Reposted from Facebook, but nonetheless more excellent words of wisdom.
Yesterday I got the chance to stop by the softball field of my alma mater, Texas A&M! The team had practice and right before, Head Coach Jo Evans, had me say a few words to the team. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to talk about as she had just spontaneously asked me to say a few things….
The first thing that came to my mind was the lesson of Expectations before you even start anything. Expectations mold your mindset. I told the team how in the weeks before I went off to play at Texas A&M, my parents sat me down and had a conversation with me about how so many amazing athletes would be on the same team once I got there. They forewarned me that as a freshman, I might not start. As a sophomore, I might not start. They told me it didn’t matter. All they wanted me to do was go in there, relax, work as hard as I could, and take any opportunity that was given to me. They told me not to pout if I wasn’t in the starting lineup and reminded me of the all around great opportunity I was given just to simply play ball at the next level and put on the maroon and white, playing for a head coach that I really admired.
I did exactly what they told me. At fall practices, I worked hard, did what I was supposed to on and off the field and learned from the upperclassman about the lay of the land on this new team with new people I had never been around before. I sat back, listened and learned. I took it all in. I trusted the veterans and I trusted my coaches.
The day before the opening game in the spring as the REAL season started, Coach Evans told me she was giving me the ball in the circle the first game of the season. I was pumped…I was honored…I was surprised. That day, my juices were flowing, and I couldn’t believe I was the one who was getting called to start the first game of the season as a freshman. I ended up throwing a no hitter the first game – CRAZY…did NOT expect to do that. Some players have that mentality where every time they step on to the field they always EXPECT to be better than whoever is in the dugout. That wasn’t my mentality. That’s not me. I just played. What I always expected, was the most out of MYSELF. I expected to go to the field every day and put in the WORK, and I knew if I put in the work, that good things would happen.
As the season went on, it was a whirlwind. Every time I looked at the game’s lineup card, I searched for my name, hoping it would be there. When I saw it, I got this little fire inside of my belly and thought about how cool it was that my head coach was picking ME to start out all of these amazing athletes on my team. I will never forget that feeling, ever.
The season went on and our team ended up being a top 10 team in the country. At the end of the season, I was named Big 12 Player of the Year and Big 12 Freshman of the Year – the only player in Big 12 history to accomplish this. I was also named an All American. I still remember being SHOCKED…not the fake shocked that you see on TV sometimes…a real SHOCKED that I was picked for these honors. I just didn’t expect it….I hadn’t played my freshman year with the pressure that I was SUPPOSED to start or SUPPOSED to get accolades at the end of the year. I just played. I just worked. I just had fun.
That conversation that my parents had with me set up my 4 years at Texas A&M, and I am so happy that they weren’t the parents who went in saying, “You better start, or we will look for a place to transfer.” or “Your goal better be to be an All American and be the best in the Big 12.” I ended up hitting .400 and had an ERA under 1.00. Maybe deep down they knew that I would? Maybe they were just clueless? I’m not sure which, and I have never asked. But it worked.
Everybody is going to be different. It’s about how you deal with expectations of yourself and how you initially set up those expectations. Some people use expectations, and it drives them. Other people use expectations and they feel pressure. I would be willing to say that the majority of girls feel the latter.
At the end of the day it’s about being able to find a way to play pressure free – whatever that means and looks like for YOU. Have the EXPECTATIONS that you are going to put in the work so that when you get called on game day, no matter what your role is, you are going to take advantage of that opportunity and prove to your TEAM and your COACHES that not only do you put in the work, but you have the right mindset to go out on the field in a big situation and come through…whether it’s the starting pitcher, the pinch runner, the 8 hole hitter, the DH, the right fielder…whatever it is. As odds have it, you WILL get challenged, and you have to rise up.
As parents, what works for your daughters? As coaches, what works for your players? Every single one of them is different, but it all starts in the household to mold their mindset into who they ARE, not who you WANT them to be. Getting your mind to believe that you are not playing under pressure (even when the stakes are high) and that you are playing in the moment is what separates players.