Lauren Lappin Answers My 10 Questions –

Lauren Lappin Team USA Softball OlympianTeam USA Olympian Lauren Lappin answers my 10 Questions.

Written by Gary Leland

Olympic Gold Medalist (2008)
#37
Height: 5'7″
Position: Utility – R/R
Hometown: Anaheim, Calif.
School: Stanford
Graduation: 2006

Lauren Lappin Answers My Ten Questions:

Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?

A. Softball I started at 8 years old, but baseball I started playing at 5 years old up till then.

Q. Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?

A. I've been fortunate enough to have many special people in my life, and had the opportunity to be exposed to throughout my softball career. But my Dad had a significant role in my love for the game and my career and my development as a young athlete. He was my travel ball team coach from the time I was 11.

My cousin was also a role model being a catcher as well, playing for Stanford University. I watched her play travel ball growing up. I just tried to emulate her in every way.

Also Coach Mike Candrea, he challenged me alot to be a better player and honest in the areas I needed to improve as a player.

As well as coach John Rittman at Stanford, setting the really strong foundation for the future of my career as an adult.

Q. How do you get ready for a game?

A. I'm a big eater, so a meal was always important. I was very religious in my warm up routine and getting to the field early to warm up and get ready to play. Nothing to ritualistic though.

Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?

A. I live in Chicago so I have the world at my fingertips when it comes to things to do. I am really into yoga since retiring. I love traveling and visiting family as well as photography.

Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?

A. I think alot of it had to do with opportunity. The family I was born into was very sports driven and being athletic. But I would say the environment to win in. Just to be challenged to continue to better my game and myself as a human being. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by the people I was growing up.

Q. Did you have any routines or superstitions before or in a game?

A. I always at the end of my overhand warm up I would throw an underhand pitch, as well as my pre at bat routine was pretty significant my last 6 to 8 years.

Q. What is your favorite softball memory?

A. Well its crazy, cause its been 17 years now, but winning the National Championship when I was on the california cruisers softball team. Playing in the World Series with Stanford was such a cool experience. Its crazy to see since 2004 how much it has grown.

And of course playing on Team USA and going to the Olympics as an alternate, being in the stands when our team won the Gold Medal.

Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?

A. I think the mental training aspect has been such an incredible impact on our sport. Its a trickle down effect because of how big our sport has become. Teaching clinics in the sport at such younger ages helps build that mental foundation.

Q. What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?

A. Well I think piggy backing off the mental aspect of the game, I think I was a player who was very passionate and emotional player, being vocal and fiery. I think the biggest challenge was figuring out how to channel all that excitable energy into my game. And to allow my teammates to feed off of me in a positive way rather than letting my emotions ride a roller coaster.

Q. What is life after being a softball player for you?

A. Well its officially been over a year since I decided I was done playing, so life after softball is still the same for me. I love the sport and teaching it, and mentoring in softball. The ability to travel and being available for life events and being present for my family.

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Jennifer McFalls Answers My 10 Questions –

Jennifer McFalls Softball Olympian Team USA 2000Team USA Olympian Jennifer McFalls answers my 10 Questions.

Written by Gary Leland

Olympic Gold Medalist (2000)
#3
Height: 5'6″
Position: Utility – R/R
Hometown: Grand Prairie, Texas
School: Texas A&M
Graduation: 1994

Jennifer McFalls Answers My Ten Questions:

Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?

A. I was around 7 or 8 years old when I started playing fastpitch softball. I had a great league I played with in Grand Prairie until I was about 12. Then moved to a select time out of Irving, the only place with travel ball at the time.

Q. Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?

A. Really the most special person is probably my grandmother, she was an athlete and I spent alot of time with her growing up. My mom had two younger brothers so I also spent time watching them play ball. I spent alot of time practicing softball everyday with my grandmother. And not just softball, she taught me to be an athlete. I was pretty well rounded.

Q. How do you get ready for a game?

A. I was always kind of a quiet athlete, I wasn't much of a cheerleader. But I was more focused on being in tune with what I needed, mental prep and music. Music always fired me up before a game.

Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?

A. I was playing another sport. I was playing something all the time competing. If I wasn't on the field I was at home playing cards with my grandmother or games with my mom. I was competing all the time doing something.

Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?

A. Number 1, I had tremendous family support. I was taught at a young age to be my very best at everything I did, that nothing came easy and I had to work for what I got. I was taught hard work pays off. I think that carried over to my mentality on the field as an athlete. I was blessed, and when I went to the Olympics 12 of my family members were able to be there. To me that was kind of my reward.

Q. Did you have any routines or superstitions before or in a game?

A. I'm really thankful I was never really superstitious, cause then I think if something goes wrong, mentally your screwed. I tried really hard not to get caught up in that.

Q. What is your favorite softball memory?

A. No Doubt, the first time I played in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. The feeling of playing for my teammates and the sport. And representing the United States on Team USA.

Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?

A. I think it is a huge part of how you perform. You can have all the skills in the world but if your not mentally tough to be able to overcome. Mistakes, challenges, and might get caught up in adversity. For us its about being able to get to the next pitch wether your on offense or defense if you make a mistake. It's about having a quick reset button in your head and having the mental toughness to say if I make a mistake I want the next ball hit to me so I can get past it.

Q. What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?

A. My greatest obstacle to overcome was wanting immediate, quick success. As an athlete sometimes you think that if I just keep working and working I'll get it. And thats not always the case.

You have to be creative, especially as a coach. I've learned trying to relate your message to players differently. Get in their heads and teach differently. What I think works for me doesn't always work for them. Have to learn to instill the confidence in them that hey we can figure this out let's get on the same page.

Q. What is life after being a softball player for you?

A. I miss the competitive spirit on the field. The Grind. An athlete everyday being out there just going for it leaving everything you have on the field. For me, that's probably why I love what I do as a coach. The spirit, and camaraderie mainly with people I work with the other coaches at University of Texas. I always love being part of a team.

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Lisa Fernandez Answers My 10 Questions –

Fernandez Headshot3-Time Olympian Lisa Fernandez answers my 10 Questions. Written by Gary Leland

Olympic Gold medalist (1996, 2000, 2004)
Height: 5'6″
Position: Pitcher
Hometown: Long Beach, California.
School: UCLA
Graduation: 1995

 

Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?

A. I started playing softball when I was 7 years old, for the little miss softball fastpitch association. Prior to that it was just sports clinic and rec ball.

Q. Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?

A. My parents were instrumental in my career. My Father is cuban and played semi-pro baseball over there. And my Mother grew up playing slowpitch. So I was always around the game.

As I continued to grow and develop, I'd have to say Dot Richardson. She really took me to the next level. I played with her on the Brakettes, and the Nationals team. We were teammates since the early 90's.

Q. How do you get ready for a game?

A. I'm so superstitious its crazy, from when I get up to what I eat to how I get dressed to what I watch on TV. Whatever makes me feel like I'm going to have that extra edge against my opponents.

Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?

A. Well before having children, back in the day competing was the priority, so anything that was low key. Reading books, going to movies, relaxing spending time with friends and family.

Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?

A. Physically I don't think I'm different than anyone else, but from what people have said it's my mentality. I've been blessed with some physical skills, but I have pushed myself farther than most would go. To me I have a growth mindset, its about learning and maturing, and growing. Failure is nothing more than a way to inspire me to become better.

Q. What is your favorite softball memory?

A. Of course, everyone might say the championships and the medals, but for me it was the loses. I remember some heartbreaking loses that made the biggest impact on my career. I found the inner message within each one, that helped me learn what I needed to know.

Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?

A. I think mental preparation is huge. I think visualization is huge. I think that's what seperates the good from the great. Physically all these athletes are talented but it's really the mentality thats going to show who's going to get the job done under pressure. What do you do when no one's watching?

Q. What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?

A. Probably the biggest obstacle was when I was maybe 13, I was told I would never be able to pitch because my arms weren't long enough that I wasn't built for it. Yet once again my parents were very instrumental in teaching me work ethic and that I better make up for those differences in my mental toughness. How hard was I willing to work to be able to be the best that I can be.

Q. What is life after softball for you?

A. I'm still in it! The game is in my blood, I'm coaching at UCLA and I can't see myself doing anything else.

Q. What was it like coming back to your Alma Mater as a coach at UCLA?

A. Well I think that's many players dreams. There was a reason why I picked UCLA as a recruit. To me it's the greatest institution that provides both academic excellence, and the ability to take you to the next level physically with athletic excellence. The bruin family has done so much for me, I've always been able to hit up the “405” and there I've got a place I'm welcomed with open arms.

The 2015 WCWS has been so rewarding. It's been an honor to be here as a coach to help these students reach for their dreams.

Jennifer Brundage Answers My 10 Questions –

Brundage JenniferOlympian Jennifer Brundage Answers My Ten Questions Written By Gary Leland

Olympic Gold medalist (2000)
Height: 5'7″
Position: 3B – R/R
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Mich.
School: UCLA
Graduation: 1995

Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?

A. I started playing softball when I was 8 years old.

Q.Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?

A. It would be a daunting task to list everyone who influenced me, but probably the most influential people in my softball development were my mom and dad who would go to the field or the batting cages with me almost daily, my coaches at UCLA, and my boss here at Michigan, Carol Hutchins.

Q.How did you get ready for a game?

A. In college, I would always get to the field early and hit off a tee by myself to get myself locked in and feeling good. When my teammates arrived, I would focus on just enjoying them and staying loose. Once I joined the national team, it was much more challenging to have the time on the tee by myself, so I replaced that with visualization.

Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?

A. When I'm not involved with softball, I enjoy playing ice hockey in the winter and stand up paddle boarding in the summer.

Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?

A. I think the biggest factor was hard work. I was taught from a young age to work hard for everything, whether it was athletics or school or music (I played an instrument up through my first 2 years of college). I am not naturally gifted at anything, but I was naturally very competitive and always wanted to be the best. To do that, I had to work very hard and that work ethic definitely came from my parents. One of the other main factors was the advent of Title IX and the opportunities to play and train that I had growing up that generations before me did not have. My generation was really the first generation to experience the benefits of Title IX.

Q. Do you have any routines are superstitions that you implement regularly?

A. I always had a routine as I got into the batters box and that is much better demonstrated than explained. It was just something to help me relax and get into a good mindset before each pitch. I am not superstitious at all.

Q. What is your favorite softball memory?

A. There are so many memories to choose from, but my 2 favorites would be winning the gold medal in Sydney as a player and winning the 2005 NCAA championship as an assistant coach at Michigan.

Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?

A. I think mental training is extremely valuable and often overlooked, especially in the youth levels of softball. In my opinion, mental toughness is what separates the great players from the very good players. Every player is responsible for her own confidence. It is not something a coach can give or take away. The elite players take ownership of their confidence and work on their mental toughness daily.

Q.What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?

A. I tore my ACL when I was an alternate on the 1996 Olympic team. The rehab to get back was intense and painful at times. That was definitely the biggest obstacle in my playing career. As I look back, there were always hurdles to get over, but at the time, I never saw them as obstacles. They were just part of the journey to be the best that I could be. It sounds corny, but it's 100% true.

Q. If you could do anything else in the world as a profession, what would it be and why?

A. If I could do anything else in this world, I would want to be a lawyer. I wouldn't want to be the one arguing in a courtroom, but I would totally enjoy the rest of it. I took several law classes in college and absolutely loved the way they made me think. I even enjoyed writing papers and taking exams in those classes.

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Amanda Freed Answers My Ten Questions –

amanda-headshotOlympian Amanda Freed Answers My Ten Questions Written By Gary Leland

Three-time Olympic Gold medalist (1996, 2000, 2004) Olympic Silver medalist (2008)
Height: 5'8″
Position: Utility – R/R
Hometown: Cypress, Calif.
School: UCLA
Graduation: 2002

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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Michelle Venturella Answers My Ten Questions –

Venturella Michelle

Photo Courtesy Of ASA/USA Softball

Olympian Michelle Venturella Answers My Ten Questions. Written By Gary Leland

Olympic Gold Medalist (2000)
Height: 5'10”
Position: Catcher – L/L
Hometown: Indianapolis, Ind.
School: Indiana
Graduation: 1995

Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?

A. I was 8 when I started playing although I only played 16” slow pitch (Chicago) because there was no Fastpitch around. It wasn’t until my 8th grade summer that I was introduced to Fastpitch softball.

Q. Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?

A. I think a lot of people helped me become a great player. First, the support of my family to give me the opportunities to play and compete was invaluable. My high school coach, Gary Lagesse, was extremely impactful because he was such a visionary and instilled the values necessary to be successful in softball. We ended up winning the first ever state championship under his direction and then went on to become back-to-back state champs my senior year. My college coach, Diane Stephenson, taught me how to catch changing me from a first baseman to a catcher my sophomore year in college so prior to that I had never caught. And of course the tremendous teammates I had in high school, college and on the national team. They pushed me to be the best and were great teammates!

Q. How do you get ready for a game?

A. Game day was always special. I thought about it from the time I woke up until it was time to take the field. Everything I did that day revolved around the game. Depending on what time the game was I would adjust my schedule accordingly. If it was an earlier game I would get up and eat a good breakfast. I would think about the opponent and do my best to stay in a good mental state about the upcoming game. I didn’t like to be rushed so I was always ready to go in plenty of time. I liked listening to music on the way to the game and would think of good thoughts about what was going to happen. I also connected with my teammates in various ways. I truly enjoyed the time with them and did whatever I could to help them.

Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?

A. When I not involved with softball I love spending time with my family and playing the piano. I also love reading motivational books and going to the movies.

Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?

A. I think the values that my parents instilled in me and my coaches I had in high school were the main factors that helped me when I was a player. I have a competitive personality and was always interested in challenging myself to truly be the best I could be. I also think being a part of something successful (my HS team) and doing something that no one else did (win state) showed me that it was ok to be the “first” at something. That’s why it was so fitting to be a part of the first-ever Olympic team. Even though it was on a different scale, I knew our team could be the first team to win gold.

Q. Do you have any routines are superstitions that you implement regularly?

A. The only superstition I had was putting on my right shin guard first and then my left one when I started catching. I had to do it that way!

Q. What is your favorite softball memory?

A. I have two favorite memories. Winning the first state championship for my high school because of the amazing coaches and teammates I played had and second and something I’ll never forget was as we were doing our victory lap after winning the gold in Sydney in the 2000 games, I found my mom in the stands (10,000 people filled the stadium) and literally lost my breath. It seemed like all of the hard work that she put in and all of the work I put in came together in that moment and it was awesome!

Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?

A. I didn’t know that some of the things I was taught were “mental training” until later in my career. I think it is EXTREMELY important for the success of athletes, especially at a high level. As a coach, we spend time incorporating these concepts daily! My advice would be to be open to these teachings. They are invaluable and will help you reach your goals. The athletes that are successful over time are those who have consistently worked on having a strong mental game.

Q. What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?

A. The greatest obstacle when I was a player on the Olympic team is that my coach didn’t believe in left-handed catchers so it was challenging playing for someone who I knew didn’t believe in me. My biggest challenge in coaching is trying to balance my family life and coaching life. I believe strongly in family and do my best to take time for them. In the same sense I love coaching so I spend a lot of time working to be good at that too. As a leader, I want to always be the example to my staff and players as to making sure they know the value of family.

Q. If you could do anything else in the world as a profession, what would it be and why?

A. If I actually had the talent I would be in a band and be able to play not only the piano but the guitar and sing. Music touches so many people that I would love to be able to connect in that way with people.

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