Since graduating College, I have been providing fast-pitch softball pitching lessons for girls in the area. I’ve also coached at the high school level, for my alma mater actually. It has given me the opportunity to give back to the sport that gave me so much growing up & pass along the lessons I learned.
I received an e-mail the other morning from a dad of one of my lessons, the gist is; he’s frustrated that his daughter has the talent to be effective in this league, but she refuses to actually put the time into cultivating that talent. A common complaint I face every year. I went through the same thing at her age, keep in mind… she’s 12. Basically good ‘ol dad sat me down and had one of the first heart-to-hearts I remember. He put the responsibility on me, if I wanted to succeed, if my dream was to play in college, I had to put in the effort and do the work or stop wasting everyone’s time. Nobody else could do it for me, and if it wasn’t what I wanted to do, then find something else.
It made me realize how important the sport I had been playing since I was 4 years old was to who I wanted to become. I had watched all the “big girls” playing in the Women’s College World Series with awe. I wanted to be a part of that. We started pitching without him having to remind me & go figure, I started improving faster.
Mom and I always talked about making the trip to Oklahoma City. After I broke my leg in April of my freshman year of high school (sliding into a catcher during a game), we finally went. It was the greatest pick-me-up I could have asked for. I was told I would never walk without a limp again, much less pitch. To tell a 14 year old that her dreams are shattered, I didn’t take it so well, but we met an amazingly wonderful group of people who I still am in contact with.
After returning from that trip, I was determined to play no matter what it took, and I did. We went back to OKC the next year, this time bringing Dad and there’s a photo somewhere of he and I pitching on a random plot of grass in between tournament games.
I’ve noticed that mentality hasn’t exactly caught on with some of the girls I’ve coached. The girls become frustrated faster & easier because they think they should just HAVE the talent and all the answers instead of working for it. They haven’t learned that, to steal from Tom Hanks, “The hard, is what makes it great” (A League of Their Own, 1992).
I keep thinking back to my first travel team, I didn’t know anybody. It was a brand new team, and I was nervous as all hell. The coach was a ginormusly tall man who had a stare like medusa. But he was one of the greatest coaches I have ever played for. He’s the one who told me I should try pitching and he didn’t let you get away with ANYTHING. You made a mistake? Take a lap. You said “I can’t”, do 10 pushups right where you are. He held us accountable for everything we did, and taught us that nothing was impossible if we put our minds to it.
That was the biggest issue I had with coaching at my old High School. One of my Varsity pitchers kept letting grounders go between her legs… I told her if it happened again, take a lap. Ball rolled between her legs again, so she took off running… grumbling the whole way. I was approached by the Varsity Assistant Coach who told me “we don’t do that”, meaning use running as a disciplinary action because “the girls won’t come back next year”. I’m sorry…. WHAT? Yes running is used as a consiquence… it’s also a fantastic conditioning tool , not only physically (my college coach would send us on 2+ mile runs in the middle of practice for enduance training), but mentally. You have that entire time you’re running to take a break from what you were doing, and come back refocused.
Isn’t that most important thing you can teach impressionable minds? How to work through their struggles? Sometimes you have to step away first in order to come back and succeed? Teach them that nothing is impossible if they actually put in a little effort?
That first coach ended up introducing me to the college I would attend my own College World Series with 5 years later. Clearly he left his mark on my life. It’s like he knew….
If there was one thing I’d want the girls I’ve coached to learn from me, it’s that your attitude and passion are everything. Fundamentals can be taught, practiced. Passion comes from within. It takes hard work, and only you can do it.
Find what you’re passionate about and be accountable for it. The only person responsible for you not reaching your potential is yourself.