Softball Lessons From Team USA
Last weekend, we attended the 2-day TEAM USA fastpitch camp in Chattanooga.
It’s an amazing, surreal thing for young players to meet their athletic idols, to see them interact and learn from the girls that they watch play the game they love on television. To be face to face with the best of the best! There were lots and lots of lessons to be learned from Amanda Chidester, Lauren Gibson, Michelle Moultrie, Raven Chavanne, and Jolene Henderson (and the amazing Maggie from Team Argentina)- and we at SIFG could devote an entire weeks, maybe even a months worth of posts on the drills and advice and softball lessons and instruction gained.
But we won’t.(You will have to go for yourself for THAT, which we strongly encourage you do)
What we are going to do is share with you some of the ‘other’ perhaps even more important lessons that we gained from this camp, the undertones and ‘behind the scenes’ lessons that these young athletes taught that involved neither bat nor ball – but were lessons about life. You know, THE GOOD STUFF!
First and foremost, these are regular girls. Serious regular girls, just like any other girls. They instagram and text and facebook and twitter. They are quite simply girls that play softball and play it well. If they can do it, SO CAN YOU. Not without hard work of course, because each of them has worked hard, honed their skills, taken advantage of opportunities, overcome obstacles, and stayed the course. And each, has experienced the exact same feelings and emotions that you, your player or your team has. They have all struck out, made errors, lost games, felt burned out, been heartbroken, felt defeated, struggled a time or two, thought about quitting, and had to battle the most intimidating player on the field. Themselves.
Getting where they got, was not just dumb luck, and it wasn’t easy – but what was important to know was that although extraordinary athletes, THEY ARE ORDINARY people. Just. Like. You. When one of the girls at the camp asked the players what college they dreamed of playing at, Michelle Moultrie summed it all up by saying, “I never really thought I would play college ball, so I never really thought about that.” (Really, Michelle as awesome as YOU are, you never thought you’d make it that far!) Wow, right?
Which leads right into the next point. These gals were HUMBLE. Seriously, humble. You would never known that they were superstars. Their egos were in total check the entire time. BIG EGOS have no place on the ball field, which might be just ONE of the reasons these girls made it as far as they did. If they can be/are humble, so should YOU!
Amanda Chidester (Chiddy) taught perhaps one of the most powerful lessons that could ever be taught. Her theme for softball, for life is PLAY WITH PASSION! And her passion for the game, for giving back to others, for being a positive and empowering force not just for the game of softball, but for LIFE – was evident. She IS passionate, and her passion blazes like a forest fire where the warmth could be felt all around her. If you EVER get the chance to meet this young woman, you must. Her passion is contagious. And she leads by the example that if you are going to do anything in your life, worth doing, you might as well throw ALL of yourself into it and do it passionately. If you don’t, all you do is cheat yourself.
We also learned that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. Do you define yourself as a short stop? Or a pitcher? Did you know that Lauren Gibson was a pitcher, and according to her Team USA teammates was ‘the real deal,’ in high school and travel ball. Did she pitch for Tennessee? Does she pitch for Team USA? Nope. Chiddy played nearly every position on the field as well and actually at one point loved basketball more than softball. Did you know that Raven Chavanne was an amazing track star and holds tons of records in running – and didn’t even play high school softball. Maggie, from Team Argentina (who also exudes passion) only started catching two years ago. Jolene Henderson is described as ‘the girl picking daisies in the outfield’ during her younger years turned into one of the winningest pitchers of all time.
Basically, you have to learn to be flexible. Don’t define yourself too clearly, and with too many parameters, especially when it comes to your softball. You have to learn everything about the game, stay interested in other things, be open to other options. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself too young in life. Remain open, coachable, flexible, and ALWAYS stay a student of the game. This happens FAR too much in the travel softball venue – and players MUST redefine ‘what’ they are on the field. Instead of being a 1st baseman, or a pitcher – how about being a softball player, which means you are a student of the game who can excel in any and every position. (Ya, hear that coaches???)
And listen to this one. You gotta be SMART! We’re not talking about knowing where the play is, having a defensive edge because your quick-witted. We’re talking studious and smart. If you ever want a college to even look at you – you have to put your studies first. You have to make the grades. On average, softball scholarships are only 40% athletic (and that is on the HIGH end). Even so, it is your BRAIN not your talent, that will take you the furthest in life. These gals aren’t just softball players. They aren’t relying on their softball talent to get them far in life. They have a back-up plan (or maybe softball IS the backup plan), and have quite simply just been blessed to be able to ride the softball roller coaster much farther than most girls get the chance to do.
Have fun! These Team USA members have fun. They laugh a lot. They are silly. They enjoy life. They seem happy. This doesn’t mean their lives are picture perfect or without trouble, but they know where to draw the line. When you cross the foul lines, or enter the wire fence at the field – you are a softball player. And softball, above all things, is fun! Keep it fun for yourself and for others.
How about practice? Don’t think for a single second that these girls don’t practice, and don’t practice hard. One look at the muscles in their thighs – and you know how hard they train and practice. You cannot just show up for life and expect to be good. You always reach for more. Even after all the years of practice these girls have put in, they still have to practice more.
Positive thinking! (We have a whole post coming up shortly about positive thinking and the mental challenges) But evident from each of these girls is that they have struggled and do struggle with the mental game. The united chorus however was that you have to stay, think, remain, be positive on the field, in the dugout, with your team.
And last, but certainly NOT least was the theme of the family.
These gals talked about their family. A lot!. When Jolene was asked what her favorite softball moment was, she said it was watching her SISTER (who was also her teammate) hit a home run. Chiddy’s mom and grandmother were there at the park with her the whole time, laughing and supporting and helping and driving all the way from Michigan to Chattanooga to support her. Michelle’s cousin came to the camp to support her. Raven, and Lauren all talked about their families.
They didn’t get where they are at by themselves. No. One. Ever. Does. One of the beautiful things about softball is that not only do you have a team family, but you have your own loved ones supporting you as well. And this never ends. Be thankful and grateful for your family! Say thank you! Realize that you will never stop needing them by your side. They are and always will be your biggest fans. No matter how BIG you may get, or how far you may go, they are the ones whose heartstrings will stretch the furthest!
There was much more of course. But as a whole, if you ever get a chance to go to a Team USA camp to meet your softball idols. DO! GO! If you really pay attention, you will learn more about life and softball than just how to hit the snot out of the ball! (But you’ll learn that too!)