Thats HotTwo 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!

Category : Training

I interrupt the regularly scheduled post on Wintality to bring you some important, tragic news that Crystl Bustos has an irreversible mental disorder. I’ve met with several leading psychologists around the world to discuss her case and the term they use starts with a “C” …. Give me a second and let me flip through my notes … oh here it is …


It’s such a shame because she’s a very healthy young woman apart from this illness. Apparently from talking to others who’ve known her longer than I have, she’s had this condition since she was a teenager. It’s a pretty rare disease that tends to alienate those who have it. She just believes in her mind that she’s playing a different game than everyone else. She believes she’s going to make any play, or hit any pitch. I should rephrase that last part … she believes she’s going to absolutely destroy any pitch that is thrown.

The good news for you is that you don’t have to worry about catching this disorder by accident. That just can’t happen. In order to come down with confidence you have to actually go out and work hard for it. You have to put in the kind of effort that Crystl does. On the recent Softball Clinic Cruise Crystl mentioned that her hitting warmup for the 2008 Gold Medal game was over 3 hours. Not 3 minutes. Not 3 good hits. Not 3 buckets. 3 hours. She walks to the plate, believing she is the best hitter in the world because she prepares herself to walk to the plate believing that.

Many of you have hundreds of dollars worth of bats in your bat bags. How many of you take the time to use those bats with a  $20 batting tee and $20 worth of waffle balls so that when you walk to the plate you believe in your mind that you will hit? Not hope to hit. Not dream of a good pitch. Not pray to avoid striking out. I’m talking about you’ve hit so many balls throughout the course of the week, the month, the season that you “KNOW” there is no pitch that can be thrown at you that you can’t drive.

How many of you have sore chests/throats/arms from practicing hard hit hops so much, so you beg for the ball to be hit to you because you “KNOW” you will make the play?

How many of you have sore legs from practicing your leadoffs so much so that you “KNOW” you will have the needed jump in order to score that winning run in ITB?

Confidence isn’t genetic.

Confidence isn’t taught.

Confidence isn’t read about.

Confidence. Real confidence. The kind that Crystl Bustos exudes from every fiber of her being, comes from putting in the time outside of the game, preparing yourself mentally and physically so that you can’t fail. So that you walk to the plate, sprint onto the field, explode off the base knowing you are the best. That you will succeed.

I guess in the end. After all of the humor. After making up so many phrases. These 8 posts, that all started as a result of a single post on Facebook by the 2011 Auburn Tigers softball team, come down to this one word. Confidence. So I shall wrap up in the way I started

[Wintality] – win-tal-i-ty – noun; The act of believing you will succeed.

Category : Mental advice

[Wintality] – win-tal-i-ty – noun; The act of mentally attacking everything on the field as though it may be the last time you ever play the game. “That player’s wintality is just infectious.”

While he hasn’t played for a great many years, if you were to have a discussion with baseball folks about passion and hustle the name Pete Rose would jump off of their lips. The game of Fastpitch softball has it’s own version of Mr. Hustle in the form of Kristin Schnake. Prior to playing the 2010 season for the USSA Pride, Kristin spent 4 seasons as a University of Georgia Bulldog.Schnake

At a recent tournament I watched one of my batting students softly jogging on to the field like her teammates. I challenged her to explode on and off the field instead of walking and her response was that she wanted to save energy for later. I have to say it kind of broke my heart that despite everything I’ve written about and talked to my players about I must have forgotten to talk to them about playing the way Kristin plays.

Kristin never walks anywhere on the field. She doesn’t jog into position to save energy. She doesn’t even just sprint to her position. She sprints past her position then comes back to it. She demonstrates through her actions that deep down inside she really wants to be there. When she leaves the field she does so with a gusto that makes you think she knows she’s going to drive in 10 RBI’s that inning or something. She absolutely exudes an energy. An excitement. A passion. A love of this game. A wintality if you will, that is infectious to her teammates, and to all those who have the pleasure of watching her play the game.

As Bob Hope once said “You never get tired unless you stop and take time for it.” I’m challenging all of my players this week to spend time thinking about what their actions entering and leaving the field are saying about them. So this week I’m going to challenge you players and coaches to do the same. When you are taking the field do you leave the impression that you want to be there more than the other team wants to hit? When you are heading to the dugout is it clearly obvious that you desire to attack the ball at the plate? Kristin Schnake has crazy wintality. Do you?

PS – I first wrote this post in late 2011. The player I mentioned in this article read it and changed immediately. She is now referred to as a “rabid squirrel” the way she takes the field and became the 16U A National Champion this year.

Category : Mental advice

[Wintality] – win-tal-i-ty – noun; The act of mentally forgoing your own desire to feel  better for the betterment of the team. “She was devastated internally after striking out, but her wintality kept her from showing it.”

I’m going to start out with a question for you:

You are up to bat in an important situation and you don’t come through – or – during an important play in the field and you make an error. How do you respond?

If you are like most players you draw mAngerore attention to yourself by showing your anger with what you just did. Kick dirt. Call yourself an idiot. Curse. Throw your helmet. Throw your glove down. I’ve seen it a million times but I’ve always wondered is why. They know they end up playing worse afterwards, and yet they do it anyway. I think I’ve finally figured out the answer this weekend while I was watching a team go downwards in a spiral. You know what I’m talking about, 1 mistake that leads to 5 more.

I think the answer lies in the players desire to beat themselves up before others do. I think that starts in childhood. If a child is remorseful and acts upset their punishment is generally always lighter. After all, the goal of punishing is to help children understand what they did was wrong. So if they clearly demonstrate that they understand what they did was wrong, then why punish them?

But when they act like they didn’t do anything wrong, or don’t say they are sorry then they need drastically punished. Imagine that a player drops an easy fly ball and they just start smiling and get back to their position. What would you think of them? Aren’t they at least supposed to say “I’m sorry” or “my bad.” Do they even care whether we win or lose?

But my question is why? Why should they, or you, ever have to apologize on the field of play? If all of you are practicing with everything that you have, and doing everything you can to prepare then does anyone really need to apologize for making an error or not delivering at the plate?

In my book the answer is emphatically no. In my book the apology or self defeating behaviors after mistakes aren’t really intended to help the team, they are intended to try and avoid what the player assumes is coming because it’s what they think of others. What’s funny is that the same behaviors are usually occurring off the field by the parents, usually with the same level of drama: “Poor thing she is such a perfectionist, she gets so frustrated with herself when she lets her team down.” If parents get that in first, then who can really say anything negative about the error or the negative behavior of the child.

The problem is that for a team to succeed. I mean really succeed, each player better be focused on what they have to do so that they can contribute. That’s kind of the definition of a team, individuals each contributing together to the best of their ability. At the point you ask 11 other individuals to focus on you and how mad you are at yourself, then you’ve stopped being a team. A team needs to be comprised of players that focus on how they can help others the second their turn is over, and not comprised of players that are self centered and focused on what they didn’t achieve. So back to you… If you are in an environment where you feel like you have to apologize then help break that cycle. If a teammate makes an error, immediately fill in the pause in their head with something like “wow that was some wicked hop girl because I’ve seen you make a million plays like that before, I know you got the next one.” Or “Whew that wind is vicious today because you’ve been running like a gazelle all day I can’t believe even you couldn’t get there for that one.” If you set the tone that you know they are prepared, that you know they are giving all they have, that you know they want to contribute then they don’t have to take any kind of action to try and prove it to you. As you begin on this path you will see how much better others perform when they don’t beat themselves up, and how much better the team does as a result. If you then want to actually take some of that advice yourself and stop apologizing so that the team can focus on themselves instead of on you, well that will probably work to.

Category : Mental advice

[Wintality] – win-tal-i-ty – noun; The act of controlling the only thing of which you really have control. “Her wintality enabled her to respond to a negative situation in a positive way.”

Anyone can look good when everything is going there way. You know what I’m talking about. The pitcher who throwBrains the ball in the dirt and the umpire calls it a strike anyway. The player who never shows up to practice, finally does, makes 1 catch and the coaches are all over her like she’s the next Caitlin Lowe. It’s easy to walk around with a smile on your face when everything is going your way. But how you react when you are in the batter’s box and the umpire made that strike call even though the ball bounced is what really separates the average players from the great players.

Average players allow the “happenings” around them to determine their “happiness.” While the players with wintality maintain control of the 6” between their ears despite the circumstances around them going against them.

Average players react to bad calls from umpires in a way that disables them from contributing in a positive way for the team, and often carry those calls with them for several innings if not all the way home with them. While players with wintality understand that umpires are only human, they accept that they have no ability to change the call and remain focused on the next pitch/play instead.

Average players bring their baggage from the SUV onto the field with them. While players with wintality are able to leave that baggage in the SUV realizing that they can’t play their best if they carry it around with them.

Winners are separated from others …

Not by the score

Not by the amount of RBI’s they generate

Not by the number of strike outs they ring up

Not by who wins the biggest trophy

Winners are separated from others by the way they control their effort and their attitude.

Whether you are a parent, a coach or a player there are a million things that you have absolutely no control over no matter how much you try. Close your eyes for a few minutes and think through several recent really bad situations. How did you react? Did you let the umpire, your parents, your coach, your teammates, the other team, your boss, your colleages control  the 6” between your ears or did you demonstrate wintality?

Wintality isn’t demonstrated when everything is going your way. Wintality is demonstrated when you retain control of your effort and your attitude despite everything going against you.

Category : Mental advice

[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 juLainest 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.

Category : Mental advice | Training

[Wintality] – win-tal-i-ty – noun; The act of mentally turning an adversity into an advantage. “We all felt sorry for that girl because of X, but her wintality seemed to use it as fuel.”

Webster’s defines adversity as “an adverse fortune or fate; a condition marked by misfortune, calamity, or distress.” The definition itself is rather ominous, with words like calamity and distress. Often we are trained based on the words alone to just give up. In times of calamity/distress we say things like “If I can just survive …. I will be a happy camper.” But wintality is about thriving, not just surviving in the face of adversity.Mountain Climbing

A few years ago I had the great pleasure of meeting Erik Weihenmayer and hearing him speak. Erik’s goal (which he had accomplished) was to reach the summit of the 7 highest mountains in the world. One of his stories involved a graphic depiction of how mountain climbers cross crevices which can be hundreds of feet deep. They take typical ladders and connect them together with bungee cords, lay them across the divide and then walk across them with their very odd shaped climbing boots. One misstep, one point of the boot misses its mark and you plummet. After a dramatic pause he continued “Can you imagine having to cross that rickety contraption with full sight seeing 300 feet straight down and have the fear of missing a step?” Did I forget to mention that Erik is totally blind? For someone like me who is terrified of heights I certainly got that. What those of us who have sight saw as an unconquerable adversity, Erik actually used as an advantage. What Erik has is most undeniably “wintality.”

Last year one of my players suffered what could have easily been a career ending knee injury. I’ve seen it before with other players I’ve coached and worked with. She chose to have surgery and endure arduous physical therapy. After the first of 6 months of recovery I asked if she thought she was going to be as good as new. Her response was “I’m going to be 10 times better than I was before. I used to think I worked hard, but now I realize that I’ve got a lot more in me that I was never willing to let out before but my trainer has brought it to the surface. I’m going to continue working harder than anyone else out there because now I know what I’m really capable of.” She wasn’t about to just survive and get back to “normal.” She used a tragic injury to her long term advantage. What Mari has is most undeniably “wintality.“

Often our adversity comes at the hand of our own poor decisions. The majority of people wear the guilt of those choices with them for the rest of the season, year and sometimes life. Others dedicate their entire lives to trying to undo the decision, as though their commitment level and the pain they force themselves through will allow them to travel back in time and undo the wrong. I’d like to suggest something rather simple … it is impossible to unscramble an egg. Instead of wasting time on what can never be, start with the circumstances that you now find yourself in and make a fantastic, delicious omelet instead.

We all face adversity. Are you using your adversity as an excuse to fail? Are you hoping to just survive the situation? Or are you demonstrating true wintality by using your adversity as an advantage?

Category : Mental advice