Category Archives: Coach N

Ashlie Gets ’em with the Change Up!

A few weeks ago, Ashlie and I started playing with a new pitch, the change up. For my younger students, this is always the first pitch I introduce them to once fastball mechanics look solid.

Let me first start by saying that there are LOTS of different ways to throw a change up, but ultimately the goal is the same: keep the batter off balance by changing speeds. Regardless of how you throw a change up, the most important thing is for the pitcher to drive off the mound as hard as she would when she throws a fastball. This messes with the batter’s timing and makes it difficult for them to make good contact.

Ashlie has been practicing on her own, and this weekend proved her change up skills after a batter foul tipped her fastball. This is a great time to throw the change up. Way to go Ashlie! Keep up the hard work!

 

Coach Shelly Bollin

Shelly-Bollin-OU

Shelly Bollin, University of Oklahoma Softball c. 1987

Today many gathered in my hometown of Lake Jackson, Texas to celebrate the life of a wonderful coach, mentor, and friend, Shelly Bollin.

“Shelly touched the lives of thousands of children through her teaching and coaching. She led her teams to great success over the years, including her state championship team from Brazoswood High School and her National Softball Coach of the Year accolades in 2000.”See more

I was lucky enough to be one of the thousands of children she touched. She was my head coach all four years of high school, and in 2000 we took a magical ride to the State Championship in an undefeated season.

She was our leader.

She was our rock.

She kept us in check.

And she did that by giving us “the look.”

"The Look" Shelly on right; Morgan Anderson on left

“The Look” Shelly on right; Morgan Anderson on left

We got “the look” a lot. The look meant, “Stop doing whatever stupid crap you’re doing. Now.”

We were notorious for goofing off: acting out our favorite movies, dancing, and doing cheer leading stunts. (Yes, cheer leading stunts.)

The look almost always and immediately put our giggles to a halt.

It was time for business.

Coach Bollin knew when to let us have our shenanigans, and when to whip us into gear. And perhaps that was her secret to success.

Coach Bollin, thank you for the memories, the laughs, and the lessons. Rest in peace.

Posing with Coach Bollin at the All-Star Game

Posing with Coach Bollin at the Texas All-Star Game in 2000

BOBCAT PRIDE

Look at what I got in the mail yesterday!

Bobcat Softball - One Pitch @ a Time!

Bobcat Softball – One Pitch @ a Time!

A fellow Bobcat alum sent these AWESOME bracelets to the current squad and lucky me snagged one too.

Back in October, the Bobcats hosted their annual alumni game. I hadn’t made it in years, so I was stoked to finally be there! It was so awesome to see my old teammates and meet some of the other Bobcats from years before and ahead of me.

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since I wore that jersey.

10. Years.

Yeesh, I’m getting old. But the pride of being a Bobcat will never fade. There is just something about wearing that uniform. You have to earn it.

You have to work for it.

It costs blood, sweat, and tears, and most will never dig deep enough to understand that feeling.

After the alumni game, we headed to the outfield for a barbeque. Head Coach Ricci Woodard (who started her tenure at Texas State my freshman year and is STILL the coach) asked a few alumni to share some words of encouragement to the current team.

Bobcat Softball Alumni Game 2013

Bobcat Softball Alumni Game 2013

One alumni teammate shared with us that she had worn her Bobcat Softball tshirt with pride under her police uniform every single day. Until one day while on duty, a guy she was trying to catch ripped her shirt.

Uh oh.

I actually feel a little sorry for that guy, because you don’t mess with a Bobcat. But that didn’t stop her from wearing it. She took the tattered shirt and wrapped it around the armor plate along with a picture of her family in her bullet proof vest.

Talk about BOBCAT PRIDE!

Another alum shared with the team her role as a Bobcat. She didn’t get a ton of playing time, but she was an integral player on our team. She was the spark plug; the cheer leader; the one that would make you laugh when you were being too hard on yourself. She was the glue that bound us together as one unit. Her senior year, there was an article written about her. The title: “The Spry One.” I’ll never forget it, because it was about time she got some credit! The message she shared with all of us was, “Know your role.”

When it was my time to share, all I could think of was the simple message written on athletic tape and stuck to my glove. I often stepped back from the pitching rubber, pulled the velcro fastener on my glove up and read that message:

“One pitch at a time.”

It was something I did during games to slow myself down when I felt a little out of control or unfocused. Coach Woodard shared this message with all of us often, and said, “It’s the only way to play this game.”

And guess what? She’s right!

The wild pitch you flung to the back stop two pitches ago DOESN’T MATTER. The big huge clean up hitter (that hit a bomb off you last at bat) that’s on deck now DOESN’T MATTER. The error you made last inning DOESN’T MATTER. And whatever you are planning on doing after the game whether it’s dinner with your family, calling your boyfriend, or studying for your chemistry mid term DOESN’T MATTER. The ONLY way to play this game is

one pitch at a time.

2014 Bobcats, play this game with pride and class. Know your role. Play in the moment, and leave it all on the field this year. If you do, I’ll meet you in Oklahoma on May 29th.

EAT ‘EM UP CATS!

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Happy 2014!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

2014 is finally here! Which means softball season is right around the corner.

Are you ready?

Did you take advantage of the holiday break from school? Or have you been spending more time on the couch than the field lately?

For those of you who have been consistently practicing the past few months, BRAVO! I’m proud of you, and you will be rewarded come opening day through the last game of the season. But even if you haven’t, it’s not too late to get a jump start.

For all of you, here’s a great guide to setting up your softball goals and making them real.

But what about mental goals?

The mental side of pitching is so, so, so important! Here’s my challenge to you… start thinking about the list below:

  • Your presence on the mound
  • Consistent pre-delivery and approach to the rubber
  • Self-talk
  • Aggressiveness
  • Focus and Intensity
  • Pre-game and In-game visualization
  • Attitude towards other teammates and coaches

These are all CONTROLLABLE aspects of the game, that for you as a pitcher, can help to take your team to the next level. Come see me (or email me or call me) to discuss further. I’m also happy to help you work through your goals.

Let’s make 2014 the year of championships!

PITCHING / HITTING MINI CLINIC

1710 Lincoln Ave., Alameda, CA 94501

1710 Lincoln Ave., Alameda, CA 94501

School’s back in session and fall ball is revving up! Get started with a pitching/hitting mini clinic series August 24 & 31. See details below.

Flyer download here.

PITCHING OR HITTING
Intermediate/Advanced Softball & Baseball Players Welcome!
Girls & Boys

What:

Mini-clinics series (2-­‐4 players) for softball and baseball players that are at an intermediate or advanced level.

When:

August 24 & August 31
*Mini-Clinic is a TWO weekend series

Where:

Next Level Softball/Baseball Academy
1710 Lincoln Ave
Alameda, CA 94501

Times:

9:00am – 10:30am-­‐(Softball Pitching or Hitting Advance)
11:00am – 12:30pm-­‐(Softball Pitching or Hitting Intermediate)
1:00pm – 2:30pm-­‐(Baseball Pitching or Hitting Advance)
3:00pm – 4:30pm-­‐(Baseball Pitching or Hitting Intermediate)

Cost:

$200-­‐includes:

  • 3 hours of lessons over two weekends
  • Video analysis of all players
  • Free Next Level t‐shirt

To Sign Up:
Please call 510‐521-­3385 or email nextlevelalameda@gmail.com.

Please include:

Name of Participant

Pitching or Hitting

Intermediate (11am ­‐ 12:30pm) or Advanced (9‐10:30am)

Baseball or Softball

Next Level Softball Baseball Academy

Next Level Softball Baseball Academy

Next Level Softball Baseball Academy

I have a new softball home!

Next Level Softball Baseball Academy will be where ALL of my private pitching lessons will be held.

This place is AWESOME.

When you’re not pitching with me, head over to the hitting cages!

Next Level has HomePlate Pitching machines which are state-of-the-art. These machines can be set to random mode with 6 different pitches and speeds of up to 70 mph for softball and 90 mph for baseball. OR you can set it to work on a specific pitch!

Click here to view a virtual tour of the space!

Here’s the address:
1710 Lincoln Ave.
Alameda, CA 94501

WCWS

WCWS-SoftballIt’s my faaaaaaaavorite time of year: the end of the season when you look back at all your hard work. And then you look in front of you to see where it’s taken you. Did you end up where you wanted to be? Or did the season get cut short?

For 8 teams out of the 335 Division I softball programs across the nation, their season will continue at the Women’s College World Series (WCWS) in Oklahoma City, OK.

Jealous. 🙂

Jealous, because while playing at Texas State University, it was all about WCWS. That was the focus. That was the goal. Unfortunately, we never made it.

But it didn’t stop us from trying. At the beginning of our off-season, I cut out a bunch of little pieces of paper with the letters “WCWS” on them. I gave them to my teammates and said, “Put these up where you can see them all the time – on the bathroom sink mirror, on the fridge, in your car, on your notebooks, in the dugout, EVERYWHERE!”

(I wasn’t kidding in my previous blog post about making goals, writing them down, and putting them EVERYWHERE.)

In two of my four years playing for Texas State, the Bobcats made it to the Regional Final Championship – ONE GAME away from going to the World Series.

One.

But in looking back at it, I’m far from being disappointed since the winning pitchers for the opposing teams (Texas and Arizona) were Olympic starters Cat Osterman and Jennie Finch. When you get an opportunity to play against the very best, you chalk it up to an incredible experience and swallow your pride.

But still… just a little jealous.

Mostly, I’m super excited to watch some damn good softball on tv – starting Thursday! Here’s the schedule.

The 8 lucky teams competing this weekend are: (I added links to all of them so you can scope out the team roster, coaches, standings, etc.)

Guess who I’m rooting for???? TEXAS of course! Hook ’em! Texas fight!

Elbow to Hip Arm Whip

The arm whip is one of the most important parts of the pitch. If you’re not whipping, you’re pushing. And if you’re pushing, the ball is more than likely slow. This means your mechanics and timing are off.

In order to whip the ball properly, you MUST get your elbow behind your hip. I see too many pitchers with their elbow locked out and/or with their weight out in front. What does this make the pitcher do? Lean over and push the ball. Pushing the ball is slow. Whipping the ball is fast!

Below are a few examples of some of the very best pitchers in the world. The videos are in slow motion. Pay attention to the release. Where is the elbow? BEHIND THE HIP! Beautiful!

Cat Osterman
(Olympic Gold & Silver medalist. Cat was recently inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. WOW! Cat and I went to the same pitching coach, Tim Timmons, in Houston, Texas.)
Amanda Scarborough
(Amanda pitched for Texas A&M University. I pitched for Texas State – yes, there was a bit of a rivalry! Amanda is sponsored by Worth. I’m in no way telling you to purchase a power drive. I have one – we will use it eventually. I just love the slow motion in this video. She has GREAT mechanics.)

Sarah Pauly
(Sarah was an All-American during her career at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. She is also a seven-year veteran with the NPF – National Pro Fastpitch. She’s an incredible pitcher.)


Like Father, Like Daughter

There’s no denying the DNA between my father and me. It’s not just the glaringly similar facial features or slightly slob-like behavior when it comes to house cleaning. It’s also the (sometimes) unrealistic positive attitude, the mannerisms, and our love for softball and baseball.

Growing up, Dad would tell my brother and I all of his baseball stories. County Championships… the State Tournament… and his College days. We poke fun at him when he starts a sentence with, “I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this story or not, but…” Mom, my brother and I would all roll our eyes, “I’m SURE we have!”

In honor of his repetitive (and not always accurate) story-telling, I got him a “NO FEAR” shirt one year for his birthday. (Do you remember those shirts?!?! Huge hit in the 90s.) The shirt I chose for him read:

“The older I get, the better I was.”

When Dad opened that, he let out a big ol’ belly laugh followed by, “Damn straight!”

But perhaps my favorite “Dad & Softball” story is our very first story.

With a year of Pixie League under my belt, Mom and Dad sent me to a softball camp when I was 9 years old. I loved softball, but to be perfectly honest with you, I was never very athletic. I spent a majority of my Pixie Year “picking daisies” in the outfield. It was when I went to camp that I realized the pitcher gets the ball… all of the time. AND – everyone is looking at her and paying attention to her. My inner diva emerged and that’s when I decided I wanted to be a pitcher.

I came home and told Dad my news. He was thrilled! What could be more fatherly than teaching your children how to pitch? As a pitcher himself (with a resume full of county and state championships), he knew exactly what he was doing. Or did he?

We walked out into the backyard, and only then did he realize he didn’t know a “damn thing” about how to pitch a softball.

He asked around and found an excellent pitching coach in the area. We started taking lessons together, and soon pitching in the backyard just became our thing. It was our bond. It came natural to us.

Even though Dad didn’t know the mechanics of pitching a softball, he learned just as much as I did at our lessons. We often talked about the mental side of the game and how to set up a batter. He taught me how to be a real pitcher.

I couldn’t be more grateful to have him as my father. We don’t throw the ball around anymore, but softball is still a major topic of discussion. I share stories from my pitching lessons and ask for advice on how to become a better coach.

This year I turned 30, and my father will turn 60 at the end of the summer. We decided there couldn’t a better way to celebrate than for us to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Yep, you heard me. We’re skydiving!

Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I love you so much!

Mom, My #1 Fan

My #1 fan, MOM!

Often in sports, dads are the ones that tend to take a role as “coach”. Not always, but in many cases.

In my family, this was definitely true as my mom wasn’t exactly the most athletic. My brother and I would tease her when she’d throw a ball to us. Dad was the athlete, the one that passed along his baseball and pitching knowledge to me. He was also the one that caught me almost every day, cut out articles about baseball pitching, and taught me how to set up a batter.

Mom was the cheerleader, the mediator, and the organizer.

She would sit in the backyard and watch me practice or if it was a really hot day, watch from the kitchen window. On more than one occasion, dad and I would get into an argument. I’d come into the house crying while Dad would be cussing. Enter Mom, the mediator. She calmed down Dad, (and I quote) “Take a chill pill, John.”

It was the 90s.

Then she’s come to my room to console me.

She was my emotional support and my never-ending supply of positive talk and good vibes. I remember pitching not-so-well in a game during college. All the parents and fans would wait for us outside of the dugout after the game. Dad immediately went into the logistics of the game, “Why would you throw their #4 batter a change up after the second pitch? And where was your curve ball all game? Why didn’t you throw that to her?” And on, and on, he went.

The. Last. Thing. I. Wanted. To. Hear.

Enter Mom. “Well ya know what, Nicole? You were the cutest one out there!!” And we’d all laugh. I’d hug her and tell Dad to shut up about the game. We’d talk later.

Mom was the one that booked all the hotel rooms for our tournaments, set up meetings with the other parents to fund raise, organized caravans to the field, painted signs for the games, decorated our bus during play-offs, and oh yeah, as if that wasn’t enough, washed my uniform.

Our household was a well-oiled machine, I couldn’t imagine my jersey not being clean the next morning after a “late-night-triple-header-that-went-into-extra-innings-and-we-lost-so-now-we-have-the-8am-game.” Ugh… You know the game.

So, today, I want to say thank you, Mom. Thank you for organizing, and planning, and painting, and cheering, and cleaning, and consoling, and giving me unconditional love and support. Thank you for all the things you do behind the scenes. You are never thanked enough.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you so much!