Courage

By Aaron Weintraub

Courage

Courage is the strength of will to do what is difficult. Life (and softball) is so much better when you are good at it, and a huge part of being good at it is being courageous. Great athletes do this despite the risk of falling, getting hurt, making mistakes, looking bad, and feeling bad. They are dedicated to the truth and they work on weaknesses, often scheduling pain now to enhance pleasure later. Great athletes are open, comfortable in the knowledge that they are not invincible. Everyone has both good and bad habits; courageous athletes work hard to turn their weaknesses into strengths.

The word courage comes from the Latin root “COR,” which means heart. It is a common theme in softball that “you have to have heart.” Some people equate heart with fearlessness, but this is not accurate. Wrestling icon Cory Lester said, “Courage is not the absence of fear. It is being afraid but being able to control that fear so you are able to perform at your highest ability. That’s what makes a champion.” It’s being scared, but not acting scared!

Courage can be divided into two categories: physical and moral. Having one does guarantee having the other. For example, NHL teams are made up of athletes with high physical courage.

All the players have the toughness to play through pain or risk injury. We know this because we can count the average number of teeth per player. However, that same team will have a normal distribution of moral courage. A couple individuals will be high, a couple low, and most somewhere in between.

Moral courage also requires a risk of significant pain, but it is emotional rather than physical. It is the ability to do what is right even if that goes against social norms or peer pressure, or risks embarrassment, discouragement, or adversity. Here are examples of moral courage

Saying no to pressures to do things that are counter to your own values (alcohol/drugs/cheating!etc.).

Striving for perfection, knowing that you will fall short.

Facing the unknown and giving your best effort even though you have no idea if that will be enough to win or make others happy. What you do know is that your best is all you can do and you have faith that your best is always good enough, not necessarily to win, but to produce success.

Victims of crime who testify against their attackers.

The anorexic or addict who seeks help and wins the fight.

The athlete who recognizes how her personality keeps her from leading or performing effectively, so she changes what comes natural and creates a new habit.

Courage is seeking the truth at any cost and having the motivation to use what you find, for knowledge without action is useless. When courage and motivation are combined, mountains will be overcome one step at a time, then look like molehills in the distance behind you. Without courage, even a molehill is insurmountable. With courage, an ingrown toenail becomes irrelevant during competition. Without courage, the injured athlete loses focus, intensity, and balance. With courage, adversity is good and mistakes are viewed as critical components for growth and happiness. Without courage, adversity is bad and mistakes represent the end of the road. With courage, we can identify and change bad habits, making excellence itself second nature. Without it, we can make excuses. Without courage, the fear of failure debilitates, but with it, that same fear gives us juice to help us reach new heights of personal and human achievement. Courage reveals fear and pressure for what they really are: the shadows of great opportunity.

All of this is why Winston Churchill said, “Without courage, all other virtues lose their meaning.” If motivation and courage are sufficient, you will find a way! You will ‘win’ the mental side of the game and perform up to your potential when you have the courage to say (and act out), “I will give my best effort one step at a time and accept whatever happens!”.

aaron Weintraub Aaron Weintraub holds a B.A. from Emory University (1993) and a M.Ed. from the University of Virginia (2000). He served as an assistant baseball coach for 13 years before starting www.CoachTraub.com, a consulting business whose mission is to over-deliver value on goods and services designed to help you win the mental side of the game. He works with teams and individuals, adding clarity to help them get what they want for their sport. CoachTraub.com also runs camps and clinics and has an online store.Weintraub is the author of Coaches Guide to Winning the Mental Game (Coaches Choice, 2009) and An Elite Athlete’s Manual for Training Mental Skills (self-published, 2011). He lives in The Colony, TX with his wife, Nicole, and their four children.

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Winning Isn’t Everything, but it Matters

By Cat Osterman

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Winning Isn't Everything, but it Matters

Gone are the days of tournament trophies. You know, the shiny things with a statue swinging a bat on top. I can still remember from age 11-18 playing every weekend with one goal in mind. We wanted a trophy. Our team gave the team trophy to a deserving player, so we all anxiously awaited to hear who Coach thought deserved to take it home.

Don’t get me wrong, at younger ages it is about developing good technique and mechanics. It’s important to learn the game, more so than win the game, but once you advance to a certain level of play, athletes need to learn how to compete both with their teammates and against the other team.

Nowadays, almost every 16&U and 18&U tournament is an exposure. What are we teaching our athletes with these? Many kids are more concerned with who is in the stands, and if they show well, not the overall outcome of the team. When you know you’ll have 5 games no matter what, what is there to play for? I’ve watched too many games end, and teams aren’t even sure what the score really was. Now is this a problem, not because they should be playing because they love to play, not because their team wins, but the problem comes when these athletes go to college.

When girls go off to college, they are used to sharing playing time because coaches wanted to see both Suzy and Sally play shortstop. Many athletes don’t show that fire to win over a position, or learn a new position to ensure they are in the line up. There’s no inter-team competition, and a bigger problem is that innate desire to compete with the other team. I want athletes that want to win, not at all costs, but win while competing with class and respect.

I did an assignment with my team, when we felt they were lacking the ability to compete, and had them all write the best competition they have been a part of. Much to my surprise, majority wrote about a high school game. With travel ball so prevalent, I’d think most of them would have had a make or break game to write about. Once I reflected on it, it made sense. High school ball has bragging rights to play for, it has playoffs you are trying to make, and once in playoffs, you’re trying to make it to state. Every game matters. Why can’t we make this be the case in travel ball as well?

I can remember playing in ASA Regionals when I was 13 or 14, and it was exhausting because we played 5-6 games in one day to finish 3rd. That’s not what I remember most though, I remember every one of us wanting to win to keep playing. I wanted every teammate to get a hit, and as a team we committed to fighting tooth and nail. We came back from a 6-0 deficit to stay alive. We fought hard. Today, with very little to play for (minus your berth to Nationals), this fight isn’t being cultivated in athletes.

There’s an athlete in college now, who was quite upset she sat on the bench most of her freshman year, but instead of pouting or threatening to leave, she committed herself to doing anything and everything in her power to make sure she wasn’t left out of the line-up. Her sophomore year, she started more regularly, and produced offensively. She also learned a new position in order to find a way into the line-up. This is the inner desire athletes need to have to be able to compete.

Coaches, I encourage you to find ways to stimulate girls competitiveness. Make every pitch, at bat, play, game, and tournament matter. We always keep learning, but we also need to keep that competitive fire lit.

cat-osterman Cat Osterman’s accomplished career as a softball pitcher precedes her, starting with a record-breaking 4 years at the University of Texas and continuing with her impressive Olympic achievements and professional softball endeavors. In fact, she was the first pitcher to register over 2,000 NCAA strikeouts.

After taking home the gold at the 2004 Olympic games and enjoying years of success playing with the USA Softball Women’s National team, Cat began her professional career in 2007 with National Pro Fastpitch. She is an inspiration to countless young softball players all over the world. Visit her website at www.CatOsterman.com

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How did you prepare mentally for a big game?

By Jennie Ritter

How to prepare mentally for a big game

This is a great question. Your question asks something commonly overlooked by athletes: mental preparation. Sure, one common thread you’ll find about good athletes is that you’ll see hitters spend countless hours on a tee perfecting their swing or pitchers throwing the same pitch over and over again just to increase movement by half a centimeter. And, while physical preparation is so easily understood as a necessity amongst the softball community, most athletes forget to practice mentally. If you don’t practice mental toughness, how would you expect to be mentally tough in the toughest games of the season? Bobby Knight once said, “Mental toughness is to physical as four is to one.” The difference between a good athlete and a championship athlete is one who understands this idea. You have to “live” the mental game-mold your brain into that of a championship athlete. I firmly believe that some are born with the ability to be more mentally tough than others just as some or born with more athletic ability. However, despite ones natural abilities, we all know that hard work can still win out-both in physical and mental preparation.

I know that I would not have been successful without the lessons I learned in mental toughness throughout my career. It’s important to note that everyone prepares differently, but there are two things that played a key role in my mental toughness preparation: visualization and physically pushing myself beyond my limits.

Often underrated, visualization can be the difference in a good game or a bad game. I got in the habit of visualizing at two different times: bedtime, and pre-game. Visualization prior to bedtime is my constant. Mental toughness is the hardest to maintain when you’re tired or fatigued. I always tried to “force” myself into focus at nighttime when I was tired. I found that trying to work towards keeping focus without adrenaline or while tired was the hardest to do, so my preparation often began in the worst-case scenario. I visualized pitching in a game, but instead of focusing on the outcome, I’d focus on my surroundings. I’d visualize the sound of the fans and the smell of the freshly cut grass. I’d picture which uniforms we’d be wearing and how fired up our opponents were. I’d focus on every detail of the game-and then work to block it out. If I didn’t mentally prepare for these moments, it would be difficult to block out the noise and intimidation factors of the game when I was actually there. And, focusing on blocking out these distractions while fatigued and sleepy meant that blocking them out when I was high on adrenaline and at my peak alertness would be a breeze. I visualized this almost every evening. I got to the point where I wouldn’t even have to think about my surroundings when I walked onto a field-1 had already blocked out the distractions and was more mentally prepared even before the game had begun.

By removing the distractions prior to game time, I was able to visualize something different at game time. This is where I’d focus on my performance and outcome. I’d visualize a couple innings of pitching. My goal would be to visualize myself pinpointing my pitch placement and movement every pitch. Instead of getting a called strike, I’d visualize myself throwing the “perfect pitch” -a pitch placed so perfectly with the best movement that the batter would swing and miss every time. I’d watch batter after batter swing and miss at the pitch I decided to throw. This prepared my mind to not only think about a series of pitches for each batter, but my mind was now prepared for success. Failure was not an option.

And if you still aren’t sold on visualization as mental preparation, consider this. Prior to every game, I’d visualize my “perfect pitch” scenario. Every once and a while, however, I found that no matter what I did, I couldn’t visualize myself throwing a pitch past a batter; instead, all my mind would see would be the ball hitting the bat. What were the outcomes of those games where my mind couldn’t see the batters swing and miss? A loss every time. Your mind tells your body what to do-if mentally you can’t see yourself succeed, you will not succeed. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t visualize success, step back, take a deep breath, and give your mind a break for a couple of minutes. Then try again until you see success.

Visualization is the easy part of mental toughness preparation. The other key component of mental toughness is to push yourself physically. Pushing yourself beyond what you thought you were physically capable of doing molds your brain to believe that you are capable of more! I can’t think of a scenario much better to describe this than one of Michigan Softball’s conditioning days. Our team was split into teams of classes-freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. We had a series of conditioning events where time or repetitions would be tallied. One event was the wall-sit. The time we lasted on the wall sit would be removed from the total time tallied from all the other events. The winning team would have the lowest time tallied.

The seniors, the first in rotation for the wall sit, lasted, on average, around 2.5 minutes. The next class, the freshmen, lasted a bit longer, around 4 minutes. The sophomores-even a bit longer, around 5 or 6 minutes. My class, the junior class, got together prior to the wall sit and agreed to try to push our wall sit to negate our mile time. In other words, our goal was to average around 7.5 minutes on the wall sit. Most of us made it, but that wasn’t what was amazing about the test. Our catcher sat for a total of 11 minutes and 32 seconds!

Where the seniors felt mentally that a 2.5 minute wall sit was difficult, and that it wasn’t possible to overcome the pain and burning, our catcher took note and overcame that physical pain by blocking it out mentally-by having a goal greater than the pain of a wall sit! Not one single player thought anyone would be capable of sustaining that length of time. It was our “aha” moment for the 2005 National Championship Season-just because you’re tired, fatigued, and mentally drained, you have to trust and believe that there is more in your tank-you have to go beyond what your brain thinks you’re capable of-and as long as you continually push that limit and believe you can do more, you will be more successful than you ever imagined!

Jennie Ritter Jennie Ritter is an American former All-American right-handed softball pitcher from Dexter, Michigan. She is a Women’s College Series National Champion withe Michigan Wolverines, whom she played for from 2003-2006.

Jennie played on the USA National Team for 3 years. She also played in Japan.

 

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Driving With That Derriere

By Charity Butler

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Driving With That Derriere

One key to maximizing power at the plate is loading to our Back Side (not to be confused with the “backside”). Booty, bum, buns, fanny, behind, glutes, buttox, derriere etc. are all typical interpretations of the term backside, but as hitters we want to max1m1ze our power by understanding the importance of the Back Side. The Back Side when hitting may seem a little, well, twisted. The half of our body closest to the catcher while in the hitter’s box is our Back Side (right side for right-handed hitters and left side for left-handed hitters). The Back Side has nothing to do with the anterior (front) or posterior (back) sides of the body but everything to do with our body relative to the playing field.

As hitters, when we understand how to most effectively utilize our Back Side, we can increase both power and consistency. When beginning our swing, we want to “load”. I like to think of loading as similar to shooting a bow and arrow. When shooting a bow, we insert the arrow, pull the bow string back and then let it fly, right? What if I insert the arrow, barely pull the bow string and let go? That seems crazy because we would simply shoot a dud of an arrow!

Trying to hit without loading is almost as ludicrous as attempting to shoot a bow and arrow while barely moving the bow string. When shooting the bow, pulling back hard on the bow string creates what scientists call potential energy. Potential energy is energy that is stored up but not yet moving. Just as pulling back the bow string creates potential energy waiting to be released through the arrow, loading before we start forward in our swing stores up potential energy and power that will be released as we explode through the ball.

Loading in the box means shifting weight to our Back Side (right or left toward the catcher, not the conventional thought of front verses back). As hitters, we want to load toward the catcher in order to explode through the ball. Exploding to contact is like releasing the bow string and igniting all its stored power/energy.

Some hitters do not load much at all, while others may load completely out of control and off balance. A strong, balanced load is essential to maximizing both power and consistency as hitters.

An undisciplined load can take several forms. Some hitters shift their weight back so far that the upper body leans back and the shoulders tilt backward, as well. This posture predisposes hitters to pop-flies and fly balls. When the back shoulder drops, the hands typically follow, making it difficult to hit line drives consistently. Hello can-o-corn. Goodbye high batting average. If habitually leaning back is an issue, hitters can picture a pole going through the body, from the top of the head, down the middle of the body, extending all the way to the ground. They should work to stay tall, strong and balanced, like the poll, throughout the entire swing. Some tilt is completely acceptable. This will happen naturally, though. If the hitter focuses on feeling tall, strong and balanced, better results usually follow.

Other hitters load backward so far that the back knee actually moves over and outside the back foot. We are strongest and most balanced when our knees stay between our feet. If hitters concentrate on keeping their weight on the insides of their feet, this keeps the knees in tight and creates a strong, balanced center of gravity.

Try it! Round 1: Stand in the typical hitting stance, with weight evenly distributed over the middle of both feet. Now, load aggressively back toward the catcher as if preparing to swing.

Round 2: Re-set the hitting stance, and then shift weight to the insides of the feet. If there was a kickball positioned between the knees, it should not fall to the ground. This may feel a little strange or uncomfortable, but over exaggerate shifting the weight to the insides of the feet. Now load again, as if preparing to hit. Round 2 should feel much stronger and more balanced. This creates a solid base and some serious lower-half leverage!

The Back Side is immensely important. After loading, it is critical to then drive through the ball from the Back Side while engaging our actual backside. Driving from the Back Side rather than pulling forward with the Front Side is crucial. If our first forward movement begins with the Front Side (front shoulder, elbow or leg), we end up pulling away from the hitting zone. We also usually create tension in the upper body. Tight muscles are slow muscles.

When we start from the Back Side, we can trust our hands, keeping them quick and smooth. Our legs do the hard work. Once we load toward the catcher on the Back Side, we then want to drive with our backside (our gluteus maximus, ba-donka-donk, junk-in-the-trunk, derriere!) through the ball. We actually want to think of driving our back butt cheek through center field. This focus will help maximize the drive of the lower half (increasing power).

It will also keep the body balanced and driving through the ball, rather than falling backward or pulling away (increasing consistency).

Load to the Back Side and explode with the backside to maximize both power and consistency!

Charity ButlerCharity Butler is respected nationally & internationally as a pro athlete, writer, speaker, collegiate coach, hitting instructor and Certified Intrinsic Life Coach®.Currently, as a Pro Speaker for Sports World, Inc, Charity travels the country speaking to more than 40,000 people annually. As a recognized expert in confidence training, she also presents at various conferences, colleges & universities.Charity is the founder of Exceed Sports, LLC, and of the I Heart Fastpitch Campaign Join Charity On: Twitter, and on Instagram

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Fastpitch Softball Magazine Issue 45

FPTV Fastpitch Softball Magazine Issue 45

Issue 45 of The Fastpitch Magazine Published By Gary Leland

This month’s featured video is of my personal interview with Hall Of Fame Inductee Clint Myers. I have also included one of my great softball drills, another featured chapter from The Fastpitch Book, and all your helpful articles from our amazing writers.

Welcome to the May 2016 Issue of the Fastpitch Magazine. The Fastpitch magazine has been bringing you more fastpitch softball articles and videos than anyone on the planet for over two full years.

Mitch Alexander writes in the Softball Academy, “Setting Goals for the New Season.”

Keri Casas is writing in, To Coach or Not to Coach, her article “Why Isn’t My Daughter Being Recruited?”.

Jen Cronebeger conveys, These Five Words Are Mine, in her article “See It… Then Do It”.

Aaron Weintraub’s column, Bridging The Gap, has his article “Dump The Slump”.

Michelle Diltz is bringing focus in her section, School of Strength, with her article “Speed-Tacular Athlete: Power + Direction = Success!″.

Shannon McDougall is back with an article on Planning For Success, entitled “Dependent On Recovery”.

Returning Writer, Robby Wilson talks Recruiting Fast Lane, “The Difference Between Opportunity and Wasting Targeted Time.”

Abby Hanrahan is back with The Pitching Link, in her article “Deconstructing Pitching Lessons”.

Featuring a Drill of the Month, this one comes from my book on Hitting Drills “The Ten Strikes Drill”.

Special Article featured from The Fastpitch Book, Written by Keri Casas “The Hell Week Pitching Workout”.

All this and more in this months issue.

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