That’s all they really want
When the working day is done
Girls – they want to have fun
Oh girls just want to have fun,
They want to have fun,
They want to have fun”
Cyndi Lauper’s tune is a catchy one for sure. You start singing it and any hope of accomplishing anything that day just flies out the window because you just can’t get it out of your head.
Well I’ve got it in my head now because I think it’s the perfect way to describe the Aggressive Baserunning Clinic’s I get to do. As you can see in the pictures the clinic’s I conduct like this one for the 12U Atlanta Flames are no picnic. We “work” on attacking the bases and not just waiting around for other players to knock them in or for coaches to tell them to go. We “work” on each and every player sliding flat on the ground and distributing their weight evenly. When I say that we work on Diving I mean that we “work” on each and every player actually diving in the air just like Super Woman.
You might think that getting girls to do something like this would take a miracle. But guess what? You would be wrong. Dead wrong.
Once I help them get over their initial fears of the unknown and make it “fun” just look at the results. For a little fun in the dirt they are willing to work harder and push their bodies beyond anything you may have imagined. Once they catch on that GETTING DIRTY is “fun” there is nothing they won’t do.
Your image of “fun” likely involves girls being silly. Cutting up. Laughing. If you were with me you might even say out loud that these players don’t really look like they are having “fun.”
That while they are in every sense working hard externally, internally they are actually having “fun” because they know they will go to bed that night a better player. A tougher player. A player who has skills that will never be taken from them. Skills that they will use in the coming weeks, months and years to differentiate themselves from their competition.
Some shutter at the thought of hard work. They cringe at the concept of discipline. Pride? Passion? Excellence? Merely cute quotes to “share” on Facebook or Instagram.
Three things that I can tell you with absolute assuredness:
1. The young ladies on the 12U Atlanta Flames were indeed having a ton of “fun” while working hard because for them Pride – Passion – Excellence is what they are striving for as athletes and as young women.
2. There is no greater “fun” in this world than looking young ladies right in the eye and seeing that they truly get it.
3. I wouldn’t trade the moments like in this picture for all of the money in the world.
Two and a half years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to do some instruction at the annual Higher Ground camp for elite softball players. The camp is held each year in Columbus, Georgia in mid June. If you know anything about the south, and that area in particular you know that the thermostat can pretty much go off the charts during that time of year and combined with the humidity it can become unbearable.
Despite the title of the post and the picture which shows what the thermostat read in my car on the way to my afternoon speed and agility session, this article has absolutely nothing to do with the temperature. Like anything in this great game called Fastpitch softball, temperature is only a problem if you can’t control your mind and you allow it to be a problem.
One of my favorite things to teach is speed and agility. Partially because I believe that athletes can do everything better if they train their bodies to react faster to what their brains tell them to do. But more importantly I love challenging girls to push themselves beyond the limits they’ve often imposed upon themselves. Typically my sessions are 45 minutes long and include a combination of core training, agility drills and speed work. I taunted all 63 campers all week long telling them that it was just crazy that Higher Ground founder Bobby Simpson had given me 75 minutes to punish their bodies in this kind of ‘heat.’ I whispered to most of them that they weren’t tough enough to even show up, because most girls can’t complete the 45 minute sessions and that they should find another session.
Yet 14 girls were brave enough in 111 degree temperatures to meet me on the field. We warmed up with 25 minutes of grueling core training drills isolating and working core muscles and large leg and arm muscles. At this point their muscles were screaming at them for being crazy enough to show up. I didn’t take much time to listen to those screaming muscles, so we then pushed right into 25 minutes of agility drills. Constantly moving. Constantly increasing speed. Now that I had the full attention of their core, their muscles, their brain, their heart and their lungs we started working the speed ladder. Two speed ladders actually so that instead of just slacking off and going through the motions I challenged them to compete at the end of this grueling experience. I also challenged them to do the same drills we did through the ladders on our feet using their hands instead. In all fairness I did warn them all.
One young lady named Raven got my attention, the first time through the ladder. She clearly didn’t have much experience using a speed ladder and she was paired up against a player who obviously had lots of experience. Her comment was something like “I just can’t do this.” So I took pity on this poor young lady who clearly had given her all and I paired her up with someone much slower. Well that’s what she hoped would happen when she said it, but that’s not the way I work. Instead I called her out right there in front of the other 13 young ladies. I told her that I admired all she had done to this point, but that she was at an elite camp. That I don’t accept “can’t.” That she needed to push herself beyond what she ever believed she could accomplish. That she didn’t need to beat this player the first time through the ladder, she only needed to keep improving and beat her before our session was over. That she needed to look this bigger, stronger, faster player right in the eyes and tell her that she was going to own her very soon.
So how did Raven respond? Did she just give up? Cry and then go get a drink? No! My girl stepped up, shouted that she would own her, and proceeded to improve each and every time through the speed ladder and eventually tied her and then beat her once. As Raven pushed herself further with each step or hand through the speed ladder so did the other 13 young ladies. She dug deep and realized she had more inside her that she had never let the world see before, and the other 13 weren’t about to let her be the only one to step up to another level.
On a muggy 111 degree day in mid June 2011, in Columbus, GA, 14 young ladies stepped forth and met a challenge like they had never faced before in their lives. They fought through the pain, the scorching heat and muscle fatigue and emerged as warriors. NOW THAT’S HOT!
On a muggy 111 degree day in mid June 2011, in Columbus, GA, Raven stepped forth and met a challenge like she had never faced before in her young life. Not only did she have to fight through the pain, the scorching heat and muscle fatigue she had to overcome being called out in front of 13 strangers and then overcome her Goliath. And she did it. NOW THAT’S HOT.
On a muggy 111 degree day in mid June 2011, in Columbus, GA, 14 young ladies demonstrated for about 30 parents who’s jaws were dropped in amazement as they watched them, and most of whom weren’t the girls parents, that they were indeed amazing athletes and not just girls playing softball. NOW THAT’S HOT!
On a muggy 111 degree day in mid June 2011, in Columbus, GA, 14 young ladies touched my heart, and reminded me exactly why I LOVE THIS GAME and LOVE working with players that want to become champions, regardless of the cost. NOW THAT’S HOT!
[Wintality] – win-tal-i-ty – noun; The act of admitting your weaknesses and working to correct them. “Her wintality inspired others on the team, and our season totally turned around.”
When I began this series I shared that each week I would have fun just making up definitions for this great word that I first heard from the 2011 Auburn Lady Tigers. The thing I just love about wintality is that it really explains the characteristics that we see and admire in the great ones but that we have trouble explaining using common words, since the traits are admirable, but uncommon. Since I’ve confessed to making it up as I go I suppose it is safe for me to share that honestly I wasn’t sure what to write about this week until I received inspiration from a teenage ball player that I’ve never coached, nor instructed but one who reached out to me via Facebook.
I’ve often gotten blurbs from players that start with “Did you hear how great I did?” “Did you hear about my no-hitter/my homerun/my great dive?” But I’ve never gotten a message on Facebook quite like this one. A message that was so open and so amazingly honest. No beating around the bush. No trying to find out if the mood was safe. She just blurted out “I have a real problem trying to pull the outside pitch. Do you have any ideas that might help?” I thought: “This is going to be interesting. There are no easy answers to that problem, because if there were 95% of the players in the game wouldn’t have it. Plus she’s a teenager, and certainly her attention span will wane before I can even finish giving her my suggestions, but since she asked I will give it a try.”
So I began sharing in small paragraphs that each ended with “Does that make sense?” Partly to ensure she got it, and partly to see if she had already moved on to texting with some friends. But she responded to each one, and always immediately. I wasn’t sure what it would lead to, but I was impressed nonetheless because it isn’t often that a player, a teenage player is able to admit that they have a problem, nor does their attention span often allow them to wait out what can often be my long winded answers. A few days later she reached out to me again with a message that basically read “I tried what you suggested and it was really hard. But I never gave up and eventually I got it. After I got it I just kept working at it and working at it. Then at a practice that me and another player asked to have even though most of our team was on spring break I was killing every outside pitches our coaches tried throwing to me.” Then last night the important message came “In our game I got an outside pitch and I crushed it for a double.”
She still has a lot of hard work to do, but more important than this issue was her willingness to face the problem head on. I think it will establish a lifelong pattern of success for her, and I’m excited to see it become contagious with her team, a team that I happen to love. Most humans have the amazing ability to put in 10 times the effort to make excuses for our weaknesses/problems, but as a teenager she’s already out broken out of that. More importantly as a player, coach, parent or spouse what aspect of your life is getting in the way of you really becoming all that you can be? You’ve tried hiding it. You’ve tried masking it. You’ve tried using excuses. Why not take the chance and admit your problem to someone and ask for help. Then however difficult their advice might be, take it. Laine’s wintality really inspired me this week, I hope it does the same for you.
PS – This story was first written in late 2011. As I post this onto my site for the first time I’m happy to say that this year Laine became the 16U A National Championship and then followed that up shortly after by also becoming the 6A High School Georgia State Champion and her team was ranked #1 in the country for High Schools. Her WINTALITY has indeed continued to grow and she still inspires me.
No I’m not talking about picking your nose.
I’m talking about what you do when you are alone that is going to help you win that championship game that isn’t for 6 months from now. You know the one I’m talking about. You will be stepping into the limelight. The fans will all be cheering. Your teammates will be encouraging you. Your coaches will be advising.
That championship game.
We all want to be there.
We all want to come through in the clutch in that situation.
So I’ll ask the question again … What do you do when you are alone that is preparing you to deliver in that situation?
Are you jogging on your own? Are you lifting weights to build your strength? Are you doing speed and agility drills to increase your explosiveness?
Are you only hitting with your team or are you taking 100 swings per day on your own?
Are you waiting for something magic to happen at one of your team practices that will increase your endurance or are you doing a lot of cardio work on your own?
Are you hoping your coach provides a magic energy pill or are you following a solid nutritional plan that will help you after a long fought weekend or will your body let you down like it did this past year?
I gotta tell you one thing I’m really good at is math. And girl have I got news for you. There are so many more days/hours/minutes when you are alone than when you are on the field for practice. If you REALLY want to win that game that is just 6 short months away … you need to be using those days/hours/minutes when you are alone to your advantage. Commit yourself to the fact that what you do before the game while you are alone is going to be what helps you win that game when you are with your team. Commit yourself to doing the kind of things that other players just wouldn’t be willing to do. Then you will go into that championship game, step up to the plate with the game on the line knowing that your work is what you got you there and then deliver.
As the season rapidly approaches you need to be in the best shape of your life.
P90X …. that’s old news.
Insanity … child’s play.
Cross Fit … boring.
In this 4 minute video Coach Dalton will help you get the MOST IMPORTANT MUSCLE in your body into shape and have you ready to seriously light it up this season.
I don’t mind the show, nor the staff nor the dresses. My problem lies in the fact that the vast majority of the brides seem to have put about $37.50 into their “relationship” yet are ready to drop $20,000 for a dress. Their dream romance seems to stem from having the fairy tale gown, rather than the fair tale marriage.
In fact I’ve actually watched shows, did I just say that out loud, where the “brides” are choosing the dress and don’t even have a fiance. Not kidding, I’m not sure I can understand the concept of caring more about the dress than the groom. I guess it’s harder to find the perfect gown, than a man who will spend the rest of his life loving you selflessly and sacrificially. Reality TV, here is a reality check … there is no fairy tale romance without the work. Ladies if you ever listen to anything I say … Say NO to the dress and spend the time building a solid foundation instead.
Here is how it ties into softball ….
Say NO to the new $300 bat and say YES to a $20 batting tee and a bucket of wiffle balls and DO THE WORK.
Say NO to the pretty new batting gloves with comfort pad and air conditioned grip and say YES to putting in enough practice that you develop blisters.
Say NO to the $200 sunglasses to wear in the outfield and say YES to running until you are sore learning how to judge the ball and block the sun with your glove.
Say NO to the new glove and say YES to wearing out the leather on your old glove learning to field and dive.
Say NO to worrying about how pretty the $4.72 trophy looks and say YES to the knowledge that you left everything you had on the field to earn it.
Say NO to a new color coordinated pair of cleats that help you look prettier standing around and say YES to learning how to be aggressive on the bases and actually producing runs.
Bats, helmets, gloves and cleats are tools that are needed for the job. But at the point that you put your hope in the “stuff” instead you are like a bride buying a wedding dress with no groom. Say NO to whatever that fairy tale items is that you believe is going to make you a princess on the field (your dress), and say YES to DOING THE WORK.
What is the difference between a good team, a great team and a championship team?
Great question, but rather than write it all out for you I’ve created a video for this particular post
One of the interesting things that makes us human is our ability to quickly categorize people we don’t know. We lump them into convenient categories that we’ve formed based on our past relationships. “She is a hitter.” “She plays SS.” “She is to serious.” “She is to silly.” “She doesn’t practice hard.” “That coach is strict.” We feel good about ourselves the faster we “size up” new people. Gives us a sense of accomplishment. Forget about these new people for a minute and think about yourself though. Are you really that simple a human being? Could anyone really identify all that makes you you within 15 seconds? Could they capture who you are with 1 phrase? Could they even capture all that makes you a unique person on this earth if they watched you for 1, 2, 5 or 10 practices and games?
I doubt it. We know that we are unique. That we ourselves are more complicated than others give us credit for, yet we still try and judge the “new people” that come into our lives based on very little input. If the new girls has a few bad plays “shes not very focused.” No questions asked if she had lost a loved one earlier in the week. If you make a few bad plays and hear any laughter “they are mean.” No questions asked if the existing team was really laughing because a coach had tripped over something on a different area of the field.
We celebrate New Years because they offer a new begginning. A chance to correct the mistakes of the past year. A chance to challenge ourselves to do better the coming year. Take advantage of the opportunity that 2013 is about to present to you. Commit that 2013 is going to be the year that you quit jumping to conclusions about new people that come into your lives, and onto your teams. Commit that at least where you have control you are going to do everything you can to become a true teammate. Not someone who knows how to pass an egg the right way, or pass oranges under your chin correctly but someone who truly works to build a cohesive unit.
The following is a list of questions from Doc RobynOdegaard’s book “Stop the Drama! The Ultimate Guid to Female Teams.” Print the list out and take some time during your team practices and get togethers this coming season to go through them together. Let everyone see who you really are, and give them a chance to show you who they really are.
If you really want to get to know others ask this one:
One final thought as you prepare for this coming season … “a car’s windshield is much larger than its rearview mirror.” While it is good for us to reflect on where we have been, we shouldn’t dwell on the past. Yet more often than not I hear players referring to what things used to be like on their old team. How their old teammates acted. How their old coaches conducted practice. How players acted in the dugout. Bringing that kind of baggage to your new team isn’t helpful. Focus on what is ahead of all of you. Where all of you are heading together as a team. 2013 is coming quickly. Whether it is a Happy New Year or not depends on what you make of it.
There is an interesting phenomenon in life, that perhaps I’m the only person who has ever noticed it. It seems to me that when people practice something, they get better at it, and they start making it look easy and attractive to others. I know that may seem absurd, but that is the pattern I’ve noticed.
For instance I see young pitchers start practicing and the first couple of practices are hard. They get blisters on their finger tips. They get winded really easily from having to drive off the mound so much. But as they practice more and more eventually the become pitchers. Not kidding, it seems that it really works.
Same goes for hitters that I work with. At first they hurt my ears by hitting my batting tee over and over. They start complaining about blisters on their hands. But after weeks of hard work they start actually making the swing look easy. Eventually others besides their parents actually call them hitters.
Sometimes those pitchers/hitters do so well as a result of their practicing that they make it look like something that others want to try. Am I crazy or have you noticed that too? Not that you can really answer me, well you could reply or comment but nobody every does for these blogs. It’s not like it’s Facebook or something.
The problem I’ve seen a lot lately, is that all too often players, parents and coaches are practicing the wrong thing. It all starts innocently enough with some excuses that seem legitimate at the time. After that is practiced, then it becomes more of a group event. After it has been rehearsed enough people get really brave and start actually broadcasting it. Loudly.
Are you still with me. I’m talking about quitting. Surely you’ve seen that to. You know where the player/parent doesn’t like having to sit the bench for 5 minutes of a game so they decide that they won’t come back to that league/team/coach, but they feel guilty so they just slip away quietly at the end of the season. But now that they’ve practiced the next time quitting is a little bit easier. This time when the coach doesn’t give her exactly 52.5 innings of pitching time like they promised they would months ago, they justify quitting during the season by saying “we pay to much money for her not to pitch” or “we paid to much money on her new bat and lessons for her to bat 8′th instead of 5′th.” Pretty soon those people don’t just leave at the end of the season, or even leave by just telling off the coach, pretty soon their guilt about quitting is gone completely and they are bold enough to start recruiting others to quit with them. “Aren’t you unhappy too? If you leave with me then we’ll really make a point.” I even heard of a family that comitted to a team, and then literally quit after the very first practice.
For everyone reading this I assure you that you will become really good at whatever it is you are practicing. If you are practicing pitching you will become known as a pitcher. If you are practicing hitting you will become known as a hitter. If you are practicing quitting, then you will become known as a quitter. It gets easier. It’s just how life works.
My best advice to you is to instead practice not quitting. Honoring your comittment. Sticking to your word. You know all of those things that you admire seeing in others, but are afraid to try yourself because it’s hard. Yes it’s hard to honor your comittment when the team is falling apart, but the more you practice it, the better you get at it. Pretty soon you are known as the person that never gives up. You know the one that everyone else admires. The choice is yours, you will eventually be, whatever you are currently practicing to become.