Olympian Amanda Freed Answers My Ten Questions Written By Gary Leland
Three-time Olympic Gold medalist (1996, 2000, 2004) Olympic Silver medalist (2008)
Position: Utility – R/R
Hometown: Cypress, Calif.
Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?
A. I started playing softball when I was 4 years old. It was a little early at the time but I have an older sister who had begun playing, and my mom was the coach, so I was allowed to tag along
Q.Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?
A. There were many special people in my life who helped me become a great player. I am afraid to start to list them for fear I might forget some so I will just name a few.
1) My Mom, and my Dad of course, but my mom was the one who coached me from a very young age, caught me during pitching lessons and at home during my “developmental” years, and always encouraged me to play only because I enjoyed it.
2) The coaching staff on my 18u team, Gordon’s Panthers. The 3 years I played for this organization were the years I really matured in the sport. I became more versatile, drastically improved in every area on the field, and became more educated in terms of my approach to big competition and how I “thought” the game overall.
3) Ernie Parker was my pitching coach for most of my career and the one I continued to turn to over the years. I could talk forever on how much I love this man for what he did for me as a pitcher but more importantly as a person.
Q.How did you get ready for a game?
A. I’m not superstitious at all. I would purposely mix things up so I would not fall into a routine that could mess with my head. I was, however, routine with my pitching warm up in practice and in pre-game. That routine helped to calm my nerves before big games. Overall during pre-game I like to keep things light but focused.
Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?
A. I feel like I am always on the go so when I do manage to find some free time I love spending it with my family and friends. And now that I have a baby girl I cherish the days where we get to just hang out and play together. I have also taken an active interest in the Special Olympics and enjoy being involved with them whenever I have a chance.
Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?
A. I really feel fortunate to have met the people I met and played for the coaches I played for throughout my career. I absolutely worked hard on and off the field but without them I wouldn’t have stayed on the path I did to become the player I was and person I am today.
Q. Do you have any routines are superstitions that you implement regularly?
A. I had more routines than superstitions. I did use to “rake” the dirt quite a bit as part of my routine. Whether I was stepping into the box or on the mound I was always moving dirt around in between pitches. It was my time to think.
Q. What is your favorite softball memory?
A. If I didn’t say winning the Gold Medal in Athens you’d probably think I was crazy. So yes, the Olympics was definitely a favorite! Another favorite was winning the winning the National Championship my freshman year at UCLA. This was a favorite for very different reasons. I was young and ended up in the circle during that final game. I remember how intensely my heart was pounding with runners on in the bottom of the 7th inning and I remember the flood of relief after we made the final out.
Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?
A. I don’t believe mental training should be used to prepare you “in the event that you should need it” but a place you should live at every day in practice and in games. A major focus for me during my mental training was breathing, as simple as it sounds. I had to practice breathing on the mound and in the batters box. It slowed the game down for me. If I didn’t learn to breathe in practice when it didn’t “count” how in the world would I ever have been able to do it in championship play?! I am also a big fan of visualization. It’s a great way to prepare for games by spending a few concentrated minutes seeing yourself perform and succeed.
Q.What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?
A. I was always the pitcher who could hit and play the field, but my senior year of college I injured my pitching forearm and was forced to take some time off. I was never able to fully recover from that injury. I made the 2000 Olympic team as the pitching alternate but going into the tryout for the 2004 Olympic games I tried out as an outfielder/utility. I made the team and although it was a very different role, exciting yet difficult at times, I learned so much about myself.
Q. If you could do anything else in the world as a profession, what would it be and why?
A. I have always secretly wanted to be a ballerina. When I was young I would put my mom’s pointe shoes on and walk around the house on my toes. Maybe I wouldn’t want to do it as a full-time profession but would love to take it on as a serious hobby!
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