutes. My workouts are now about 20 minutes of intense training, so I truly have no excuse for missing them. Pushing hard is essential, as time is limited.

My professional habits are now clear, as well. Each responsibility has an assigned day and time. Weekly time is also allotted for unexpected issues or catching up on tasks needing more attention.

By giving myself parameters and committing to consistent action, progress is becoming reality! I am also much more efficient. According to Leonard Bernstein, one of the most famous composers in American history, “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.”
Daily deadlines have added a little healthy pressure and produced surprising efficiency. With a little consistency, I have been amazed what 10 minutes per day can afford.

Please understand I am by no means promoting my new habits as the best ideas for you. Only you can determine what you want and where you need to make progress.

We are all very different, but to achieve life balance, we must all choose daily discipline. “Whether you are a success or failure in life has little to do with your circumstances; it has much more to do with your choices.” –Nido Qubein

Dream big, be passionate and have purpose, but choose to make progress by winning small. The results are unexpectedly huge!

How To Coach The Scholar Athlete

How to Coach the Scholar Athlete Written By Keri Casas

How to Coach the Scholar Athlete Written By Keri Casas

A scholar athlete is one that is very bright and excels in the classroom; seemingly a better student than athlete.  Many coaches struggle with the scholar athlete simply because they do not understand them.  They do not understand how they think and how they relay instruction to action.  For example, if you tell a scholar athlete to “watch the ball hit the bat,” they will think a handful of things instead of that simple phrase.  They will think, “Where are my hands,” “do I need to swing now,” “how are my feet supposed to look,” “where does my bat make contact”.  They are very mechanical thinkers.  Now, most athletes do not analyze such a simple phrase because it is just that; simple.  When a scholar athlete is told a command, they analyze, dissect, and picture everything that is supposed to happen to “watch the ball hit the bat,” instead of just hitting the ball.

How do you fix this as her coach?  To make things simpler for your scholar athlete, you need to try to think how she thinks.  The more you are in touch with your athlete and understand her way of thinking, the better your communication will be.  When you start to think about the swing and break it down mechanically, you will understand how your scholar athlete comprehends your commands.

How do you understand your scholar athlete’s mentality? Ask questions!  Ask your athlete to break down her swing; watch what she does and have her explain what she is doing.  By doing so, your language with your athlete can connect based on how she interprets parts of her swing.  Now once you and your athlete are on the same page and you have strong lines of communication, teach her the same way you would any other athlete.  Allow your scholar athlete to break down her swing mechanically while she is completing drills and dry swings, but as soon as she faces live pitching or a machine, she needs to be in “go mode”.  Let your athlete know that they are allowed to be mechanically and analytical during drills, but have her swing with a clear mind against a pitcher or machine.

We call this, “hitting like a 5 year old”.  This is not meant to be demeaning, but to literally have your athlete think like a 5 year old would.  5 year olds know the difference between right and wrong, and they know if you tell them to do something, they will directly do it.  If you tell them, “Look at that ball, when it comes to you, swing and hit it,” they will do it.  Because you gave them a simple direction, and nothing else, they are able to accomplish the task because it is the only thing on their mind.  Treating your scholar athletes in a similar fashion will prove to be extremely affective in their performance.  Stick to direct commands, small adjustments, and key words and your athlete will overcome mechanical and analytical thinking in the batter’s box.

 
Key Coaching Tips for the Scholar Athlete
 
1. Do not over teach!  If you give your athlete too many points to focus on, their brain will be on overload!
 
2. Praise small achievements!  Scholar athletes look to be perfect and when they don’t achieve perfection, let them know their small accomplishments are still great!
 
3. Get on her level!  Get to know your scholar athlete and the way she thinks.  The more you understand each other, the better your communication and teaching will work!

Video On Demand

Interview With Michele Smith

Michele Smith

Michele Smith Interviewed By Erin Goettlicher

Erin: Let’s get back to the beginning. When did you get into softball? How did you get into it?

Michele: I was about six or seven years old, my mom was coaching my older sister. Of course I begged them to let me play and, that’s how I first got started. I didn’t start to pitch though until I was fifteen, a sophomore in high school. I started pitching really late.

Erin: What other positions that you play other than pitching?

Michele: I played first base, and I played outfield. I actually was a left-handed shortstop for a while, but I knew my career wasn’t going to probably go real far being a left-handed shortstop so I started pitching.

Erin: Now, you mentioned your mom. Was there anybody in particular that really helped to inspire you on softball?

Michele: I just love the bat, and ball sport since I was a little kid. It didn’t matter if it was playing in the neighborhood with the other kids, or playing in organized games, Just anything that had to do with baseball, or softball. I was loving it.

Erin: If you are to go back and  you had to pick another position other being than a pitcher, what would you be the best at?

Michele: Well, if I wasn’t left-handed, I would probably love to have played one of the middle infield positions. So if I was right-handed, middle infield. Being left-handed, I probably would have set first base. Although I did love the outfield as well.  I’m one of those people, I’m happy if I’m just on the field.

Erin: Absolutely. Well, in your time, you played against a lot of great players. Who would you say is the toughest hitter you’ve ever faced?

Michele: I’ve faced a lot of great hitters because my career was so long. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing. Yvonne Gutierrez, who is a great hitter for UCLA, played in women’s major fastpitch was a very good hitter. Lisa Fernandez, Dot Richardson, Kim Morrell. Everyone who’s ever played on the Olympic team. You could probably name everyone of those athletes.

As a lefty, I always had a different look at batters than what right-handed pitchers had. Another one, Jen Brundage, very good hitter. There are a lot of them. You always had to try to figure out a way to give them out. They beat you sometimes, and then sometimes you beat them.

Erin: Well, I think one of the most well known names right now would be someone like Crystl Bustos.

Michele: Being a lefty, I would just throw her my curve ball low and inside, she hated that pitch. She would always say, “Smitty, stop throwing me that darn curve.” It’s a different game too depending on if we’re playing on forty feet or forty-three feet. When I started playing with her, we were still at forty feet. She was a tough hitter at forty feet. At forty-three feet, her game just goes to a new level because she has so much power that extra 3 feet. It’s tough to beat her.

Erin: So would you say, you or Crystal has the upper hand?

Michele: I think because I’m left-handed, I had the upper hand but only because I’m left-handed. I think against anyone else, and again, I’d mostly threw at her when we were at forty feet so it was a different game. I mean most pitchers have the upper hand at forty feet. But Crystal Bustos, when she’s on, if you have to throw the ball at her forty-three feet, more times and not, she’s going to beat you. So you just have to hope she gets herself out.

Erin: Well, now you mentioned the change in the pitching distance, throughout the years that you’ve played, what do you think is one of the craziest rule changes.

Michele: Yeah, internationally, the twenty second clock to speed up the game although it helped a lot. It made a difference in Beijing. For athletes, for those of us that played that elite game at forty feet, it was so difficult to pitch, to hit at that level that when they went back to forty-three feet, it opened the pool up. There were many more athletes that can play at the elite level at forty-three feet than they can at forty feet.

So that’s really why the US was just so over-powering in Athens besides the fact that we are great. The rest of the world wasn’t used to playing softball at forty-three feet. I think that one of the things about our sport is that we’re kind of like always moving, like an amoeba, kind of always moving around and always changing things. Baseball is so traditionally. You never see it changes. .

Erin: Absolutely. You mentioned the international scene. You’ve been to a lot of great places throughout the world. If you had to pick one of your favorite places whether be a city or a stadium to play, what would that be?

Michele: The Olympic arenas is just always something special. Any Olympic games, when you walk into that Olympic stadium, it doesn’t matter what country it’s in, when you represent your country, it’s a special thing. Playing in Sydney was always a lot of fun because you knew that every Australian fan was just going to give you the hardest time ever, so that’s always a lot of fun.

I loved playing in Japan. I played professionally there for sixteen years and the Japanese fans are wonderful. They’re great people, and appreciate really good play. It’s always fun to play in Europe although the Europeans don’t understand the sport as much. But I would have to say my favorite two places would be to play in Australia or, Japan.

Erin: Very good. Now, do you have any superstitions or traditions that you follow?

Michele: Yeah.

Erin: Before you take the field?

Michele: Yeah. I’m more traditional. I’m real big on having a routine. So I do always jump over the foul lines but, instead of that being a superstition, it was my way of saying, “Okay, it’s time to go to work.” It was my cue, physical cue to say, “Okay, it’s time for me to play ball.” So that was always my thing. It was like I was jumping into my arena almost like it was a three dimensional. Did I have favorite things I like to wear? Absolutely. These sliders were more comfortable than my other sliders so I wore those.

Did I wear them because I’m a superstitious? No, they’re just were the most comfortable ones I wore. So for me, it was more about routine.

Erin: In your equipment bag, on game day, what’s always in your equipment bag?

Michele: Always two gloves. Probably, about ten pairs of batting gloves. Three or four bats. Probably, some gels in case my arm gets tight, to keep it loose. Probably, some sort of food because I love to eat.

Erin: What iare your during the game snacks that you like?

Michele: I think bananas are always great. Honey is also really good pitchers because it’s a very natural.

Erin: Okay. You’ve played with many different teammates over the time. If we could go back and ask those players what they remember the most about you, what would you want them to say and how would you want them to describe you as a teammate?

Michele: I was probably tough, intense, but willing to help anyone if they needed extra BP, I throw them BP. If they needed extra practice, I work with them. So I tried to really make my teammates better. I don’t know if they always got that when I was playing but I was real big like that. That’s one of the things that the Japanese knew about me really well.

One of my biggest goals was to help my teammates become the best athletes that they could be.

Erin: Very good. Now, you mentioned that you keep some gels in case your arm gets sore. You’ve been playing for a lot of years. What is the toughest part about keeping yourself in great physical condition to play at such an elite level?

Michele: Well, the game isn’t just the four or six months you’re on the field. It’s a year round. If you want to be a great athlete, you have to train year round and that’s physical fitness. A lot of athletes think that they can work between the lines and that’s going to make them a good ball player. It doesn’t cut it anymore.

If you want to be an elite athlete, if you want a scholarship, if you want to win a state championship, a college championship, a gold medal, you have to learn to work really hard in the off season so that means running, cycling. It means cardiovascular fitness. It means building lean body mass as well as also having a level of fitness where your endurance just can take you further, and allow you to compete longer than the other people that are on the field with you.

Erin: Right. Now, when you finish your career, you’ve been playing for quite a while and I’m sure you’re going to continue to play as long as you can. When we look back on Michele Smith’s legacy, usually on the road, what are some of the things you’re most proud of that you want us to remember your legacy as?

Michele: That I never stop learning. I love to teach the game when I’m broadcasting for ESPN. I love to teach the game as if I’m speaking to one student athlete out there that is trying to become a better ball player. So for me, it’s about teaching the game, sharing my passion of the sport with potentially new fans of the game that are watching for the first time but really about learning and teaching and just feeling like every day I step on the field, I’m going to be a better athlete.

Erin: Great. Well, if you are going to leave us with a few words of advice for those young players out there that are chasing their dreams today, what would those be?

Michele: Few words of advice that would to persevere, to never give up. If you have a passion, if you have something that you love, whether or not it’s softball or Math or religion or whatever it is, just to never give up. That means in Japanese, to always fight hard.

Erin: Well, there you have it folks. Michele, thank you very much for joining us today.

Michele: Thank you.

Video On Demand

Doctor Overcomes Aches, Pains And Illness To Get Back On Field

Doctor overcomes aches, pains and illness to get back on field By Bill Plummer

“Doctor overcomes aches, pains and illness to get back on field” Written By Bill Plummer

People who play softball are grateful they can play the sport even in their senior years. One of them is Dr. Leon Speroff of Portland, Oregon.

Dr. Speroff is go grateful that he could play softball as a senior that he wrote a book about his experience entitled, “Slow-Pitch Therapy: Playing Senior Softball Through Aches, Pains and Illness.” In the book Speroff chronicles how fellow senior players provided essential support through “aches, pains and illness.” Speroff said the sport helped him through cancer treatment, a double knee replacement and shoulder surgery.

One of the biggest benefits of senior softball, said Speroff, is not batting or fielding or running.”There are more man-to-man hugs during and after a senior softball game than at any other time in most men’s lives. Senior softball is a vehicle for emotion, providing excuses and circumstances for manly interactions that are hard to find anywhere else. The older one becomes, the more precious are these moments,and when struggling with an illness, the support of fellow senior softball players is precious.”

Speroff went through extensive chemotherapy treatment for Lymphoma and here is his idea of the perfect psychological treatment.”Five for five in my first games back after a difficult month. What a difference it made after eight units of transfusions to have a good red blood cell level…no less discomfort; no shortness of breath; and the strength to swing the bat with coordination and strength! There is no better therapy for the chemotherapy blues.!”

Considering what Dr. Speroff endured it’s amazing how he survived let alone had the well and determination to again play softball. Dr. Speroff is professor emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Oregon Health and Science University.

Speroff also drew praise and from one of his teammates. “Leon Speroff has been a friend since I started playing senior softball three years ago. As a fellow player, I only had brief glimpses of all he went through as he fought one malady after another in his quest to stay on the field. The book filled in the details and should be an inspiration for others facing medical obstacles in their lives. Staying active and having a goal are important factors in getting healthy and staying that way.”

There isn’t any doubt that Dr. Speroff had the will and through his love of senior softball found a way to continue playing. Hats off to the good doctor.

* * *
If you happened to watch the opening show of “The Biggest Loser” on September 11th, there was a familiar face among the 16 contestants. The group included former ASA All-American and three-time Olympian Lori Harrigan-Mack.

Harrigan, now 44, was a member of three USA Olympic teams (1996, 2000 and 2004) and is the only pitcher in the history of Olympic softball to hurl a no-hitter, beating Canada in the 2000 Olympics. She also is a member of four Halls of Fame including the ASA National Hall of Fame in OKC.

Now the director of security for a Las Vegas hotel, Harrigan-Mack weighed 301 pounds and now weighs 292 pounds. All those who know Lori wish her nothing but the best in her desire, and maybe even win the show’s top prize. All the best to you Lori.

That’s The View From Here.