3 More Ways to Raise Your Recruit-ability –

Written by Stacie Mahoe

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3 More Ways To Raise Your Recruit-ability

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In my last article I went over some of the basics of college recruiting: taking care of business on the field, in the classroom, and on your college entrance tests. However, there's more to being recruited than just talent and grades. You can increase your chances of playing softball at the next level if you strive for excellence in the following areas as well…

Attitude and Conduct

An area not everyone considers during their college recruiting journey is how their attitude and conduct affect future opportunities. I know you see professional athletes throwing tantrums on the field or celebrating excessively, but I wouldn't recommend being that kind of athlete.

Practice carrying yourself well and practice honoring the game every chance you get. This means doing so when things go well, but more importantly when things don't. I know tempers flare and you may feel extremely frustrated from time to time. That's human and it means you care about what you do. However, practice exercising self control and become a competitor that looks fierce, focused, and unstoppable no matter what! Be a source of determination, confidence, and positivity teammates can draw from in good times and bad.

The truth is, you never know when someone is watching.

Yes, college coaches and scouts watch for the skills you possess and the plays you make, but they also look at how you respond under adversity. What do you do when obstacles and challenges arise? Do you get down, give up, stop playing your game, and let negativity sink in? Or do you keep pushing forward? Do you continue making a positive impact?

Impress those who see you play in both your best performances and your worst outings.

Social Media and Online Presence

This can be an entire article all by itself. All I will say is, admissions departments, college coaches, and a whole lot of other people who will become influential in your future success, DO look at how you conduct yourself online. This is a FACT!

How they see your online presences is NO different than their evaluation of you offline, or in the real world. It's all connected. As far as they're concerned it's ALL a part of who you are. Do NOT give them reasons to discard you because you got all brave behind a keyboard or mobile device. Do NOT give them reasons to dismiss you because your friends thought it was funny to hack your account and post inappropriate content. It's still YOUR account. YOU are responsible for what shows up there, and don't think a clever nickname will “hide” you. Just because “everyone” else thinks posting their drama and stupidity online is fun, doesn't mean it's a good idea for people like you who actually have goals and dreams to go after.

Be willing to do what others won't so you can achieve what they can't!

The rule to follow for your online persona is simple: Always conduct yourself well, online or offline, as if the most important people in your life are watching. I don't care if you plan to delete a post later or figure just because it's a digital world you can “erase” it by deleting it. You can't. Once something is posted online, it's there, somewhere, and CAN be pulled up later. Plus, you never know who got a copy or a screenshot of what you posted before you could take it down. Don't take the chance!

Do the Legwork

One of the biggest mistakes I see student-athletes and their families make is assuming “if you're good enough, someone will find you and recruit you.” Why wait for someone else to determine your fate?

Do anything and everything in your power to get your name and face out there. In today's world of youtube, email, social media, Skype, and various other platforms, there's no reason for you to sit and home and wait for the phone to ring. Do not think that taking care of business in the classroom and on the field is enough. Do not think that simple attending recruiting events and showcases is enough. Do not think that creating an online profile with a recruiting service or website is enough. It's not, not if you want to give yourself the MOST opportunities possible.

Do not wait for your coach to do all the work for you. Do not wait for your counselor to do all the work for you. They each have many other student-athletes to help. YOU only have YOU to work on. Take ownership of your journey. Do the work.

Do not wait for college coaches to come find you. Go to them. Make it easy, but be smart about how you do it. I know college coaches who say the very first contact they get from a some players says something along the lines of, “I want to play softball in college. Do you have money for me?”

Um…what? This coach has probably already seen other players, been in contact with other players, heard about other players, and, if they don't know anything about you, and the first thing you ask is that question, the answer is going to be, “No.” They will consider other players they actually know something about before they ever think about giving you money when they know nothing about you.

Instead, start off like you would in real life when you meet someone new. Introduce yourself. Ask questions that help show your interest in attending their school and being a part of their program. Show you're interested in them by actually doing some research on who they are and what their school and softball programs are about. Don't ask questions that you can easily find the answer to on their school's website. This shows that you didn't care enough to do some work and you want them to do everything for you. Bad idea!

Show them how YOU can help THEM. Don't just go straight to asking or taking. Don't make it all about you. Give them a reason to listen to what you have to say. Make it at least a little about them. Why do you want to be part of what's going on at their school? Why do you think you'd be a good fit for each other? Include these kinds of details.

Make sure you use the right name for the coach and school. Double check this before you call or hit the send button in a message! This really does happen. I've talked to a number of college coaches who've experienced this kind of mistake or lack of attention to detail in communication from a potential recruit. Yes, it's a lot of work because the more coaches you contact, the more chances you'll have. Reaching out to coaches is not always the most fun task and it can be quite monotonous and boring, but again, be willing to do what others aren't!

Yes, there are templates out there you can use to help you begin communication with college coaches, however, if you're using a template you found online or via some other easily accessible source, chances are other players are too.

When a coach sees yet “another” letter written with exactly the same wording as a bunch of other emails they've gotten this week, they KNOW you didn't put much time or effort into writing it. They KNOW all you did was fill in the blanks. They KNOW you didn't put any personal thought or effort into your communication with them. This is a BAD way to start.

I'm not saying don't use templates at all. They can be very helpful. Go ahead and look at a template for getting a general idea of what kind of information you can or should include in your communication, but don't forget to add your own personal touch somewhere along the line.

Communicating with college coaches is likely a very new experience for you. This means you probably won't be perfect at it the first time you try it. You may not want to start off by contacting the schools you're most interested in first. Instead, start with the schools you have marginal interest in first to get some experience under your belt before you go for the ones you really, really, really want the attention of.

BONUS Tip: Follow Up

It's true college coaches can't contact you before a certain point in your high school years, however this does not mean you cannot contact them. Just because they don't immediately respond, don't give up. If you jot them a note or give them a call (and leave a message if they don't answer), from time to time, they'll likely remember your name before they remember the name of someone who only made contact once and never bothered to follow up.

That said, respect a coaches' time. They are incredibly busy and don't need pointless emails that say, “Dear Coach, just wanted to say Hi!” Have some kind of purpose for writing. Update them on something you just accomplished. Congratulate them for something cool that just happened with their program. Whatever reason you find, make sure it helps them see how you can benefit them and that you're serious about their program.

Be SMART about who you contact. Make sure you meet the general requirements and would be a decent fit for the school and program you contact, otherwise you're just wasting your time and theirs. There's enough work involved in your college recruiting journey. You don't need to add to it by spending time on tasks that don't benefit you. Best wishes to you in your journey. Work smart AND hard on and off the field.

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College Softball: Wimps and Whiners Need Not Apply

Written By Stacie Mahoe

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College Softball Whimps and Winers Need Not Apply

Dallas / Fort Worth Coaches Group

A number of high school softball players recently saw their college dreams come true during November's National Letter of Intent early signing period. They signed on the dotted line to play at the next level and took the first step in the next chapter of their softball career.

After going through the college recruiting process myself and going through it once now as a parent, I must say this…

The college recruiting journey is NOT for wimps or whiners. It includes ups and downs and can feel like a crazy roller coaster ride. Not everything that happens feels “fair” and if you have hopes of playing college ball, you're up against some stiff competition!

Making it beyond high school and into the college ranks is about more than just playing well and taking care of business in the classroom. That's only a portion of it. In fact, I'd venture to say, that's the bare minimum.

Since there's SO much to say about the college recruiting process, let's just take a look at these basics first. I'll dive deeper into some other issues in another article.

On the Field

As mentioned, gunning for a spot on a college roster puts you up against a TON of competition. If you want to beat out thousands of others who want the same thing you're after, you must be willing to do something aren't if you want the best chance at coming out on top.

Here are some things to think about when it comes to your softball skills and performance…

• What are you doing to raise your game that others aren't?

• Is there something you can start doing to gain an advantage and begin separating yourself from the pack?

• Do you know what kind of running speed, throwing speed, or batting averages players who make it to college have?

• Do you know how you measure up, in these areas and others, against those you're competing against for a college opportunity?

• Do you know what your biggest strengths are?

• Are you maximizing those strengths?

• Do you know what your biggest weakness is?

• What are you doing to overcome this weakness or make it a non-issue?

• What can you do, where can you focus to SET YOURSELF APART from other players?

I guarantee you, there is something excel at on your team. It may not be a physical skill. Maybe you look the sharpest. Maybe you encourage others and keeping your teammates up more than anyone else. Maybe you constantly make your team space easy to work within by keeping it neat and orderly. Maybe you earn the best grades on the entire team. Whatever you rock at, make SURE you maximize it. Make sure when people see you on the field, they know, hands-down-no-doubt-about-it you do THAT better than anyone else on your team, maybe better than anyone in your league.

In the Classroom

This one is simple. The better you do in the classroom the more opportunities you have. Period. Grades alone help open up more college opportunities. Ideally, you shoot for, and get, all A's and B's. Preferably more A's than B's if at all possible! Anything less limits your options, not only for athletic opportunities, but for other scholarship opportunities as well.

Unfortunately, many student-athletes don't take this area seriously enough until half way through their sophomore year or maybe even their junior year. By this time it becomes very difficult to raise your GPA before coaches at the schools you want go attend must start evaluating you.

In fact, if you have dreams of playing DI softball, coaches begin looking at your class during freshman and sophomore year. If you're not taking your grades seriously from the get go, you immediately put yourself at a disadvantage to the rock star softball players who are.

It's absolutely true that DI programs seek out recruits that early. When trying to make a future decision on someone that early, they want ALL the pieces of the puzzle in order. Otherwise they're taking a chance that you may or may not be eligible or may not get high enough entrance exam scores years down the road. The more sure they can be about these issues by you taking care of business in all areas, the easier you make it for them to choose you.

Either that or other areas must be “worth the risk.” In other words, college coaches *may* be willing to take a little bit of risk on the academic side if you already throw like Monica Abbott, hit like Crystl Bustos, or run like Natasha Whatley as a freshman in high school. That kind of talent isn't bestowed on too many individuals that early so plan on giving yourself the best chance possible by keeping your grades as high as you can.

SATs and ACTs

Like grades, the higher your test scores, the better your chances and the easier you make it for coaches to recruit you. Not only that, good grades and good test scores open the doors to other kinds of aid so you don't only have to rely on athletics.

If you can take some test prep classes, I highly recommend it. I took a prep class in high school and only needed to take my SAT once because I scored well enough the first time. Who wants to spend half their Saturday taking a test? The better you prepare the more likely you are do get the score you need faster. Sadly, many players I know score lower on today's 3-part SAT than I did on the “old” 2-part test. Yikes!

Please don't put yourself in that situation. Do the work beforehand and prepare yourself for success on the test.

I won't lie, test prep classes aren't the most exciting, fun thing you'll ever do, but remember what I said earlier about doing what others aren't willing to do so you can get results they want but won't get? Yeah, this is part of that!

If you can't afford test prep classes or can't find one that fits your schedule, there are a number of free online prep options you can use. No excuses.

Think About What You Want

This goes a little beyond the basics, but it's important in just about anything you do or going after any goal you set.

Start thinking about what you want. You may not know all the exact details right now, but if you at least begin thinking about it, you'll find the answers sooner rather than later. Knowing what you want makes it far easier to make it happen. If you don't know what you're going after how are you going to get it? Work on getting clear about what you want.

With that said, freshman year, or maybe even a year or two before that, is a great time to begin thinking about things such as…

• Do you really want to play college softball?

• How much of a commitment are you willing to make?

• Do you really want to continue 4-5 training and practicing and learning and competing for another 4-5 years after high school?

• Do you want to play in a highly competitive program or do you want to play more “for fun?”

• What do you want to study?

• What kinds of majors are out there and which ones are you interested in?

• Where in the country would you prefer to go to school? East coast? West coast? North? South? Midwest?

• Are you more of a big city girl or small town girl?

• Do you enjoy the cold or would you prefer warm weather?

• Do you need to be near ocean or a lake or are you okay with being landlocked?

• Do you want to go to a big school where you're just a number or would you prefer smaller class sizes, a smaller school, or a smaller campus?

There's more, but that's a start. It's okay if you aren't completely certain of the answers to all these questions, but the sooner you begin thinking them, the clearer you can get on these details. Most high school students don't just wake up one day and suddenly know the exact answers to all these questions. These are issues you need time to consider and work through, AND your preferences may change over time so don't just look at this list once and forget it. Revisit these issues every now and then and make sure you're looking in the right places and for the right things in your college search. You'll be far more productive working smarter and targeting schools that fit more of what you want vs wasting time with those that don't fit at all.

I wish it were as easy as the few basics we talked about here, but it's not. Taking care of business on the field and in the classroom and knowing what you want are just the beginning of finding your home after high school. Next time, I'll go a little further and talk about other things that come into play along the way. Playing softball in college is a LOT of fun, but anything worth doing doesn't come easy!

Don't expect to breeze through the college recruiting process. That's a disappointment waiting to happen. Get informed, do the work, and keep at it. I call this your college recruiting JOURNEY because that's what it is. No one moment decides your fate. It's not a “one lucky roll of the dice” situation so don't treat it as such. The more effort and preparation you put into this process, the more you'll get out of it. Until next time, keep working hard on and off the field!

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When You Put Your Team First, You Have Fewer Coaching Regrets

Written By Stacie Mahoe

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When You Put Your Team First You Have Fewer Coaching Regrets

Dallas / Fort Worth Coaches Group

How often do you lose sleep over a coaching decision you make? Honestly, I never had much of a problem with losing sleep over coaching softball. It's not because I don't care about what I do. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I believe the reason I can sleep at night is because I make decisions based on what I really, truly, deeply feel is the best for my team.

When you put your team first, you have less coaching regrets. You also have to remember that softball coaching often comes down to…

  • doing the best you can
  • with the information you have
  • where you're at
  • in THAT moment you're in

You can't tell the future. All you can do is go with the information you have and make the BEST choice you can in any be given situation. No one makes EVERY right choice. Don't expect yourself to either. Expect that sometimes you'll wrong. Know that sometimes, even your best decisions and choices don't go your way. In other words, give yourself permission to be a human coach and don't be so hard on yourself when things don't work out.

Even the BEST in the game make mistakes, lose games, and even championships!

Just as a hitter can do everything she's supposed to do…

  • choose the right pitch
  • execute a great swing
  • hit the ball just right
  • run as hard as she can down the line
  • and STILL get out

The same thing can happen to you as a coach.

A hitter can only control herself, the choices she makes, and the swing she executes, but even after all that, she is NOT in full control of the outcome of any particular hit. Just think of how many times have you seen a well hit ball result in an out and a terribly hit ball result in a hit.

Doing everything right doesn't ensure things will turn out exactly as you want.  By the same token, making mistakes never dooms you to complete and total failure either! Never let a mistake, an obstacle, a frustration, or a bump in the road get you down for too long.

You can do everything “right” and still not get your desired result. That's not your fault. You can also do everything “wrong” and still achieve your desired result. That doesn't mean you don't have things to work on or get better at!

As much as you would like them to, you do not completely control results.

Take the advice you give your players about controllables. Control your controllables and let the rest go.

Regardless of how things shake out from a coaching decision you make, the bottom line is you need to…

  • Do YOUR best in that time and place to make a decision based upon the information you DO have
  • Make the call you can stand behind even if it doesn't work out (aka go with your gut)
  • Learn from the situation regardless of the outcome

When all is said and done, make the call that's really tugging at you, jumping up and down, waving it's hands in the air, and calling out to you. If it goes great, file that piece of information away for the future. If it goes terribly, file that piece of information away for the future.

Learn to trust your gut!

The only way you learn to do that is to actually use it. Sometimes it may seem as if your gut betrays you. Remember, the more your learn and experience, the better decisions you can make. When you first start out, sometimes your gut will be wrong. Don't sweat it! It's part of the learning process everyone goes through.

Sometimes your gut is right and things still don't work out. Sometimes you just aren't really in tune with your gut and can't exactly tell what decision is coming from your brain and what decision is coming from your gut.

However, the ONLY way to strengthen the connection you have with your gut feeling is to actually USE it!

Good or bad, right or wrong, each time you go with your gut it's an opportunity to become a better coach! Going with the logical, textbook choice all the time makes you predictable. Predictability makes you easier to beat.

Learn to FEEL the game, become part of it.

That takes guts, not just coaching knowledge. It also takes time and practice to develop and get better at.
It's up to you.

You can play it safe and coach “by the book” or you can really immerse yourself in the game and become part of it. “The book” is yourself in the game and become part of it. “The book” is probably the more comfortable way of doing things in which you'll always have a logical explanation to defend decisions you make, but think about this…

Since when is success found inside your comfort zone?

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3 Smart Softball Coaching Notes

Written By Stacie Mahoe

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3 Smart Softball Coaching Notes

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Coaching softball, or any youth sport, is no laughing matter. I recently came across coaches who didn't think things through very well when they made the decision to coach. Or maybe they figured it couldn't be that hard since the kids were young. Either that or they got into it for the wrong reasons. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they simply had no idea what coaching youth sports involves and got in over their heads.

I know in youth sports, they're “just kids” but…

1) Often times their parents are paying money for their kids to play. They will have certain expectations. If nothing else, they will at least expect their child to LEARN in an environment where SAFETY is a priority. This means they expect you to TEACH, not just yell instructions.

2) Sports is an amazing way for kids to make memories AND learn some awesome life lessons along the way. Don't short change them and leave them with a bad taste in their mouth instead. Even if the sport isn't for them, they should at least be able to look back at the season as a worthwhile experience, not a complete waste of time.

Any time you coach, remember a few things…

BE ORGANIZED

I cannot stress this enough. If you're going to coach, have a plan. What do you want to accomplish this season? What is your big picture for the team? Where are you headed and what is your plan to get there? How many times a week can or will you practice? How long will your practices be? Who is going to be on staff and what do you expect from them?

What kind of equipment do you have to work with? How will you communicate important information with your parents? Who is going to handle all the administrative and logistical planning, coordination, and communication? What league requirements do you need to know and abide by? What are you going to practice today? This week? Where are your team uniforms coming from? How much do they cost? What will be ordered as as team and what do parents need to get on their own?

Obviously, I could go on and on and on and on. Coaching demands a lot! Please do not take a coaching job lightly and think you can just figure things out as you go along. If you do, you sell yourself and, more importantly, the KIDS short! Not cool.

TAKE TIME TO “TRAIN” NOT JUST COMPETE

Competing endlessly isn't a good idea. Talk with any elite or professional athlete or coach and they'll tell you there are phases to training. All professional sports have an OFF-season for a reason!

There's NO possible way you can train skills AND effectively prepare for competition all the time. Effectively learning and developing skill work and technique requires that you do so under conditions where “results” don't matter. It requires an environment where you can focus solely on HOW you're doing what you do with no regard to what the actual end results of your performance is.

Preparing for excellence in competition, however, requires pressure, intensity, speed, and a completely different environment from learning and developing skills. You cannot do BOTH very well at the same time. If you really want to develop skills, make time to do so without the pressure of competition breathing down your neck. If you really want to get ready for competition, make sure you've already put in enough time working skills so you can ramp things up and get more game like in training.

TAKE BREAKS

Believe it or not, eating, sleeping, and breathing softball 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year doesn't work well. In order for our bodies and minds to function at th most optimal level we must take care of various areas of life, not just go hard core into one and only one. I'm as much for focus as much as the next person striving for excellence, but I also realize that the human body, mind, and spirit all need care for maximal output. This means you NEED to take breaks and allow your players to take breaks too. Skip this and you'll eventually harm your performance, not help it.

I can't tell you how many times people told me my daughter would “fall behind” because I didn't put her in the winter league (yes, in Hawaii, there is a winter league for softball). Every year, after the summer was over, she took a break from softball. In addition to other things, this gave her the opportunity to concentrate and focus on grades for the entire first semester of each school year.

No matter how many times people bugged me about letting her play during the winter, we avoided it whenever possible. Was she behind when she got back into it in the spring?

A little.

She always had a some rust to shake off, but that never took long and once it was gone, she always looked far fresher and sharper than players who'd were burnt out from playing non-stop since the previous year!

Now that she's a senior in high school, many of the girls she played ball with at 10-12 years old no longer play. A few do, but I would say, only about a quarter of her 10u-12u teammates still play. The rest stopped years ago. So how much did all those years in winter league, from age 9-14, really help? Train smart!

Remember…

More is not always better. Better is better. Never confuse more with better. Take any coaching job you accept seriously. You have the opportunity to help others. Make the most of it. Do it well. Use common sense. Never let the pressure or excitement of competition take you away from basic and essential fundamentals. Never allow criticism to sway your from true values. Be YOUniquely excellent 🙂

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Do You Have the Guts to Lose?

Written by Stacie Mahoe

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Do You Have The Guts To Lose

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Reward what you want, address what you don't.

One of my biggest pet peeves as a player, parent and even as a coach is when coaches grumble, complain, rant and rave about something their team does (or doesn't do), but NEVER formally address that issue WITH their team!

If your team has the exact same behavioral problem all year long and it never gets better, guess who's fault that is . . .

Yours!

Because you allowed it.

It's the same with skill work. Obviously you may not be able to fix every hitting, fielding, throwing, pitching, catching or fielding problem but you should see some kind of improvement over the course of the season. If you never address the problems and work on them in practice, it's not your team's fault if those issues are still causing problems in competition at the end of the season. In order to see positive results, you must consistently reward what you want your team to do more of and address the things you want to see less of.

The other problem is inconsistency. It bothers me when coaches don't address issues, then decide to ream their players for poor execution in that area after an “important” game. If something will matter on your most important day of the season, in your most important game, don't wait until then to “get on” your team about it.

Don't just address it “when it counts,” work on it consistently, even if it's “just practice” or just a scrimmage or just another regular season game. If you want your players to execute well when it counts most, you must work with them on it in training. Don't just expect it to happen in the big game when you've never expected it in training.

Believe me, your team wants to perform well in those big games. They don't set out to mess up on purpose in critical situations. They really do WANT to execute perfectly when it matters most, however, it's unlikely they'll do so unless you've trained them to.

I've seen so many coaches let things go over and over and over again, then when it bites them in the butt in a big game they get upset with the players! Not Cool. If there's anyone you should be upset with after a loss like that it's yourself, not your team.

Don't let these small things side on a regular basis then get upset with your team because it kicks you in the butt later.

The problem is, some coaches don't have the guts to lose a short term battle in order to win a long term war. These coaches won't address an issue because doing so may cause a short term negative effect or possibly even a loss or two. However, you are selling your players, your team and yourself short if, if everything is always about “winning” right now, here, today, with no regard for the long term.

Your journey through this game, or through a season is not always about achieving the most you can NOW, but rather about effectively progressing toward your bigger long term goals. Sometimes you have to give up a little something now to gain a much more important something later.

Be willing to make that sacrifice!

If you don't, you'll get “stuck”.

Change is necessary for growth, but change is often painful in some way. Growing pains are call “pains” for a reason! If you don't experience them, chances are you're NOT growing. If you're not growing, you're not getting better. If you're not getting better, essentially, you're stuck . . . like a sitting duck . . . in the middle of a train track . . . with a train coming through.

Don't be a sitting duck!

Don't be afraid to go through a little pain, a little loss, a little set back in order to grow, get better, and achieve more down the road.

My daughter started training with a new strength and conditioning coach this summer. The first thing he did was make her back down on all her weights during workouts. He made her go lighter and focus more on form, technique and speed. As her technique cleaned up, he allowed her to slowly add more weight back to her training. In less than two months, she was light years ahead of where she started with him. She can move more weight, with better technique, a lot faster and with more power than she could six (6) weeks ago.

On multiple occasions, he thanked my husband and I for allowing him to take her a few steps back in order to ultimately move her forward. We understood, from the beginning, it's not about today that matters most, it's about getting her to where she needs and wants to be down the road, the bigger picture, that matters.

Just because she CAN lift a certain weight doesn't mean she SHOULD if doing so does not support her long term purpose, goals and health. The same is true for training softball players and coaching a team.

Just because you CAN doesn't mean you should. Just because something is good TODAY, doesn't mean it's the best choice for you, your players, or your team over the long run.

Successful coaches keep the big picture in mind. They think in terms of long term goals. When successful coaches make decisions, they don't just think about what provides the biggest pay off now. Always remember the big picture and have the guts to take a step back now, so you can make bigger strides later!

Success Is In The Little Things

Written By Stacie Mahoe

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Success Is In The Little Things

Excellence, success, we're all after it. However, you won't achieve it if you can't do the little things right. Bruce Barton said, “Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things.”

The funny thing about “little things” is they often become BIG things. So if you want to do big things right, like win games, or even championships, make sure you take care of the little things!

3 Reasons Why Little Things Matter

As mentioned before, little things often turn into big things, so never let them slide! Little things added up over time create BIG results, good or bad, depending on whether or not you take care of them, so make it a point to do them well.

You must walk before you can run. In other words, you can't expect the big things to go well for you when you don't start with the little things first. Do the little things right day in and day out and eventually you will find yourself doing the big things right too. However, it doesn't happen overnight. Be patient with yourself. Start small, keep taking those baby steps, and eventually the big things will come.

Little things, that happen daily, give you the opportunity to make excellence a habit. Big things usually happen less frequently. So if you want to create the good habits necessary for success, the way to do that is through the little things that happen often. Success comes through a series of baby steps taken over a long period of time, not by doing one or two big things every once in a while. Stop focusing so much on making big things happen. Be diligent about doing small things well over and over and over again.

Think about it. How are you doing on the little things? Do you make it a point to do them right? Or are you overlooking them in favor of “more important” things?

Fastpitch softball is simple… hit, run, score. Throw the ball. Catch the ball. But simple and easy are not the same thing! With so much to cover over the course of a season, with so much to teach, it's very easy to let the little things slide. I challenge you, however, not to.

Here are 7 “little things” teams let slide far too often. I know they may not seem that important, but remember, little things become big things. Do them right!

DUGOUT CLEANLINESS

Is your dugout neat and orderly? Or are bags and pieces of equipment thrown about leaving the dugout looking more like an obstacle course than a well kept space? There are several reasons a neat and orderly dugout is important. ..

–It makes it easy for your team to get in and out quick during innings –It's just plain safer (you don't need someone getting hurt because they tweaked their ankle on a ball or other pieces of wayward equipment laying on the ground)

–It means you're taking good care of your equipment which means you'll get to use it longer

–It shows you care about what you do and have pride in and respect for the game

HUSTLE

If you see players walking on the field, ever, this is an area that can improve. You should see hustle in and out of the dugout. You should see hustle between practice stations. You should see hustle in and out of water breaks.

Hustle also means running through the bag, not to it. Finish with the best you have. Never stop short. Never let up. Never give up. Finish strong. This mindset is not only important for running, but in how you play the game.

Hustle keeps you in the game from beginning to end. Hustle shows you care about what you do and how much you WANT to be there. Hustle shows you're willing to give your best even when it's not required by someone else.

Hustle matters. Hustle wins games!

MOBILE DEVICE USE

The use of mobile devices is so much more common now more than ever. However, a player's need for it on the field has not increased one iota since back before mobile phones were common. Yet, players often stay attached to their device right up until the start of practice or game. Even while their teammates help set up, players are still focused on their phone! I've also seen players go in their bag to check their phone during/throughout a practice or game. There is really no need for this. There's no reason players can't put their phones away at least 10 minutes prior to start time and keep them away until after the team is dismissed for the day.

SWEARING

When I was in college, swearing was not allowed. When our local high school teams play on TV, coaches often remind them about their language. Players trying to get recruited often watch their tongue if scouts are in the stands. If it's good enough for you do to when you want to be on your “best behavior” it's good enough for EVERY day. Again, we're talking about creating the right habits that will help you be successful when it matters most. This means practicing these habits daily vs expecting yourself to just do them right once, on the ONE occasion when it really matters. If it's good enough for your most important day, it's good enough for EVERY day. If swearing isn't acceptable in front of the umpire or in front of your most important spectator, it's not acceptable on the field at all.

APPEARANCE

From my experience, most leagues have the same appearance rules from game to game. Shirts must be tucked in, certain jewelry is not allowed, etc. Rules don't change from week to week or game to game so players know exactly what's expected of them. Therefore, there is no reason for games to be stopped because a player is improperly equipped.

If you're a player trying to secure playing time, get this right without being told! If you can't even bother to show up to the field the way you're supposed to, why should the coach trust you to do what you're supposed to do during the game? If you want your coach to trust you with bigger things, like playing time, make sure he or she can trust you with the little things, like showing up to the game properly dressed!

Plus, a neat appearance, like hustle, just shows that you care about and have pride in being a softball player!

SHOWING UP ON TIME

This is a skill that translates easily into life. Coaches agree, if you're on time you're late. Showing up on time doesn't mean you're at the field when practice starts. It means you're already ready to start training BEFORE practice starts. Your bag is put away, your equipment is in it's proper place, your shoes are on your feet, your shoelaces are tied, and you're ready to GO when the coach calls everyone up to start practice. Showing up on time allows you to get the most out of your training, minimizes distractions, and allows the team to get off to a good start each day.

TEAM YELL

Team yells are typically done at the start and at the end of a game or practice. Therefore, make it a point to always start well and end well.

Your “before” team yell should be your best, most enthusiastic yell. It sets the tone for your practice or game. If you were heading into the championship game, what would your yell be like? Do that every time. If you want to be a champion, you must train like one daily.

At the end of your game or practice, no matter what the outcome, no matter how good or bad the day went, no matter how tired or how energetic you feel, give a great team yell! Do it as if you just won the championship game. Don't allow outside circumstances to affect how you do this simple task.

One of the biggest problems players and teams have is they allow less than ideal circumstances to affect how they perform. When things don't go well, they don't play well. Obviously this is a problem.

You can practice overcoming this starting with your team yell. Don't allow how you feel at the beginning or end of a practice or a game affect how you do your yell. Make it great every time. Practice giving your best yell no matter what. It's the first step in learning how to give your best when you play no matter what adversity comes your way. Your team yell gives you an opportunity to What about you? Where can you get better? What little thing can you be more excellent at today and every day? Get started now by choosing ONE thing and making a point to do it well every chance you get. To your ultimate success on and off the field.

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