Studying Chemistry in Softball

Studying Chemistry In Softball - Shannon Murray

Studying Chemistry in Softball Written By Shannon Murray

Chemistry? In softball? Who knew?! Some of you didn’t think that we could study chemistry outside of the classroom. For our sport chemistry isn’t about numbers and equations. In softball we study the periodic table of success. What elements combined formulate the best team chemistry? Finding the right chemistry on a softball team can be a challenging task. Some teams get lucky and it happens a little more naturally. But what does good chemistry on a team entail? The right chemistry of any softball team is what brings the players together to win and be successful. With that said, there is no one-size fits all manual for finding chemistry on the field. As a player you will encounter so many personalities over the years on different teams. You need to keep in mind that no one is alike and accept diversity, even celebrate it. Not everyone on your team will be your best friend but they are your sister in softball. Find what bonds you on the field and how you all connect through the sport you love to play. You should discover ways that connect you to all the girls on your team because no one should be left in the dark. Branch out and avoid cliques. Cliques can cause tension and isolation. As teammates you are one unit with one goal which is to win and have fun doing it. Softball should be enjoyed by any girl that has interest and shouldn’t be discouraged from playing because she feels like she doesn’t fit in. Sometimes taking a leadership role with this benefits the team. If you as a player feel that your team might be a little disconnected bring the separation together. It is a good opportunity for your team to see that you not only care about having fun but what is also best for the team. By bringing the girls on your team together when it counts is bringing a positive athletic environment for your team to thrive. You don’t have to be best friends but you do need to be best teammates in order to thrive on the field.

On the other side of team chemistry is having too much of it and as a result becoming a distraction to success. No matter what you always want to have a good time at softball practice or enjoy the comradery of a sport that allows you to have it in a game. However, there has to be a balance of comradery and contest. Make sure that social life isn’t getting in the way of performing at your best. If everyone in the dugout is talking about Johnny Studmuffin while there are bases loaded and a tied game, the batter won’t exactly feel the support she needs from her teammates to get the job done. Being visible, verbally and in performance, to support your teammates will increase chemistry appropriately and keep everyone focused in the game.

Okay here’s your chemistry quiz. Write the answer to this equation: 1 goal + 1 heart + 1 mind – negativity = ? The answer? Team chemistry and success.

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Drawing the Lines of a Leader

Drawing the Lines of a Leader

Drawing the Lines of a Leader Written By Shannon Murray

Almost every softball team votes or has designated team captains. Normally these are the girls that are seen as the best players on the team or have the most outgoing personality. But did you know that team leaders don’t have to be captains? If you didn’t, then you may not even know that you are seen as a leader on your team. Captains are meant to be the leaders of the team, but they are not the only ones. Is there one criteria to be met in order to be seen as a captain? These are some of the questions that come to mind when we are determining how to draw the lines of our team leaders.

Personally, I prefer to refer to team captains as team leaders. In my opinion, the word leader presents a stronger emphasis on the definition of the word, and in my personal experience has given a little more push to those girls trying to fulfill those roles. Diversity comes in handy when it comes to selecting the leaders of your softball team. Every girl has different strengths and weaknesses that should be utilized and accommodated for. Some girls on the team will be more vocal leaders and others will lead by action. Either of which can make a great team leader. I believe in having more than one team leader on the team to balance out strengths and weaknesses. Not only is there diversity in leadership skills, but also in the way the rest of the girls will respond to each captain’s leadership style. It would be rare to say that every girl on the team could one hundred percent agree with one team captain’s leadership ways. That is why it’s good to have some mix in the leaders. No matter what girls are selected as the team leaders, they should all understand that being a leader means you are there to serve the girls on your team and not yourself.

However, there are plenty of leaders on the team that are not official. They are the girls you see encouraging their teammates after striking out. These are the young ladies that stay after practice to take more swings or grounders and the rest of the team follows. The unofficial team leaders are the girls that will pick up equipment, share their gear and lend a helping hand all without being asked just because they know it’s what’s best for the team. They don’t see these tasks as beneath them or for anyone else but every girl on the team. Just as much as the official leaders on your teams, they too deserve to be recognized for their hard work and selfless dedication to making the team better. We must not forget these girls and their good service to the team that sometimes goes by right in front of us.

So what are the qualities to look for in team leaders? For this answer, there is no one answer. There are many and the right one will vary for each team. Every softball team has a different team dynamic and therefore requires a little bit of research to determine who will make the best team leader on it. Overall, there are some qualities that I look for in team leaders that could be taken into consideration on any team. I seek girls that are motivational. They want to win, reach goals, be a team play and a positive influence without even trying. This is their personality and it speaks to the team with or without words. Good team leaders have a vision. Their vision is realistic, inspirational, contagious and is one for the whole team (not just themselves). A good leader to me is a young woman that can exhibit good sportsmanship and get everyone on board with her vision.

Now that we’ve thought about what a good leader for a softball team is, what do we do as coaches? As any coach knows, we are not just building exceptional softball players, but also exceptional young women. By doing so, when we pick our team captains we are building future leaders. As the coach it is our responsibility to guide our team leaders and encourage them to embrace their leadership skills. You never know, you could be coaching a future college coach, the future president or CEO of a major corporation. But as we give them support and encouragement in these leadership roles, we can develop confident young women.

Let us remember that leaders aren’t born, but rather made. They are created by a large amount of factors, but how they built in softball is something we can help with. Educator and author Peter Drucker said, “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” Let us draw the lines of our leaders beyond their thinking of what is their limits, and show them they can lead teams to success farther than they could imagine.

Fastpitch Softball Books

Being Behind in the Count or Game as a Pitcher: Sinking Ship or Floating Boat?

Being Behind in the Count or Game as a Pitcher: Sinking Ship or Floating Boat?

Being Behind in the Count or Game as a Pitcher: Sinking Ship or Floating Boat? Written By Shannon Murray

It’s the top of the fourth inning and your team is losing by one run. There are runners on the bases (one from a base hit and one from a walk you threw). The count on the current batter is 2 balls and one strike. As a pitcher, what is going through your mind? It might be something along the lines of “Great, I’m a sinking ship just waiting to go under if I don’t get this next batter.” You feel the pressure. You just want to get out of this inning so your team can get some runs behind you. Everyone is counting on you to get this out here. So why is it so hard for you to move past the fact that you are behind not only in the count, but also the game? At this moment in the game, it sounds like you are allowing your ship to sink instead of keeping your pitching boat afloat.

Every pitcher understands the pressure felt from being behind. It’s a matter of how you change the direction your count is heading and how you are going to make adjustments here that will make the difference. There are many ways pitchers can get themselves out of this kind of jam. However, each pitcher is different so you need to discover what method is best for you. What it essentially comes down to is your mental toughness and what style of a pitcher you are. Ultimately, you need to find a way to move past each ball you throw or walk drawn.

Start by having the ultimate goal of getting ahead in the count. The more you practice throwing a first pitch strike, the better your chances are of staying ahead in the count. Getting a first pitch strike on the batter sets the tone for the rest of the at bat and for the hitting team. If you get behind in the count, don’t panic. Take it one pitch at a time from there. Say to yourself “I’m going to get a strike THIS pitch”. This way, your sole focus is on the next pitch and not about worrying to walk the batter. You can’t go wrong with a couple good old fashioned deep breaths either. As the pitcher, you control the pace of the game so now is the time to take advantage of it. If you are getting too behind in the count for your comfort, just walk back slowly and take the long way back to the pitcher’s mound. If you struck out the girl or she hit into the defense, that’s great you did your job. However if you walked her, just move on because there is nothing you can do about it now. Move on to the next pitch and move past the walk if it happens. Unless it was an intentional walk, everyone knows that you don’t walk batters on purpose. So don’t get so frustrated with yourself.

When you’re behind in the game as a pitcher you might feel like you have to control every aspect of the game and take all of the outs yourself. Sometimes a pitcher feel this burden of the score being down that it is their fault for letting all of those batters get those hits. News flash, it’s a TEAM sport which means that not everything is your fault. As a pitcher your responsibility is to throw strikes and put the defense to work to make plays. You can only control the elements that are in your control as a pitcher. When you are on offense, it’s your TEAM’s responsibility to get hits and score runs. If they don’t, there is nothing you can do but go out there and pitch your best. Always play like it’s a 0-0 score ball game. Play like everything is on the line with that level of intensity. If you are getting some runners on base, it never hurts to call a time out with your catcher or the whole infield. By doing this, you are breaking up the consistency of the hitters getting hits. When everyone gathers, tell them you called a time out to break up the hitting streak and to reassure the girls that you’re all going to get out of this. If I called a time out to just my catcher, I would sometimes ask her to tell me a joke. That way I can lighten up and relax a little.

No matter how far behind in the count or the game you are, always keep your pitcher poker face. Much of the game of softball is mental. When the other team sees your worried, frustrated or agitated expressions on your face, you’ve lost any kind of mental advantage that you had over them. They will assume you are easily broken down and that will give them a boost of confidence to start hitting the ball more. By making sure that your facial expression doesn’t change in times of turmoil, they will gain no mental advantage over you and perhaps might fear you even more seeing you not so easily broken down. Keep your boat afloat when you are behind and you are sure not to sink.

Fastpitch Softball Books

The Properties of Getting Pulled (As a Pitcher)

The Properties of Getting Pulled (As a Pitcher)

The Properties of Getting Pulled (As a Pitcher) Written By Shannon Murray

Every passionate pitcher known to the world of softball goes into a game with a game plan…a WHOLE game plan. When we are called to the mound, we are under the assumption that we are taking on all 7 innings. The game goes on and things aren’t going as planned. What happens next? A lot of times, we get pulled and a relief pitcher comes in our place. This is the farthest thing from what we wanted starting the game. But the reality is, it’s going to happen and it’s all a part of the game. It’s not the end of the world. And guess what… It’s not about you! The choice to pull a pitcher from the game is about what’ best for the team and what’s going to help the team win in that specific game.

Trust me, I know that getting pulled off the mound is not fun. You can feel disappointed, guilty, angry, embarrassed, or even jealous of the relief pitcher that is taking your spot…your spotlight. However, these are not the thoughts we should be having as pitchers. As a pitcher, whether you see it or not, you are usually seen as some sort of leadership role. Your teammates need to see you as positive, productive, constructive and supportive. After getting pulled do you really think it’s the best idea to drop your head, get mad, throw your glove in the dugout or pout? Absolutely not. When you have a bad attitude about getting pulled, you are affecting the rest of the team. Ignoring or scolding the relief pitcher isn’t going to help the situation either. How do you think that makes the other pitcher feel? She’s already coming into a pressure situation of getting the defense out of a jam, and your poor attitude towards her can’t ease her nerves. As she comes out, YOU give her the ball, a few pointers on the ump’s strike zone and a simple “you got this” as you HUSTLE (not walk) off the field. You not only gave that pitcher a boost of encouragement to go on, but you showed character to the rest of your teammates by holding your head high. By giving the relief pitcher tips on the strike zone you were also productive and constructive to the team. Those little things will make the difference.

Remembers this too, being taken out of pitching doesn’t mean you were pitching badly. It’s about strategy. Different teams are better at hitting some pitchers than others. If you’re in a game getting hammered, it doesn’t always mean you weren’t hitting your targets. It could be that the other team is just good at hitting your style of pitching (whether it’s how fast you are, the kind of movement that you put on the ball, what your best pitches are, etc.). Bringing in a different pitcher serves the purpose of showing the opposing team something different. Their batting line up needs a little shaking up. If you keep pitching, realistically, they are going to keep hitting you. It is not a swing at your pitching or intended to offend you by pulling you out. Pulling out a pitcher is purely strategy. All you can do from there is play your role as a leader and do whatever your team needs you to do. Your job now could range playing another position, to designated hitting, or even standing on the fence cheering on your teammates that are playing. Whatever it is, you do it 100%, with all of your passion and with every ounce of energy as if you were still on the mound.

So remember pitchers, your teammates need you on and off the mound. The kind of attitude choices you make will reflect how they see you. Being in the center circle also means being center of attention and everyone is always watching you. Be a reflection of good character to look at and not one of poor attitude. So the next time you get pulled, stay positive.

Fastpitch Magazine

Sisterhood of the Traveling Softballs

Sisterhood of the Traveling Softballs by Shannon Murray

Sisterhood of the Traveling Softballs Written By Shannon Murray

The other day I was reminded about a book that I read when I was a teenager. I’m sure many of you girls can relate when I mention the book is The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. For those of you who may have not read the book, it’s about four best friends who are linked together by a traveling pair of pants while they are separated for a summer. In the end, this enchanting novel taught me a serious lesson about the importance of friendship and family. But something this book started and softball emphasized for me is that the family we are given isn’t always related by blood.

The girls that share the dirt, name on the uniforms, and memories from softball with you will surprise you how big of a part they will play in your lives. They are more than just your teammates; they are your friends, sisters and family. Softball is a gift and so are the people that you play with. When I got to college, I was fortunate to not only find the best teammates I could ask for, but also the best friends that I will have for the rest of my life. Those girls were there for me on and off the field. You can’t find the kind of relationships you have in softball anywhere else. Something about this sport brings us together for more than just another win in the column. My best friends and teammates in softball taught me life lessons that I always carry with me. Indirectly, they helped shape me into the person that I am today. My sisters gave me the confidence I needed to believe in myself in softball and other areas of my life. My teammates gave me the encouragement and guidance I needed to become a leader on my team as well. Though I am separated by states from these teammates I call my sisters, I know because of the bond we shared on and off the field I will never lose them. The picture accompanying this post is of me and my fellow classmates who I graduated and played with at Lawrence. However, these were not just my fellow teammates, captains and leaders, but also two of my very best friends.

So players my lesson to you is to think about how you treat your teammates. Not only do you share the ball field with them, but also memories that will never leave. Those sick double plays, final strikeouts to win the game, home runs, diving catches and so much more are the building blocks for lifetime friendships. With friendships on softball teams can also come times of tension. Think about how you will handle these situations before you act on them. If you are a leader on your team, this is especially important for you. Leadership is a privilege of power, not an entitlement of one. You will earn the respect of your teammates faster and more efficiently by seeing them as equals and not beneath you. A loss of control in leadership can affect the friendships you have on and off the field. Treat these special girls as you would want to be treated. More importantly take the time to learn the different personalities of each girl on your team to be sensitive to their encouragement needs. Some are more sensitive than others and it is your responsibility as their leader to be aware of them. The other girls on your team are looking to you for support, guidance, fire for the game, and inspiration they need to have the love of the game. Softball gives us more than a lifetime sport, but also lifetime friendships. Like the traveling pants, travel, high school and college softball will give us a sisterhood of forever.

Fastpitch Softball Books

Tough As Nails

Tough as Nails

Written By Shannon Murray

Everyone’s been hit by a pitch, shed some blood, or gotten hurt in a game at some point in their careers. Most of us shake it off and get right back in the game, as we should do. You slap on a band aid or walk it out and you can move right on back into the game from there. But there is one injury that is tougher than your average scrape on the knee to shake off…the mental ones.

From high school back, if I had a dime for every time I kicked myself for walking a batter in a game, striking out at the plate or fumbled a ground ball I’d be a millionaire by now. Looking back now, would all those riches have been worth it for all those times I was beating myself up? Absolutely not. What I didn’t realize was not only was I hindering my own playing, but that of my teammates as well. I needed to develop some mental toughness.

What does being mentally tough even mean? Basically, you have to find the band aid that goes inside your head to get over whatever scrape you just made for yourself. Mental toughness isn’t something that can be learned in a book. This form of art is one that has to be mastered in the mind on your own. It is also different for everyone. How you make yourself mentally tough is personally designed to you. Holding onto what happened in the past can’t change the future. Staying mad at yourself for missing that easy pop fly in center field won’t help you catch the next one. It’s about moving on. Holding on to the negative can even affect your attitude toward yourself and your teammates.

On a team, attitudes are contagious. You want to have a positive, encouraging and winning attitude with your team. Holding on to the screw ups we make will hold us back from that. If you have a bad attitude about yourself it can transfer to your teammates. Saying to yourself, “Well great, I just walked two batters in a row and now we’re going to lose” doesn’t help you or your team. You don’t even have to say it out loud. Your facial expressions, actions and perhaps lack of voice will say it all for you. Well here’s how you’re going to fix that… GET OVER IT! It’s not the end of the world, I can 100% promise you that. You make one mistake and your life is not over. So here’s where you help yourself become mentally tough.

Players, if you find yourself holding onto the mistakes that you make on the field, design your personal mental toughness plan. Personally, to keep myself from falling in the hole, I would keep my teammates in mind. That’s why I picked this photo for this week’s blog. Going onto the field and thinking about these girls kept my head held high and encouraged me to stay strong when it was toughest on the field. I knew that I wasn’t alone and we were in this together. They looked to me for leadership and if they saw me fall apart, I knew they too were sure to do the same. One of my phrases I took with me on the field was “Play for Her”. If I struck out, I held my head high jogged back to the dugout and told the girl on deck to pick me up with her at bat. That showed my teammates that I made a mistake but wasn’t going to let it affect me. Giving yourself a 3 second maximum to get over a mistake can help too. After the play is over from a ground ball that went between your legs, give yourself 3 seconds to be annoyed and snap back. It’s over, it’s done with, now move on because you have plenty of more plays and chances to make up for the last one. No matter what your personal mental toughness plan is, always remember to have a poker face. It doesn’t matter what mistake you made, don’t let anyone know how you feel about it. Keep an encouraging attitude that is sure to pull you up from the hole that you fell in from making that mistake. As a coach, I always encourage my players to keep their poker face on and to move on from the mistakes they make. We want the ships of success to sail not sink.

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