Effective Visualization

Written By Renee Ferguson

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Effective Visualization

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Visualization- what is it and how does it help you be a better athlete?

Visualization is one of those elusive tools often used by coaches to try and get their players to imagine on the field successes. When executed properly, visualization can help catapult your players to the next level while helping them overcome challenges on the field. Many coaches explain visualization as closing your eyes and seeing yourself execute the task at hand perfectly. For example, seeing yourself take the perfect swing at the plate and driving in the game-winning run. While this explanation is correct, it is very difficult for athletes to do. Below I will expand on the idea of visualization and teach you how to effectively put it to use.

I was first introduced to the idea of visualization around the age of 12 by my pitching instructor. He would often try and get me to slow down and visualize myself throwing the perfect pitch. I, like any other 12 year old, listened to my instructor and closed my eyes and tried to see myself throwing the pitch. (When I say tried, I mean I closed my eyes just long enough for him to think I had seen myself throw the perfect pitch.) There were times I put effort into it, but most of the time I brushed it off as being unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Now as a pitching coach I realize just how mistaken I was.

Visualization should not be limited by just your eyes; it should use all 5 senses. In order for it to work its best you must be able to see it, feel it, smell it, taste it and hear it. Since I was a pitcher I am going to focus on that aspect of the game, however, the items below can be easily converted to any other aspect of the game or in other areas of life.

So let's start with the basics- visualization is a tool that is used to help pitchers/players overcome challenges and/or speed up the learning process by involving not only their body- but also their mind. True visualization takes time and should be handled over multiple sessions with your player. You cannot expect to throw your players into the details of visualization head first if you want them to succeed. You should not emphasize their speed of learning as much as you should emphasize and encourage them to have a mastery mindset when approaching visualization.

The first session should take place during a one on one (or group at the college age) session. Explain to them exactly what you want them to do. Example: “I want you to physically stand on the pitching rubber, close your eyes and visualize yourself (watch yourself) going through your pitching motion and throwing the most perfect pitch you have ever thrown.” Give them some time and then ask, “Were you actually able to see yourself do this?” Most girls will tell you yes, but don't take their word for it at first. (Chances are they are having a hard time but do not want to disappoint you.) Ask them to describe in detail what they saw. What color shirt was her catcher wearing? Was there a chalk circle around the mound? What did the pitch do? What pitch did you throw? You will be able to tell pretty quickly how clearly they were able to see things during their initial attempt at visualization. During the first session you want to expand on the details of what you are expecting as much as possible- this is their first impression of the skill after all.

In the next phase of this session you want to introduce the concept of “feeling” the pitch. You can do this by saying the following: “I want you to physically stand on the pitching rubber, close your eyes and visualize going through your pitching motion as we did last time. But this time I want you to imagine, that you can actually feel yourself going through the motion of the pitch. Feel your hands come together, feel your muscles tighten as you explode off the mound, feel the resistance you create as you land and feel your arm whip through to your target.” Have them try this a few times but if the whole motion seems too daunting for them, have them work on one or two things at a time- like feeling themselves take their place on the mound and having their hands come together. If you check in with them and they say they still cannot do it, have them physically complete the two steps focusing on how it feels and then have them step behind the mound and ask them to repeat that step in their mind with their eyes closed. Now that they have something to refer to, feeling their visualization should be a little bit easier. Continue going through this until they are able to feel the whole pitching motion with their mind. For ease and time, you can break this down into multiple sessions if the student is having a big problem feeling the visualization. You do NOT want to frustrate them; you want to allow them to take baby steps to complete the task if that is what is needed by them. Remember everyone works at their own pace and what might be simple for some is often difficult for many.

The goal of the second session is to introduce the idea of feeling other aspects of the pitching scenario. For example, add the game element into it because it will force so many more uncontrollable things into their mind. Perhaps they now feel their heart pounding, the sweat on their forehead, or the heat from the sun on their skin. You want them to incorporate as many touch items as possible here. You can guide them if necessary but they should try and pick things that they feel on a regular basis while on the mound. That way the things they are trying to recall are familiar items. Basically you want them to become hypersensitive to what their experience on the mound is really like.

By the third session they should seem pretty comfortable recalling the feel of their pitching motion and how the external items feel when they step on the mound. It's at this time you want to introduce the concept of seeing what is going on around them. We often teach pitchers to have tunnel vision when on the mound, but for visualization purposes we want them to recognize the background scene. (Side note- once they are able to recognize things around them they can take steps to ensure it affects them less during games by practicing blocking certain things out through visualization.) As they visualize the background they see while they are in the pitching circle, have them explain it to you in as much detail as possible. So instead of accepting “I see the umpire”, have them focus on what the umpire is doing, is he setting up behind the catcher or is he getting a drink of water. If they see fans (parents) ask what color shirts they are wearing and if they have sunglasses on. Make them work to recall as many details as possible; there are no wrong answers you just want to exercise their mind the way you do their bodies in practice. This process may be difficult for them at first and will probably make them uncomfortable, but this is normal. If they are really struggling, they can open their eyes while you talk to them and probe them for information. The answers don't have to reflect actual instances that occurred recently, but you want them to find something they can recall with ease to insert into their visualization practices. Seeing their catcher give them a sign should be an easy one to recall because the mind has seen it so many times it becomes ingrained.

The fourth session will start with you walking them through the visualization steps you have already introduced and then talking to them about the sounds they hear from the fans around the field. You want them to tell you the cheer that is coming out of the opposing dugout as well as their own.

They need to be able to focus on each sound individually. The ultimate goal will be to use visualization to teach them only to focus on the sounds they WANT or NEED to hear thereby creating their ideal on the field scenario for success.

During the fifth session, you want to begin to talk to them about the smells they smell and the tastes they taste while on the mound. Perhaps it's the smell of ballpark hot dogs, rain in the air, or the dirt getting kicked up. They may also recall the taste of the sunflower seeds they eat during the game or the flavor of the bubble gum they chew. Since they are used to the amount of detail you want from each sense this should be easier than the last session, and they should begin to elaborate the smells and tastes to you with little prompting. I know it may seem weird to ask the pitcher to visualize the smells and tastes they experience when on the pitching mound, but I want to stress its importance, visualization works because the student should be able to imagine game situations as close to a real live game as possible so they can teach themselves to visualize the desired outcome of any given game situation before it happens.

Now, it's time to help the student to put it all together. The first time you review everything together you want them to stand on the pitching rubber and verbally tell you what they see, smell, taste, feel and hear during the visualization process and then have them open their eyes and pitch. Next, you want them to close their eyes and only visualize what they see, smell, taste, feel and hear. After they visualize you want them to pitch the ball trying to recreate exactly what they just created in their mind. You always want to reiterate to them that they want to visualize the best pitch they have ever thrown or the ideal scenario they would like to create. An example of this would be to have them visualize a pressure situation with a perfect outcome: bases loaded, bottom of 7th, tying run at 3rd, full count on the batter, and they have to throw the best rise ball they have ever thrown to strike the batter out at the plate. The goal is to get them to be able to visualize and perform the desired outcome every single time they are faced with it during a game. It teaches them to anticipate success especially in those critical high stress, high performance situations.

The more your players practice visualizing, and the more seriously it is taken, the bigger the impact visualization will have on their level of play. It is also important to mention that visualization is an important life skill for everyone to have. It's like having your own personal life coach because you can and will change the outcomes in every aspect of a player's life. Perhaps the student you are working with is a poor test taker. If they can apply visualization to enhance their athletic abilities they can surely use it to increase the probability of becoming a better test taker because they will have the skills to imagine taking the test and succeeding before they actually sit down to take it. Visualization requires a lot of hard work in the beginning but once it is learned it becomes second nature.

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Oklahoma Post Game 12 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

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Oklahoma Post Game 12 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

Sunday June 4, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma – 4, Oregon – 2

Oklahoma interview with Patty Gasso, Nicole Pendley, Lea Wodach, Shay Knighten, Paige Lowary, and Paige Parker.

PATTY GASSO: Proud of this group. That was a tough game. When we look at Oregon on video, we look at their numbers. We're very, very similar. So at times it felt like we were playing ourselves. Their pitcher did a great job. We had some opportunities early, but to see these guys come in clutch late in the game when we were down shows that this is a setting that they love. They're not intimidated by it. They're not playing afraid to lose. They're playing to win. And that's really been our difference for probably the last two months. Thrilled to be back in the championship game. Proud of this group, and hats off to Oregon because, again, they're a team that made us better and they made us have to prepare very hard to get ready for them in a short turnaround, and I think they're a fantastic team.

Q. Shay, on the single that scored two, you kind of dropped it in there to right field. Is that kind of what you were trying to do on that?

SHAY KNIGHTEN: Not really, but I mean, I'll take it. It worked. All I wanted to do was just put the ball in play, come into the right side, and just give my team a chance to score.

Q. Patty, take us through the sequence where Raegan Rogers beat the throw home. Talk about the aggressive play.

PATTY GASSO: It's a play we've been doing all year long, and if we get a ground ball, we are extremely aggressive to go forward. I know that Oregon does the same thing. In big settings like this, you have to be perfect, and the throw has to be on, and Reagan has speed and can create a little bit of havoc. For us it was — we had — I said from the start, you've just got to go for it. You've got to go for it when you're here, and that's our game plan going in.

Q. Patty, what is it about your team that's so relentless? They scored the two runs and you immediately come back with the four right after that.

PATTY GASSO: That's probably a good question for these guys up here. They really are getting into their groove. We've wasted about eight weeks of trying to figure this out, and I think we're making up for lost time, and they are relaxed, they're playing their best softball, they're having a blast. They don't want it to end.

Q. Lea, on that bunt, it appeared, at least from our angle, that the umpire might have signaled foul ball at first and yet you kept running, the play went on and you ended up at second base. What went through your mind as all that was going on?

LEA WODACH: I was just trying to get some momentum for my team. I knew I had a pretty not great at-bat my first at-bat, and I wanted to make something happen, started out the inning strong and just rolled it right up over, got the bat into it. I was just trying to do something for my team, kind of got to go for it as Coach said, you've got to go for it here, so just doing whatever I can, and then if anyone hit the ball by first base I'm going for two.

Q. Paige and Shay, you guys faced four elimination games in the regionals and you never trailed against Auburn in the super regionals. This is the first time you've trailed since then. Does it make you appreciate the journey of just how hard it is to get back to this point?

PAIGE PARKER: I definitely think it does. You know, I think our regional taught us a lot, and I think it was good for us to be put in the position we were because with our backs against the wall, I think we play our best softball. I think just having that regional, it really does make you appreciate the experience of the World Series, and just to cherish every moment that we're here, and we just don't want it to end.

SHAY KNIGHTEN: Just having our backs against the wall, I feel lake that's when we just kind of look to each other to kind of step up. Being behind 2-0 going into the fifth was something that we were like, okay, like it's time to step up, they're here to play. What we were doing before we knew wasn't working, so we tried to figure out any way that we could just to get back and score, get runners on base, and going back to our regional, I think that did help us because we realized that any game could be our last game, so just go for it.

Q. First, was that a call between you and Patty, the bunt with two strikes, and then did you think it was foul off the bat because it seemed like you didn't get it down where you wanted it get it done.
Lea Wodach: Yeah, it was supposed to be a little more out, but at that point with two strikes, I'm trying to, I don't know, do what I can, I guess. You're not really thinking about it because it doesn't really matter. If it goes foul, I'm out, so I'm running down the line as hard as I can, and no, Coach (Gasso) did not call that.

PATTY GASSO: Yes, you were safe. I did call it. If you're out, I don't.

Q. For both of the Paiges, I just want to know about playing in this stadium, your experience level. Did you guys get to play in this stadium before college and how much of an advantage is it to have a home crowd here in Oklahoma City?

PAIGE LOWARY: I've played in it with no people in it really, like 100 people tops really, so there's a lot more people in there. I just tried to have the same mindset going affect me, just stay focused on the pitch I'm throwing.

PAIGE PARKER: I also played here whenever I was younger, but again, not like this crowd, and kind of the same thing as Paige (Lowary), it's just focusing in on every pitch, and it is great that we have so much fan support because it really helps us get momentum and really fires us up.

Q. Nicole, you're hitting everything so hard right now. Does that ball look as big as a group fruit or basketball or something?

NICOLE PENDLEY: I think a lot of it is just preparation that we do before games, watching film, creating a plan that we stick to, so we go in the box really confident with ourselves, I think, so I think preparation is the biggest thing right now.

Q. Coach, just your thoughts on playing Florida, two programs won the last four national championships and you have an opportunity to maybe go ahead in the count here. Just your thoughts on their program and this opportunity.

PATTY GASSO: We're very familiar with them. Jen Rocha played — she's an OU alum, so is Tim, played baseball there. There's roots between both programs. They're good, well-coached, very complete team. Again, we're going to have to play really, really well, give all we've got, and we're looking forward to it.

Q. Does that make that kind of matchup more fun for you because there are such close ties and you know Walton so well?

PATTY GASSO: No, it does not make it fun. You know, we're competitors, and so I think we both kind of know each other's style some, although we haven't played them since he's been at Florida. It's intriguing that we're facing each other in this setting for a national championship. I'm looking forward to it. They're well-coached pitching staff. They're all just — they're a very complete team. But at the same time, I think we are, too. We just do it in different ways. I think it'll be a great matchup and great for television and great for the fans.

Q. They said on the broadcast that you showed your ladies the documentary of the UConn women's basketball team last night. Why did you feel the need to do that last night, and just what was the reason behind that?

PATTY GASSO: I didn't show it last night. No, I did not. What ladies are saying that? We watched it throughout the season, because I think they — I was, I guess, trying to find the right way to lead this team. UConn women's basketball has won it so many times in a row, and we were still in that place where we weren't getting our championship mindset bracelets. We were still wearing black cleats instead of our white cleats, and I thought to see another female sport play at the highest level, what is it that makes them so good and afraid of nothing. You know, everyone is talking about their streak and so forth, so we wanted to learn, I wanted to learn — and actually Sherri Cole really helped me out with actually getting a personal shoutout from Coach Auriemma to this team, and it meant a lot to them because we felt connected as we watched that team go through their journey, and we learned a lot. We learned a lot about competition.

So wherever we can learn it, whether it's from a female sport, a male sport, pro, whatever, kids, it doesn't matter, we're always trying to learn lessons and get better. We learned it from North Dakota State right on our own field. We learn it all over the place. I think that's the beauty of this journey is watching the learning and hills and valleys, but now we're on top of that hill right now, and it's been amazing to watch.

Q. Paige Lowary, one of your pitches was clocked at 75 miles per hour. Have you ever thrown that fast? And do you feel like you had an extra pep in your pitches today?

PAIGE LOWARY: I think I know one other time in Palm Springs this year. But I think adrenaline just kicks in and just trying to hit my spot. I wasn't really concerned with speed, but happened to be that fast, I guess.

Q. Coach, you guys are the defending national champs and playing in your backyard, yet Florida is No. 1. Do you go into this with the mindset as a favorite or an underdog? I know you said you're playing to win and not to lose.

PATTY GASSO: We're a 10 seed playing a 1 seed, so I think that kind of tells it all, and that's exactly where we like to be. We're the David of this battle, and we're going to give everything we have.

Q. Paige Lowary, I think you're the only one up here that's played Florida before but you were a different pitcher then. What are your thoughts now? Do you feel like you're a secret weapon at this point?

PAIGE LOWARY: I don't know about secret weapon, but I'm not really nervous. Like you said, I'm completely different and I'm in a different role. I just really trust everyone around me, so if I get the shot to pitch against them, I know I have confidence. I'm just a different person.

Q. Coach, for the last two consecutive games, you've moved (Sydney) Romero from 4 to 6, Fale (Aviu) from 5 to 4 and Nicole (Pendley) from 5 to 6. It seems at least to me a little bit almost counterproductive to put Pendley in the middle when you have Romero and Fale who can both get on base. How do you think it's working?
PATTY GASSO: I'm sitting in front of you right now, so I think it's working okay. Sometimes you've got to go with what's hot. I don't know. I mean, it's worked. I like — when I see them come up, I feel confident. I like where they're at. You look at what they've been doing the last seven, eight, nine games, and you know, sometimes a good mix-up works. We're talking about the middle of the lineup, but an unsung hero is Kelsey Arnold. She just does her thing and makes things happen. I like what she's doing down in the 9 right now, so I might move her, too.

Q. We talked all year about the staff, but it's pretty cool that you have a legitimate closer that has — when we think of a closer, she's it, throws hard, throws strikes. It's that kind of thing. But you have a dominant starting staff, too, and a starting All-Star pitcher. As the game goes on, I'm curious what you're thinking; how closely are you watching just so you can — you have a real good feel when you bring Paige Lowary in.

PATTY GASSO: I don't know, just looking at how Paige Parker is doing, do we need a momentum swing, Paige Lowary is just such a different pitcher, just throwing hard like it's a good differential between the two. But if you could see what I'm watching in the dugout between these two, it is awesome to watch because Paige Parker is making the call right along with us, and when Paige Lowary comes into the dugout ready to take the ball, ready to go out on the field, they are right in each other's face. It's like a cool little sisterhood that's going on here, a great tag team, and it works.

So I think they kind of know before we even tell them. We've done it enough that they kind of have it figured out.

Q. Coach Gasso, I know you haven't played Florida, but just your thoughts on what (Kelly) Barnhill has been able to accomplish over the course of the season.

PATTY GASSO: Tremendous pitcher, throws hard, moves the ball around, mixes well. You've just got to be extremely disciplined. You're going to have to be short with your swings. She throws the ball hard. She's done a fantastic job and very worthy of the Player of the Year award. She led her team, although they have a great pitching staff. She's led her team here. We're going to have to be really good and very disciplined when we face her.

Q. Paige Lowary, this team won this last year but you weren't here. Now you guys go into this Championship Series again. How do you prepare for this since you weren't in this position before?

PAIGE LOWARY: I'm just very grateful for the opportunity. In the past I've come up short with the team I was on, so I'm just very grateful to be in this position. I'm really excited.

POSTGAME NOTES
Game 12: Oklahoma 4, Oregon 2

  • No. 10 seed Oklahoma topped No. 3 Oregon 4-2 on Sunday afternoon in the semifinals to earn its second consecutive berth in the WCWS Championship Series and fourth in program history. The Sooners will face No. 1 Florida, with the first contest set to begin Monday at 6 p.m. CT.
  • With the win, the Sooners move to 59-9 on the season and 25-15 all-time at the WCWS. Oregon ends the season with a 54-8 record, tied for the second-most wins in program history, and falls to 4-9 at the event.
  • Right fielder Danica Mercado gave Oregon a 2-0 lead with a two-out home run down the right field line in the top of the fifth inning. It was Mercado’s first hit in 15 at-bats at the 2017 WCWS. Mercado finished 1-for-3 with two RBIs, while Alexis Mack added a base hit and finished 7-for-13 (.538) in four games at the WCWS.
  • OU’s Nicole Mendes’ RBI fielder’s choice put the Sooners on the board, scoring pinch runner Raegan Rogers.
  • Shay Knighten extended her hitting streak to 10 games with a single to left in the first inning. Knighten flared a single to right field to give the Sooners a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth, marking the first lead change in any game at the 2017 WCWS. The junior finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs and one run scored.
  • Nicole Pendley lined a two-out double to plate Knighten in the fifth to extend OU’s lead to 4-2. Pendley has recorded 15 of her 23 career postseason RBIs during the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
  • Paige Parker won her eighth straight game at the WCWS and her 16th consecutive postseason contest. The junior threw 5.0 innings, allowing two runs on five hits, while striking out four. Parker is the first pitcher in WCWS history to with eight consecutive decisions to begin her career at the event.
  • Parker also became just the second pitcher in history to win eight consecutive starts at the Women’s College World Series, joining UCLA’s Keira Goerl (2003-04). Parker is the 10th pitcher to win at least eight career games at the WCWS and the first since former Sooner Kelani Rickets accomplished the feat in 2013.
  • Paige Lowary set the OU career record for saves (10) by recording the final six outs. The junior transfer has registered all 10 of the Sooners’ saves this season.
  • OU’s Kelsey Arnold went 2-3 at the plate to record her 10th multi-hit game of the season.
  • Oregon’s Megan Kleist (21-4) took the loss, allowing six hits and four runs (two earned) in 4.2 innings. The sophomore recorded two strikeouts and one walk.
  • The Sooners tacked on two stolen bases in the contest to put the team’s season total at 110, tied for second most in a single season in program history.
  • The win marked OU’s third comeback victory of the postseason. The Sooners also rallied against Arkansas (May 20) and Tulsa (May 21).
  • Attendance for Session 6 was 9,419, which is a session record and the sixth-largest attendance in WCWS history.
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Oregon Post Game 12 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

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Oregon Post Game 12 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

Sunday June 4, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma – 4, Oregon – 2

Oregon interview with Mike White, Danica Mercado, Megan Kleist, Nikki Udria, and Gwen Svekis.

MIKE WHITE: Well, obviously this is always the toughest conference to hold is the one after you're eliminated. There's only going to be one team that's going to be happy at the end, of course, and that's going to be a great matchup between those two clubs, Oklahoma and Florida. Oklahoma has got a great team. They played well today. I'd like to thank the NCAA, USA softball, all the grounds crews. I thought the field was immaculate. Did a great job with that, and the setup. As I said, this tournament keeps getting better and better.

Obviously one thing I'd like to see going forward, and I think this tournament has really illustrated it, is the need for an instant replay, a need for the ability to make a challenge.

There's been so many games decided by some calls that could have gone — I think were incorrect calls to be quite frank, and that made a big difference. This game is played at a high speed. Umpires are human. You should have the ability to challenge a call. I think the two losses we've had, they were both questionable calls that were made that led to those two losses.

Obviously we were — we didn't help ourselves, don't get me wrong, but I think the need for a challenge is sorely needed, and hopefully we will look at that, and we have the ability now with a lot of games to be able to do that.

I want to thank my team. They left everything out on the field. Obviously yesterday was a big day for us, was hard to come back again today, but we got ourselves in that position. We know that. We had a two-run lead. It was fun. It didn't last too long. But you know, hopefully being back here, we've learnt a lot of things about our club, about our players. I know that I'm so proud of these players for how hard they've fought. I'm very sad to see the three seniors leave. They've been a huge part of this club and the building of the club.

But you know, it goes on. Hopefully the experience that our underclassmen learnt from this tournament will help us become a better team in the future. I want to thank Lisa Peterson, Rob Mellons, and all our support staff. There's so many people I just can't continue to name them all off. But student managers, equipment managers, everybody, incredible, and we're so humbled and pleased to be back at this tournament and competing against some excellent teams. I think you can see that the field was great this year as far as 1 to 16 and some outside the 16 as I've said before, and the growth of softball is going to continue to get better as we go forward. Thank you.

Q. Coach, could you elaborate more on the play — I assume you're talking about the bunt that looked like it had gone foul, what you saw, what you were told by the umpires?

MIKE WHITE: Well, you tell me. Was it foul? There you go, you answered your own question. I don't need to tell you anything.

Q. What explanation were you given by the umpires?

MIKE WHITE: They said it was fair.

Q. Just talk about — two questions: First on your three seniors, how much they were a part of moving the program where it was before and getting them to this point. And my second question was about how the growth of pitchers on this level have grown in the last several years, what's been the development process of getting to that point.

MIKE WHITE: Yeah, well, obviously Nikki Udria, she came in as a shortstop and played four years of shortstop. Was a four-time Pac-12 champion — a three-time Pac-12 champion, sorry, and three times World Series. It all goes so quick. It all blends together. But with Danica (Mercado), as well, actually a four-time Pac-12 champion. She was a red shirt. Obviously they've had a big part in our success. What happens is that as you bring young underclassmen in, they help to build, they help to coach, they help to reinforce what we say as a team to those players, and you know, I'm proud of what they're doing.

I'm sure right now they wish they could probably have another couple years, but it doesn't happen that way. But I'm so proud of them.

As far as our pitching goes, obviously we have three very good pitchers, Meghan Kleist, Maggie Balint and Miranda Elish and hopefully they'll continue to lead us as we go forward.

I just want to know from a coach what the pitching rules are going to be going forward. And I won't say any more on that because there's a big controversy on that, as well, why are some players allowed to cheat and why some aren't, and what am I supposed to teach my players and what am I supposed to teach other people. So we need to get that sorted out.

Q. Danica and Nikki, can you talk about how tough this was to get up? You looked like you had a chance to take it to a ninth game and then you see things fall apart a little bit there.

DANICA MERCADO: I think that obviously any loss is tough at this point in the season. But we knew that from the game in this tournament we put ourselves in a little bit of a hole offensively having played with our backs against the wall, so I think that my team came out there and they fought as hard as they can every pitch, and it came to a point where we did make a couple mistakes, and we weren't able to back it up with our bats. I think there's only so many times that you can put yourself in the bottom of the seventh, but I'm so proud of my team because we very well easily could have rolled over after losing the first game and we fought every inning until the very last one.

NIKKI UDRIA: Yeah, I have to agree with Danica. We never gave up even until that last out, and as tough as it is to swallow, I wouldn't change anything because everything happens for a reason. If it took us losing this game to build the program to learn something, for our teammates to learn to go forward, then that's what it took.

Q. Gwen, just to follow up, what was running through your mind on that play? Were you trying to make a play at first or were you trying to let it go foul? What went into that play?

GWEN SVEKIS: Obviously I was trying to make the play at first. I've made that play a thousand times in my life, and I'll probably make it a thousand more. But just wasn't meant to be today, and that's okay. I need to get better. I need to make that play next time. I know I can make that play. Fair or foul, I can make that play.

Yeah, I was trying to make the play. I didn't want to play umpire because I've hit a ball this year that was three feet foul and it was called fair. He had the best view of it. We both saw the same ball. I'm not going to comment on it because I tried making the play and I threw the ball away. That's all on me. But yeah, obviously I was trying to make the play, and it just didn't happen.

Q. Coach White, how much of an advantage is it, if any, for Oklahoma to play in the Women's College World Series here in Oklahoma City? And two, you mentioned off the top that the series will be a competitive one between Florida and Oklahoma. What will be the keys to a series like that between those two teams?

MIKE WHITE: Yeah, good question. Both have got very good pitching staffs. With Barnhill out there and Gourley, those two are very tough. They complement each other so well. So it's really going to be a low-scoring affair, so it's probably going to come down to whoever makes some mistakes, you know, like most good games, more lost than they are won, and I feel that's what happened to us a little bit today. We lost the game. Oklahoma put the pressure on us, you we lost it, and that's what's going to happen in that final, I think. It's going to be who's going to make the mistake and who's going to capitalize on it.

Q. Is it a big advantage for Oklahoma to play in Oklahoma City?

MIKE WHITE: Well, obviously it's an advantage because their fan base is here and they're close to this area, but the game is still played between the lines. It's 60 feet, turn left, 12-inch softball, all the stuff I tell our team. We go on the road and we play in some pretty competitive environments. Obviously it's not 10,000 people, 8,000 people, but it's still the same. It's still a lot of pressure when you've got to play a series at UCLA or go play at Arizona. I don't think that's a factor. As a coach I don't play that up. Yes, it's an advantage, but should it decide the game? I don't think so.

Q. Out of this whole tournament, only two pitchers are seniors. What do you think about the pitching overall? There's potential we see a lot of these girls back here again next year.

MIKE WHITE: Well, it's funny because I think two years ago we were all saying how hitting is dominating everything, and now it's time to see the pitchers dominate a little bit. I know in our conference we changed softballs. We changed from the Wilson ball to the Worth ball. It's not quite as lively, so the pitchers' numbers were dropped a little bit. The ERAs were under two. Last year they were over two. That had probably something to do with it. So now we're matching up more with the SEC. Everyone said the SEC's numbers were better. Well, they're using a different ball. Trust me, when we hit the Wilson ball, it's a lot livelier than the Worth ball. That's kind of evened it out a little bit and one of the reasons why as a conference we changed to the Worth softball.

But going back to your point about the pitching, I think it's getting better. You know, obviously there's three in our club that are pretty exciting to watch, and there's a number throughout the country. So hopefully that continues to move forward because those games are very exciting.

Q. Megan, you guys have so much coming back. Just a sense for how valuable this experience is going to be and what you hope your teammates take from this week.

MEGAN KLEIST: I think that this was a really big learning experience for the underclassmen coming back. We can use this and kind of let it fire us to be better next year and just kind of know that we tasted the chance to actually get to the end. You know, just coming back next year stronger and working on our weaknesses that were shown in this last game, shown in this whole tournament, and just be better than we were this year.

POSTGAME NOTES
Game 12: Oklahoma 4, Oregon 2

  • No. 10 seed Oklahoma topped No. 3 Oregon 4-2 on Sunday afternoon in the semifinals to earn its second consecutive berth in the WCWS Championship Series and fourth in program history. The Sooners will face No. 1 Florida, with the first contest set to begin Monday at 6 p.m. CT.
  • With the win, the Sooners move to 59-9 on the season and 25-15 all-time at the WCWS. Oregon ends the season with a 54-8 record, tied for the second-most wins in program history, and falls to 4-9 at the event.
  • Right fielder Danica Mercado gave Oregon a 2-0 lead with a two-out home run down the right field line in the top of the fifth inning. It was Mercado’s first hit in 15 at-bats at the 2017 WCWS. Mercado finished 1-for-3 with two RBIs, while Alexis Mack added a base hit and finished 7-for-13 (.538) in four games at the WCWS.
  • OU’s Nicole Mendes’ RBI fielder’s choice put the Sooners on the board, scoring pinch runner Raegan Rogers.
  • Shay Knighten extended her hitting streak to 10 games with a single to left in the first inning. Knighten flared a single to right field to give the Sooners a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth, marking the first lead change in any game at the 2017 WCWS. The junior finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs and one run scored.
  • Nicole Pendley lined a two-out double to plate Knighten in the fifth to extend OU’s lead to 4-2. Pendley has recorded 15 of her 23 career postseason RBIs during the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
  • Paige Parker won her eighth straight game at the WCWS and her 16th consecutive postseason contest. The junior threw 5.0 innings, allowing two runs on five hits, while striking out four. Parker is the first pitcher in WCWS history to with eight consecutive decisions to begin her career at the event.
  • Parker also became just the second pitcher in history to win eight consecutive starts at the Women’s College World Series, joining UCLA’s Keira Goerl (2003-04). Parker is the 10th pitcher to win at least eight career games at the WCWS and the first since former Sooner Kelani Rickets accomplished the feat in 2013.
  • Paige Lowary set the OU career record for saves (10) by recording the final six outs. The junior transfer has registered all 10 of the Sooners’ saves this season.
  • OU’s Kelsey Arnold went 2-3 at the plate to record her 10th multi-hit game of the season.
  • Oregon’s Megan Kleist (21-4) took the loss, allowing six hits and four runs (two earned) in 4.2 innings. The sophomore recorded two strikeouts and one walk.
  • The Sooners tacked on two stolen bases in the contest to put the team’s season total at 110, tied for second most in a single season in program history.
  • The win marked OU’s third comeback victory of the postseason. The Sooners also rallied against Arkansas (May 20) and Tulsa (May 21).
  • Attendance for Session 6 was 9,419, which is a session record and the sixth-largest attendance in WCWS history.
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Personal sacrifices are really the beginning of the end of everything because you don't win because you do one thing or two things right. You win because you do one thousand little things right throughout the year.

Quote From Susan Butcher

One Thing I Can’t Stand To See On the Field

Written By Stacie Mahoe

Dallas / Fort Worth Coaches Group

One Thing I Can't Stand To See On The Field

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As a softball coach, softball parent, and former softball player, I have a pet peeve. Well, actually, I have more than one, but I won't bore you all with them. This one in particular I've seen too often recently and it REALLY drives me crazy!

Pet peeve: When the only thing a coach teaches their athletes is to “do as they're told” vs empowering them with the knowledge and tools they need to make smart decisions about their own training and performance.

This upsets me. It really does. I believe we, as coaches, should be building players up, not dumbing them down.

Don't be that coach. Empower your players!

How will players ever own, or take responsibility for, their training and performance if all they know how to do is what someone else tells them? When they've been trained to simple be a pack of followers instead of emerging leaders?

These same coaches rarely demonstrate, or pass on an understanding of, WHY players are doing what they do. I'm not sure these coaches know

WHY they run the drills they do or teach the methods and concepts they teach. All they seem to know is WHAT their team is “supposed to” do and how it should look.

These coaches typically do things because…

They think they're “supposed to”
Because it's what other teams are doing
Because they read it in a book somewhere
Because they saw it on a video
Because they heard about it at a seminar or convention
Because they saw it on tv
Because it's what everyone else is talking about
Etc, etc, etc

But they don't have any further understanding of the WHY behind it. They don't bother to dig past the WHAT. They think you can just throw a piece of a program into your team environment and it'll work just like magic. They don't understand that those pieces are part of a bigger picture and often don't quite work under different circumstances or without the other pieces of the larger whole.

These coaches can't tell their players what there is to gain from the methods or concepts they teach or when and how it should be applied. They mistakenly teach concepts as the ONLY way, usable in ALL situations.

Don't be that coach. Seek a deeper understanding of what you implement with your team. Know HOW you want it to work, WHAT you want it to accomplish, WHAT you want your team to get out of it, WHY you want to use it, and HOW it will help your players.

Any time you show your team something, or ask them to do or try something, you should be able to explain it well enough that they understand WHY they are doing it and how it can help them. They should understand the purpose of drills they do, otherwise they're just going through the motions and never get the most out of it. Heck, they may even miss the point entirely!

Do you have to explain every single detail of every single drill to every single player?

No.

But you should be able to explain if they, or anyone else, ask.

It IS your job to understand the details so you can help any player get the most from their training. You should be able to identify when something isn't working and why. You should have ideas on how you can help them improve and make adjustments necessary for maximum results in training and performance.

Don't ever leave your athletes thinking, “This is stupid. Why are we doing this? It doesn't make sense. ”

This does not help you. This does not help them. It's a sure fire way to waste precious time and energy and undermines your players' confidence in your ability to successfully train and lead them.

Don't be that coach. Dive deep into your craft. Care about what you do. Don't just stop at WHAT to do, understand WHY you're doing it and HOW it works so you can give your players reasons to WANT to do/try it. Plus, it's the only way you can make timely, effective corrections and adjustments to keep your team moving in the right direction. Without this understanding, when things don't go well, you'll be left wondering why, with no clue what to do or how to fix it.

Don't be that coach!

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Florida Post Game 11 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

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Florida Post Game 11 Press Conference

2017 Women's College World Series

Sunday June 4, 2017
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Florida – 5, Washington – 2

Florida interview with Heather Tarr, Julia DePonte, Casey Stangel, and Ali Aguilar

TIM WALTON: First of all, I think everybody needs to get a little fired up in here. We're winning a national championship. It's a little bit quiet in here for a team going to the national championship.

Really proud of our team, just the way we came out the first inning obviously with Kayli Kvistad setting the tone. But again, we hit the ball well. We're a pitching and defense type team, and I thought Delanie Gourley's stuff was as good as I've ever seen her stuff, and it was clear today that she had her A game, which was her first-ever College World Series start, by the way. Big-time stuff for a big-time kid and big-time player. So really proud of our team and really proud of the effort that they gave today and just their work over the last few days to get it right and to do things right.

Congratulations to Washington. Obviously a great team, and we've battled them many a times here and many a times in general. For us to be able to come out of this one game, really proud of just the overall effort of the whole Gator softball program. So thanks, and just give it to Delanie; what a great job today.

Q. Delanie, just to finally get the chance on the big stage to start a game and to finish a game, what did it mean to you, and what were you thinking about heading into the game?

DELANIE GOURLEY: I was really excited. I felt like I kind of did it backwards. My first few appearances were in tight situations in Championship Series, and so today to come out and just start a game with my team on my back, I was really excited. We were all really pumped before the game, and we just came out firing and it was really good, so it was a lot of fun.

Q. Delanie, how much confidence did you have going into this game? You faced Washington, I believe, two seasons ago. How much confidence did you have going into this game?

DELANIE GOURLEY: I have a ton. They are a really great program, so we knew it was not going to be easy at all. But we were feeling really good all week. Our vibe, our defense, our offense, our pitching, we were feeling really good, so just to have a team like this behind my back to go in for my first start, I couldn't have been any more confident today than I was.

Q. Delanie, you're one of the few pitchers here who has experience pitching in the Women's College World Series; how does that experience help you, whether it's starting or out of the bullpen?

DELANIE GOURLEY: It helps a ton. You know, especially for women's sports where you don't really get to play in front of this type of crowd, so that alone can maybe shake a few players up, get them a little nervous. But just to have done it before and to have that experience under my belt, I can share it with my team and just say, hey, you know, we're not going to lie, this is a big deal, but we have to play our game, we have to pitch our pitches, just do what we do, and so just to know that and believe it and trust in it and buy in, I think that's why we're here right now.

Q. Your team has rolled through three games here; you've also played three games that could have ended your season. Where was the sense of where this team was when it got to Oklahoma City?

TIM WALTON: Yeah, I think the key for me was just how we came out early in the game against Texas A & M scoring runs early. But I was pretty clear when I did the postgame press conference on Saturday when we beat Alabama, I just said, now it's up to the players, and I think that's what you get when you go to the College World Series. It's up to the players. Our coaching staff does a really good job of preparing and putting together a plan, but the players have to execute it. They have to buy into it, and they have to be able to control their heartbeat on this stage.

I've always said it, that this is a big deal playing on this stage, and the team that plays the most normal has got a chance to win, and I think we've been able to do that. I think our players have been able to just buy into themselves and be confident, and again, some people peak in the beginning of the season, some people peak in the middle of the season, and some teams never peak, and if your team can peak at the right time and get some confidence towards the end, you've got a chance, and now we've got our team in position to have a chance.

Q. Coach, your impressions of Oregon and of Oklahoma?

TIM WALTON: I'm not even there yet. I won't lie. I'm going to sit here for a couple more minutes and try not to worry who we play. We've got two good teams getting ready to play. But I have no idea — I couldn't even tell you five players on each team yet, so it wouldn't be fair for me to make any assumptions yet.

Q. Delanie, talk about coming from the bullpen to start and on this stage.

DELANIE GOURLEY: I think it just goes back to knowing who I have behind me. You know, I think almost every person on my team today came up to me, and they're like, hey, I'm so pumped for you, let's go. I don't know how you can't go into a game feeling good when you have that constantly in your ear and an offense like that with Kayli (Kvistad) coming out and starting the game the way she did. I was warming up before, and I saw it go out from the bullpen, and I was fired up out there. And then to have Janell (Wheaton) back there doing what she does, she helps me get a lot of strikes, and so there's no way you can really go into a game feeling bad with this kind of team.

Q. Kayli, you hit another home run today. This is not a power-hitting team or wasn't through the regular season. What has led to this power surge in the World Series? Are you more comfortable hitting over those fences?

KAYLI KVISTAD: I think that we just come in here and were really were trying to fight each at-bat and really just try to get the momentum coming our way. My first at-bats today, I went to the first couple pitches, so just really trying to compete and fight for our team and trying to get on base, and each person is just trying to turn over to the next at-bat, and then we've just turned into a power hitting team lately.

Q. Chelsea and Janell, I remember talking to Coach Walton after the SEC tournament, and Florida's pitching has been great all year but the offense has been spotty at times for your standard —

TIM WALTON: I just want to give you a heads-up. Look at our games against top-25 opponents. Before you spotty it up, we've played against more top-25 teams than anybody in the league, so to be able to do that, that's why it's spotty; we played the best schedule in the country.

Q. Right. I think you were looking for more consistency at that time. Obviously you found it. Can you talk about how this team's offense has found itself and also kind of competing against yourselves? This would be — you've had two other World Series championship teams. How do you put that in perspective with what you're doing now?

CHELSEA HERNDON: I think we're just buying into the process. This is the last week and a half of the season, so why not. I think we're just buying into the preparation, and like Kayli (Kvistad) said, we're turning it over to the next person, making sure everyone does their job to produce the rest that we need.

JANELL WHEATON: I agree. This sport is hard. You're going to fail more than you're ever going to succeed in this sport, and especially in the SEC, you have to have a short memory and forget if we were ever in a slump or something like that. You just go into the World Series, hey, this is like a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so just go up there and have your at-bats. There's something magical about postseason. Everyone just comes alive. I think everyone up on this stage can say that.

But you just go up there and you have your at-bats, and I think we're all just buying in together at the right time, and it's really working out for us.

Q. Amanda, what does it mean to give Delanie (Gourley) a 3-0 lead, a 4-0 lead? What kind of confidence does that bring to the dugout?

AMANDA LORENZ: I mean, it means everything. I always have in my mind if we give them a one- or two-run lead it's always double in their mind, just because they're so good at what they do. They've just been working so hard and they've carried us here. It's no secret that they've carried us here. I think just to finally give our pitching staff some cushion and some breathing room really means a lot to our offense because we were trying really hard for them but they had our back all through the season, so I think it's the best feeling in the world to be able to give them some cushion because they have just worked their butt off for us all year, so being able to give them this cushion on the biggest stage means everything.

Q. Tim, you used the words “your heartbeat has to be ready for this,” I believe, you have to control your heartbeat. Is this stage meant for Delanie Gourley? What has this stage meant for someone like her?

TIM WALTON: You know, right after we won the championship in 2014 and she came in in a crucial situation, we won that game, we obviously scored runs, and Hannah (Rogers) closed it out, but Delanie pitched just a phenomenal game for us when we needed it. Jeremy Foley, our athletic director at the time, came up to me and told me it was kind of a gutsy move to put a freshman in that situation, and I told Jeremy that this isn't the last time we're going to come back here, and I've got to get that kid in there so she can have an opportunity to feel what it's like to be in this moment.

She's had this her whole entire life. I've watched her pitch for probably as long as anybody, whether it be in high school, whether it be in travel, whether it be in a quote-unquote showcase or elimination game, Delanie Gourley is a championship-level pitcher, and we're lucky to have her. We're happy to have her. But I think she definitely does bring a different level of confidence.

Even if she doesn't have her best stuff you'll never know it because her confidence is there and her presence is still there, and Team USA has seen that just in a short period of time against Japan that she's been able to go out and do some special things against some special left-handed hitters.

Q. Coach, we've talked a lot about the pitching staff, but how important has Janell Wheaton been to this battery?

TIM WALTON: Well, her statistics overall in the season and in league don't match up to some of the all-SEC, all-region, all-American caliber statistics, but I nominated Janell Wheaton for defensive catcher in our league. She didn't get it, but to me in my mind there's nobody more valuable. Obviously our pitching staff put them on their own little spot, but Janell Wheaton has been the most valuable player on this team, hands down, in the bullpen, in the game, between games. She's just done a phenomenal job of being not only a great backstop, a great friend, a great leader, and then her offense — she's been clutch. We've had her bat behind Kayli Kvistad almost the whole year, and they walked Kayli 60-some times to pitch to Janell, and she's really stepped up for us. I'm proud of her. I think that again, a left-handed catcher is not the most traditional thing to look at. She gets strikes at times, too, because she does such a great job with her glove.

Q. Amanda, how did you guys stay loose but still win the way you did, three games to get here and be playing tomorrow night for a championship?
AMANDA LORENZ: I think that's the best thing. I felt like it was going to be so different, and then once we stepped on the field, all of us just felt so normal. It felt so comfortable for all of us, and I think it just — like Janell has been saying, our preparation just prepared us for this moment. All of the hard work that we've done prior to this.

This is the easy part, playing the games is the easy part, and we just were so comfortable, and I think it really showed.

Q. Coach, you mentioned earlier about left-handed catching. How much is that an adjustment first when you're scouting and then you make a decision to bring a kid in with the pitching staff that you have and then making it all work? What process doing go through?

TIM WALTON: Well, Janell (Wheaton) has been with us now for three years, so she's caught behind two of the best catchers that we've had in Aubree Munro and Taylor Fuller. She learned a lot from those guys, and she caught a lot of games last year and the year before in preseason. Once we got to SEC play, we went with Aubree Munro a lot, but Janell has done a good job, and I think as good a job as Janell has done, Doug Mirabelli did a really good job with her last year in teaching her some little tricks and some things. Aubree Munro has done a great job of being able to keep the maintenance on her. Katie Davis, who's our trainer, and Tiffani Ray, who's our massage therapist, and Wes Ulm, they've done a great job of being able to keep this kid healthy, keep her on the field for us. She's been really good.

But the adjustment process, I've been in the game now 19 years, and I've seen some really quality left-handed catchers, so it hasn't been as big of an adjustment period for me, being in softball. Baseball obviously you never see it, but I've been in this game 19 years, and I've seen some really good left-handed catchers, and she's one of them.

Q. Janell, Coach just mentioned his philosophy on just making the adjustment from high school to college and then stepping up.

JANELL WHEATON: Well, during the recruitment process, I made sure that it wasn't a problem, an issue, because a lot of coaches say, no, that's not normal. So it was never a problem with Coach Walton, so we just worked with it, and here we are.

POSTGAME NOTES
Game 11: Florida 5, Washington 2

  • No. 1 seed Florida topped No. 6 seed Washington 5-2 on Sunday to remain undefeated at the 2017 Women’s College World Series. The Gators improve to 58-8, while the Huskies end their season with a 50-14 mark.
  • With the win, Florida advances to the WCWS Championship Series for the third time in the last four seasons. Florida will be making its fifth appearance in the WCWS Championship Series (2009, ’11, ’14, ’15, ’17). Florida won the NCAA title in 2014 and 2015. The Gators will take on Oregon or Oklahoma in the 2017 WCWS Championship Series starting Monday at 6 p.m. CT.
  • Florida is 25-12 all-time in the WCWS, and Sunday’s victory marked its 13th win at the event since 2014. The Huskies, who were playing in the semifinals for the first time since 2013, dropped to 24-21 at the event.
  • The Gators jumped out in front in the top of the first as Kayli Kvistad recorded her second home run at the WCWS, a solo shot to left center. After Amanda Lorenz pushed Florida’s lead to 2-0, Kvistad added two more RBIs with a single in the top of the second to tack on two more runs. The junior finished 2-for-3 with a run scored, a double and three RBIs.
  • Florida catcher Alex Wheaton drove in her fifth run of the WCWS with a single up the middle in the fifth, plating Nicole DeWitt. DeWhitt added two hits, walked once and scored once for the Gators.
  • Florida’s 1-2-3 hitters (Lorenz, Kvistad and DeWitt) were 5-for-11 with a home run, three runs scored and four RBIs against the Huskies.
  • In her first career start at the WCWS, Florida pitcher Delaine Gourley (22-4) threw a two-hitter to earn the win. The senior struck out 10 in the complete-game performance, allowing two unearned runs by surrendering a home run to Washington’s Julia DePonte with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. The complete game was Gourley’s 17th of the season.
  • Gourley has not allowed an earned run in 60.1 innings pitched dating back to April 15 at Kentucky.
  • Florida’s pitching staff has yet to allow an earned run in 19 innings at the 2017 WCWS.
  • Washington pitcher Taran Alvelo (35-9) lasted 1.1 innings, surrendering four runs on five hits in the loss. The sophomore finishes the year tied for third in Washington single-season history with 35 wins. Madi Schreyer threw 4.2 innings in relief, giving up a run on two hits. Samantha Manti threw the final inning in relief for the Huskies.
  • Washington designated player Julia DePonte picked up her seventh home run season by drilling a two-run blast to left center in the bottom of the seventh. Taylor Van Zee provided the Huskies with their first hit in the game with a second-inning infield single.
  • Florida is 34-1 when hitting at least one home run in a single game.
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